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Washington Irving, the son of a Scotch merchant, was born in New York, April 3, 1783. As his health was delicate his education was desultory, and at sixteen he began to study law but without 'much seriousness. He spent most of the time in reading, being in this way really self-educated. His health continuing a matter of concern, he took many excursions up the state to the woods, with much physical benefit. In many of the up-state towns he mingled in society to such a degree that he was in danger of becoming a mere society man. However, all the time he was doing some writing, a part of which appeared in The Morning Chronicle when he was but nineteen.
In 1804, his health continuing poor, it was decided to send him to Europe. There he stayed nearly two years, visiting France, England, and Italy, being everywhere received by society and meeting the best people, as he was a remarkably agreeable young man. The trip completely restored his health.
On his return to America in 1806, he again plunged into society, giving, however, a hint of his future occupation in Salmagundi, a semi-monthly periodical of short duration, on the model of The Spectator, written in conjunction with two of his brothers in 1807– 1808. In the meantime he had been admitted to the bar. In 1809 appeared “ The Knickerbocker History of New York,” a piece of humor and satire which made him famous. At this time occurred the death of his fiancée, a loss from which he never recovered. At the beginning of the War of 1812 he served for four months on the staff of the Governor of New York.
In 1815 he went again to Europe, this time on the business of his brothers' firm, to which he had been admitted, and he stayed there seventeen years. The firm failing in 1818, he turned to literature and began the publication in 1819 of “The Sketch-Book,” a collection of sketches and narratives in the manner of The Spectator. This book definitely established him as an author, being received both
in America and in England with delight. Besides being successful financially it gave him an introduction to literary society.
“ Bracebridge Hall” and “ The Tales of a Traveller” appeared soon after, in 1822 and 1824 respectively. Irving himself had been for years much of a traveller, both from inclination and from the demands of his health.
In 1826 Irving went to Spain to write his “ Life and Voyages of Columbus,” which appeared in 1828. This residence in Spain, which lasted till September, 1829, was a fruitful one, as Spanish subjects appealed to his imagination. Besides the “ Columbus,” he wrote, The Conquest of Granada,"
,” “The Companions of Columbus,” and The Alhambra.” These books were financially profitable in addition to being literary successes. Throughout these years he enjoyed, as usual, the pleasures of charming society. His stay in Spain was terminated by his unexpected appointment as Secretary of Legation to the Court of St. James.
Returning to England, he was received with honors, the Royal Society of Literature awarding him in 1830 one of the two annual medals and the University of Oxford making him an honorary D.C.L. In 1831 he resigned and the next year returned to America.
America greeted him with enthusiasm. After an extended tour of the South and West he settled at Tarrytown, on the Hudson, a few miles north of New York, to enjoy the domestic life afforded by numerous relatives, and to do the writing which was more than ever necessary for the support of the relatives who had become dependent on him. At Sunnyside, as his place was named, he resolutely devoted himself to literary work, after declining several offers of public office. He was a regular contributor to The Knickerbocker Magazine at an annual salary, and he wrote several volumes, not now much read, while working on more ambitious literary projects.
In 1842 he received the unexpected and unsolicited honor of appointment as Minister to Spain. For four years he continued in office, performing his duties with tact and discretion. In 1846 he returned finally to his home, where he devoted his last days to a long-contemplated “ Life of Washington,” a task almost beyond his powers. On the 28th of November, 1850, he died, honored as no American man of letters had ever been.
WARNER: Washington Irving.
BOYNTON: Washington Irving.
HOWELLS: My Literary Passions.
NOTES TO “RIP VAN WINKLE ” This story appeared with four other papers in the first number of “The Sketch-Book,” which was published in America in May, 1819, as the work of one Geoffrey Crayon.
PAGE 1. Diedrich Knickerbocker : the supposed author of “The Knickerbocker History of New York.” All this prefatory matter is merely to carry out the pretence, as do the Note and Postscript at the end.
2. Peter Stuyvesant : last Dutch governor of New York, born in Holland in 1592, died in New York in 1672. A man of short temper and with a wooden leg from the knee. Fort Christina : built by the Swedes on the Delaware River near the present city of Wilmington. There was no fighting.
15. Federal or Democrat: the two political parties after the close of the Revolutionary War. tory : name applied to all followers of the king during the war.
16. Stony Point: this promontory on the west bank of he Hudson was captured by the British, and later recaptured by the Americans under General Anthony Wayne. Antony's Nose: a bold cliff, in the shape of a nose, on the east bank of the river. The name is now usually spelled with an h.
18. Hendrick Hudson : really Henry Hudson, an Englishman in the employ of the Dutch East India Company. He was on a voyage to discover a northeast passage, when he explored the river which bears his name. The Half Moon was the name of his boat.
EDGAR ALLAN POE
Edgar Allan Poe, the child of poor travelling actors, was born in Boston, January 19, 1809. Left an orphan in his third year, he was taken into the family of Mr. John Allan of Richmond, who gave him his name. Soon he became a great pet of his foster-parents, who rather spoiled him. In 1815 the Allans went to England, where the boy was in school at Stoke Newington, a suburb of London, till June, 1820, when the family returned to Richmond. His education was continued in private schools and by the aid of tutors till he entered the University of Virginia, February 14, 1826. At the University he developed a passion for drink and gambling, which led Mr. Allan to place him in his own counting-room at the end of the session in December, though he had done extremely well in some of his studies. Not liking the irksomeness of this occupation, Poe left to make his own way.
He first went to Boston, where he succeeded in having some of his verses published. His resources failing, he enlisted in the United States Army, being assigned to the artillery and serving in different stations, among them Fort Moultrie at Charleston, South Carolina. His conduct being excellent, he was appointed Sergeantmajor in 1829. Shortly afterward he was reconciled to Mr. Allan, who secured him an appointment to West Point. At the Academy he neglected his duty, was court-martialled, and was dismissed March 7, 1831.
Poe now settled in Baltimore, where he devoted himself to writing, winning a prize of one hundred dollars for his tale, “ A MS. Found in a Bottle.” He lived with his aunt, Mrs. Clemm, to whose daughter he became engaged and whom he married in 1836 in Richmond, where he had gone to become an assistant on The Southern Literary Messenger.
His habits and unfortunate disposition made it impossible for him to remain long in one position. After some drifting, he settled in Philadelphia in 1838, where he did hack work until he became associate editor of Burton's Gentleman's agazine and American Monthly Review in July, 1839. In 1840 appeared a volume of his
tales which attracted favorable notice. In 1841 he became editor of Graham's Magazine, but in this year, too, his wife became a hopeless invalid. Anxiety about her had doubtless much to do with the subsequent condition of Poe's mind. In the next year again he lost his position. At this time he fell into wretched poverty. Then, as always, his aunt gave him the devotion of a mother. The fortunate gaining of another hundred-dollar prize, this time for “ The Gold Bug,” helped along together with some work on Graham's in a minor capacity.
New York was his next location, where he was on The Evening Mirror. In 1845 his " Raven” was published and at once sprang into phenomenal favor. Lecturing, magazine work, and the editing of The Broadway Journal occupied the next year. In 1846 he moved to Fordham. There ill-health and poverty so oppressed him that money had to be raised to take care of the family. In 1847 Mrs. Poe died. From this time till his own death, October 7, 1849. his mind, long clouded and affected by his habits, became hopelessly diseased.
Poe was a genius of great analytical power and imagination, but unstable and morbid. His ability has always received great recognition in Europe, particularly in France, where a translation of his tales appeared in his lifetime.
WOODBERRY: Edgar Allan Poe.
HARRISON : The Life and Letters of Edgar Allan Poe.
STEDMAN: Poets of America.
NOTES TO “ THE GOLD BUG"
This story, which is classed in the group entitled “ Stories of Ratiocination ” (see Introduction), was first published in The Dollar Newspaper of Philadelphia in June, 1843, winning a prize of one hundred dollars.