Washington Irving, an American short story writer, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat, was born on April 3 in 1783. He was the first American author who found success not only in America but also in Europe as well. He’s considered the father of American literature because it is his writing that began shaping the American identity. He achieved international fame for the fictional stories Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, as well as for such biographical works as A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus.
Here are some amusing facts about Irving’s career and life:
Fact 1: When Irving was around the age of 15, yellow fever had broken out in Manhattan, so his parents sent him away with some friends in Tarrytown, New York. Tarrytown and the near-by village of Sleepy Hollow are, of course, where his later stories are set. It was during this time too that he first saw the Catskill Mountains, which set the scene for his character Rip Van Winkle‘s 20-year sleep.
Fact 2: Academically, he wasn’t a dedicated student and instead preferred to attend theatre than sit in class. When he graduated from a private school in 1798, however, he went into a law office as an attempt to avoid business, which he hated.
Fact 3: In 1815 he moved to England to work in the failing Liverpool branch of the family import-export business. Within three years the company was bankrupt, and, finding himself at age thirty-five without means of support, Irving decided that he would earn his living by writing. He began recording the impressions, thoughts, and descriptions which, polished and repolished in his meticulous manner, became the pieces that make up The Sketch Book. This book was a tremendous success!
Fact 4: One of his early pseudonyms was Diedrich Knickerbocker, another pseudonym Irving used was Geoffrey Crayon.
Fact 6: Irving served as secretary to the American embassy in London from 1829 until 1832 and served as the U.S. ambassador to Spain in the 1840s. He also and pushed for stronger copyright laws before his death in 1859.