Washington Irving


Washington Irving was born on the 3rd of April in 1783, in New York City. Irving is known as one of the most famous authors of gothic literature in the early 19th century, being one of the first American writers to earn acclaim in Europe. Irving is also largely cited as the first American Man of Letters, making his living entirely off his literary works.

Legacy & Accomplishments

Washington Irving, throughout his career, was an author, essayist, biographer, historian, and even a diplomat. Irving was best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle". His historical works include biographies of George Washington, Oliver Goldsmith, and Muhammad. Irving's historical works also included several 15th century subjects such as Christopher Columbus, the Moors, and the Alhambra. Irving's diplomatic work included being the United States ambassador for Spain from 1842 to 1846.

Early Life

Irving's parents were William Irving, Sr. and Sarah (née Sanders), whom were Scottish-English immigrants. They married in 1761, while William was serving as a petty officer within the British Navy. They had eleven children, eight of which survived to adulthood. Their first two sons, each named William, died during infancy, as well as their fourth child, John.

Later Life & Death

After returning from Spain in 1846, Irving took up permanent residence at Sunnyside, and began working on an "Author's Revised Edition" of his works for publisher George Palmer Putnam. For its publication, Irving had made a deal that guaranteed him 12 percent of the retail price of all copies sold. Such an agreement was unprecedented at that time.

Washington Irving died on the night of November 28th, 1859, at 9:00 pm, only eight months after completing the final volume of his biography, Irving died of a heart attack in his bedroom at Sunnyside, at the age of 76. His last words were rumored to be: "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.

Engraved into his headstone, commemorated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from his poem "In The Churchyard at Tarrytown", it reads:

"How sweet a life was his; how sweet a death!

Living, to wing with mirth the weary hours,
Or with romantic tales the heart to cheer;
Dying, to leave a memory like the breath
Of summers full of sunshine and of showers,

A grief and gladness in the atmosphere."