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Go, little booke, God send thee good passage,

And specially let this be thy prayere,
Unto them all that thee will read or hear,
Where thou art wrong, after their help to call,
Thee to correct in any part or all.”




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Published by permission of Messrs. G. P. Putnam's Sons, the
publishers of the complete and authorized editions of Irving's works.

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WASHINGTON IRVING, the eighth and youngest son of William and Sarah Irving, was born in a house on William Street, in New York City, April 3, 1783. His father was a descendant of an old Orkney family, and his mother was a native of Falmouth, England. Young Washington began his school days at the age of four. At the age of sixteen his school days were over, and he began the study of law. Though his education was of a rudimentary and incomplete character, consisting of a smattering of Latin, music, and the ordinary English branches, he gave early signs of a natural avidity for reading, and of a power of rapidly assimilating what he read. Sinbad, Robinson Crusoe, and Gulliver made a deep impression on his young mind. . His early fondness for romance showed itself in many ways, and the theater in John Street possessed for him a seductive charm, to which he succumbed as often as he could steal away

from home; for his father, of the stern ways and habits of the Scotch Covenanter, looked upon theaters with hearty disfavor. In 1802 he entered the law office of Josiah Ogden Hoffman, and, together with his “Blackstone," he read general literature voraciously. About this time his health began to fail, and he made frequent trips up the Hudson and the Mohawk, to Ogdensburg, Montreal, Albany, Schenectady, and Saratoga. While in Judge Hoffman's


office, he offset the tedium of his studies by writing, over the name of " Jonathan Oldstyle," a series of papers for the "Morning Chronicle," a newspaper planned on the style of the “Spectator” and “Tatler.” His health continuing poor, in May he went to Europe, spent six weeks in Bordeaux, studying the language, seeing life, and enlarging the scope of his powers of observation. Then he visited the Mediterranean, gathering more material, seeing new cities, studying the strong characters he met. Sicily, Genoa, Naples, Rome, came beneath his eye, and he saw Nelson's fleet spreading its sails for Trafalgar. At Rome a critical epoch in his life occurred. The atmosphere of music, of which he was passionately fond, of art, and especially painting, all tended to work powerfully on the artistic side of his nature, and appealed strongly to the poetic temperament, that, in spite of his keen sense of humor, was deep within him. At this time, and in this atmosphere, he met Washington Allston, the artist, and was almost persuaded by him to take up art; but Irving, convinced that his inclination was more the effect of his present surroundings than of a deep latent artistic power within himself, refrained, and continued his journey, seeking new faces and new scenes. Irving was essentially a traveler. He saw at a glance all those peculiarities and oddities of form and character that attract and amuse; and he had a happy way of putting up with inconveniences, getting the best out of everything that came before his notice, and entering thoroughly into the spirit of his surroundings. Switzerland, the Netherlands, Paris, London, were in turn visited. In London he saw John Kemble, Cooke, and Mrs. Siddons. In February, 1806, he returned to this country, and was admitted to the bar, but he never practiced law.

He soon engaged, with his brother William and James K. Paulding, in the

issue (1807) of a humorously satirical semi-monthly periodical called “Salmagundi, or the Whim-Whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq., and Others.” It was quite successful in its local hits, and in it Irving first awoke to a conception of his power. In 1809 appeared the droll "History of New York by Diedrich Knickerbocker. From the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty." It won for its author instant fame. The book was cleverly advertised before it appeared, the newspapers containing descriptions of a gentleman named Diedrich Knickerbocker, who was said to have mysteriously disappeared without paying his board bill, but leaving behind him a curious manuscript which his creditor was about to publish. Just before the book was completed, Irving underwent the great anguish of his life. The second daughter of Judge Hoffman, Matilda, with whom he was in love, died in her eighteenth year. He remained true to her memory, and never married. The “Knickerbocker History" was highly praised by Scott, who recognized its merit, and detected in it strong resemblances to the style of Swift. The work was begun by Washington and his brother Peter as a travesty on Dr. Samuel Mitchell's “ Handbook of New York ;” but Peter sailed for Europe when five chapters only were completed, and left Washington to finish the work. The next year (1810) Washington became a silent partner, with a fifth interest, in the commercial house established in New York and Liverpool by his brothers, and (1813–14) was editorially connected with the “Analectic Magazine" of Philadelphia, and contributed a number of biographical sketches of American naval commanders. In 1814 he served four months as aide-de-camp and military secretary to Gov. Tompkins, and in 1815 sailed again for Europe. About this time financial troubles began to

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