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Born, New York City
April 3, 1783 Died, Sunnyside, Irvington, N.Y. November, 28, 1859
• The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.' was first published in 1819-1820. In 'The World's Classics' it was first published in 1912.
WASHINGTON IRVING was the eighth son of William Irving, a native of the Orkney Isles, who emigrated to New York in 1763, accompanied by his English wife. The author was born there in 1783, seven years after the Declaration of Independence, and one year after the termination of the war. At the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to the Law, but he soon developed consumptive tendencies, which necessitated a voyage. He sailed for Europe in 1804, and returned to America in 1806, having made only a short tour in England. On his return he was called to the Bar, and became engaged to a Miss Matilda Hoffman, whose early death in 1809 was perhaps the first cause of that melancholy sensibility which is the key-note of the Sketch Book. Before her death, however, he had almost finished Diedrich Knickerbocker's History of New York, a light and amusing skit on the Dutch founders of the city, and its subsequent publication brought him considerable renown.
About the same time he became a partner with his brothers Peter and Ebenezer in a merchant business established in Liverpool and New York, but in 1812 the outbreak of the war with Great Britain, which finally established the commercial independence of the United States, made trading insecure. In 1815, soon after the conclusion of the war, he sailed to England, and landed at Liverpool a few days subsequent to the Battle of Waterloo. It was seventeen years before he returned to the United States.
On his arrival in England, he found his firm involved in serious financial difficulties, and Peter Irving, who was in charge of the English office, seriously ill. Although it had never been intended that he should take an active part in the business, this inevitably threw the chief burden upon his shoulders, and he was entirely occupied by the firm's affairs until its bankruptcy in 1818.
Nowadays it would seem almost a matter of course that a man whose work
had aiready achieved such success as Irving's History of New York, finding himself without money or occupation, should determine to make a livelihood by literature. But the circumstances which fronted Irving were very different from the present. He was a citizen of America, and he must turn to his fellow citizens in the first place to support him. At that date the citizens of the United States were a comparatively small body of Englishspeaking Europeans on the borders of a vast undeveloped country, who, besides being continually occupied with Indian incursions, had been engaged in two life-and-death contests with Great