Washington Irving Click the video screen to watch an 1889 film version of Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle, streaming in 256k MPEG. According to Wilford B. Wolf's review posted at the Internet Archive, the film is "A series of short (about 20-30 sec) scenes that depict the Irving classic "Rip Van Winkle". The first two parts appear to be shot in Edison's studio in New York, which opened up to allow in natural sunlight. The remaining reels, where Van Winkle leaves with the dwarves and drinks to oblivion, appear to be shot outside."
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Read Washington Irving's The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, U. S. A., in the Rocky Mountains and the Far West, one of 18 of his works available from Project Gutenberg Irving was born in Manhattan. A lawyer, he was a member of the American diplomatic staff in Britain and in Spain. He spoke fluent Spanish, which served him well in his writings on that country, and he could read several other languages, including German and Dutch.
He was a prolific essayist who wrote widely respected biographies of George Washington, Muhammad, and others, and he wrote a number of books on 15th century Spain dealing with subjects such as Columbus, the Moors, and the Alhambra. While in Europe as a young man, Irving dabbled in the theatre and even served as manager of the famed Globe for a period of time.
Irving traveled on the Western frontier in the 1830s and recorded his glimpses of western tribes in A Tour on the Prairies (1835).
He was noted for speaking against the mishandling of relations with the Native American tribes by Europeans and Americans:
It has been the lot of the unfortunate aborigines of America, in the early periods of colonization, to be doubly wronged by the white men. They have been dispossessed of their hereditary possessions by mercenary and frequently wanton warfare, and their characters have been traduced by bigoted and interested writers.
As the author of Captain Bonneville and Astoria, Irving used firsthand accounts of these American west journeys, although most readers continue to believe they are "embellished" history, written at the request of John Jacob Astor. Subsequent unpublished research shows that Irving did his homework and remained chronicled true accounts of both the famed explorer Bonneville as well as the exploits of the Astoria party. In the 1840s, he returned to Europe as American Ambassador to Spain.
He lived in his famous home of Sunnyside, which is still standing just south of the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York. The original house and the surrounding property were once owned by 18th century colonist Wolfert Acker, about whom Irving wrote his sketch "Wolfert's Roost" (the name of the house).
It is believed that the city of Irving, Texas, and also the town of Irvington, New York was named after him, as are Washington Street and Irving Street in Birmingham, Alabama. His book Bracebridge Hall was the inspiration for the naming of the town of Bracebridge, Ontario. In addition, A library in Los Angeles is named in his honor. Moreover, the town of Irvington, NJ is also named after him.
Irvington was originally founded in 1692 under the name of Camptown. After Stephen Foster published the song "De Camptown Races," in 1850, Lydia Crawford, the wife of the local Camptown postmaster, suggested changing the name from Camptown to Irvington to avoid the negative association with the bawdy Camptown races and to honor Washington Irving.
His first book was A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Dietrich Knickerbocker (1809), a sly satire on self-important local history that brought "Knickerbocker" into the American lexicon, and then wider English usage.
Irving left for Europe in 1815. In 1819-1820 he published The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, which includes his best known stories, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip van Winkle". During this stay in Europe he was a member of the American Legation to England but in his spare time he traveled to the continent and widely read Dutch and German folk tales. The pieces for the Sketch Book were originally written by Irving in Europe and were sent to his publishers in New York for publication in periodicals in the U.S. While in England, his sketches were published in book form by British publishers without his permission and hence he decided to publish and protect his copyright interests by publishing in Europe and the U.S. concurrently.
"Rip Van Winkle" was written overnight while Irving was staying with his sister Sarah and her husband, Henry van Wart in Birmingham, England—a place which also inspired some of his other works. Bracebridge Hall or The Humorists, A Medley is based on Aston Hall, there.
Irving wrote The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1828, the Conquest of Granada a year later, and, the Voyages of the Companions of Columbus in 1831, during his 4 year stay in Spain. Just prior to his return to the United States, he wrote Tales of the Alhambra in 1832 which was to be published concurrently in England and the United States (the actual title is more lengthy as its contents amounted to a collection of sketches. In 1851 he wrote an "Author's Revised Edition" entitled Tales of the Alhambra).
Irving returned to the United States in 1832 and published Legends of the Conquest of Spain in 1835. But primary among his works of this period were three "Western" books, designed to put to rest the notion that Irving's time in England and Spain had made him more European than American. His first western book was A Tour on the Prairies, published in 1835; the beginning of Chapter 10 includes the following, interpreted by some literary critics to be a comment on concerns about his public persona:
We send our youth abroad to grow luxurious and effeminate in Europe; it appears to me, that a previous tour on the prairies would be more likely to produce that manliness, simplicity, and self-dependence, most in unison with our political institutions.
His second western book was Astoria; he wrote it during a six-month stay with the then-retired John Jacob Astor. It was a worshipful account of Astor's attempt to establish a fur trading colony at present-day Astoria, Oregon.
During Irving's stay with Astor, Benjamin Bonneville paid a visit. His tales of his three years in Oregon Country were said to have enthralled Irving. A month or two later, when Irving encountered Bonneville in Washington, D.C., Bonneville, struggling to write about his journey, decided instead to sell his maps and notes to Irving for $1,000. Irving used that material as the basis for his 1837 book The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, which is often considered the best of his three western books.
Irving popularized the nickname "Gotham" for New York City, later used in Batman comics and movies, and is credited with inventing the expression "the Almighty dollar". His name also appeared as an alias for forgers in Joseph Heller's classic novel Catch 22 along with its inversion, Irving Washington and that of the author John Milton.