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A SKETCH OF IRVING'S LIFE

WASHINGTON IRVING was born in New York, April 3, 1783. The house was in William Street, between Fulton and John, but it has now been torn down. His Scotch father and English mother had been married in England and had emigrated to America more than twenty years before. At the time of Washington's birth the city was in the hands of the British, for the Revolutionary War was not yet over. It had sadly interfered with business. Half the city had been burned down, and many of the people had fled till better times. Among them the Irvings had left their home and for a short time lived in New Jersey; but they had returned to the beleaguered city, though they remained true to the country of their adoption. Before their baby was christened, however, the war ceased, and the loyal, grateful mother named him Washington.

Some years after, when all New York was joyfully welcoming George Washington as our first President, a proud and devoted Scotch servant-girl of the Irvings addressed the general, as she encountered him in a small shop, with, Please, your Honor, here's a bairn was named after you.” The great “ Father of his Country” patted him kindly on the head and gave him his blessing

The lad born in such a stirring time and named after the great hero seems to have grown up much like other boys. His stern Presbyterian father he feared, but his tender-hearted, sympathetic mother he loved devotedly. He was not a studious boy, though he early developed a marked taste for reading books of travel, tales of the sea, etc. Warm-hearted and full of fun, he had no difficulty in attaching to himself a large number of friends. Two of his brothers went to Columbia College, but

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Washington never entered college, though his biographer says he never ceased in later life to regret his mistake.

At sixteen he entered a law office, but his lack of application and his dislike of careful study account for the fact that he never knew much law and never attempted to practise. During these years of young manhood, the time when a boy lays the foundation for his future career, Irving was living a free and easy life, reading much, working little, going into society, where he was a general favorite, and taking an occasional trip into the country along the Hudson. As events proved, he was getting no mean training for his successful career, but he gave little promise then of any great success. His health, too, gave grave anxiety to his friends. He coughed much and had severe pains in his chest, so that there were not a few who predicted an early death. His brothers, however, determined to send him abroad in the hope that the voyage and life in southern Europe might benefit him. He was gone from 1804 to 1806, and, besides regaining his health, gained a wide and varied knowledge from his wanderings over Europe.

As early as 1802 Irving had contributed articles to the Morning Chronicle, written in imitation of the periodical essays of Addison's time, and signed Jonathan Oldstyle. These were much copied and revealed some of those traits that later made him famous. After his return from Europe, he, in company with others, established a periodical, called Salmagundi, which was very popular during its short existence, but its young authors soon tired of their labor and gave it up. When he was twentysix years old he published his first book, The Knickerbocker History of New York. It was a clever satire on the old Dutch inhabitants of the city and made a reputation for its author among all classes, even among the Dutch, who did not always relish his humor.

While he was engaged on this his first important literary venture, he received a blow that nearly crushed him. He had formed a strong attachment for Miss Matilda Hoffman of New York, according to all accounts a beautiful and lovable girl. They were engaged to be married and were waiting till the young man should find something by which he could reasonably hope to support a family. Suddenly, however, Miss Hoff

man died, in her eighteenth year, and Irving was inconsolable. His devotion to her memory is beautiful to consider; he carefully treasured a few reminders of her, but never wished to talk of her; her memory was sacred. He never married, though he was a general favorite and exceedingly fond of ladies' society, to say nothing of his love of a home. It is not certain that he refrained from marriage because of his devotion to Miss Hoffman, but it is certain that he never forgot her nor outlived his grief.

The following year, 1810, we find Washington Irving entering into business with two of his brothers, Peter and Ebenezer. He did not seem to contemplate active business, for he was contented to take one-fifth of the profits while each of the others took two-fifths. In spite of this partnership, he continued to live the easy life of a man of leisure for the next few years, a social favorite, not only in New York, but also in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington. At the White House he was well known and was on the best of terms with Mrs. Madison and the ladies who gathered there.

In 1814, roused by the war with England, he offered his services to the governor of New York. The latter immediately appointed him to a place on his staff with the title of colonel. This new sort of life was highly pleasing to our society gentleman, as his letters of this time abundantly show. It was pleasing to him apparently, not only because it took him here and there in new experiences, but also because he felt that he was really doing a man's work, something that was worth while.

This military work was of course of short duration, so in a few months he was at liberty to take up something else. At this juncture, in 1815, he suddenly decided to make another visit to Europe, a visit that was fraught with momentous consequences for him.

After a few months spent pleasantly in travelling through England and Wales and in visiting friends, Irving found that the affairs of his firm needed attention. Accordingly he devoted himself to business as he never had before, although the work was distasteful to him and the conditions under which he was laboring were extremely discouraging. For three years he was in fact a business man, but still found time to meet distinguished men of literature: Scott, Byron, Campbell, Rogers, and

others. The burdens grew heavier and heavier until at last, in 1818, Washington and his brother Peter went into bankruptcy. He never took up business again, but was for some time in perplexity over what he should do for his support.

He was now thirty-five years old. He had studied law, but had never practised, nor found the work to his liking. He had made a failure in business. But from his boyhood he had had a taste for literature, though apparently he had never considered it as a means of livelihood. Had it not been for the business failure of the Irvings, we might never have had The Sketch-Book nor The Alhambra. Under these hard conditions, however, he roused himself to show a strength of character that even his friends had not discovered. From the easy-going society gentleman and traveller he became an indefatigable worker.

First The Sketch-Book was prepared and published in America in seven parts, but it was so favorably received in England as well as in America, that an English edition was soon published. The book was remarkably successful, and has been ever since one of the classics of English literature. Two years later he published Bracebridge Hall, and again after three years The Tales of a Traveller. Then, after a year or two of rather unproductive work, he took up his residence in Spain, that he might gather material for a life of Columbus.

It is to this three years' residence in Spain that we owe a large and important part of the work for which we love and admire the first American author to gain an international reputation. The history and traditions of Spain, as well as the poetic temperament of her people, appealed to his fancy. He forgot himself in the dim past of Moorish tradition, and lived again in the fairy splendor of the Alhambra.

The Life of Columbus was published in 1828, and was soon followed by The Conquest of Granada, The Companions of Columbus, and The Alhambra. Those who had hesitated to give Irving a high place as an author, on the ground that his works were light and fanciful, praised The Life of Columbus as a book worthy of the great talents of its author. The English Royal Society of Literature awarded him a gold medal given by King George IV, and Oxford conferred upon him the degree of D.C.L.

Although he was busying himself with other literary projects,

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