Washington Irving Additional Biography


Irving’s monument near his beloved Sunnyside states that he was an “Essayist, Poet, Historian, Diplomat, Soldier.” He was all those and much more. During his life, Irving wrote fables, legends, chronicles, tales, sketches, criticisms, plays, biographies, and histories in his impeccable prose style. His literary output was prodigious and fills many volumes. Future writers will forever be indebted to him. Irving achieved a large, adoring public and was widely admired at home and abroad; above all, he will forever be immortalized for his masterpieces “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The eleventh and last child of a successful merchant, Washington Irving, somewhat frail and indulged as he was growing up, was the favorite child of his Anglican mother and Presbyterian minister father. As a young man, Irving studied law in the office of Josiah Ogden Hoffman, to whose daughter he was attracted, and enjoyed the social and cultural advantages of New York City as something of a gentleman-playboy. At this time, he dabbled in satirical writing in serial publications. He gained a certain amount of cosmopolitan sophistication with a tour of Europe in 1804-1806, during which time he kept a journal.

Irving was admitted to the New York bar at the age of twenty-three and nominally began to work as a lawyer on Wall Street, although he practiced little. Instead, he wrote serial essays with his brother and James Kirke Paulding for a periodical they called Salmagundi, modeled on Joseph Addison’s Spectator, “to instruct the young, reform the old, correct the town, and castigate the age.” This amounted to making light fun of fashion and social mores in high society, although occasionally they made jabs at Thomas Jefferson’s “logocratic” democracy.

“Diedrich Knickerbocker’s” A History of New York followed in 1809; originally intended as a parody of a pretentious New York guidebook, it had become instead a comic history of the Dutch in New York. When Matilda Hoffman died in the same year, Irving,...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201228-Irving.jpg Washington Irving. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

The son of a prosperous merchant of Scottish descent, Washington Irving was the youngest child in a family of eleven children. A frail child, he grew up in a household that catered to him whenever it could. After spending eleven years in school, he began to study law in New York City in 1798. At the same time, he also engaged in the busy social life of the city, despite a weak constitution that sent him on several excursions up the Hudson River in search of more healthful surroundings. In 1892, some of his writings were published under the pseudonym of Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent., in the New York Morning Chronicle, which was edited by his brother Peter. In these pieces, he opposed Federalism and supported Vice President Aaron...

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Washington Irving is known as one of the first American authors to gain international recognition for his work. He is also a founder of the...

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Considering that Irving' s best-known fiction takes place in the countryside of rural upstate New York, it is perhaps surprising that he...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Washington Irving was born in New York City on April 3, 1783. He was the youngest of eleven children born to William and Sarah Irving. Washington was named after the first president of the United States and was once briefly presented to the Founding Father. William Irving was a stern figure who had come to America to seek his fortune and did achieve some financial success. Sarah and the numerous brothers and sisters indulged and pampered Washington. The family noted that the youngest child was a charming, sensitive, adventurous, imaginative individual who was a keen observer of life around him—traits that would stand him in good stead as a writer.

Irving was an indifferent student at school and often daydreamed. He...

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Washington Irving was born in New York City on April 3, 1783, the year the American Revolution formally ended. Irving's parents named the...

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