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Washington Irving   By: (1829-1900)

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First Page:

[Illustration]

American Men of Letters.

WASHINGTON IRVING.

BY

CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER.

FIFTH THOUSAND.

BOSTON: HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY. 11 EAST SEVENTEENTH STREET, NEW YORK. The Riverside Press, Cambridge. 1884.

Copyright, 1881, BY CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER.

All rights reserved .

The Riverside Press, Cambridge: Electrotyped and printed by H.O. Houghton & Co.

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I. PAGE PRELIMINARY 1

CHAPTER II. BOYHOOD 21

CHAPTER III. MANHOOD: FIRST VISIT TO EUROPE 31

CHAPTER IV. SOCIETY AND "SALMAGUNDI" 43

CHAPTER V. THE KNICKERBOCKER PERIOD 58

CHAPTER VI. LIFE IN EUROPE: LITERARY ACTIVITY 94

CHAPTER VII. IN SPAIN 141

CHAPTER VIII. RETURN TO AMERICA: SUNNYSIDE: THE MISSION TO MADRID 158

CHAPTER IX. THE CHARACTERISTIC WORKS 190

CHAPTER X. LAST YEARS: THE CHARACTER OF HIS LITERATURE 282

WASHINGTON IRVING.

CHAPTER I.

PRELIMINARY.

It is over twenty years since the death of Washington Irving removed that personal presence which is always a powerful, and sometimes the sole, stimulus to the sale of an author's books, and which strongly affects the contemporary judgment of their merits. It is nearly a century since his birth, which was almost coeval with that of the Republic, for it took place the year the British troops evacuated the city of New York, and only a few months before General Washington marched in at the head of the Continental army and took possession of the metropolis. For fifty years Irving charmed and instructed the American people, and was the author who held, on the whole, the first place in their affections. As he was the first to lift American literature into the popular respect of Europe, so for a long time he was the chief representative of the American name in the world of letters. During this period probably no citizen of the Republic, except the Father of his Country, had so wide a reputation as his namesake, Washington Irving.

It is time to inquire what basis this great reputation had in enduring qualities, what portion of it was due to local and favoring circumstances, and to make an impartial study of the author's literary rank and achievement.

The tenure of a literary reputation is the most uncertain and fluctuating of all. The popularity of an author seems to depend quite as much upon fashion or whim, as upon a change in taste or in literary form. Not only is contemporary judgment often at fault, but posterity is perpetually revising its opinion. We are accustomed to say that the final rank of an author is settled by the slow consensus of mankind in disregard of the critics; but the rank is after all determined by the few best minds of any given age, and the popular judgment has very little to do with it... Continue reading book >>




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