|Washington Irving (1783 - 1859)
Washington Irving was born in New York City on April 3, 1789 as the youngest of 11 children. His father was a wealthy merchant, and his mother, an English woman, was the granddaughter of a clergyman.
Early in his life Irving developed a passion for books.
He studied law privately but practiced only briefly.
From 1804 to 1806 he travelled widely in Europe.
After returning to the United States, Irving was admitted to the New York bar in 1806.
He was a partner with his brothers in the family hardware business and representative of the business in England until it collapsed in 1818.
During the war of 1812 Irving was a military aide to New York Governor Tompkins in the U.S. Army.
Irving's career as a writer started in journals and newspapers. He contributed to the Morning Chronicle (1802-03), which was edited by his brother Peter, and published Salmagundi (1807-08).
Irving's success in social life and literature was shadowed by a personal tragedy: he was engaged to be married to Matilda Hoffmanm who died at the age of seventeen, in 1809.
In 1809 appeared Irving's comic history of the Dutch regime in New York, A History Of New York, by the imaginary 'Dietrich Knickerbocker', who was supposed to be an eccentric Dutch-American scholar. Irving's success continued with The Sketch Book Of Geoffrey Crayon. (1819-20), a collection of stories, which allowed him to become a full-time writer. In 1822 appeared a sequel to The Sketch Book.
After the death of his mother, Irving decided to stay in Europe, where he remained for seventeen years from 1815 to 1832. During his stay in Spain, he wrote Columbus (1828), Conquest Of Granada (1829) and The Companions Of Columbus (1831), all based on careful historical research. In 1829 he moved to London and published Alhambra (1832), concerning the history and the legends of Moorish Spain.
In 1832 Irving returned to New York to an enthusiastic welcome as the first American author to have achieved international fame. He toured the southern and western United States and wrote The Cayon Miscellany (1835) and A Tour Of The Prairies (1835).
Between the years 1842-45 Irving was the U.S. Ambassador to Spain.
From 1848 to 1859 he was President of Astor Library, later New York Public Library.
Irving spent the last years of his life in Tarrytown, where he died on November 28, 1859. His later publications include Mahomet And His Successors (1850), Wolfert's Roost (1855), and his five-volume The Life of George Washington (1855-59).
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