Washington Irving eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 232 pages of information about Washington Irving.
with ‘low-quartered’ shoes neatly tied, and a Talma cloak—­a short garment that hung from the shoulders like the cape of a coat.  There was a chirping, cheery, old-school air in his appearance which was undeniably Dutch, and most harmonious with the associations of his writing.  He seemed, indeed, to have stepped out of his own books; and the cordial grace and humor of his address, if he stopped for a passing chat, were delightfully characteristic.  He was then our most famous man of letters, but he was simply free from all self-consciousness and assumption and dogmatism.”  Congenial occupation was one secret of Irving’s cheerfulness and contentment, no doubt.  And he was called away as soon as his task was done, very soon after the last volume of the “Washington” issued from the press.  Yet he lived long enough to receive the hearty approval of it from the literary men whose familiarity with the Revolutionary period made them the best judges of its merits.

He had time also to revise his works.  It is perhaps worthy of note that for several years, while he was at the height of his popularity, his books had very little sale.  From 1842 to 1848 they were out of print, with the exception of some stray copies of a cheap Philadelphia edition, and a Paris collection (a volume of this, at my hand, is one of a series entitled a “Collection of Ancient and Modern British Authors"), they were not to be found.  The Philadelphia publishers did not think there was sufficient demand to warrant a new edition.  Mr. Irving and his friends judged the market more wisely, and a young New York publisher offered to assume the responsibility.  This was Mr. George P. Putnam.  The event justified his sagacity and his liberal enterprise; from July, 1848, to November, 1859, the author received on his copyright over eighty-eight thousand dollars.  And it should be added that the relations between author and publisher, both in prosperity and in times of business disaster, reflect the highest credit upon both.  If the like relations always obtained we should not have to say:  “May the Lord pity the authors in this world, and the publishers in the next.”

I have outlined the life of Washington Irving in vain, if we have not already come to a tolerably clear conception of the character of the man and of his books.  If I were exactly to follow his literary method I should do nothing more.  The idiosyncrasies of the man are the strength and weakness of his works.  I do not know any other author whose writings so perfectly reproduce his character, or whose character may be more certainly measured by his writings.  His character is perfectly transparent:  his predominant traits were humor and sentiment; his temperament was gay with a dash of melancholy; his inner life and his mental operations were the reverse of complex, and his literary method is simple.  He felt his subject, and he expressed his conception not so much by direct statement or description as by almost

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Washington Irving from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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