Washington Irving-author, ambassador, politically connected Manhattanite and international icon-has somehow slipped from AmericaŽs memory, and yet, his creations are still well known. Acclaimed historian Andrew Burstein returns Irving to the context of his native nineteenth century where he was an major celebrity-both a colorful comic genius and the first name in our national literature. Irving traveled through Europe and America, excavating tales and publishing social comentary, beloved childrenŽs stories, gothic drama, and picturesque history. He gave his young nation such enduring tales as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. His 1809 burlesque, A History of New York, popularized the figure of jolly old St. Nicholas, and gave birth to the modern American Christmas. Always toying with language, the original Knickerbocker called New York by the name ˇGotham.ˇ Before Irving, no American had earned his living as an author and American writers were entirely disparaged in England and Europe. His deft use of language delighted readers of the Romantic age and announced AmericaŽs voice to the world. As his career advanced, Irving came to be appreciated as a serious historian, the first English-language biographer of Christopher Columbus and the author of a multi-volume life of George Washington. He also wrote of his travels in the Wild West of the 1830s and served as a U.S. ambassador to Spain, before retiring to his Dutch-inspired Hudson River sanctuary of Sunnyside, near Tarrytown, New York.
With a historianŽs eye for scope and significance, Burstein situates this literary giant in a dynamic political world. Irving matured in the age of Jefferson and lived nearly until the Civil War. The weight of his personality is hard to overstate: while publicly parodying Jefferson, he interacted with such influential, albeit poorly understood figures as Aaron Burr, Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, as well as the writers Sir Walter Scott, James Fenimore Cooper, Charles Dickens and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Burstein has managed to recapture the lost legacy of one of our nationŽs most outsized literary talents, revealing key sources of modern American culture. Irving was an American original and a citizen of the world. By showing Irving as a leading architect of the American personality Burstein has managed to reinvigorate the legacy of one our nationŽs most outsized literary talents as well as to help us better understand the country we live in. Also includes information on John Jacob Astor, Henry Brevoort, William Cullen Bryant, Lord Byron, DeWitt Clinton, Fitz-Greene Halleck, A History of New York, Indians, Ebenezer Irving, Peter Irving, Pierre Munro Irving, William Irving, Jr., Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Moore, John Murray II, James Kirke Paulding, Salmagundi, Sir Walter Scott, The Sketch Book, Gulian Crommelin Verplanck, etc.