You’ve probably shivered over the tale of the headless horseman chasing Ichabod Crane through dark Sleepy Hollow. Maybe you’ve heard about Rip Van Winkle, falling asleep only to awaken twenty years later in a world all changed. You might even know that Washington Irving wrote those stories. But did you know that, when he was six, he shook hands with President George Washington? Well, he did, in 1789, in New York City, then the U.S. capital.
Did you know that young Mr. Irving traveled through Europe when Napoleon Bonaparte was Emperor of France? Well, he did, around 1805. And Irving survived an attack by pirates in the Mediterranean Sea!
And who originated the New York Knicks’ name? Washington Irving! His invented author, “Diedrich Knickerbocker,” wrote Irving’s history of New York, published in 1809. So New Yorkers and even their 1849 baseball team were called “Knickerbockers” or “Knicks.” In that history, Irving told about a stout, jolly St. Nicholas (patron saint of New York’s early Dutch settlers), who delivered children’s presents once a year. This inspired the famous 1823 poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” by New Yorker Clement Clarke Moore.
In 1811, Mr. Irving visited the White House, met President James Madison, and danced with Dolley Madison, the beautiful First Lady. Then he wrote those stories I told you about and became the first celebrity author, famous in America and in Europe.
He was a U.S. diplomat too, in Spain. Did you know he lived in Alhambra, former castle-home of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who financed Christopher Columbus’s 1492 voyage to America? He did. He wrote a Columbus biography too, in 1828.
He also hunted buffalo in present-day Oklahoma, met William Clark, Meriwether Lewis’s old explorer-buddy, and wrote about his travels in the American West. Then he helped design “Sunnyside,” his wonderful house in Tarrytown, NY, where he kept a pet pig named “Fanny.”
In the 1840s, Washington Irving met U.S. President John Tyler and young Queen Victoria of England? He helped settle a war between the U.S. and Great Britain over the U.S.-Canada border. And when he died in November 1859, all the flags were lowered in New York City, a.k.a. “Gotham City,” particularly in Batman comics. Did you know Mr. Irving gave the city that nickname? Well he did.
Cheryl Harness is a formidable storyteller in her own right and she's also an amazing artist. In this book, The Literary Adventures of Washington Irving, she pays tribute to America's first celebrity author.
MLA 8 Citation
Harness, Cheryl. "Mr. Irving: Literary Adventurer." Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 12
June 2018, www.nonfictionminute.org/the-nonfiction-minute/
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