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rollicking fun. It follows the general lines of the history of the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam; but turns the whole story into the most delicious
Those old Dutchmen were solid, serious, earnest-minded people, with a due sense of their own importance. But Irving's humor frisks around their portly bodies and tickles their solemn sides in a most irreverent manner. This book was probably the first in America to bring its author a considerable financial return. It is said to have paid him three thousand dollars. But what was of more importance, it gained its author a recognized place among the writers of his time; and thus prepared the way for the more important work which was to follow. This, however, did not appear for nearly ten years. Irving was trying his hand at legal and at mercantile business; was travelling in England and on the Continent of Europe; was brooding over that voyage on the Hudson and over other memories of his life. The failure of the mercantile business in which he was associated with his brothers most fortunate failure for the world - drove him to his pen again; and in 1819 to 1820, in successive numbers, appeared "The Sketch “The Sketch Book.” This must be regarded as the culmination of Book," 1819his literary career. Although what he wrote later is of much greater bulk, and was at first more widely read, Irving's fame will always rest mainly upon the apparently slight sketches which are brought together in this book. It contains “Rip Van Winkle,” the immortal tale of the twenty years' sleep, and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." These two sketches have
embalmed the scenery and the associations of the Hudson forever in the world's Literature, and have made Irving's name a household word. In “The Sketch Book” Irving is at his best. The humor is delicate and penetrating. It is of the kind that keeps the reader smiling with a satisfied sense of pleasure, rather than of the sort that makes him break out in broad laughter. It is combined with a tender pathos. As in all humor of the higher type, the smile is not far from the tear. The style has a little of Old World formality; but its carefully balanced sentences are never stiff; and its elegant phrases are never offensively artificial. It becomes a little old-fashioned and takes on the flavor of the antique as the years roll by; but is not likely ever to become antiquated.
“ Bracebridge Hall,” a volume of papers not unlike those in "The Sketch Book,” was published in 1822. It takes its name from the English country house which is supposed to be the place of the author's entertainment, while he gives a series of charming sketches of English country life, interspersed with stories from Spain, France, and old New York. It was followed in 1824 by “Tales of a Traveller,” a collection of stories the scenes of which are placed some in England, some in Italy, and some in America.
In the year 1826, Irving was appointed to a position in connection with the United States Legation at Madrid. In this situation he naturally entered upon studies and researches in Spanish history, the result of which is seen in many of his later works. Here for a time he lived, at Granada, within the
bridge Hall;' 1822.
“ Tales of a Traveller," 1824.
precincts of the ruined Moorish palace, the Alhambra. His mind became steeped in the historical and legendary events associated with the long occupation of Spain by the Moors, and the contest between them and the Christian knights of the Middle Ages; the contest which ended with the expulsion of the Moors from Granada at the very time of the discovery of America by Columbus. In 1829 he was transferred to England, where he remained for three years. In 1842 he returned to Spain for a four years' term as United States minister.
The first important result of Irving's Spanish studies was “The Life and Voyages of Columbus," "Life of
Columbus," which appeared in 1828. He had begun to trans- 1828. late Navarete's “Voyages of Columbus”; but before the translation was completed resolved to prepare, instead, an original work. This was followed by
Conquest "The Conquest of Granada,” 1829; “The Compan- of Granada,”
1829. ions of Columbus,” 1831; and “The Alhambra,” 1832.
“Com“The Conquest of Granada” and “The Alhambra
panions of show Irving's style at a pitch of excellence almost as
1831. high as that of “The Sketch Book.” The charm of humor is lacking; but the romantic atmosphere of Alhambra,"
1832. the period he was describing and of the place in which he was living was congenial to another side of his nature. His beautiful art of narration appears “Crayon in these works at its best.
Some further Spanish nies," 1835studies appeared, with other matters, in the “Crayon "Astoria," Miscellanies,” which was published in 1835. Upon 1836. this followed "Astoria," in 1836, and “The Advent- "Captain
Bonneville," ures of Captain Bonneville,” 1837. These last two 1837.
books are illustrations of the beginnings of the movement for the opening and settlement of the country between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean. “Astoria” describes the effort to establish a furtrading post on the Pacific coast, and Captain Bonneville was one of the most famous explorers of the time. “Astoria” is, for the most part, a thrilling story of the adventures of a party who made their way on horseback, on foot, and by canoe, from St. Louis to the Pacific. They were sixteen months accomplishing the journey which now occupies three days, and suffered incredible hardships. It is a story which will surely grow in historical interest with the passing years.
From the time of his return from Spain in 1846, Irving spent his life at his home on the Hudson, called Sunnyside. His attention during these latter years was turned almost exclusively to historical and biographical work. The work was not so congenial
as that of the earlier periods, and the style is conse“ Oliver Goldsmith," quently not so easy. “The Life of Oliver GoldMahomet," smith and “ Mahomet
his Successors 1849.
appeared in 1849. He had for a long time been planning a life of Washington, and had done some little work upon it, and he now bent himself seriously to this task which, in some aspects, seemed to be the most important work of his life. In the
meantime, in 1855, he issued another volume of “Wolfert's miscellanies called “Wolfert's Roost." He toiled Roost," 1855.
on, as he could get opportunity and courage for it, “Washington," 1859. upon the “Life of Washington,” until it finally ap
peared in 1859, when Death took the pen from his fingers and his work was done.
Washington Irving was the centre of our first important group of literary men. Boston and Philadelphia had been commercial centres before New York, and we have seen that the literary life of America, centred during the colonial period at Boston, and during the Revolution and the years immediately following, at Philadelphia. But New York was now beginning to take that position of commercial supremacy which it has held so long; and naturally drew to itself a large share of the literary activity of the country. Bryant from New England, and Poe from Virginia, gravitated to the common centre; Halleck and Drake, Willis and Morris, complete the little group of poets. Cooper was writing his series of novels, first at his home in Westchester County, just out of the city, and later at Cooperstown; and Paulding was illustrating the old Dutch life of New York, and was associated with Irving in the “Salmagundi" papers. These names are enough to show that we had then a very interesting group of literary men, of which Washington Irving may well be regarded as the central figure.
Irving may be considered our first distinguished man of letters. That is, he was the first man of remarkable literary powers to give the main effort of his life to Literature. His official positions were avowedly given to him for the purpose of enabling him to devote himself to literary work without anxiety as to his support. It was not then felt that a