Washington Irving

Most Popular

New York City, New York
Birth Sign

If you’ve loved Rip Van Winkle since you were a teenager, you should thank Washington Irving again and again for letting you escape into the world of fantasy and forget about the real world. Irving made up the character. He was an American writer and essayist who lived in the early 1800s and became famous for his short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Irving started writing when he was young. He started out by writing a series of letters to the Morning Chronicle in which he shared his thoughts. When he moved to England, he wrote “The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent,” which was his first book. The book made him well-known and famous all over the world. It was the huge success of his first project that made him want to keep writing. It’s interesting that all of his books were big hits and helped him become successful. Besides writing short stories and essays, he also wrote biographies of famous and important people like Oliver Goldsmith and George Washington, the latter of which was five volumes long. Between 1842 and 1846, he was also the US Ambassador to Spain. He worked hard his whole life to make writing a real job. He even worked to get strong laws passed to protect writers from problems with copyright.

Early Childhood & Life

William Irving Sr. and Sarah had Washington Irving on April 3, 1783, in New York City. Only eight of his eleven siblings, who totaled eleven, reached adulthood.
He first met his namesake, George Washington, when he was very young, and he immortalized the occasion in a little picture that is still on display today.

Young Irving’s love for literature overrode his family’s tradition of becoming businessmen and he pursued it. It’s interesting to note that his brothers gave him financial support so he could pursue his passion for literature.

He didn’t put much effort into his studies and would rather go to the theater than sit in class. He fled Manhattan for the coast during the yellow fever epidemic of 1798 for medical reasons.

Washington Irving’s Career

Under the alias Jonathan Oldstyle, he began sending letters to the New York Morning Chronicle in 1802. This was the modest start of his illustrious literary career.
He traveled to Europe between 1804 and 1806 and developed the social and communication abilities that would later benefit him. He was also convinced to start painting as a career in the interim, but it didn’t work out.

After his trip to Europe, he enrolled in law school under the guidance of his legal advisor, Judge Josiah Ogden Hoffman. He narrowly missed passing the bar exam in 1806.
With the aid of his brother and a friend, he founded Salmagundi, a literary journal, in 1807. The magazine’s articles offered scathing critiques of New York politics and culture.

Salmagundi gained a name outside of New York thanks to his success. His first significant work, “A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty,” was finished in 1809. The book was immediately well-received by critics and readers.

Following the remarkable success of his first business venture, he was hired as an editor at the Analectic Magazine. In his new role, he produced some excellent work, the most notable of which was the publication of Francis Scott Key’s poem, which would later become the U.S. national anthem.

When the British stormed Washington, D.C. in 1814, he changed his opinion about the War of 1812 and enrolled. He was chosen to serve on the staff of Daniel Tompkins, the New York State Militia commander and governor, in 1814. He left for England in 1815 because of how destructive and ruinous the war was.

He made an effort to improve the family’s financial situation, but the family was eventually declared bankrupt. He first came up with the fabled persona of “Rip Van Winkle” around this period.

He sent his brother in New York a collection of little prose pieces titled “The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent” in 1819 so that it may be published. The release of the seven similarly successful follow-ups was made possible by the positive reception and popularity of the first installment.

His literary career took off, making him a star in Europe. He chose John Murray as his preferred publisher in order to stop plagiarism and illicit reprinting of his works.
He and Murray both wanted to build on the popularity of his “Sketch Book.” As a result, he spent a large portion of 1821 searching for new material in Europe. He overcame a number of obstacles before submitting his work in 1822.

The Bracebridge Hall was published in June 1822. The book was similar to his previous endeavor in that it told roughly fifty loosely connected short stories. It was a huge success, further solidifying his standing as a novelist.

He collaborated on the English translation of French plays in 1823 with dramatist John Howard Payne. The same, but, was not very successful. The following year, he released a book of essays titled “Tales of a Traveler,” which received mixed reviews from critics despite being reasonably successful commercially.

He withdrew to Paris after the book’s poor reviews, where he came up with fresh ideas for ventures that somehow never materialized. He first received an invitation to relocate to Madrid in a letter from Alexander Hill Everett in 1826.

He came into contact with several documents in Madrid that discussed the Spanish conquest of America. He was given complete access to the American library of Spanish history and started working with the information he had just discovered.

A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, which was published in January 1828, was his first piece of writing based on his new research. The book was a bestseller and very well-liked in both the US and Europe. It was his first book to be published under his own name and had 175 editions.

The next year, he published “Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada” as a result of this book’s enormous success. Additionally, he released “Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus,” his third book project in Spanish. It’s interesting to note that all three of his novels mix history and fiction.

After being named the Secretary of the American Legation in London in 1829, he departed for England. He accepted the position of aide-de-camp. He attempted to negotiate trade between the British West Indies and the United States in his new role.

He didn’t stay in the new role for very long before quitting to focus on his writing. He began finishing the unfinished “Tales of the Alhambra” manuscript in 1829, which was later published in the US and England in 1832.
He made his way back to New York in 1832 after a seventeen-year absence. He visited several American cities while working on his subsequent piece, “A Tour on the Prairies.” The book was an enormous success.

He created a biography of Jacob Astor’s fur trading business, “Astoria,” in 1836. He published “The Adventures of Captain Bonneville” the following year.
The magazine The Knickerbocker made him an offer to write essays and short tales for it. He also became a mentor to the aspiring writers who flocked to him for counsel and recommendations.

He was chosen by President John Tyler to serve as the Minister to Spain in 1842. He suddenly found himself in the midst of the political chaos that was roiling Spain. He had hardly recovered when the political instability and the turn of events left him drained.

His activities in Spain continued until 1846 when he returned to America and started rewriting previous works for George Palmer Putnam for his next literary endeavor, “Author’s Revised Edition.”
His latter works included biographies of George Washington, Oliver Goldsmith, and the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He conducted extensive research for the latter and wrote the biography in five volumes.

Recognition & Achievements

He received a medal from the Royal Society of Literature in 1830. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in civil law from Oxford the following year.

Personal Legacy & Life

Although he never got married, he fell in love with Emily Fosters, a member of the Dresden royal family, while he was traveling in Germany. He moved from Germany when she declined his proposal of marriage.
On November 28, 1859, he passed away after a heart attack. Two days later, he was laid to rest in the Sleepy Hollow cemetery.

Several schools, parks, memorials, the city of Irving in Texas, a community area at Irving Park, and the Irving Trust Corporation have all been named after him to recognize his contribution to literature. In addition, he deserves praise from the Washington Irving Literary Society, Irvington district of Indianapolis, Indiana, and Knickerbocker, Texas.

His house Sunnyside has been designated a historic landmark and is accessible to the public for tours.
On January 29, 1940, the Famous American/Authors series of US postage stamps included a photograph of him.

Estimated Net Worth

Washington is one of the best-known and wealthiest novelists. Washington Irving’s net worth is about $1.5 million, according to our research, Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.


The first American Man of Letters, this novelist from the United States is credited with creating the fabled Rip Van Winkle figure.