An Autobiographical View Of Washington Irving Essay

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An Autobiographical View of Washington Irving

Today I am regarded as one of the first writers to represent an English style of writing throughout the world to gain universal recognition. For fifty years I charmed and instructed the American people and held first place in their affections. I became the first writer to lift American literature into the popular respect of Europe and was regarded as the chief representative of the American name in the world of letters. How did my life come to mean so much? Throughout my childhood my dreams of travelling spurred my interest for writing and noting down my subjective view of the world. This satirical and humorous point a view caught the attention of America and Europe and my works began to be released in other languages in order to be universally understood. My writing has always been influenced by my voyages throughout Spain, France, England, and Italy. My literature also showed a better portrayal of America for Englishmen to better understand its possibilities. At times I may have struggled to find my true passion in life, and at times America might have been insincere to accept my writing, but in the end my literature left and indelible impression on the world today.

My life started on April 3, 1783 in the city of New York (Trent 245). I was born into a family of eight older brothers and I was the youngest of eleven children (245). Although my family was large it had been one of the most respectable names in Scotland (246). My parents then left their good origin to begin a life in America in humble circumstances (Warner and Irving 21). I will never forget how my parent s situation influenced how I was brought up. My father endeavored to bring us up in sound religious principles, and left no room in our lives for triviality (22). This cold and severe discipline would have been intolerable to an average family (22). As I reflect upon my childhood years I remember my father s futile struggle to awaken religious sensibility in us (23-24). I revolted from his teachings that seemed to regard everything that was pleasant as evil (24). My mother was one to stand opposite of father s discipline and was more gentle, intelligent, and loving towards the rest of her children (24). My brothers and sisters were detracted from religion by my father s strict preaching; subsequently all of them became detached from the Episcopal Church as adults (24).

As a young boy I was filled with curiosity and mischief, everything my father had tried to suppress (Warner and Irving 23). I finished school by the age of sixteen and then seemingly never found literature or study interesting (Trent 246). I found a passion in dreaming about the wonders of travel and the secrets of the world. I used to wander about the pier and watch the ships departing on long voyages, and dream of going to the ends of the earth (Warner and Irving 23). At seventeen my life was without a distinct direction. I dispassionately studied law for some time until I had found writing as a source of alternate escape (Roth 17). In 1802 I began submitting a series of letters to the Morning Chronicle which had become my first literary publications under the pseudonym of Jonathon Oldstyle (Warner and Washington 30). This publication foreshadowed the sensibility and quiet humor in my writing (30). Growing up had become difficult for me in part because of my poor health, at a young age I began suffering from a pulmonary disease (30). In my childhood, however, dreams of travel and curiosity of the world had been most important (26).

At the age of nineteen my health started to deteriorate even more so and my brothers became determined to send me to Europe to explore the world (Trent 247). My brothers anxiety over my health proved to me how impaired and delicate I had become as I came of age (Warner and Irving 31). Exploring the world had begun to satisfy my curiosity and my health began to improve (31). I traveled all over Europe exploring Bordeaux, Genoa, Florence, Rome, and Naples (31-42). During these voyages I had developed a close friendship with the families and local peoples of the regions (31-42). The charm of my manner and my ingenious nature seemed to make me a favorite friend of many around Europe (35). I made many valuable friends. The voyages of Europe were also a time of personal enjoyment (Trent 248). I came to know the worlds of music and painting in Italy and was fascinated by the French cities that had rapidly begun to beautify under their emperor, Napoleon (Warner and Irving 31-42). I frequently voyaged to the theatre and indulged my passion for the opera (31-42). I was also learning new languages and about the world itself.

The entire European journey was a journey of enlightenment and realization of the world for me (Warner and Irving 31-42). Through my curiosity of travel I was open to the adversity and rough conditions of poverty that became evident under the initial luxury of both France and Italy (31-42). God knows my mind never suffered so much as on this journey when I saw such scenes of want and misery continually before me, without the power of effectually relieving them (34). In one instance in Sicily just realizing the conditions of life became unbearable (34). I developed a personal saying that will always keep me from repelling the standards of these people, when I cannot get a dinner to suit my taste, I endeavor to get a taste to suit my dinner (34). I also make an effort to be pleased with everything about me, no matter how adverse or distasteful (34). It is enough for heaven and ought to be enough for me (34). This first journey abroad had not immediately pointed me towards my vocation of being a literary artist (Trent 248). The journey, however, could be compared to one in search of purpose and direction that in the end became very enlightening and also influenced me to write Rip Van Winkle (Trent 248).

Salmagundi was my first literary publication after my return to America released in daily papers during 1807-08. With the help of my brother William and a close friend, James K. Paulding, we wrote humorous literature expressing historical value as pictures of social life in New York during the nineteenth century (Trent 247). Salmagundi was also a way for me to characterize the public in a humorous fashion, I could namelessly instruct the young, reform the old, correct the town, and castigate the age[d] through my publication (247). In Salmagundi I adapted my writing to local conditions that reflected the manners and spirit of the time and city (Warner and Irving 44-57). The people came to love this fearless criticism and puzzling humor and Salmagundi became a great success circulating through towns everywhere (48). To me Salmagundi became a realization of my true talent but did not immediately guide me to be devoted towards literature (44-57). At the height of its success we finished publishing Salmagundi (56).

The History of New York was published shortly after Salumugundi had been finished in 1809 (Trent 247). The History of New York had initially been created as a satire of A Picture of New York written by Dr. Samuel Mitchell that had depicted life in New York City in the late 1700s early 1800s (Warner and Irving 58). I had published the famous work under the authorship of Deidrich Knickerbocker which had created an additional story and controversy over the actual author and what had happened to the real Deidrich Knickerbocker (Trent 248). Once the History of New York began being published, the newspapers of New York and Philadelphia began to slowly unfold the story of how a landlord of the Columbian Hotel in New York had found manuscripts of a dead writer and sold them to be published (248). When I had revealed the that I had been the true author of the famous publications the public had found it hard to believe that the writing of a twenty-six year old lawyer would have such literary power and maturity to compose such a humorous and veracious chronicle and lead them to believing such a farfetched story (248). It was then that my skills as a writer had been acknowledged to the public, and more importantly, myself (248). The History of New York soon became a famous satire describing New York society and life style.

My love of travel sent me on my next voyage that had extended to last seventeen years. After the completion of The Sketch Book I began my travel to Europe in 1823 (Trent 255). The Sketch Book had seemed, at the time, like an additional publication that included papers I had written before my journey had begun (255). Today this volume is known to readers on both sides of the Atlantic (248). The Sketch Book has been translated into almost every European language and serves as a textbook of English style (248). Although I was delighted of the book s success I was not ready to give up my travels in order to continue my growth in fame (Warner and Irving 98). I resolved to write in Europe as I explored the world around me and collected material (94-116). Upon my arrival in France I had heard of the terrible happenings in Waterloo (94). A man who I had greatly admired had fallen under a ridiculous light of his country by losing (94-95). Napoleon Bonaparte had become one of France s great rulers by building an empire, in spite of all his misdeeds he is a noble fellow and I am confident will eclipse, in the eyes of posterity, all the crowned wiseacres that have crushed him by their overwhelming confederacy (95). It is with great seriousness that I include the incident of Napoleon s fall in my life s story whereas this greatly changed how the world felt about a powerful charismatic man and soon sacked his pride with hypocritical sarcasm (96). Soon after Napoleon s fall the most mournful and nerve-wracking days of my life awaited me. The business I had opened with my brothers in Liverpool began to take up all my time (101). I detested business and my worry over the business s welfare began to increase (102). At that point the businesses success became unimportant and I focused on traveling and moved to Spain in 1827 (105). My life in Spain greatly influenced my literary work (105). I began to study and write about Christopher Columbus, his voyages, and his companions. In 1828 the Columbus was released as a biography of Columbus s life (Roth 56). After completing this work it placed me in the front rank of modern biographers (56). While the biography enjoyed its success in London and Philadelphia I followed it with an account of the Companions of Columbus in 1831(Trent 249). In those years in my life my attention was captured by the Spanish chronicles and my fascination began to grow (249). My next journey brought me to Granada and the precincts of the Alhambra (249). These voyages spurred two more published works, The Conquest of Granada and Legends of the Alhambra (249). After seventeen years in Europe I had lived in France, Italy, England, and Spain (248-251). My voyage would reach an end as I came home to New York in 1832 (251).

Upon my return I was met with a serious disappointment (Trent 251). My books were out of print in the United States (251). My publishers in Philadelphia tried to dissuade me from publishing anything in addition to my stories of Columbus arguing that it would be an unprofitable venture (251). They explained that the public had developed a new taste for style of authorship (251). What I had heard was a serious shock to me personally (251). Literature was my source of expression that I had enjoyed and found success with around the world to represent the standard of American-English style (251). The dejection I felt almost guided make back towards practicing law at sixty-three years of age with my brother John (251). Fortunately in 1848, what seemed to be a fool of a publisher was willing to pay me $2000 a year to keep on writing (251). This man turned out to be George P. Putnam, a man who had been trying to encourage the English to buy American books (251). England was the center of all the recognition I had achieved for my literature (Warner and Irving 124). In 1830 the Royal Society of Literature voted to me a gold medal as recognition of my service to history and to literature (Trent 251). Oxford later honored me by ceremoniously presenting me with the degree of Doctor of Laws (Warner and Irving 124). My literary recognition from England was also part of the reason I remained a writer for the remaining years of my life (124). During the next five years I made my home in England with the best of the literary world and society open towards me (124). The English society recognized me as a shy devoted writer who had been the forerunner of establishing humor in his writing (124).

On November 28, 1859 I laid my life to rest near the serene Sleepy Hallow River (Warner and Irving 304). My life s accomplishments had been immortalized in my writing. My style and use of humor are today unmatched and signify a high standard of American Literature (304). My writing created new ideas of humor and satire used in writing to entertain audiences (112-131). Being a dreamer and a man of travel has helped me to develop my own distinct view of the world seen in much of my writing (Trent 245-253). I had been the first American writer to finally gain acceptance of the highly critical Eastern Audience (245). Internationally audiences of my writing came to greatly acknowledge my style as an illustration of America s distinct voice in literature (245-253). And in the end America helped me reestablish my position in its heritage to serve an important role as an author who paved the way for American writing to be globally recognized and critiqued as equal and formidable literature compared to the rest of the Eastern world (245-253).


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