Washington Irving, born on this day 3 April, 1783 (d: 28 November, 1859) is an American writer from New York known for his short stories.
- He is named after George Washington and was present at the first presidential inauguration in 1789.
- Irving’s book Knickerbocker’s History of New York (1809), which he wrote as Diedrich Knickerbocker, he coined the word “knickers”. The word became a synonym for New Yorkers but later was being used for ‘loose-fitting breeches, gathered in at the knee, and worn by boys, sportsmen, and others who require a freer use of their limbs. The term has been loosely extended to the whole costume worn with these’ (Oxford English Dictionary).
The word “knickers” has been used ever since.
- Washington Irving was the first to describe New York as “Gotham City”. He borrowed the name from an English village in Nottinghamshire which was supposed to be inhabited by fools.
- In Irving’s famous story, Rip Van Winkle sleeps for 20 years, not 100. The reason many people think it was 100 years seems to be a confusion with Sleeping Beauty.
- The phrase “the almighty dollar” was coined by Irving.
- In 1822 he went to live in Germany and France for several years. When in Spain Irving became attaché at the US embassy in Madrid and researched for his biography of Christopher Columbus. Irving returned to Spain as US ambassador from 1842 to 1846.
- In his book A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1828) Washington Irving gave birth to the myth that people during Columbus’ time thought the Earth was flat and Columbus set out to prove them wrong. (Inventing the Flat Earth by Jeffrey Russell) In the 1490s people argues about the size of the Earth, not its shape, in fact in 1492, when Columbus set sail, the first globes were produces.
- In 1823 Irving published the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” anonymously, you know, the one that starts with “Twas the night before Christmas”. The poem started the lore of Santa Claus flying his sleigh with reindeer. The poem greatly influenced Charles Dickens and helped “invent’ the modern Christmas.
- Washington Irving was a man of letters and was one of the first Americans writers to be earn fame in Europe. 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 Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Thomas Campbell, Francis Jeffrey, and Charles Dickens .
- Washington Irving was America’s first internationally best-selling author and advocated for writing as a legitimate profession. He also argued for stronger laws to protect American writers from copyright infringement.
Zohar – Man of la Book
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