America’s First Fantasist: Washington Irving

A couple of years ago, I came across an article about Washington Irving that noted his campaign against the piracy of his works during the 1700s. Somewhere else, I came across a mention of how he used startlingly modern methods to help promote his book – posting notices in newspapers, in a clever campaign that helped make his first book a resounding success and helped to cement his status as America’s first professional writer.

I’ve long enjoyed Irving’s New York stories,and I love his Dutch Catskills (and the feeling of driving through them in the fall), someone who really helped bring fantastic literature to America, and bridged the gap between some of the earlier works of Gothic fiction into a new era and a new world.

Irving is someone I’ve wanted to write about for a while now, and with the release of Fox’s latest television show, Sleepy Hollow, the time seems right. The show itself is pretty ridiculous, but over the top fun. But beyond the timing of a popular television show, he’s an author that should be remembered, studied and read widely.

Go read America’s First Fantasist: Washington Irving over on Kirkus Reviews.

Sources:

The Original Knickerbocker: The life of Washington Irving, by Andrew Bernstein: I’ve had this book for a couple of years now, and I’ve read parts of it off and on. It’s a dense, but very interesting biography on Irving, going into great detail on his life and work.
Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature, volume 4, Frank N. Magill: This volume has a fantastic essay on Irving’s short fiction and a good critical analysis of his work and how it fits into the fantastic canon.
American Gothic Tales, edited by Joyce Carol Oates: This is a fantastic anthology of Gothic fiction that I’ve been picking away at over the years. This book contains Irving’s famous ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow’, a good read for this time of the year.
American Fantastic Tales, edited by Peter Straub: I’ve long been a fan of the Library of America’s collections, and this volume (the first of two) contains a short blurb on Irving’s life, as well as a story of his, ‘The Adventures of a German Student’, which is quite an interesting read.

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2 thoughts on “America’s First Fantasist: Washington Irving

    • Thank you! Hopefully that’ll happen, but the show really doesn’t have anything to do with Irving’s original story, outside of some of the imagery.

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