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Washington Irving

Updated on May 25, 2014

Washington Irving and the Works of Washington Irving

Washington Irving was the earliest American writer to gain international fame and support himself full time on his own writing. Some of Irving's most well known stories include: "Rip Van Winkle," "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and "The Devil and Tom Walker." While the far majority of readers are only going to be familiar with this small sample of classic Washington Irving works, Irving was a prolific author who provided a much larger body of work. Many Washing Irving Books can still be found reprinted today.

Love Classic Lit? - Feel free to buy the works of Washington Irving right here

Much of Washington Irving's work remains timeless.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, Fiction, Classics (Wildside Fantasy Classic)
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, Fiction, Classics (Wildside Fantasy Classic)

This is probably the best remembered of all of Washington Irving's stories, and Sleepy Hollow remains one of the earliest and most celebrated stories in American folklore.

George Washington: A Biography
George Washington: A Biography

Washington Irving wrote a comprehensive biography on the hero of the American Revolutionary War, and our first President.

Rip Van Winkle and Other Stories (Puffin Classics)
Rip Van Winkle and Other Stories (Puffin Classics)

"Rip Van Winkle," along with "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," are two timeless Washington Irving short stories that have become part of the canon of early American literature.

The Alhambra - Washington Irving
The Alhambra - Washington Irving

An exceptional, yet little remembered, work by author Washington Irving.


Washington Irving Brief Bio

Several of Irving's stories are legends now tied to the heart of early American folklore.

Washington Irving was born on April 3rd, 1783, and was an American author from the early 1800s whose influence remains on literature today.

Irving is best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle" (both of which appear in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.) and he was also a prolific essayist, biographer, and historian.

His historical works include biographies of George Washington, Oliver Goldsmith, and the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Irving's histories include detailed books and essays on 15th century Spain and deal in detail with such topics as Columbus, the Moors, and the Alhambra.

Irving also had the distinguished honor of serving as the U.S. minister to Spain from 1842 to 1846.

He made his literary debut in 1802 with a series of observational letters to the Morning Chronicle, written under the pseudonym Jonathan Oldstyle. He became renowned internationally after the publishing of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. in 1819.

He continued to publish regularly — and almost always successfully — throughout his life, and completed a five-volume biography of George Washington just eight months before his death, at the ripe old age of 76, in Tarrytown, New York.

Irving, along with James Fenimore Cooper, was the first American writer to earn acclaim in Europe and world wide, giving early respectability for all American authors to follow.

Washington Irving Rip Van Winkle | Rip Van Winkle Review | Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle

History of Rip Van Winkle | Notes for Rip Van Winkle | Irving's Rip Van Winkle

Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle is now a staple of early American mythology, and is a classic short story that is famous and part of American literary history.

The story of Rip Van Winkle takes place at first prior to the American Revolution, then Rip Van Winkle sleeps for 20 years and wakes up after the American Revolution in the same village, where most people now don't know him.

In this story, Rip Van Winkle is a villager who lives in a nice village in New York's Catskill Mountains. He has a reputation as an amiable but lazy man whose home and farm suffer from his lazy neglect. As a result he is loved by everybody but his wife.

One fine autumn day Rip Van Winkle decides to escape his nagging wife by wandering up the mountains. After running into some very strangely dressed men (rumored to be one of the ghosts of Henry Hudson's crew) who are playing nine-pins. After drinking some of their liquor, he settles down under a shady tree and falls into a deep sleep.

Rip Van Winkle wakes up 20 years later and returns to his village. He finds out that his wife is dead and all of his close friends have either died in a war or gone somewhere else. He immediately gets into trouble when he declares himself a loyal subject of King George III, not knowing that while he slept the American Revolution has taken place.

An old local recognizes him, however, and explains to the incredulous villagers who Rip is. Rip's now grown daughter eventually puts him up. As Rip resumes his habit of idleness in the village, and his tale is solemnly believed by the old Dutch settlers. Certain hen-pecked husbands especially wish they shared Rip's luck.

This last line is meant to be far more satric than sexist, and was one of the bits of satire in Rip Van Winkle, which was used to teach many morals to the reader in a very folklore sort of way.

Rip Van Winkle is a classic story, and this type of folk lore story with a long sleep is found in literally dozens of cultures and forms.

Most Common Questions About "Rip Van Winkle"

Q: What game were the 'ghosts' playing in the mountains?

A: Nine pins, which is an early form of bowling

Q: Who wrote "Rip Van Winkle?"

A: Washington Irving, under the penname Geoffrey Crayon

Q: Was there political satire in "Rip Van Winkle?"

A: A little, with the joke being when Rip declares himself loyal to the King, the point trying to be made was that Van Winkleg represented many common men who had not slept for 20 years, but knew just as little about the current political climate.

Q: Why did he sleep for 20 years?

A: There isn't necessarily a reason for the exact number of years, as most stories of this type have the character sleep longer - even 50 to 100 years or more. In this case 20 years allows the American Revolution to happen, which works well in this story.

Q: Is it true Washington Irving had never even been to this part of New York when he wrote this story?

A: Yes - same is true of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," though he eventually moved to this region and became its most famous native son.

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Legend of Sleepy Hollow | The Legend of Sleepy Hollow | Washington Irving The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Summary of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow | Analysis of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is a short story by Washington Irving, who wrote "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" under the penname Geoffrey Crayon.

Washington Irving, author of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," wrote this story while he was actually living in Birmingham, England, and accompanies his other most famous and lasting work: "Rip Van Winkle."

This story is set around 1790 in the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town, New York, in a secluded glen appropriately named Sleepy Hollow. It tells the story of Ichabod Crane, a lean, lanky, and extremely superstitious schoolmaster hailing from the state of Connecticut.

He is in competition with Abraham "Brom Bones" Van Brunt, the town rowdy, for the hand of 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel, the beautiful daughter and sole child of a wealthy farmer. Van Brunt tells the ghost story of how he had to race the Headless Horseman at the party, trying to impress Katrina.

As Crane leaves a party he attended at the Van Tassel home, he is pursued by the Headless Horseman, who is supposedly the ghost of a Hessian trooper who had his head shot off by a stray cannonball during "some nameless battle" of the American Revolutionary War. The local legend said the Horseman would ride off with victims, and they would disappear forever.

After a confromtation where the Headless Horseman throws his head at Crane, Crane disappears and is never seen in the village again, although years later a traveler swears that Crane is alive and well in another part of the country.

The morning after Crane's disappearance a smashed pumpkin is found, and Brom is told to always have a knowing look when the story comes up, indicating he preyed on Crane's superstitious nature to chase him out of town and take Katrina's hand in marriage.

The characters of Ichabod Crane and Katrina Van Tassel were actually based on local residents of the area whom the author knew.

This Washington Irving tale is one of his most famous, and remains a classic legend of American folklore and a warning for children on why to avoid being too superstitious.

Legend of Sleepy Hollow Movie - Legend of Sleepy Hollow Tim Burton | Legend of Sleepy Hollow | Movie Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Christopher Walken plays the part of the Headless Horseman in this Tim Burton film, which is entertaining but has virtually no connection to the actual story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Buy The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Some great works for your collection.

Washington Irving: Man of Many Talents and Pen Names

A complete list of Washington Irving's Pen Names

Washington Irving wrote under six names, including five separate pen names. In chronological order, Washington Irving's pen names were:

1) Jonathan Oldstyle

2) Launcelot Langstaff

3) Diedrich Knickerbocker

4) Geoffrey Crayon

5) Fray Antonio Agapida

Irving wrote four books under the name Geoffrey Crayon, and only one book a piece under each of the other pen names. Irving gained wide spread reputation, and wrote the most under his own name. In fact, it's interesting to note that Irving didn't write a work under his own name until 18 years after his first work was published.

"Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle" was Washington Irving's first work, under the pen name Jonathan Oldstyle, and was a collection of observational letters.

"Salmagundi" was a satire in 1807-08 under the also one time pen name of Launcelot Langstaff, and "History of New York" was a wildly successful satire under the name of Diedrich Knickerbocker.

Irving was widely known as being the author of these works, especially after "History of New York" came out, which was widely lauded as his earliest success.

Geoffrey Crayon was the pen name Irving used for many of his most famous and lasting stories, including sketchbook of a gentleman, which included the stories "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

I've Found Washington Irving 1st Edition Books Here - Holding one of these books is like holding the earliest history of America

Washington Irving was the earliest American author who can be considered a writing legend.

Complete List of Washington Irving's Works

He was a prolific writer

1802: Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle

1807-1808: Salmagundi

1809: A History of New York

1819-1820: The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gentleman

1822: Bracebridge Hall

1824: Tales of a Traveller

1828: The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

1829: The Chronicles of the Conquest of Granada

1831: Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus

1832: Tales of the Alhambra

1835: The Crayon Miscellany

1836: Astoria

1837: The Adventures of Captain Bonneville

1840: The Life of Oliver Goldsmith

1841: Biography and Poetical Remains of the Late Margaret Miller Davidson

1850: Mahomet and His Successors

1855: Wolfert's Roost

1855-1859: The Life of George Washington (5 volumes)

Irving gave America so much of its early folk lore - I hope you enjoyed this lens as much as I've enjoyed his works over the years.

So What Do You Think of my Washington Irving Page?

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      VillaDejaBlue 6 years ago

      Nice lens.