Washington Irving

Washington Irving was an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century. His historical works include biographies of George Washington, Oliver Goldsmith and Muhammad, and several histories of 15th-century Spain.

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Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 - November 28, 1859) was an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century. He was best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle", both of which appear in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. His historical works include biographies of George Washington, Oliver Goldsmith and Muhammad, and several histories of 15th-century Spain dealing with subjects such as Christopher Columbus, the Moors, and the Alhambra. Irving also served 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. After moving to England for the family business in 1815, he achieved international fame with the publication 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 age 76, in Tarrytown, New York.

Irving, along with James Fenimore Cooper, was the first American writer to earn acclaim in Europe, and Irving encouraged American authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Edgar Allan Poe. Irving was also admired by some European writers, including Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Thomas Campbell, Francis Jeffrey, and Charles Dickens. As America's first genuine internationally best-selling author, Irving advocated for writing as a legitimate profession, and argued for stronger laws to protect American writers from copyright infringement.

Biography Early years

Washington Irving's parents were William Irving, Sr., originally of Shapinsay, Orkney, and Sarah (nйe Sanders), Scottish-English immigrants. They married in 1761 while William was serving as a petty officer in the British Navy. They had eleven children, eight of which survived to adulthood. Their first two sons, each named William, died in infancy, as did their fourth child, John. Their surviving children were: William, Jr. (1766), Ann (1770), Peter (1772), Catherine (1774), Ebenezer (1776), John Treat (1778), Sarah (1780), and Washington.

The Irving family was settled in Manhattan, New York City as part of the city's small vibrant merchant class when Washington Irving was born on April 3, 1783, the same week city residents learned of the British ceasefire that ended the American Revolution. Consequently, Irving's mother named him after the hero of the revolution, George Washington. At age six, with the help of a nanny, Irving met his namesake, who was then living in New York after his inauguration as president in 1789. The president blessed young Irving, an encounter Irving later commemorated in a small watercolor painting, which still hangs in his home today. Several of Washington Irving's older brothers became active New York merchants, and they encouraged their younger brother's literary aspirations, often supporting him financially as he pursued his writing career.

A disinterested student, Irving preferred adventure stories and drama and, by age fourteen, was regularly sneaking out of class in the evenings to attend the theater. The 1798 outbreak of yellow fever in Manhattan prompted his family to send him to healthier climes upriver, and Irving was dispatched to stay with his friend James Kirke Paulding in Tarrytown, New York. It was in Tarrytown that Irving became familiar with the nearby town of Sleepy Hollow, with its quaint Dutch customs and local ghost stories. Irving made several other trips up the Hudson as a teenager, including an extended visit to Johnstown, New York, where he passed through the Catskill mountain region, the setting for "Rip Van Winkle". "[O]f all the scenery of the Hudson", Irving wrote later, "the Kaatskill Mountains had the most witching effect on my boyish imagination".

The nineteen year old Irving began writing letters to The Morning Chronicle in 1802, submitting commentaries on New York's social and theater scene under the name of Jonathan Oldstyle. The name, which purposely evoked the writer's Federalist leanings, was the first of many pseudonyms Irving would employ throughout his career. The letters brought Irving some early fame and moderate notoriety. Aaron Burr, a co-publisher of the Chronicle, was impressed enough to send clippings of the Oldstyle pieces to his daughter, Theodosia, while writer Charles Brockden Brown made a trip to New York to recruit Oldstyle for a literary magazine he was editing in Philadelphia.

Concerned for his health, Irving's brothers financed an extended tour of Europe from 1804 to 1806. Irving bypassed most of the sites and locations considered essential for the development of an upwardly-mobile young man, to the dismay of his brother William. William wrote that, though he was pleased his brother's health was improving, he did not like the choice to "gallop through Italy... leaving Florence on your left and Venice on your right". Instead, Irving honed the social and conversational skills that would later make him one of the world's most in-demand guests. "I endeavor to take things as they come with cheerfulness", Irving wrote, "and when I cannot get a dinner to suit my taste, I endeavor to get a taste to suit my dinner". While visiting Rome in 1805, Irving struck up a friendship with the American painter Washington Allston,[10] and nearly allowed himself to be persuaded into following Allston into a career as a painter. "My lot in life, however", Irving said later, "was differently cast".

A younger Washington Irving

Irving returned from Europe to study law with his legal mentor, Judge Josiah Ogden Hoffman, in New York City. By his own admission, he was not a good student, and barely passed the bar in 1806. Irving began actively socializing with a group of literate young men he dubbed "The Lads of Kilkenny". Collaborating with his brother William and fellow Lad James Kirke Paulding, Irving created the literary magazine Salmagundi in January 1807. Writing under various pseudonyms, such as William Wizard and Launcelot Langstaff, Irving lampooned New York culture and politics in a manner similar to today's Mad magazine. Salmagundi was a moderate success, spreading Irving's name and reputation beyond New York. In its seventeenth issue, dated November 11, 1807, Irving affixed the nickname "Gotham"--an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "Goat's Town"--to New York City.

In late 1809, while mourning the death of his seventeen year old fiancйe Matilda Hoffman, Irving completed work on his first major book, A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker (1809), a satire on self-important local history and contemporary politics. Prior to its publication, Irving started a hoax akin to today's viral marketing campaigns; he placed a series of missing person adverts in New York newspapers seeking information on Diedrich Knickerbocker, a crusty Dutch historian who had allegedly gone missing from his hotel in New York City. As part of the ruse, Irving placed a notice--allegedly from the hotel's proprietor--informing readers that if Mr. Knickerbocker failed to return to the hotel to pay his bill, he would publish a manuscript Knickerbocker had left behind.

Unsuspecting readers followed the story of Knickerbocker and his manuscript with interest, and some New York city officials were concerned enough about the missing historian that they considered offering a reward for his safe return. Riding the wave of public interest he had created with his hoax, Irving--adopting the pseudonym of his Dutch historian--published A History of New York on December 6, 1809, to immediate critical and popular success. "It took with the public", Irving remarked, "and gave me celebrity, as an original work was something remarkable and uncommon in America". Today, the surname of Diedrich Knickerbocker, the fictional narrator of this and other Irving works, has become a nickname for Manhattan residents in general.

After the success of A History of New York, Irving searched for a job and eventually became an editor of Analectic magazine, where he wrote biographies of naval heroes like James Lawrence and Oliver Perry. He was also among the first magazine editors to reprint Francis Scott Key's poem "Defense of Fort McHenry", which would later be immortalized as "The Star-Spangled Banner", the national anthem of the United States.

Like many merchants and New Yorkers, Irving originally opposed the War of 1812, but the British attack on Washington, D.C. in 1814 convinced him to enlist. He served on the staff of Daniel Tompkins, governor of New York and commander of the New York State Militia. Apart from a reconnaissance mission in the Great Lakes region, he saw no real action. The war was disastrous for many American merchants, including Irving's family, and in mid-1815 he left for England to attempt to salvage the family trading company. He remained in Europe for the next seventeen years.

Life in Europe

The Sketch Book

Irving spent the next two years trying to bail out the family firm financially but was eventually forced to declare bankruptcy. With no job prospects, Irving continued writing throughout 1817 and 1818. In the summer of 1817, he visited the home of novelist Walter Scott, marking the beginning of a lifelong personal and professional friendship for both men. Irving continued writing prolifically--the short story "Rip Van Winkle" was written overnight while staying with his sister Sarah and her husband, Henry van Wart in Birmingham, England, a place that also inspired some of his other works. In October 1818, Irving's brother William secured for Irving a post as chief clerk to the United States Navy, and urged him to return home. Irving, however, turned the offer down, opting to stay in England to pursue a writing career.

In the spring of 1819, Irving sent to his brother Ebenezer in New York a set of essays that he asked be published as The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. The first installment, containing "Rip Van Winkle", was an enormous success, and the rest of the work, published in seven installments in the United States and England throughout 1819 and 1820 ("The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" would appear in the sixth issue), would be equally as successful.

Like many successful authors of this era, Irving struggled against literary bootleggers. In England, his sketches were published in book form by British publishers without his permission, an entirely legal practice as there were no clear international copyright laws. Seeking an English publisher to protect his copyright, Irving appealed to Walter Scott for help. Scott referred Irving to his own publisher, London powerhouse John Murray, who agreed to take on The Sketch Book. From then on, Irving would publish concurrently in the United States and England to protect his copyright, with Murray being his English publisher of choice.

Irving's reputation soared, and for the next two years, he led an active social life in Paris and England, where he was often feted as an anomaly of literature: an upstart American who dared to write English well.

Bracebridge Hall and Tales of a Traveller

With both Irving and publisher John Murray eager to follow up on the success of The Sketch Book, Irving spent much of 1821 travelling in Europe in search of new material, reading widely in Dutch and German folk tales. Hampered by writer's block--and depressed by the death of his brother William--Irving worked slowly, finally delivering a completed manuscript to Murray in March 1822. The book, Bracebridge Hall, or The Humorists, A Medley (the location was based loosely on Aston Hall, occupied by members of the Bracebridge family, near his sister's home in Birmingham) was published in June 1822.

The format of Bracebridge was similar to that of The Sketch Book, with Irving, as Crayon, narrating a series of more than fifty loosely connected short stories and essays. While some reviewers thought Bracebridge to be a lesser imitation of The Sketch Book, the book was well-received by readers and critics. "We have received so much pleasure from this book," wrote critic Francis Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review, "that we think ourselves bound in gratitude . . . to make a public acknowledgement of it." Irving was relieved at its reception, which did much to cement his reputation with European readers.

Still struggling with writer's block, Irving traveled to Germany, settling in Dresden in the winter of 1822. Here he dazzled the royal family and attached himself to Mrs. Amelia Foster, an American living in Dresden with her five children. Irving was particularly attracted to Mrs. Foster's 18-year-old daughter Emily, and vied in frustration for her hand. Emily finally refused his offer of marriage in the spring of 1823.

He returned to Paris and began collaborating with playwright John Howard Payne on translations of French plays for the English stage, with little success. He also learned through Payne that the novelist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was romantically interested in him, though Irving never pursued the relationship.

In August 1824, Irving published the collection of essays Tales of a Traveller--including the short story "The Devil and Tom Walker"--under his Geoffrey Crayon persona. "I think there are in it some of the best things I have ever written," Irving told his sister. But while the book sold respectably, Traveller largely bombed with critics, who panned both Traveller and its author. "The public have been led to expect better things," wrote the United States Literary Gazette, while the New-York Mirror pronounced Irving "overrated." Hurt and depressed by the book's reception, Irving retreated to Paris where he spent the next year worrying about finances and scribbling down ideas for projects that never materialized.

Spanish books

While in Paris, Irving received a letter from Alexander Hill Everett on January 30, 1826. Everett, recently the American Minister to Spain, urged Irving to join him in Madrid, noting that a number of manuscripts dealing with the Spanish conquest of the Americas had recently been made public. Irving left for Madrid and enthusiastically began scouring the Spanish archives for colorful material.

The palace Alhambra, where Irving briefly resided in 1829, inspired one of his most colorful books.

With full access to the American consul's massive library of Spanish history, Irving began working on several books at once. The first offspring of this hard work, The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, was published in January 1828. The book was popular in the United States and in Europe and would have 175 editions published before the end of the century. It was also the first project of Irving's to be published with his own name, instead of a pseudonym, on the title page. The Chronicles of the Conquest of Granada was published a year later, followed by Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus in 1831.

Irving's writings on Columbus are a mixture of history and fiction, a genre now called romantic history. Irving based them on extensive research in the Spanish archives, but also added imaginative elements aimed at sharpening the story. The first of these works is the source of the durable myth that medieval Europeans believed the Earth was flat.

In 1829, Irving moved into Granada's ancient palace Alhambra, "determined to linger here", he said, "until I get some writings under way connected with the place". Before he could get any significant writing underway, however, he was notified of his appointment as Secretary to the American Legation in London. Worried he would disappoint friends and family if he refused the position, Irving left Spain for England in July 1829.

Secretary to the American legation in London

Arriving in London, Irving joined the staff of American Minister Louis McLane. McLane immediately assigned the daily secretary work to another man and tapped Irving to fill the role of aide-de-camp. The two worked over the next year to negotiate a trade agreement between the United States and the British West Indies, finally reaching a deal in August 1830. That same year, Irving was awarded a medal by the Royal Society of Literature, followed by an honorary doctorate of civil law from Oxford in 1831.

Following McLane's recall to the United States in 1831 to serve as Secretary of Treasury, Irving stayed on as the legation's chargй d'affaires until the arrival of Martin Van Buren, President Jackson's nominee for British Minister. With Van Buren in place, Irving resigned his post to concentrate on writing, eventually completing Tales of the Alhambra, which would be published concurrently in the United States and England in 1832.

Irving was still in London when Van Buren received word that the United States Senate had refused to confirm him as the new Minister. Consoling Van Buren, Irving predicted that the Senate's partisan move would backfire. "I should not be surprised", Irving said, "if this vote of the Senate goes far toward elevating him to the presidential chair".

Return to America

Washington Irving arrived in New York, after seventeen years abroad on May 21, 1832. That September, he accompanied the U.S. Commissioner on Indian Affairs, Henry Ellsworth, along with companions Charles La Trobe and Count Albert-Alexandre de Pourtales, on a surveying mission deep in Indian Territory. At the completion of his western tour, Irving traveled through Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, where he became acquainted with the politician and novelist John Pendleton Kennedy.

Frustrated by bad investments, Irving turned to writing to generate additional income, beginning with A Tour on the Prairies, a work which related his recent travels on the frontier. The book was another popular success and also the first book written and published by Irving in the United States since A History of New York in 1809. In 1834, he was approached by fur magnate John Jacob Astor, who convinced Irving to write a history of his fur trading colony in the American Northwest, now known as Astoria, Oregon. Irving made quick work of Astor's project, shipping the fawning biographical account titled Astoria in February 1836.

During an extended stay at Astor's, Irving met the explorer Benjamin Bonneville, who intrigued Irving with his maps and stories of the territories beyond the Rocky Mountains. When the two met in Washington, D.C. several months later, Bonneville opted to sell his maps and rough notes to Irving for $1,000. Irving used these materials as the basis for his 1837 book The Adventures of Captain Bonneville.

These three works made up Irving's "western" series of books and were written partly as a response to criticism that his time in England and Spain had made him more European than American. In the minds of some critics, especially James Fenimore Cooper and Philip Freneau, Irving had turned his back on his American heritage in favor of English aristocracy. Irving's western books, particularly A Tour on the Prairies, were well-received in the United States, though British critics accused Irving of "book-making".

Irving acquired his famous home in Tarrytown, New York, known as Sunnyside, in 1835.

In 1835, Irving purchased a "neglected cottage" and its surrounding riverfront property in Tarrytown, New York. The house, which Irving named Sunnyside in 1841, would require constant repair and renovation over the next twenty years. With costs of Sunnyside escalating, Irving reluctantly agreed in 1839 to become a regular contributor to Knickerbocker magazine, writing new essays and short stories under the Knickerbocker and Crayon pseudonyms.

Irving was regularly approached by aspiring young authors for advice or endorsement, including Edgar Allan Poe, who sought Irving's comments "on William Wilson" and "The Fall of the House of Usher". Irving also championed America's maturing literature, advocating for stronger copyright laws to protect writers from the kind of piracy that had initially plagued The Sketch Book. Writing in the January 1840 issue of Knickerbocker, he openly endorsed copyright legislation pending in the U.S. Congress. "We have a young literature", Irving wrote, "springing up and daily unfolding itself with wonderful energy and luxuriance, which... deserves all its fostering care". The legislation did not pass.

Irving at this time also began a friendly correspondence with the English writer Charles Dickens, and hosted the author and his wife at Sunnyside during Dickens's American tour in 1842.

Minister to Spain

In 1842, after an endorsement from Secretary of State Daniel Webster, President John Tyler appointed Irving as Minister to Spain. Irving was surprised and honored, writing, "It will be a severe trial to absent myself for a time from my dear little Sunnyside, but I shall return to it better enabled to carry it on comfortably".

While Irving hoped his position as Minister would allow him plenty of time to write, Spain was in a state of perpetual political upheaval during most of his tenure, with a number of warring factions vying for control of the twelve-year-old Queen Isabella II. Irving maintained good relations with the various generals and politicians, as control of Spain rotated through Espartero, Bravo, then Narvaez. However, the politics and warfare were exhausting, and Irving--homesick and suffering from a crippling skin condition--grew quickly disheartened:

I am wearied and at times heartsick of the wretched politics of this country The last ten or twelve years of my life, passed among sordid speculators in the United States, and political adventurers in Spain, has shewn me so much of the dark side of human nature, that I begin to have painful doubts of my fellow man; and look back with regret to the confiding period of my literary career, when, poor as a rat, but rich in dreams, I beheld the world through the medium of my imagination and was apt to believe men as good as I wished them to be.

With the political situation in Spain relatively settled, Irving continued to closely monitor the development of the new government and the fate of Isabella. His official duties as Spanish Minister also involved negotiating American trade interests with Cuba and following the Spanish parliament's debates over slave trade. He was also pressed into service by the American Minister to the Court of St. James's in London, Louis McLane, to assist in negotiating the Anglo-American disagreement over the Oregon border that newly-elected president James K. Polk had vowed to resolve.

Final years and death

Irving's grave, marked by a flag, in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Returning from Spain in 1846, Irving took up permanent residence at Sunnyside and began work on an "Author's Revised Edition" of his works for publisher George Palmer Putnam. For its publication, Irving had made a deal that guaranteed him 12 percent of the retail price of all copies sold. Such an agreement was unprecedented at that time. On the death of John Jacob Astor in 1848, Irving was hired as an executor of Astor's estate and appointed, by Astor's will, as first chairman of the Astor library, a forerunner to the New York Public Library.

As he revised his older works for Putnam, Irving continued to write regularly, publishing biographies of the writer and poet Oliver Goldsmith in 1849 and the 1850 work about Muhammad, the central human figure in the Islamic religion. In 1855, he produced Wolfert's Roost, a collection of stories and essays he had originally written for Knickerbocker and other publications, and began publishing at intervals a biography of his namesake, George Washington, a work which he expected to be his masterpiece. Five volumes of the biography were published between 1855 and 1859. Irving traveled regularly to Mount Vernon and Washington, D.C. for his research, and struck up friendships with Presidents Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce.

He continued to socialize and keep up with his correspondence well into his seventies, and his fame and popularity continued to soar. "I don't believe that any man, in any country, has ever had a more affectionate admiration for him than that given to you in America", wrote Senator William C. Preston in a letter to Irving. "I believe that we have had but one man who is so much in the popular heart".

On the evening of November 28, 1859, only eight months after completing the final volume of his Washington biography, Washington Irving died of a heart attack in his bedroom at Sunnyside at the age of 76. Legend has it that his last words were: "Well, I must arrange my pillows for another night. When will this end?" He was buried under a simple headstone at Sleepy Hollow cemetery on December 1, 1859.

Irving and his grave were commemorated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his 1876 poem, "In The Churchyard at Tarrytown", which concludes with:

How sweet a life was his; how sweet a death! Living, to wing with mirth the weary hours, Or with romantic tales the heart to cheer; Dying, to leave a memory like the breath Of summers full of sunshine and of showers, A grief and gladness in the atmosphere.


Literary reputation

A bust of Washington Irving in Irvington, New York, not far from Sunnyside.

Irving is largely credited as the first American Man of Letters, and the first to earn his living solely by his pen. Eulogizing Irving before the Massachusetts Historical Society in December 1859, his friend, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, acknowledged Irving's role in promoting American literature: "We feel a just pride in his renown as an author, not forgetting that, to his other claims upon our gratitude, he adds also that of having been the first to win for our country an honourable name and position in the History of Letters".

Irving perfected the American short story, and was the first American writer to place his stories firmly in the United States, even as he poached from German or Dutch folklore. He is also generally credited as one of the first to write both in the vernacular, and without an obligation to the moral or didactic in his short stories, writing stories simply to entertain rather to enlighten.

Some critics, however--including Edgar Allan Poe--felt that while Irving should be given credit for being an innovator, the writing itself was often unsophisticated. "Irving is much over-rated", Poe wrote in 1838, "and a nice distinction might be drawn between his just and his surreptitious and adventitious reputation--between what is due to the pioneer solely, and what to the writer".

Other critics were inclined to be more forgiving of Irving's style. William Makepeace Thackeray was the first to refer to Irving as the "ambassador whom the New World of Letters sent to the Old", a banner picked up by writers and critics throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. "He is the first of the American humorists, as he is almost the first of the American writers", wrote critic H.R. Hawless in 1881, "yet belonging to the New World, there is a quaint Old World flavor about him".

Early critics often had difficulty separating Irving the man from Irving the writer--"The life of Washington Irving was one of the brightest ever led by an author", wrote Richard Henry Stoddard, an early Irving biographer--but a years passed and Irving's celebrity personality faded into the background, critics often began to review his writings as all style, no substance. "The man had no message", said critic Barrett Wendell. Yet, critics conceded that despite Irving's lack of sophisticated themes--Irving biographer Stanley T. Williams could be scathing in his assessment of Irving's work--most agreed he wrote elegantly.

Impact on American culture

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".

The surname of his Dutch historian, Diedrich Knickerbocker, is generally associated with New York and New Yorkers, and can still be seen across the jerseys of New York's professional basketball team, albeit in its more familiar, abbreviated form, reading simply Knicks.

One of Irving's most lasting contributions to American culture is in the way Americans perceive and celebrate Christmas. In his 1812 revisions to A History of New York, Irving inserted a dream sequence featuring St. Nicholas soaring over treetops in a flying wagon--a creation others would later dress up as Santa Claus. Later, in his five Christmas stories in The Sketch Book, Irving portrayed an idealized celebration of old-fashioned Christmas customs at a quaint English manor, which directly contributed to the revival and reinterpretation of the Christmas holiday in the United States. Charles Dickens later credited Irving as a strong influence on his own Christmas writings, including the classic A Christmas Carol. The Community Area of Irving Park in Chicago was named in Irving's honor.

The Irving Trust Corporation (now the Bank of New York Mellon Corporation) was named after him. Since there was not yet a federal currency in appealing names found their certificates more widely accepted. His portrait appeared on the bank's notes and contributed to their wide appeal.


Washington Irving's home, Sunnyside, is still standing, just south of the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown, New York. The original house and the surrounding property were once owned by 18th-century colonialist Wolfert Acker, about whom Irving wrote his sketch Wolfert's Roost (the name of the house). The house is now owned and operated as a historic site by Historic Hudson Valley and is open to the public for tours. A memorial to him stands near the entrance to Sunnyside in the village of Irvington, which renamed itself in his memory, and visitors to Christ Episcopal Church in nearby Tarrytown, where he served as a vestryman in the last years of his life, can see his pew. His name is also frequently mentioned in Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22 in which his name is signed on papers by Yossarian and later Major Major to circumvent or baffle the bureaucracy of the United States Army and is later investigated by C.I.D. agents as a suspected covert operative

List of works


Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent. A collection of satires of social life in New York, mostly devoted to the theater. Written when Irving was only nineteen, the essays win him his first recognition. A New York publisher pirated the essays in 1824, and five editions are attributed to "the Author of the Sketch Book."


Salmagundi; or, The Whim-Whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq., and Others. Written with William Irving (1766-1821) and James Kirke Paulding (1778-1860), the miscellany includes political satires and critiques of theater, music, fashion, Jeffersonian democracy, and New York society. Named for a spicy salad, Salmagundi is the first collection of its kind in the United States and becomes instantly popular.


A History of New York, from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker. A satirical record of the history of the Dutch settlement and a criticism of Jeffersonian democracy. The story introduces readers to Knickerbocker, who would become a famous American literary character. It is widely considered the first great book of comic literature written by an American.


Biographical Sketch of Thomas Campbell. Irving supplies a biographical profile of the Scottish poet whose work Irving had compiled.


The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. A collection of essays and tales, considered one of the most important books in American literary history and often credited with originating the American short story. The sketches show Irving's transition toward the Romanticism of Sir Walter Scott and his contemporaries. Included are the immensely popular Americanized versions of German folk tales, "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and the travel stories "Stratford on Avon" and "Westminster Abbey." The success of the book catapults Irving to celebrity status.


Bracebridge Hall; or, The Humorists. A collection of forty-nine sketches and stories in the manner of his earlier Sketch Book with the same narrator, Geoffrey Crayon. It is chiefly remembered for "Dolph Heyliger," "The Storm Ship," "The Stout Gentleman," and "Student of Salamanca." Although widely read, it wins only moderate critical acclaim.


Tales of a Traveller. Irving's only collection composed entirely of fiction receives unfavorable reviews until later lauded by Edgar Allan Poe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The thirty-two stories are divided into four sections: the first is told by Englishmen, the second is about a young man who wants to be a writer, the third is about Italian bandits, and the final contains "The Devil and Tom Walker," one of Irving's finest stories.


History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. A very popular biography based mostly on the work of the Spanish scholar Navarrete and written during Irving's time as diplomatic attachй in Spain. Highly acclaimed by reviewers, the book bolsters Irving's reputation and earns him an honorary LL.D. degree from Oxford and the gold medal of the Royal Society of Literature in 1830. It is the first of Irving's books not published under a pseudonym.


A Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada. A recounting of the battles that ended Muslim power in Spain in the fifteenth century. Based on thorough research and highly regarded for its accuracy, Irving's book employs a fictional narrator to present history in the form of tales.


Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus. Irving publishes a sequel to his Columbus biography, completing the story of the early explorers.


The Alhambra. Considered Irving's Spanish Sketch Book, this is a collection of adapted Andalusian lore, anecdotes, and descriptions of architecture and scenery of the Moorish castle in Spain where Irving lived in 1829. The book would generate an interest in romantic Alhambraism and remain an important document in Granada's history.

Adventure of Captain Bonneville

Washington Irving

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 State of the fur trade of the Rocky Mountains-- American enterprises--General Ashley and his associates--Sublette, a famous leader--Yearly rendezvous among the mountains--Stratagems and dangers of the trade--Bands of trappers--Indian banditti--Crows and Blackfeet--Mountaineers-- Traders of the Far West--Character and habits of the trapper

Chapter 2 Departure from Fort Osage--Modes of transportation--Pack- horses--Wagons--Walker and Cerre; their characters--Buoyant feelings on launching upon the prairies--Wild equipments of the trappers--Their gambols and antics--Difference of character between the American and French trappers-- Agency of the Kansas--General Clarke--White Plume, the Kansas chief--Night scene in a trader's camp--Colloquy between White Plume and the captain--Bee-hunters--Their expeditions--Their feuds with the Indians--Bargaining talent of White Plume

Chapter 3 Wide prairies--Vegetable productions--Tabular hills-- Slabs of sandstone--Nebraska or Platte River--Scanty fare--Buffalo skulls--Wagons turned into boats-- Herds of buffalo--Cliffs resembling castles--The chimney--Scott's Bluffs--Story connected with them--The bighorn or ahsahta--Its nature and habits--Difference between that and the "woolly sheep," or goat of the mountains

Chapter 4 An alarm--Crow Indians--Their appearance--Mode of approach--Their vengeful errand--Their curiosity--Hostility between the Crows and Blackfeet-- Loving conduct of the Crows--Laramie's Fork-- First navigation of the Nebraska--Great elevation of the country--Rarity of the atmosphere--Its effect on the wood-work of wagons--Black Hills--Their wild and broken scenery--Indian dogs--Crow trophies-- Sterile and dreary country--Banks of the Sweet Water--Buffalo hunting--Adventure of Tom Cain the Irish cook

Chapter 5 Magnificent scenery--Wind River Mountains--Treasury of waters--A stray horse--An Indian trail-- Trout streams--The Great Green River Valley-- An alarm--A band of trappers--Fontenelle, his information--Sufferings of thirst--Encampment on the Seeds-ke-dee--Strategy of rival traders-- Fortification of the camp--The Blackfeet--Banditti of the mountains--Their character and habits

Chapter 6 Sublette and his band--Robert Campbell--Mr. Wyeth and a band of "down-easters" --Yankee enterprise-- Fitzpatrick--His adventure with the Blackfeet--A rendezvous of mountaineers--The battle of Pierre's Hole--An Indian ambuscade--Sublette's return

Chapter 7 Retreat of the Blackfeet--Fontenelle's camp in danger--Captain Bonneville and the Blackfeet-- Free trappers--Their character, habits, dress, equipments, horses--Game fellows of the mountains-- Their visit to the camp--Good fellowship and good cheer --A carouse--A swagger, a brawl, and a reconciliation

Chapter 8 Plans for the winter--Salmon River--Abundance of salmon west of the mountains--New arrangements-- Caches--Cerre's detachment--Movements in Fontenelle's camp--Departure of the Blackfeet--Their fortunes--Wind Mountain streams--Buckeye, the Delaware hunter, and the grizzly bear--Bones of murdered travellers--Visit to Pierre's Hole--Traces of the battle--Nez Perce Indians--Arrival at Salmon River

Chapter 9 Horses turned loose--Preparations for winter quarters--Hungry times--Nez Perces, their honesty, piety, pacific habits, religious ceremonies--Captain Bonneville's conversations with them--Their love of gambling

Chapter 10 Black feet in the Horse Prairie--Search after the hunters--Difficulties and dangers--A card party in the wilderness--The card party interrupted--"Old Sledge" a losing game--Visitors to the camp--Iroquois hunters--Hanging-eared Indians.

Chapter 11 Rival trapping parties--Manoeuvring--A desperate game--Vanderburgh and the Blackfeet--Deserted camp fire--A dark defile--An Indian ambush--A fierce melee--Fatal consequences--Fitzpatrick and Bridger--Trappers precautions--Meeting with the Blackfeet--More fighting--Anecdote of a young Mexican and an Indian girl.

Chapter 12 A winter camp in the wilderness--Medley of trappers, hunters, and Indians--Scarcity of game--New arrangements in the camp--Detachments sent to a distance--Carelessness of the Indians when encamped--Sickness among the Indians--Excellent character of the Nez Perces--The Captain's effort as a pacificator--A Nez Perce's argument in favor of war--Robberies, by the Black feet--Long suffering of the Nez Perces--A hunter's Elysium among the mountains--More robberies--The Captain preaches up a crusade--The effect upon his hearers.

Chapter 13 Story of Kosato, the Renegade Blackfoot.

Chapter 14 The party enters the mountain gorge--A wild fastness among hills--Mountain mutton--Peace and plenty--The amorous trapper-A piebald wedding-A free trapper's wife-Her gala equipments-Christmas in the wilderness.

Chapter 15 A hunt after hunters--Hungry times--A voracious repast--Wintry weather--Godin's River--Splendid winter scene on the great Lava Plain of Snake River--Severe travelling and tramping in the snow--Manoeuvrs of a solitary Indian horseman--Encampment on Snake River--Banneck Indians--The horse chief--His charmed life.

Chapter 16 Misadventures of Matthieu and his party -- Return to the caches at Salmon River -- Battle between Nez Perces and Black feet -- Heroism of a Nez Perce woman -- Enrolled among the braves.

Chapter 17 Opening of the caches -- Detachments of Cerre and Hodgkiss -- Salmon River Mountains -- Superstition of an Indian trapper -- Godin's River -- Preparations for trapping -- An alarm -- An interruption -- A rival band -- Phenomena of Snake River Plain -- Vast clefts and chasms -- Ingulfed streams -- Sublime scenery -- A grand buffalo hunt.

Chapter 18 Meeting with Hodgkiss -- Misfortunes of the Nez Perces -- Schemes of Kosato, the renegado -- His foray into the Horse Prairie-Invasion of Black feet -- Blue John and his forlorn hope -- Their generous enterprise-Their fate-Consternation and despair of the village-Solemn obsequies-Attempt at Indian trade-Hudson's Bay Company's monopoly-Arrangements for autumn-Breaking up of an encampment.

Chapter 19 Precautions in dangerous defiles -- Trappers' mode of defence on a prairie -- A mysterious visitor -- Arrival in Green River Valley -- Adventures of the detachments -- The forlorn partisan -- His tale of disasters.

Chapter 20 Gathering in Green River valley--Visitings and feastings of leaders--Rough wassailing among the trappers--Wild blades of the mountains--Indian belles--Potency of bright beads and red blankets-- Arrival of supplies--Revelry and extravagance--Mad wolves--The lost Indian

Chapter 21 Schemes of Captain Bonneville--The Great Salt Lake--Expedition to explore it--Preparations for a journey to the Bighorn

Chapter 22 The Crow country--A Crow paradise--Habits of the Crows--Anecdotes of Rose, the renegade white man-- His fights with the Blackfeet--His elevation--His death--Arapooish, the Crow chief--His eagle-- Adventure of Robert Campbell--Honor among Crows

Chapter 23 Departure from Green River valley--Popo Agie--Its course--The rivers into which it runs--Scenery of the Bluffs--the great Tar Spring--Volcanic tracts in the Crow country--Burning Mountain of Powder River--Sulphur springs--Hidden fires--Colter's Hell--Wind River--Campbell's party--Fitzpatrick and his trappers--Captain Stewart, an amateur traveller--Nathaniel Wyeth--Anecdotes of his expedition to the Far West--Disaster of Campbell's party--A union of bands--The Bad Pass--The rapids--Departure of Fitzpatrick--Embarkation of peltries--Wyeth and his bull boat--Adventures of Captain Bonneville in the Bighorn Mountains--Adventures in the plain--Traces of Indians--Travelling precautions--Dangers of making a smoke-- The rendezvous

Chapter 24 Adventures of the party of ten--The Balaamite mule-- A dead point--The mysterious elks--A night attack-- A retreat--Travelling under an alarm--A joyful meeting--Adventures of the other party--A decoy elk--Retreat to an island--A savage dance of triumph--Arrival at Wind River

Chapter 25 Captain Bonneville sets out for Green River valley-- Journey up the Popo Agie--Buffaloes--The staring white bears--The smoke--The warm springs-- Attempt to traverse the Wind River Mountains--The Great Slope--Mountain dells and chasms--Crystal lakes--Ascent of a snowy peak--Sublime prospect-- A panorama--"Les dignes de pitie," or wild men of the mountains

Chapter 26 A retrograde move--Channel of a mountain torrent-- Alpine scenery--Cascades--Beaver valleys--Beavers at work--Their architecture--Their modes of felling trees--Mode of trapping beaver--Contests of skill-- A beaver "up to trap"--Arrival at the Green River caches

Chapter 27 Route toward Wind River--Dangerous neighborhood --Alarms and precautions--A sham encampment-- Apparition of an Indian spy--Midnight move--A mountain defile--The Wind River valley--Tracking a party--Deserted camps--Symptoms of Crows-- Meeting of comrades--A trapper entrapped--Crow pleasantry--Crow spies--A decampment--Return to Green River valley--Meeting with Fitzpatrick's party--Their adventures among the Crows--Orthodox Crows

Chapter 28 A region of natural curiosities--The plain of white clay--Hot springs--The Beer Spring--Departure to seek the free trappers--Plain of Portneuf--Lava-- Chasms and gullies--Bannack Indians--Their hunt of the buffalo--Hunter's feast--Trencher heroes-- Bullying of an absent foe--The damp comrade--The Indian spy--Meeting with Hodgkiss--His adventures--Poordevil Indians--Triumph of the Bannacks--Blackfeet policy in war

Chapter 29 Winter camp at the Portneuf--Fine springs--The Bannack Indians--Their honesty--Captain Bonneville prepares for an expedition--Christmas--The American Falls--Wild scenery--Fishing Falls--Snake Indians--Scenery on the Bruneau--View of volcanic country from a mountain--Powder River-- Shoshokoes, or Root Diggers--Their character, habits, habitations, dogs--Vanity at its last shift

Chapter 30 Temperature of the climate--Root Diggers on horseback--An Indian guide--Mountain prospects-- The Grand Rond--Difficulties on Snake River--A scramble over the Blue Mountains--Sufferings from hunger--Prospect of the Immahah Valley-- The exhausted traveller

Chapter 31 Progress in the valley--An Indian cavalier--The captain falls into a lethargy--A Nez Perce patriarch-- Hospitable treatment--The bald head--Bargaining-- Value of an old plaid cloak--The family horse-- The cost of an Indian present

Chapter 32 Nez Perce camp--A chief with a hard name--The Big Hearts of the East--Hospitable treatment--The Indian guides--Mysterious councils--The loquacious chief--Indian tomb--Grand Indian reception--An Indian feast--Town-criers--Honesty of the Nez Perces--The captain's attempt at healing.

Chapter 33 Scenery of the Way-lee-way--A substitute for tobacco--Sublime scenery of Snake River--The garrulous old chief and his cousin--A Nez Perce meeting--A stolen skin--The scapegoat dog-- Mysterious conferences--The little chief--His hospitality--The captain's account of the United States--His healing skill

Chapter 34 Fort Wallah-Wallah--Its commander--Indians in its neighborhood--Exertions of Mr. Pambrune for their improvement--Religion--Code of laws--Range of the Lower Nez Perces--Camash, and other roots-- Nez Perce horses--Preparations for departure-- Refusal of supplies--Departure--A laggard and glutton

Chapter 35 The uninvited guest--Free and easy manners--Salutary jokes--A prodigal son--Exit of the glutton-- A sudden change in fortune--Danger of a visit to poor relations--Plucking of a prosperous man--A vagabond toilet--A substitute for the very fine horse--Hard travelling--The uninvited guest and the patriarchal colt--A beggar on horseback--A catastrophe--Exit of the merry vagabond

Chapter 36 The difficult mountain--A smoke and consultation--The captain's speech--An icy turnpike-- Danger of a false step-- Arrival on Snake River-- Return to Portneuf-- Meeting of comrades

Chapter 37 Departure for the rendezvous--A war party of Blackfeet--A mock bustle--Sham fires at night--Warlike precautions--Dangers of a night attack-- A panic among horses--Cautious march--The Beer Springs--A mock carousel--Skirmishing with buffaloes--A buffalo bait--Arrival at the rendezvous-- Meeting of various bands

Chapter 38 Plan of the Salt Lake expedition--Great sandy deserts--Sufferings from thirst--Ogden's River-- Trails and smoke of lurking savages--Thefts at night-- A trapper's revenge--Alarms of a guilty conscience-- A murderous victory--Californian mountains--Plains along the Pacific--Arrival at Monterey--Account of the place and neighborhood--Lower California-- Its extent--The Peninsula--Soil--Climate-- Production--Its settlements by the Jesuits--Their sway over the Indians--Their expulsion--Ruins of a missionary establishment--Sublime scenery--Upper California--Missions--Their power and policy-- Resources of the country--Designs of foreign nations

Chapter 39 Gay life at Monterey--Mexican horsemen--A bold dragoon--Use of the lasso--Vaqueros--Noosing a bear--Fight between a bull and a bear--Departure from Monterey--Indian horse stealers--Outrages committed by the travellers--Indignation of Captain Bonneville

Chapter 40 Traveller's tales -- Indian lurkers -- Prognostics of Buckeye -- Signs and portents -- The medicine wolf -- An alarm -- An ambush -- The captured provant Triumph of Buckeye -- Arrival of supplies -- Grand carouse -- Arrangements for the year -- Mr. Wyeth and his new-levied band.

Chapter 41 A voyage in a bull boat.

Chapter 42 Departure of Captain Bonneville for the Columbia -- Advance of Wyeth -- Efforts to keep the lead -- Hudson's Bay party -- A junketing -- A delectable beverage -- Honey and alcohol -- High carousing -- The Canadian "bon vivant" -- A cache -- A rapid move -- Wyeth and his plans -- His travelling companions -- Buffalo hunting -- More conviviality -- An interruption.

Chapter 43 A rapid march -- A cloud of dust -- Wild horsemen -- "High Jinks" -- Horseracing and rifle-shooting -- The game of hand -- The fishing season -- Mode of fishing -- Table lands -- Salmon fishers -- The captain's visit to an Indian lodge -- The Indian girl -- The pocket mirror -- Supper -- Troubles of an evil conscience.

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