Knickerbocker's History of New York/Book IV/Introduction


The playful devices by which attention was directed to the coming publication of the History of Diedrich Knickerbocker are represented in the author's opening to the first volume. Irving joined afterward in business as a sleeping partner, visited England in 1815, and, while cordially welcomed here by Thomas Campbell, Walter Scott, and others, the failure of his brother's business obliged him to make writing his profession. The publishers at first refused to take one of the most charming of his works, the "Sketch Book"; but John Murray yielded at last to the influence of Walter Scott, and paid £200 for the copyright of it, a sum afterward increased to £400. "Bracebridge Hall" and the "Tales of a Traveler" followed. Irving went to Spain with the American Ambassador to translate documents and acquire experience which he used afterward in successive books. "The Life and Voyages of Columbus" appeared in 1828, and was followed by "Voyages of the Companions of Columbus."

In 1829 Washington Irving came again to England, this time as Secretary to the American Legation. He published the "Conquest of Granada." In 1831 he received the honorary degree of LL.D. from the University of Oxford. Then he returned to America, published in 1832 "The Alhambra;" in 1835 "Legends of the Conquest of Spain." In 1842 he went again to Spain, this time as American Minister. Other works were produced, and at the close of his life he achieved his early ambition, by writing a Life of Washington, after whom he had been named, and who had laid his hand upon his head and blessed him when he was a child of five. Although the first of the five volumes of the Life of Washington did not appear until he was more than seventy years old, he lived to complete his work, and died on the 28th of November, 1859. Washington Irving never married. He had loved in his early years a daughter of his friend Mrs. Hoffman, had sat by her death-bed when she was a girl of seventeen, and waited until his own death restored her to him.