صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

gather over the business house; and Washington, on arriving in England, found his brother Peter ill, and thus considerable work of a commercial nature devolved upon him. Yet in the midst of business cares he found time for quiet rovings through Warwickshire and other parts of England, gathering material for “The Sketch-Book," and mingling in society with the literary men of the time. But the business troubles of the house increased, and 1816 and 1817 were anxious years. It was in the latter year that he met Scott in his home at Abbotsford, and felt the charm of his family circle. In 1818 the house went into bankruptcy. Irving, declining a clerkship in the Navy Department, and deferring an editorship which Scott held out to him, preferred to follow his own literary pursuits, and brought out "The SketchBook" (1819) in America. It was unqualifiedly successful; and Irving, who had heretofore been held as the ornamental feature of the family, became its financial stay, graciously returning the kind favors of earlier days. Irving offered “The Sketch-Book” to Murray & Constable for republication; but they declined it, in spite of Scott's recommendation. Irving then started to publish it himself, but, his publisher failing, its issue was stopped. Scott induced Murray to buy it for two hundred pounds, which was doubled on the success of the book. In 1820 Irving was in Paris, and in 1821 wrote " Bracebridge Hall," bringing it out in 1822. This year he was in Dresden. He returned to Paris in 1823, and the next year brought out “Tales of a Traveller.” It was severely criticised. The year 1826 found him in Madrid as attaché of the legation commissioned by A. H. Everett, United States minister to Spain, to translate various documents relating to Columbus, collected by Navarrete; and from this work Irving produced (1828) the “History of the Life and Voyages of Chris

topher Columbus.” For it he got three thousand guineas, and the fifty-guinea medal offered by George IV. for historical composition. A pleasant sojourn in the south of Spain gave him further insight into Spanish lore, and in 1829 the “Chronicles of the Conquest of Granada" was given to the public. In the quiet seclusion of the Alhambra, the same year, he wove a portion of that graceful fabric which he gave the world in 1832. While in the Alhambra he received word of his appointment as secretary to the legation at London, and, reluctantly accepting it, returned there. In 1831 appeared his “Companions of Columbus," and the same year he received from Oxford the degree of LL.D. The next year he returned to New York, after a foreign sojourn of seventeen years, and was welcomed with tremendous enthusiasm. He bought Sunnyside, below Tarrytown on the Hudson, and prepared to settle quietly down to literary work; but the restless spirit of travel he had imbibed abroad induced him to take a flying trip through the West before doing so, and the summer of the same year found him with Commissioner Ellsworth, interested in the removal of the Indian tribes across the Mississippi. The literary outcome of this digression was the “Tour on the Prairies,” which came out in 1835. With it came also “Abbotsford" and "Newstead Abbey," and the “Legends of the Conquest of Spain," making up the "Crayon Miscellany." In 1836 came “ Astoria ;” and from 1839 to 1841 he contributed articles for the

Knickerbocker Magazine,” which were afterward gathered into "Wolfert's Roost" (1855). From 1842 to 1846 Irving was United States minister to Spain. Returning to his home, he spent the remaining years of his life at Sunnyside, engaged in literary work, chiefly the "Life of Mahomet" and the “Life of Washington.” The final volume of this last was completed only

three months before he died. He passed away at Sunnyside, Nov. 28, 1859.

Washington Irving was the first American who was admitted by Englishmen on equal terms into the great republic of letters. By him American literature was enriched in form and elegance, and its scope enlarged. He opened the treasure-house of Spanish history and romance, and gave an impulse to historical and biographical research. As an historian and biographer, his conclusions were carefully drawn, and just, and have stood the test of time.

Possessed of a broad and genial nature, a rich poetic temperament, a fancy that was as nimble as it was sprightly, a facile and ornate power of vivid and graphic description, and a pure and graceful style that rivals that of Addison, he was the very prince of story-tellers and the most fascinating of fireside companions. His delicacy of touch was equal to the task of adding beauty to the exquisite tracery of the Alhambra, and his refined imagination revivified the romantic legends of Granada, while his genial humor created a cherished ancestry for his native city. With such inimitable drollery did he place in succession upon his canvas the Dutch forefathers of New Amsterdam, that Diedrich Knickerbocker, fleeing through the dormer-windowed streets of New York, left behind him the legacy of a name as real and as enduring as that of Peter Stuyvesant.

Yet it is in “The Sketch-Book," perhaps, more than in any other of his works, that the qualities of style and mind which have so characterized Washington Irving, and endeared him to English-reading people, appear in their freshest, most varied form, covering a wider range of humanity, bubbling over with a humor that seems to have the inexhaustible spontaneity of a

spring. Here drollery, grace, pathos, grandeur, in turn touch the heart and move the fancy. A broad, genial atmosphere pervades it, fresh and open as the blue sky, in which its characters live, move, and have their being, drawn with a portraiture as real as life, and with a gentle satire that has no trace of bitterness.

It is “The Sketch-Book" that affords such charming glimpses of the good old English Christmas, and such graceful reflections, under the shadow of the venerable Abbey; while with its tatterdemalion Rip Van Winkle, and its soft but timid-hearted pedagogue Ichabod Crane, it is “The Sketch-Book” which has given to our noble Hudson the weird witchery of legend, charming as the blue outline of the Catskills, and fascinating as the shades of Sleepy Hollow.

« السابقةمتابعة »