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literary man should expect to sustain himself by the product of his pen. It was not thought proper for our Government to give direct pensions in such cases; and the diplomatic service was used in Irving's case, as it has since been used in the case of others, to honor and assist a great literary worker. Irving discharged the duties of his official positions with dignity and success; but he will be remembered, of course, not as the minister to Spain, but as the author of “Rip Van Winkle.”
We can hardly fail to observe the change in the type of Irving's writings with the progress of his life. The earlier work is marked by a spontaneity and ease of style, which do not, to so high a degree, characterize the later. Humor is much more prominent in the first books, and there is a deepening seriousness as the years go by. With the Spanish experiences comes the interest in Spanish history and the subjects associated with it, such as the origin of the Saracen power in the life of Mahomet, and the career of Columbus. With his return to America, we find a deepening interest in the history of our own land, exemplified in the “Life of Washington.” His three years' sojourn in England and his other visits there are reflected in some of his most charming papers, in “Bracebridge Hall” and in “The Sketch Book." Indeed, this part of his life and writings is among the most important of all. The very fact that he held so honorable and so assuredly independent a position in the world of letters made it the easier for him to feel, and make his countrymen feel with him, the indissoluble bonds which hold every intelligent and thoughtful American to the country of our fathers. Remembering how soon after the Revolution Irving lived, so that Washington is said to have held him once in his arms, and that his life included the years of the second war with Great Britain, we must admire the serene elevation of soul which enabled so true an American to lose his national prejudices and feel and describe the beauty of English life and character. Like Lowell in our own day, he helped mightily to bind together the two branches of the great English race.
Take as an example of Irving's work, for special study, the passage from “Rip Van Winkle” which describes Rip's return to the village after his twenty years' sleep.
As he approached the village, he met a number of people, but none whom he knew, which somewhat surprised him, for he had thought himself acquainted with every one in the country round. Their dress, too, was 5 of a different fashion from that to which he was accustomed. They all stared at him with equal marks of surprise, and whenever they cast eyes upon him, invariably stroked their chins. The constant recurrence of this
gesture, induced Rip, involuntarily, to do the same, 10 when, to his astonishment, he found his beard had grown a foot long !
He had now entered the skirts of the village. A troop of strange children ran at his heels, hooting after
him, and pointing at his gray beard. The dogs, too, 15 not one of which he recognized for an old acquaintance,
barked at him as he passed. The very village was altered : it was larger and more populous. There were rows of houses which he had never seen before, and
those which had been his familiar haunts had disap20 peared. Strange names were over the doors — strange
faces at the windows everything was strange. His mind now misgave him ; he began to doubt whether both he and the world around him were not bewitched.
Surely this was his native village, which he had left but 25 a day before. There stood the Kaatskill Mountains
there ran the silver Hudson at a distance — there was every hill and dale precisely as it had always been Rip was sorely perplexed. — “That Alagon last night,”
thought he, “has addled my poor head sadly!” 30 It was with some difficulty that he found the way to
his own house, which he approached with silent awe, expecting every moment to hear the shrill voice of Dame Van Winkle. He found the house gone to decay — the
roof fallen in, the windows shattered, and the doors off 35 the hinges. A half-starved dog, that looked like Wolf,
was skulking about it. Rip called him by name, but the cur snarled, showed his teeth, and passed on. This was
an unkind cut indeed. - My very dog," sighed poor 40 Rip, “has forgotten me!”
He entered the house, which, to tell the truth, Dame Van Winkle had always kept in neat order. It was empty, forlorn, and apparently abandoned. This desolateness overcame all his connubial fears - he called
loudly for his wife and children — the lonely chambers 45 rang for a moment with his voice, and then all again was silence.
He now hurried forth, and hastened to his old resort, the village inn - but it too was gone. A large rickety
wooden building stood in its place, with great gaping 50 windows, some of them broken, and mended with old
hats and petticoats, and over the door was painted, “The Union Hotel, by Jonathan Doolittle.” Instead of the great tree that used to shelter the quiet little Dutch inn of yore, there now was reared a tall naked pole, 55 with something on the top that looked like a red night
cap, and from it was fluttering a flag, on which was a singular assemblage of stars and stripes — all this was strange and incomprehensible. He recognized on the
sign, however, the ruby face of King George, under 60 which he had smoked so many a peaceful pipe, but
even this was singularly metamorphosed. The red coat was changed for one of blue and buff, a sword was held in the hand instead of a sceptre, the head was decorated
with a cocked hat, and underneath was painted in large 65 characters, GENERAL WASHINGTON.
There was, as usual, a crowd of folk about the door, but none that Rip recollected. The very character of the people seemed changed. There was a busy, bustling,
disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed 70 phlegm and drowsy tranquillity. He looked in vain for
the sage Nicholas Vedder, with his broad face, double chin, and fair long pipe, uttering clouds of tobacco smoke, instead of idle speeches; or Van Bummel, the school
master, doling forth the contents of an ancient newspaper. 75 In place of these, a lean bilious-looking fellow, with his
pockets full of handbills, was haranguing vehemently about rights of citizens — election — members of Congress — liberty — Bunker's hill
heroes of seventy-six - and other words that were a perfect Babylonish jargon 80 to the bewildered Van Winkle.
The appearance of Rip, with his long, grizzled beard, his rusty fowling-piece, his uncouth dress, and the army of women and children that had gathered at his heels,
soon attracted the attention of the tavern politicians. 85 They crowded round him, eying him from head to foot,
with great curiosity. The orator bustled up to him, and drawing him partly aside, inquired, “on which side he voted?” Rip stared in vacant stupidity. Another short but busy little fellow pulled him by the arm, and rising 90 on tiptoe, inquired in his ear “whether he was Federal
or Democrat.” Rip was equally at a loss to comprehend the question ; when a knowing, self-important old gentleman, in a sharp cocked hat, made his way through the
crowd, putting them to the right and left with his elbows 95 as he passed, and planting himself before Van Winkle,
with one arm akimbo, the other resting on his cane, his keen eyes and sharp hat penetrating, as it were, into his very soul, demanded in an austere tone, “what brought
him to the election with a gun on his shoulder, and a 100 mob at his heels, and whether he meant to breed a riot in the village?"
“Alas ! gentlemen,” cried Rip, somewhat dismayed, “I am a poor, quiet man, a native of the place, and a
loyal subject of the King, God bless him!” 105
Here a general shout burst from the bystanders — “a tory! a tory! a spy! a refugee! hustle him! away with him!”
It was with great difficulty that the self-important man in the cocked hat restored order; and having assumed a 110 tenfold austerity of brow, demanded again of the unknown
culprit, what he came there for, and whom he was seeking. The poor man humbly assured him that he meant no harm, but merely came there in search of some of his
neighbors, who used to keep about the tavern. 115
“ Well - who are they? — name them.”
Rip bethought himself a moment, and inquired, “ Where's Nicholas Vedder?"
There was a silence for a little while, when an old man replied, in a thin, piping voice,“ Nicholas Vedder? Why, 120 he is dead and gone these eighteen years! There was a
wooden tombstone in the churchyard that used to tell all about him, but that's rotten and gone too.”
“ Where's Brom Dutcher?”
“Oh, he went off to the army in the beginning of the 125 war; some say he was killed at the storming of Stony