Sunday, April 3, 2022

Apr. 3: Washington Irving, American writer


Washington Irving (1783-1859), American short story writer, essayist, and historian, is considered to be the first American author to become a best-seller in Europe. His best-known works are short stories like "Rip Van Winkle," about a man who falls asleep in the woods for over 20 years; and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," about a "Headless Horseman" playing a prank on poor schoolteacher Ichabod Crane. Though these popular tales are lighthearted, Irving was quite a serious author, who drew on local history for these stories, and was in fact as much a historiographer and biographer as he was a storyteller. He wrote biographies of great men like George Washington (in five volumes!) and Muhammad, as well as histories of Spain (he was in fact U.S. ambassador to Spain between 1842 and 1846). Irving was named for George Washington, whom he was lucky enough to meet at age six. In addition to his own work, Washington Irving inspired such 19th-century American greats as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), and Edgar Allan Poe.


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