Washington Irving

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American author, short story writer, essayist, poet, travel book writer, biographer, and columnist. Irving has been called the father of the American short story. He is best known for 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,' in which the schoolmaster Ichabold Crane meets with a headless horseman, and 'Rip Van Winkle,' about a man who falls asleep for 20 years.

"I am always at a loss to know how much to believe of my own stories." (from Tales of a Traveler, 1824)

Washington Irving was born in New York City as the youngest of 11 children. His father was a wealthy merchant, and his mother, an English woman, was the granddaughter of a clergyman. According to a story, George Washington met Irving, named after him, and gave his blessing. In the years to come Irving would write one of his greatest works, THE LIFE OF GEORGE WASHINGTON (1855-59).

Early in his life Irving developed a passion for books.

He read Robinson Crusoe, Sinbad the Sailor, and The World Displyed (stories about voyages and travels). He studied law privately in the offices of Henry Masterton (1798), Brockholst Livingston (1801), and John Ogde Hoffman (1802), but practiced only briefly. From 1804 to 1806 he travelled widely Europe. He visited Marseilles, Genoa, Sicily, where he saw the famous English naval officer, Nelson, and met Washington Allston, the painter, in Rome. After return to the United States, Irving was admitted to New York bar in 1806. He was a partner with his brothers in the family hardware business, New York and Liverpool, England, and representative of the business in England until it collapsed in 1818. During the war of 1812 Irving was a military aide to New York Governor Tompkins in the U.S. Army.

Irving's career as a writer started in journals and newspapers.