Irving, Washington

BORN 3 Apr 1783, New York City, New York - DIED 28 Nov 1859, Tarrytown, New York: Sunnyside
CAUSE OF DEATH heart attack
GRAVE LOCATION Sleepy Hollow, New York: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, 540 North Broadway (southern end of the cemetery in a plot overlooking the old church)

American writer of Scottish descent. He grew up in New York, then a town with only 25,000 inhabitants. In 1809 he published a history of the city titled "A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Dietrich Knickerbocker" in which he satirizes pretentious historians. Irving had also started to study law, but when his beloved Matilda Hoffman died in the same year of tuberculosis, his already delicate health was damaged further, and his parents sent him abroad.

He travelled through England, the Netherlands, France, and Italy. In 1823 at Dresden, he was infatuated with Emily Foster, the granddaughter of a British count. In 1824 he met Mary Shelley in England, but despite the efforts of his friend John Payne he did not fall for her.

In England (where he spent several years in Liverpool because of the business of his brother) he met many famous writers. This inspired him to continue his own writing. Sir Walter Scott helped him to publish his "Sketch Book", for which he received 2,000 pounds. The Sketch Book made him famous, and he published more sketches in "By Geoffrey Crayon, Gent." (1822)" and "Tales of a Traveller" (1824). Unfortunately, the latter work was received very badly, causing Irving to stop writing fiction. From then on, he wrote mainly history and biography.

From 1826 to 1829 he lived in Madrid and Sevilla and wrote "Life and Voyages of Columbus" and "A Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada". From 1829 to 1831 he worked as a diplomat in England. In 1832 Irving returned to America. He bought and old house and surrounding land near Tarrytown, north of New York that he called Sunnyside. From 1842 to 1846 he served President John Tyler as minister to Spain. Afterwards he returned to Sunnyside to write his monumental "Life of George Washington". This work contained five volumes and the last volume was published a few months before his death in 1859.

"A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Dietrich Knickerbocker" (1809);
"The Sketch Book Of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent" (1820, including "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow");
"The Alhambra" (1832).

Related persons
• was a friend of Dickens, Charles Culliford Boz
• was influenced by Hoffmann, Ernst Theodor Amadeus
• was painted by Leslie, Charles
• had work illustrated by Leslie, Charles
• corresponded with Medwin, Thomas
• has a connection with Shelley, Mary
• met Thackeray, William Makepeace

25/3/1830William Godwin and Edward Bulwer-Lytton visit Mary Shelley. Washigton Irving and Thomas Moore were there as well. On 7 June 1830 Godwin and Bulwer-Lytton visited Mary again. [Godwin, William][Shelley, Mary]
3/9/1859Charles Dickens burns 20 years of correspondence. Three of his children, among them Kate, helped him. Kate begged her father to keep at least some some letters. Dickens burnt letters from Washington Irving, Thomas Carlyle, William Makepeace Thackeray, Alfred Tennyson and others. Henry Dickens observed later that he and his brother 'roasted onions on the ashes of the great'. [Dickens, Charles][Dickens, Henry Fielding ][Dickens, Kate][Thackeray, William Makepeace]


The grave of Washington Irving at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York.
Picture by Androom (15 Apr 2008)


The Headless Horseman Bridge was once located here in Tarrytown.
Picture by Androom (15 Apr 2008)


"Washington Irving and his literary friends at Sunnyside". [Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division]


• Feldman, Paula R. and Diana Scott-Kilvert, The Journals of Mary Shelley, 1814-1844, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1987
• Jones, Brian Jay, Washington Irving, An American Original, Arcade Publishing, New York, 2008
• Norman, Sylva, Flight of the Skylark, Max Reinhardt, London, 1954

Isaacs, Rebecca

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 28 Apr 2024