Context: One of the stories in The Sketch Book, "Rip Van Winkle," relates how a Dutch colonist of New York in pre-Revolutionary days meets with a strange man in a ravine of the Catskill Mountains. Rip, helping him carry a heavy keg, comes upon the quaint Dutch crew of Hendrick Hudson mutely playing nine-pins. Seizing the first opportunity to sip from the keg, Rip falls into a stupor and sleeps for twenty years. On waking, he finds that he is a tottering old man, and later that his wife is dead and buried, his daughter is married, his native village has been remodeled, and America has become independent. Before his strange adventure Rip is pictured as a man averse to any sort of profitable labor. With his dog Wolf he sits "in the shade through a long lazy summer's day, talking listlessly over village gossip, or telling endless sleepy stories about nothing." Dame Van Winkle, a termagant, has for years railed at her shiftless husband and has constantly forced Rip to suffer in "the fiery furnace of domestic tribulation." Irving writes:
. . . Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle as years of matrimony rolled on; a tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.