Washington Irving
Name: Washington Irving
Occupation: Novelist
Gender: Male
Birth Day: April 3, 1783
Death Date: Nov 28, 1859 (age 76)
Age: Aged 76
Birth Place: New York City, United States
Zodiac Sign: Aries

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Washington Irving

Washington Irving was born on April 3, 1783 in New York City, United States (76 years old). Washington Irving is a Novelist, zodiac sign: Aries. Nationality: United States. Approx. Net Worth: Undisclosed.


He served as the United States Ambassador to Spain during the early-to-mid 1840s.

Net Worth 2020

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Does Washington Irving Dead or Alive?

As per our current Database, Washington Irving died on Nov 28, 1859 (age 76).


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Before Fame

He was named after president George Washington, and he once met his namesake while the president was visiting New York City. Washington Irving began writing at a young age, and he published several letters in the Morning Chronicle when he was just nineteen years old (using the pseudonym of Jonathan Oldstyle).


Biography Timeline


The Irving family settled in Manhattan, and were part of the city's merchant class. Washington was born on April 3, 1783, the same week that New York City residents learned of the British ceasefire which ended the American Revolution. Irving's mother named him after George Washington. Irving met his namesake at age 6, when George Washington was living in New York after his inauguration as President in 1789. The President blessed young Irving, an encounter that Irving had commemorated in a small watercolor painting which continues to hang in his home.


Irving was an uninterested student who preferred adventure stories and drama, and he regularly sneaked out of class in the evenings to attend the theater by the time he was 14. An outbreak of yellow fever in Manhattan in 1798 prompted his family to send him upriver, where he stayed with his friend James Kirke Paulding in Tarrytown, New York. It was in Tarrytown he became familiar with the nearby town of Sleepy Hollow, New York, with its Dutch customs and local ghost stories. He made several other trips up the Hudson as a teenager, including an extended visit to Johnstown, New York where he passed through the Catskill Mountains region, the setting for "Rip Van Winkle". "Of all the scenery of the Hudson", Irving wrote, "the Kaatskill Mountains had the most witching effect on my boyish imagination".


Irving began writing letters to the New York Morning Chronicle in 1802 when he was 19, submitting commentaries on the city's social and theater scene under the pseudonym Jonathan Oldstyle. The name evoked his Federalist leanings and was the first of many pseudonyms he employed throughout his career. The letters bought Irving some early fame and moderate notoriety. Aaron Burr was a co-publisher of the Chronicle, and was impressed enough to send clippings of the Oldstyle pieces to his daughter Theodosia. Charles Brockden Brown made a trip to New York to try to recruit Oldstyle for a literary magazine he was editing in Philadelphia.


Concerned for his health, Irving's brothers financed an extended tour of Europe from 1804 to 1806. He bypassed most of the sites and locations considered essential for the social development of a young man, to the dismay of his brother William who wrote that he was pleased that his brother's health was improving, but he did not like the choice to "gallop through Italy… leaving Florence on your left and Venice on your right". Instead, Irving honed the social and conversational skills that eventually made him one of the world's most in-demand guests. "I endeavor to take things as they come with cheerfulness", Irving wrote, "and when I cannot get a dinner to suit my taste, I endeavor to get a taste to suit my dinner". While visiting Rome in 1805, Irving struck up a friendship with painter Washington Allston and was almost persuaded into a career as a painter. "My lot in life, however, was differently cast".


Irving returned from Europe to study law with his legal mentor Judge Josiah Ogden Hoffman in New York City. By his own admission, he was not a good student and barely passed the bar examination in 1806. He began socializing with a group of literate young men whom he dubbed "The Lads of Kilkenny", and he created the literary magazine Salmagundi in January 1807 with his brother William and his friend James Kirke Paulding, writing under various pseudonyms, such as William Wizard and Launcelot Langstaff. Irving lampooned New York culture and politics in a manner similar to today's Mad magazine. Salmagundi was a moderate success, spreading Irving's name and reputation beyond New York. He gave New York City the nickname "Gotham" in its 17th issue dated November 11, 1807, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "Goat's Town".


Unsuspecting readers followed the story of Knickerbocker and his manuscript with interest, and some New York city officials were concerned enough about the missing historian to offer a reward for his safe return. Irving then published A History of New York on December 6, 1809 under the Knickerbocker pseudonym, with immediate critical and popular success. "It took with the public", Irving remarked, "and gave me celebrity, as an original work was something remarkable and uncommon in America". The name Diedrich Knickerbocker became a nickname for Manhattan residents in general and was adopted by the New York Knickerbockers basketball team.

Irving was frustrated by bad investments, so he turned to writing to generate additional income, beginning with A Tour on the Prairies which related his recent travels on the frontier. The book was another popular success and also the first book written and published by Irving in the United States since A History of New York in 1809. In 1834, he was approached by fur magnate John Jacob Astor who convinced him to write a history of his fur trading colony in the Astoria, Oregon. Irving made quick work of Astor's project, shipping the fawning biographical account Astoria in February 1836. In 1835, Irving, Astor, and a few others founded the Saint Nicholas Society in the City of New York.


One of Irving's most lasting contributions to American culture is in the way that Americans celebrate Christmas. In his 1812 revisions to A History of New York, he inserted a dream sequence featuring St. Nicholas soaring over treetops in a flying wagon, an invention which others dressed up as Santa Claus. In his five Christmas stories in The Sketch Book, Irving portrayed an idealized celebration of old-fashioned Christmas customs at a quaint English manor which depicted English Christmas festivities that he experienced while staying in England, which had largely been abandoned. He used text from The Vindication of Christmas (London 1652) of old English Christmas traditions, and the book contributed to the revival and reinterpretation of the Christmas holiday in the United States.


After the success of A History of New York, Irving searched for a job and eventually became an editor of Analectic Magazine, where he wrote biographies of naval heroes such as James Lawrence and Oliver Perry. He was also among the first magazine editors to reprint Francis Scott Key's poem "Defense of Fort McHenry", which was immortalized as "The Star-Spangled Banner". Irving initially opposed the War of 1812 like many other merchants, but the British attack on Washington, D.C. in 1814 convinced him to enlist. He served on the staff of Daniel Tompkins, governor of New York and commander of the New York State Militia, but he saw no real action apart from a reconnaissance mission in the Great Lakes region. The war was disastrous for many American merchants, including Irving's family, and he left for England in mid-1815 to salvage the family trading company. He remained in Europe for the next 17 years.


Irving composed the short story "Rip Van Winkle" overnight while staying with his sister Sarah and her husband, Henry van Wart in Birmingham, England, a place that inspired other works, as well. In October 1818, Irving's brother William secured for Irving a post as chief clerk to the United States Navy and urged him to return home. Irving turned the offer down, opting to stay in England to pursue a writing career.


With both Irving and publisher John Murray eager to follow up on the success of The Sketch Book, Irving spent much of 1821 travelling in Europe in search of new material, reading widely in Dutch and German folk tales. Hampered by writer's block—and depressed by the death of his brother William—Irving worked slowly, finally delivering a completed manuscript to Murray in March 1822. The book, Bracebridge Hall, or The Humorists, A Medley (the location was based loosely on Aston Hall, occupied by members of the Bracebridge family, near his sister's home in Birmingham) was published in June 1822.


In August 1824, Irving published the collection of essays Tales of a Traveller—including the short story "The Devil and Tom Walker"—under his Geoffrey Crayon persona. "I think there are in it some of the best things I have ever written", Irving told his sister. But while the book sold respectably, Traveller was dismissed by critics, who panned both Traveller and its author. "The public have been led to expect better things", wrote the United States Literary Gazette, while the New-York Mirror pronounced Irving "overrated". Hurt and depressed by the book's reception, Irving retreated to Paris where he spent the next year worrying about finances and scribbling down ideas for projects that never materialized.


While in Paris, Irving received a letter from Alexander Hill Everett on January 30, 1826. Everett, recently the American Minister to Spain, urged Irving to join him in Madrid, noting that a number of manuscripts dealing with the Spanish conquest of the Americas had recently been made public. Irving left for Madrid and enthusiastically began scouring the Spanish archives for colorful material.


With full access to the American consul's massive library of Spanish history, Irving began working on several books at once. The first offspring of this hard work, A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, was published in January 1828. The book was popular in the United States and in Europe and would have 175 editions published before the end of the century. It was also the first project of Irving's to be published with his own name, instead of a pseudonym, on the title page. Irving was invited to stay at the palace of the Duke of Gor, who gave him unfettered access to his library containing many medieval manuscripts. Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada was published a year later, followed by Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus in 1831.


In 1829, Irving moved into Granada's ancient palace Alhambra, "determined to linger here", he said, "until I get some writings under way connected with the place". Before he could get any significant writing underway, however, he was notified of his appointment as Secretary to the American Legation in London. Worried he would disappoint friends and family if he refused the position, Irving left Spain for England in July 1829.


Arriving in London, Irving joined the staff of American Minister Louis McLane. McLane immediately assigned the daily secretary work to another man and tapped Irving to fill the role of aide-de-camp. The two worked over the next year to negotiate a trade agreement between the United States and the British West Indies, finally reaching a deal in August 1830. That same year, Irving was awarded a medal by the Royal Society of Literature, followed by an honorary doctorate of civil law from Oxford in 1831.


Following McLane's recall to the United States in 1831 to serve as Secretary of Treasury, Irving stayed on as the legation's chargé d'affaires until the arrival of Martin Van Buren, President Andrew Jackson's nominee for British Minister. With Van Buren in place, Irving resigned his post to concentrate on writing, eventually completing Tales of the Alhambra, which would be published concurrently in the United States and England in 1832.


Irving arrived in New York on May 21, 1832 after 17 years abroad. That September, he accompanied Commissioner on Indian Affairs Henry Leavitt Ellsworth on a surveying mission, along with companions Charles La Trobe and Count Albert-Alexandre de Pourtales, and they traveled deep into Indian Territory (now the state of Oklahoma). At the completion of his western tour, Irving traveled through Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, where he became acquainted with politician and novelist John Pendleton Kennedy.


In 1835, Irving purchased a "neglected cottage" and its surrounding riverfront property in Tarrytown, New York which he named Sunnyside in 1841. It required constant repair and renovation over the next 20 years, with costs continually escalating, so he reluctantly agreed to become a regular contributor to The Knickerbocker magazine in 1839, writing new essays and short stories under the Knickerbocker and Crayon pseudonyms. He was regularly approached by aspiring young authors for advice or endorsement, including Edgar Allan Poe, who sought Irving's comments on "William Wilson" and "The Fall of the House of Usher".


In 1837, a lady of Charleston, South Carolina brought the attention of William Clancy, newly appointed bishop to Demerara, a passage in The Crayon Miscellany, and questioned whether it accurately reflected Catholic teaching or practice. The passage under "Newstead Abbey" read:


Edgar Allan Poe, on the other hand, felt that Irving should be given credit for being an innovator but that the writing itself was often unsophisticated. "Irving is much over-rated", Poe wrote in 1838, "and a nice distinction might be drawn between his just and his surreptitious and adventitious reputation—between what is due to the pioneer solely, and what to the writer". A critic for the New-York Mirror wrote: "No man in the Republic of Letters has been more overrated than Mr. Washington Irving". Some critics claimed that Irving catered to British sensibilities, and one critic charged that he wrote "of and for England, rather than his own country".


In 1841, he was elected in the National Academy of Design as an Honorary Academician. He also began a friendly correspondence with Charles Dickens and hosted him and his wife at Sunnyside during Dickens's American tour in 1842.


President John Tyler appointed Irving as Minister to Spain in February 1842, after an endorsement from Secretary of State Daniel Webster. Irving wrote, "It will be a severe trial to absent myself for a time from my dear little Sunnyside, but I shall return to it better enabled to carry it on comfortably". He hoped that his position as Minister would allow him plenty of time to write, but Spain was in a state of political upheaval during most of his tenure, with a number of warring factions vying for control of the 12-year-old Queen Isabella II. Irving maintained good relations with the various generals and politicians, as control of Spain rotated through Espartero, Bravo, then Narvaez. Espartero was then locked in a power struggle with the Spanish Cortes. Irving's official reports on the ensuing civil war and revolution expressed his romantic fascination with the regent as young Queen Isabella's knight protector, He wrote with an anti-republican, undiplomatic bias. Though Espartero, ousted in July 1843, remained a fallen hero in his eyes, Irving began to view Spanish affairs more realistically. However, the politics and warfare were exhausting, and Irving was both homesick and suffering from a crippling skin condition.


Irving returned from Spain in September 1846, took up residence at Sunnyside, and began work on an "Author's Revised Edition" of his works for publisher George Palmer Putnam. For its publication, Irving had made a deal which guaranteed him 12 percent of the retail price of all copies sold, an agreement that was unprecedented at that time. As he revised his older works for Putnam, he continued to write regularly, publishing biographies of Oliver Goldsmith in 1849 and Islamic prophet Muhammad in 1850. In 1855, he produced Wolfert's Roost, a collection of stories and essays that he had written for The Knickerbocker and other publications, and he began publishing a biography of his namesake George Washington which he expected to be his masterpiece. Five volumes of the biography were published between 1855 and 1859.


Clancy wrote Irving, who "promptly aided the investigation into the truth, and promised to correct in future editions the misrepresentation complained of." Clancy traveled to his new posting by way of England, and bearing a letter of introduction from Irving, stopped at Newstead Abbey and was able to view the document to which Irving had alluded. Upon inspection, Clancy discovered that it was in fact not an indulgence issued to the friars from any ecclesiastical authority, but a pardon given by the king to some parties suspected of having broken "forest laws". Clancy requested the local pastor to forward his findings to Catholic periodicals in England, and upon publication, send a copy to Irving. Whether this was done is not clear as the disputed text remains in the 1849 edition.


The village of Dearman, New York changed its name to "Irvington" in 1854 to honor Washington Irving, who was living in nearby "Sunnyside", which is preserved as a museum. Influential residents of the village prevailed upon the Hudson River Railroad, which had reached the village by 1849, to change the name of the train station to "Irvington", and the village incorporated as Irvington on April 16, 1872.


Irving traveled regularly to Mount Vernon and Washington, D.C. for his research, and struck up friendships with Presidents Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce. He was elected an Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1855. He was hired as an executor of John Jacob Astor's estate in 1848 and appointed by Astor's will as first chairman of the Astor Library, a forerunner to the New York Public Library.


Irving died of a heart attack in his bedroom at Sunnyside on November 28, 1859, age 76—only eight months after completing the final volume of his Washington biography. Legend has it that his last words were: "Well, I must arrange my pillows for another night. When will this end?" He was buried under a simple headstone at Sleepy Hollow cemetery on December 1, 1859. Irving and his grave were commemorated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his 1876 poem "In The Churchyard at Tarrytown", which concludes with:


Other critics were more supportive of Irving's style. William Makepeace Thackeray was the first to refer to Irving as the "ambassador whom the New World of Letters sent to the Old", a banner picked up by writers and critics throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. "He is the first of the American humorists, as he is almost the first of the American writers", wrote critic H.R. Hawless in 1881, "yet belonging to the New World, there is a quaint Old World flavor about him". Early critics often had difficulty separating Irving the man from Irving the writer. "The life of Washington Irving was one of the brightest ever led by an author", wrote Richard Henry Stoddard, an early Irving biographer. Later critics, however, began to review his writings as all style with no substance. "The man had no message", said critic Barrett Wendell.

🎂 Upcoming Birthday

Currently, Washington Irving is 239 years, 4 months and 8 days old. Washington Irving will celebrate 240th birthday on a Monday 3rd of April 2023.

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