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The tallest trees are most in the power of the winds, and ambitious men of the blasts of fortune.

Dec 07, 2021

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Quote Author: Washington Irving

Washington Irving

Washington Irving

Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 - November 28, 1859) was an American author of the early 19th century. Best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle" (both of which appear in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon ), he was also a prolific essayist, biographer and historian. His historical works include biographies of George Washington and Muhammad, and several histories of 15th century Spain dealing with subjects such as Columbus, the Moors, and the Alhambra.

Irving and James Fenimore Cooper were the first American writers to earn acclaim in Europe, and Irving is said to have encouraged authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Edgar Allan Poe. Irving was also the U.S. minister to Spain 1842 - 1845.

His parents were George Irving, originally of Shapinsay, Orkney, and Sarah (née Sanders), of Dutch descent. They were married in 1761, while George was serving as a petty officer in the British Navy. By the time Washington was born, George was settled in Manhattan, and part of that city's small vibrant merchant class. Several of Washington Irving's older brothers themselves became active New York merchants, and they encouraged their younger brother's literary aspirations. By 1804 he was reading law in the city and contributing theatrical reviews and humorous sketches to various periodicals . His first book was A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker (1809), a brilliant satire on self-important local history and contemporary politics. The surname of Diedrich Knickerbocker, the fictional narrator of this and other Irving works, became a nickname for Manhattanites in general .

Like many merchants and many New Yorkers, Irving originally opposed the War of 1812, but the British attack on Washington, D.C. in 1814 convinced him to enlist. He served on the staff of Daniel Tompkins, governor of New York and commander of the New York State Militia, and saw action along the Great Lakes. The War was disastrous for many American merchants, including Irving's family, and in mid-1815 he left for England to attempt to salvage the family trading company. He remained in Europe for the next seventeen years. He never married.

Irving left for Europe in 1815. His efforts to restore the family business were unsuccessful, but he wrote prolifically, creating a series of sketches, stories, and observations. In 1819-1820 he published The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon , which includes his best known stories, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle". "Rip Van Winkle" was written overnight while Irving was staying with his sister Sarah and her husband, Henry van Wart in Birmingham, England, a place that also inspired some of his other works. Bracebridge Hall or The Humorists, A Medley is based on Aston Hall there. The Sketch Book was an enormous success, and Irving soon traveled to the continent in search of new material, reading widely in Dutch and German folk tales. Like many successful authors of this era, Irving struggled against literary bootleggers. While in England, his sketches were published in book form by British publishers without his permission and from then on he published in Europe and the U.S. concurrently to protect his copyright.

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