Washington Irving (1783–1859)
From Washington Irving: History, Tales and Sketches
Washington Irving was born 236 years ago today, on April 3, 1783.
Two centuries ago, in 1819, Irving released the first of seven volumes of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., the book that would become his most famous work. (If the title of The Sketch Book seems unfamiliar, we’re betting you’ve heard of its two most famous stories: “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”)
Another century later, in 1919, Leonidas Warren Payne, an early proponent of the idea that American literature should be taught in universities, declared, “In a certain sense, Irving is the father of American literature. He was not our first author to devote himself entirely to literature, for Charles Brockden Brown had done that just before him; but he was the first of our authors to gain recognition abroad, or, as Thackeray happily phrased it, ‘Irving was the first ambassador whom the New World of letters sent to the Old.’”
Well, here it is 2019, and to celebrate both Irving’s birthday and the bicentennial of his most famous book, we present as our Story of the Week selection the “The Spectre Bridegroom,” a surprisingly humorous tale that is arguably the third most famous story from The Sketch Book.