Washington Irwing

Washington Irving (1783-1859)

American author, short story writer, essayist, poet, travel book writer, biographer, and columnist. Irving has been called the father of the American short story. He is best known for 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,' in which the schoolmaster Ichabold Crane meets with a headless horseman, and 'Rip Van Winkle,' about a man who falls asleep for 20 years.
"I am always at a loss to know how much to believe of my own stories." (from Tales of a Traveler, 1824)

Irving's career as a writer started in journals and newspapers. He contributed to Morning Chronicle (1802-03), which was edited by his brother Peter, and published Salmagundi (1807-08), writing in collaboration with his brother William and James Kirke Paulding. From 1812 to 1814 he was an editor of Analetic magazine in Philadelphia and New York.

In 1809 appeared Irving's comic history of the Dutch regime in New York, A HISTORY OF NEW YORK, by the imaginary 'Dietrich Knickerbocker', who was supposed to be an eccentric Dutch-American scholar. It was one of the earliest fantasies of history. The name Knickerbocker was later used to identify the first American school of writers, the Knickerbocker Group, of which Irving was a leading figure. The book became part of New York folklore, and eventually the word Knickerbocker was also used to describe any New Yorker who could trace one's family to the original Dutch settlers. Irving's success continued with THE SKETCH BOOK OF GEOFFREY CRAYON, GENT. (1819-20), a collection of stories, which allowed him to become a full-time writer. The stories were heavily influenced by the German folktales. In 1822 appeared a sequel of The Sketch Book, BRACEBRIDGE HALL. Irving invites the reader to ramble gently with him at the Hall, stating that "I am not writing a novel, and have nothing of intricate plot, or marvelous adventure, to promise the reader."

After the death of his mother, Irving decided to stay in Europe, where he remained for seventeen...