Washington Irving

Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American short-story writer, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat of the early 19th century. He is best known for his short stories "Rip Van Winkle" (1819) and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1820), both of which appear in his collection The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. His historical works include biographies of Oliver Goldsmith, Muhammad and George Washington, as well as several histories of 15th-century Spain that deal with subjects such as Alhambra, Christopher Columbus and the Moors. Irving served as American ambassador to Spain in the 1840s.

Washington Irving

Daguerreotype of Washington Irving
(modern copy by Mathew Brady,
original by John Plumbe)
Born(1783-04-03)April 3, 1783
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedNovember 28, 1859(1859-11-28) (aged 76)
Sunnyside, Tarrytown, New York, U.S.
Resting placeSleepy Hollow Cemetery, New York
Pen nameGeoffrey Crayon, Diedrich Knickerbocker
Occupation
  • Short story writer
  • essayist
  • biographer
  • historian
  • diplomat
LanguageEnglish
Literary movementRomanticism
RelativesWilliam Irving (brother)
Peter Irving (brother)
Signature
United States Minister to Spain
In office
1842–1846
PresidentJohn Tyler
James K. Polk
Preceded byAaron Vail
Succeeded byRomulus Mitchell Saunders

Born and raised in Manhattan to a merchant family, Irving made his literary debut in 1802 with a series of observational letters to the Morning Chronicle, written under the pseudonym Jonathan Oldstyle. He temporarily moved to England for the family business in 1815 where he achieved fame with the publication of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., serialized from 1819 to 1820. He continued to publish regularly throughout his life, and he completed a five-volume biography of George Washington just eight months before his death at age 76 in Tarrytown, New York.

Irving was one of the first American writers to earn acclaim in Europe, and he encouraged other American authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Herman Melville and Edgar Allan Poe. He was also admired by some British writers, including Lord Byron, Thomas Campbell, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, Francis Jeffrey and Walter Scott. He advocated for writing as a legitimate profession and argued for stronger laws to protect American writers from copyright infringement.


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