The next day he offered his services to Governor Tompkins, and was made the governor’s aid and military secretary, with the right to be addressed as Col. Washington Irving. He served only four months in this capacity, when Governor Tompkins was called to the session of the legislature at Albany. Irving intended to go to Washington and apply for a commission in the regular army, but he was detained at Philadelphia by the affairs of his magazine, until news came in February, 1815, of the close of the war. In May of that year he embarked for England to visit his brother, intending only a short sojourn. He remained abroad seventeen years.
LIFE IN EUROPE: LITERARY ACTIVITY.
When Irving sailed from New York, it was with lively anticipations of witnessing the stirring events to follow the return of Bonaparte from Elba. When he reached Liverpool the curtain had fallen in Bonaparte’s theatre. The first spectacle that met the traveler’s eye was the mail coaches, darting through the streets, decked with laurel and bringing the news of Waterloo. As usual, Irving’s sympathies were with the unfortunate. “I think,” he says, writing of the exile of St. Helena, “the cabinet has acted with littleness toward him. In spite of all his misdeeds he is a noble fellow [pace Madame de Remusat], and I am confident will eclipse, in the eyes of posterity, all the crowned wiseacres that have crushed him by their overwhelming confederacy. If anything could place the Prince Regent in a more ridiculous light, it is Bonaparte suing for his magnanimous protection. Every compliment paid to this bloated sensualist, this inflation of sack and sugar, turns to the keenest sarcasm.”
After staying a week with his brother Peter, who was recovering from an indisposition, Irving went to Birmingham, the residence of his brother-in-law, Henry Van Wart, who had married his youngest sister, Sarah; and from thence to Sydenham, to visit Campbell. The poet was not at home. To Mrs. Campbell Irving expressed his regret that her husband did not attempt something on a grand scale.