72 Facts About Washington Irving


Washington Irving was an American short-story writer, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat of the early 19th century.


Washington Irving is best known for his short stories "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", both of which appear in his collection The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.


Washington Irving 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.


Washington Irving 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.


Washington 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.


Washington Irving was admired by some British writers, including Lord Byron, Thomas Campbell, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, Francis Jeffrey and Walter Scott.


Washington Irving advocated for writing as a legitimate profession and argued for stronger laws to protect American writers from copyright infringement.


The Washington Irving family settled in Manhattan, and were part of the city's merchant class.


Washington Irving was an uninterested student who preferred adventure stories and drama, and he regularly sneaked out of class in the evenings to attend the theater by the time he was 14.


Washington Irving made several other trips up the Hudson as a teenager, including an extended visit to Johnstown, New York where he passed through the Catskill Mountains region, the setting for "Rip Van Winkle".


Washington Irving began writing letters to the New York Morning Chronicle in 1802 when he was 19, submitting commentaries on the city's social and theater scene under the pseudonym Jonathan Oldstyle.


Concerned for his health, Washington Irving's brothers financed an extended tour of Europe from 1804 to 1806.


Washington Irving returned from Europe to study law with his legal mentor Judge Josiah Ogden Hoffman in New York City.


Washington Irving began socializing with a group of literate young men whom he dubbed "The Lads of Kilkenny", and he created the literary magazine Salmagundi in January 1807 with his brother William and his friend James Kirke Paulding, writing under various pseudonyms, such as William Wizard and Launcelot Langstaff.


Washington Irving lampooned New York culture and politics in a manner similar to the 20th century Mad magazine.


Washington Irving gave New York City the nickname "Gotham" in its 17th issue dated November 11,1807, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "Goat's Town".


Washington Irving completed A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker while mourning the death of his 17-year-old fiancee Matilda Hoffman.


Washington Irving then published A History of New York on December 6,1809, under the Knickerbocker pseudonym, with immediate critical and popular success.


Washington Irving was among the first magazine editors to reprint Francis Scott Key's poem "Defense of Fort McHenry", which was immortalized as "The Star-Spangled Banner".


Washington Irving served on the staff of Daniel Tompkins, governor of New York and commander of the New York State Militia, but he saw no real action apart from a reconnaissance mission in the Great Lakes region.


Washington Irving remained in Europe for the next 17 years.


Washington Irving spent the next two years trying to bail out the family firm financially but eventually had to declare bankruptcy.


Washington Irving composed the short story "Rip Van Winkle" overnight while staying with his sister Sarah and her husband, Henry van Wart in Birmingham, England, a place that inspired other works, as well.


Washington Irving turned the offer down, opting to stay in England to pursue a writing career.


Washington Irving appealed to Walter Scott for help procuring a more reputable publisher for the remainder of the book.


Washington Irving's reputation soared, and for the next two years, he led an active social life in Paris and Great Britain, where he was often feted as an anomaly of literature: an upstart American who dared to write English well.


Washington Irving was relieved at its reception, which did much to cement his reputation with European readers.


Still struggling with writer's block, Washington Irving traveled to Germany, settling in Dresden in the winter of 1822.


Washington Irving was particularly attracted to Foster's 18-year-old daughter Emily and vied in frustration for her hand.


Washington Irving returned to Paris and began collaborating with playwright John Howard Payne on translations of French plays for the English stage, with little success.


Washington Irving learned through Payne that the novelist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was romantically interested in him, though Irving never pursued the relationship.


Everett, recently the American Minister to Spain, urged Washington Irving to join him in Madrid, noting that a number of manuscripts dealing with the Spanish conquest of the Americas had recently been made public.


Washington Irving left for Madrid and enthusiastically began scouring the Spanish archives for colorful material.


Washington Irving was invited to stay at the palace of the Duke of Gor, who gave him unfettered access to his library containing many medieval manuscripts.


Washington Irving based them on extensive research in the Spanish archives, but added imaginative elements aimed at sharpening the story.


In 1829, Washington Irving was elected to the American Philosophical Society.


Worried he would disappoint friends and family if he refused the position, Washington Irving left Spain for England in July 1829.


McLane immediately assigned the daily secretary work to another man and tapped Washington Irving to fill the role of aide-de-camp.


That same year, Washington Irving was awarded a medal by the Royal Society of Literature, followed by an honorary doctorate of civil law from Oxford in 1831.


Washington Irving was still in London when Van Buren received word that the United States Senate had refused to confirm him as the new Minister.


Consoling Van Buren, Washington Irving predicted that the Senate's partisan move would backfire.


Washington Irving arrived in New York on May 21,1832, after 17 years abroad.


At the completion of his western tour, Irving traveled through Washington, DC and Baltimore, where he became acquainted with politician and novelist John Pendleton Kennedy.


Washington Irving was frustrated by bad investments, so he turned to writing to generate additional income, beginning with A Tour on the Prairies which related his recent travels on the frontier.


Washington Irving made quick work of Astor's project, shipping the fawning biographical account Astoria in February 1836.


Washington Irving used these materials as the basis for his 1837 book The Adventures of Captain Bonneville.


In 1835, Washington Irving purchased a "neglected cottage" and its surrounding riverfront property in Tarrytown, New York, which he named Sunnyside in 1841.


Washington Irving was regularly approached by aspiring young authors for advice or endorsement, including Edgar Allan Poe, who sought Irving's comments on "William Wilson" and "The Fall of the House of Usher".


Clancy traveled to his new posting by way of England, and bearing a letter of introduction from Washington Irving, stopped at Newstead Abbey and was able to view the document to which Washington Irving had alluded.


Washington Irving championed America's maturing literature, advocating stronger copyright laws to protect writers from the kind of piracy that initially plagued The Sketch Book.


In 1841, Washington Irving was elected to the National Academy of Design as an Honorary Academician.


Washington Irving began a friendly correspondence with Charles Dickens and hosted Dickens and his wife at Sunnyside during Dickens's American tour in 1842.


Washington Irving wrote, "It will be a severe trial to absent myself for a time from my dear little Sunnyside, but I shall return to it better enabled to carry it on comfortably".


Washington Irving hoped that his position as Minister would allow him plenty of time to write, but Spain was in a state of political upheaval during most of his tenure, with a number of warring factions vying for control of the 12-year-old Queen Isabella II.


Washington Irving maintained good relations with the various generals and politicians, as control of Spain rotated through Espartero, Bravo, then Narvaez.


However, the politics and warfare were exhausting, and Washington Irving was both homesick and suffering from a crippling skin condition.


Washington Irving was pressed into service by Louis McLane, the American Minister to the Court of St James's in London, to assist in negotiating the Anglo-American disagreement over the Oregon border that newly elected president James K Polk had vowed to resolve.


Washington Irving returned from Spain in September 1846, took up residence at Sunnyside, and began work on an "Author's Revised Edition" of his works for publisher George Palmer Putnam.


For its publication, Washington Irving had made a deal which guaranteed him 12 percent of the retail price of all copies sold, an agreement that was unprecedented at that time.


Washington Irving was elected an Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1855.


Washington Irving was hired as an executor of John Jacob Astor's estate in 1848 and appointed by Astor's will as first chairman of the Astor Library, a forerunner to the New York Public Library.


Washington Irving continued to socialize and keep up with his correspondence well into his seventies, and his fame and popularity continued to soar.


Washington Irving is largely credited as the first American Man of Letters and the first to earn his living solely by his pen.


Washington Irving perfected the American short story and was the first American writer to set his stories firmly in the United States, even as he poached from German or Dutch folklore.


Washington Irving is generally credited as one of the first to write in the vernacular and without an obligation to presenting morals or being didactic in his short stories, writing stories simply to entertain rather than to enlighten.


Edgar Allan Poe, on the other hand, felt that Washington Irving should be given credit for being an innovator but that the writing itself was often unsophisticated.


Some critics claimed that Washington Irving catered to British sensibilities, and one critic charged that he wrote "of and for England, rather than his own country".


Washington Irving popularized the nickname "Gotham" for New York City, and he is credited with inventing the expression "the almighty dollar".


One of Washington Irving's most lasting contributions to American culture is in the way that Americans celebrate Christmas.


Washington Irving used text from The Vindication of Christmas of old English Christmas traditions, and the book contributed to the revival and reinterpretation of the Christmas holiday in the United States.


Washington Irving introduced the erroneous idea that Europeans believed the world to be flat prior to the discovery of the New World in his biography of Christopher Columbus, yet the flat-Earth myth has been taught in schools as fact to many generations of Americans.


The village of Dearman, New York, changed its name to "Irvington" in 1854 to honor Washington Irving, who was living in nearby Sunnyside, which is preserved as a museum.