Washington Irving. Irving was the first American writer to achieve an international literary reputation. He was a Romantic with a great sense of tradition, looking to the old world (Europe) for models. A History of New York.
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He was a Romantic with a great sense of tradition, looking to the old world (Europe) for models.
This book was a parody of another popular history of the day. The book was launched by a charming publicity campaign. First, a newspaper noted the disappearance of a “small, elderly gentleman, dressed in an old black coat and cocked hat, by the name of “Knickerbocker,” adding that there were “some reasons for believing he is not entirely in his right mind.”
After further “news” items, the old man’s fictitious landlord announced that he had found in Knickerbocker’s room a “very curious kind of written book” which he intended to dispose of to pay the bill that was owed him, and the book at last appeared, ascribed to Diedrich Knickerbocker.
With its publication, Irving became an American celebrity.
From F.L. Pattee’s essay on Irving in Development of American Short Story
After the sensational triumph of The Sketch Book, a success that stirred greatly the imagination of the younger seekers for literary recognition, sketches and tales became the literary fashion in America, and in such volume did they come that vehicles for their dissemination became imperative. The various popular magazines that sprang up in the 1830’s and 1840’s were indirectly the fruit of Irving’s success as a sketch writer.
2. He was the first prominent writer to strip the prose tale of its moral and didactic elements and to make of it a literary form solely for entertainment.
“I have preferred addressing myself to the feeling and fancy of the reader more than to his judgment . . . . My writings, therefore, may appear light and trifling to our country of philosophers and politicians.”
He was a pioneer in that new school which demanded an American literature, an art that would work in native materials in an original manner.
5. He was the first writer of fiction to realize that the shorter form of narrative could be made something new and different, but that to do it required a peculiar nicety of execution and patient workmanship.
“. . . In these shorter writings every page must have merit . . . . Woe to [the author] if he makes an awkward sentence or writes a stupid page; the critics are sure to pounce upon it.”
He constantly avoided, as he expressed it, the “commonplace of the day.”
So far as modern technique is concerned, Irving retarded its growth for a generation. He became from the first a model to be followed by all. To him may be traced the origin of that wave of sentimentalism and unrestrained romance that surged through the annuals and the popular magazines for three decades.
Poe’s careful analysis was either unread by his generation or else unheeded because it was a revolt from Irving.
Irving finally wrote history; he was not interested in saying anything unique about the human condition.