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A Short History of Washington Irving

Washington Irving. The name attracts attention.,specifically Washington. The most famous person named Washington was George Washington, and in fact that is who Irving was named after. Of course, he did not become a general like his namesake, but became a founding father. George Washington was the father of his country, and Washington Irving was the “Father of American Literature.”


Washington Irving was born on the third of April, in the year 1783, the eleventh child of William Sr. Irving and Sarah Sanders. The Revolutionary War had recently ended, and George Washington became a hero to the family, which is why the new baby was named after him. His father and mother were lenient on him more than on his older siblings; Irving had more freedom in choosing what he could do in life,unlike his brothers, who were forced into college. He practiced law, but worked more on writing satires than anything else. His many works of writing showcase his satirical style of humour, including The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., which contained “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” The nineteenth-century style of thinking, romanticism, was focused on expressing the imagination. Irving, however, used logical thinking in his stories. He often was torn between political ideas, and seemed to find a way to express his confusion through his often sarcastic writings. Irving wrote biographies and American Indian histories, too. On the twenty-eighth day of November, 1859, Washington Irving passed away in Tarrytown, New York.


One of Irving’s most well-known stories is “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” It is one of his earlier works, written in 1819 in England. He was writing less stories that centered on mockery, and more with the subdued humour that he became popular for. The tone of the story seems like a quiet way to poke fun at superstitious people, because the imaginary Headless Horseman ghost scares the spooked Ichabod Crane clear out of town. The ghost is a Hessian, or German, soldier; the Irving family had always been deeply patriotic, which might explain why he had chosen this particular nationality. Also, the girl of his dreams died while they were engaged, which may be why he doesn’t let Ichabod Crane get the one he loves. Another theory about why Ichabod doesn’t get the girl could be that Crane wants to get married for the money he would receive, but Irving truly loved his lady, and she died.


Romanticism was a theme of the arts, thinking, and literature that concentrated on individual emotion and “faith in imagination.” Irving, however, was still thinking rationally, evident in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” when he would not make a ghost real, but only a figment of his characters’ imaginations. Irving did not let himself be completely in control of his characters, but let the rules of life be law; romantics thought the individual should dictate the rights and wrongs of their created worlds.


Washington Irving was the first American to completely live off a career as a writer. In his earlier years, society frowned upon such a living-”art [was] idleness.” In a twist of fate, his only chance for survival was writing, which opened the path for him to be an author for the rest of his life. His interests varied from creating personalities for his pen names and composing satires, to writing biographies and being a minister to Spain. Although he didn’t follow his fellow artists in diving into the romanticism pool, his wittiness caused international spreading of his stories. As the “literary declarer of Independence”, Irving followed in the footsteps of his namesake, for without showing and trying what he believed was best, no one would know of his abilities, just like George Washington.




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