Washington Irving-author, ambassador, and Manhattanite-has largely slipped from America’s memory, and yet, his creations are well known. Acclaimed historian Andrew Burstein returns Irving to the context of his native nineteenth century where he was an international celebrity-both a comic genius and the first American to earn his living as an author. Irving traveled through Europe and America, excavating tales and writing popular social satire, beloved children’s stories, gothic drama, and picturesque history. He gave his young nation such enduring tales as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. His 1809 burlesque, A History of New York, popularized the figure of jolly old St. Nicholas, and gave birth to the modern American Christmas. Irving was the original “Knickerbocker”; he also coined “Gotham” as the name for New York. By showing Irving as a leading architect of the American personality Burstein has managed to reinvigorate the legacy of one our nation’s most outsized literary talents as well as to help us better understand the country we live in.
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