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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 190 pages of information about Washington Irving.
At the age of sixteen he entered a law office, but he was a heedless student, and never acquired either a taste for the profession or much knowledge of law.  While he sat in the law office, he read literature, and made considerable progress in his self-culture; but he liked rambling and society quite as well as books.  In 1798 we find him passing a summer holiday in Westchester County, and exploring with his gun the Sleepy Hollow region which he was afterwards to make an enchanted realm; and in 1800 he made his first voyage up the Hudson, the beauties of which he was the first to celebrate, on a visit to a married sister who lived in the Mohawk Valley.  In 1802 he became a law clerk in the office of Josiah Ogden Hoffman, and began that enduring intimacy with the refined and charming Hoffman family which was so deeply to influence all his life.  His health had always been delicate, and his friends were now alarmed by symptoms of pulmonary weakness.  This physical disability no doubt had much to do with his disinclination to severe study.  For the next two or three years much time was consumed in excursions up the Hudson and the Mohawk, and in adventurous journeys as far as the wilds of Ogdensburg and to Montreal, to the great improvement of his physical condition, and in the enjoyment of the gay society of Albany, Schenectady, Ballston, and Saratoga Springs.  These explorations and visits gave him material for future use, and exercised his pen in agreeable correspondence; but his tendency at this time, and for several years afterwards, was to the idle life of a man of society.  Whether the literary impulse which was born in him would have ever insisted upon any but an occasional and fitful expression, except for the necessities of his subsequent condition, is doubtful.

Irving’s first literary publication was a series of letters, signed Jonathan Oldstyle, contributed in 1802 to the “Morning Chronicle,” a newspaper then recently established by his brother Peter.  The attention that these audacious satires of the theatre, the actors, and their audience attracted is evidence of the literary poverty of the period.  The letters are open imitations of the “Spectator” and the “Tatler,” and although sharp upon local follies are of no consequence at present except as foreshadowing the sensibility and quiet humor of the future author, and his chivalrous devotion to woman.  What is worthy of note is that a boy of nineteen should turn aside from his caustic satire to protest against the cruel and unmanly habit of jesting at ancient maidens.  It was enough for him that they are women, and possess the strongest claim upon our admiration, tenderness, and protection.

CHAPTER III.

ManhoodFirst visit to Europe.

Irving’s health, always delicate, continued so much impaired when he came of age, in 1804, that his brothers determined to send him to Europe.  On the 19th of May he took passage for Bordeaux in a sailing vessel, which reached the mouth of the Garonne on the 25th of June.  His consumptive appearance when he went on board caused the captain to say to himself, “There’s a chap who will go overboard before we get across;” but his condition was much improved by the voyage.

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