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Romanticism – Washington Irving Essay, Research Paper

Romanticism is a literary and artistic movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that placed value on emotion or imagination over reason, on the imagination over society. Some sources say Romanticism started in reaction to neo-classicism, or the Enlightenment. The most important result of romanticism was the emphasis laid upon the supernatural. Some writers during this time period were Mary Shelley with Frankenstein, Edgar Allen Poe with various poems and selections, such as The Raven, The TellTale Heart, and The Pit and The Pendulum. One person who had a great effect on the Romantic era was Washington Irving. Some called Irving the first real American writer.

Washington Irving was born April 3, 1783, in New York City. He was the eleventh child of Sarah William Irving. His father was a strict man, a merchant and deacon in the Presbyterian Church. He started school at the age of four, but he never took it seriously. Even when he was older, he did not really care for school. He did not impress any of his teachers as outstanding. It was out of school where his real interests developed. His interests were more into reading books of adventure and travel. He was very good at writing, though. He loved the theater. His fascination with the arts grew and was encouraged by one of her sister’s boyfriends (Myers 64). His interests in the arts and in the theater were obvious in his works.Irving did not wish to go to college. Though he had great interests in the theater and the arts, his father expected each of his sons to support himself, so Washington decided to be an apprentice in a law office. His employer was Ogden Hoffman and Irving fell in love with his daughter. He also wrote articles for his brother’s paper, the Morning Chronicle. He signed his articles “Jonathon Oldstyle”. Later he joined his brother William and his friend Jim Paulding in making a humorous magazine called Salmagundi. In 1809, he published Dreidrich Knickerbocker’s History of New York.He later went to Europe in 1815. Many people were very anxious to meet him. From 1815-1832, he lived in England, Dresden, Paris, and Spain. In 1819, he published The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, which most people see as his greatest work. This book was a collection of essays and stories. Among the stories it included “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Both these stories were based on German legends. He is very highly acclaimed for these two children’s stories.Irving wrote many good selections. Despite this fact, some say Irving could be seen as a lesser man than his predecessors. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “He lacked the religious intensity of Mather, the versatility of Franklin, the statesmanship of

Jefferson, or the dedication of Paine. Yet he outlives them all in the history of American letters”(649). Others see him as the first real American poet. Everyone saw him as such a great poet because of The SketchBook. Everyone was reading it in that time. It was all the rage. This book established Irving as a talented writer , one whose elegant good taste seemed to come instinctively.While he was making Dreidrich Knickerbocker’s History of New York, he was interrupted by the sudden death of Matilda Hoffman, Ogden Hoffman’s daughter. It caused him much grief, but after a while, he learned how to live with it. For some years after the success of his book, his life seemed to him more or less aimless. During these years he turned to variety of pursuits. He primed an American edition of Thomas Campbell’s poems, edited the Analectic Magazine and acquired a colonelship during the war of 1812.


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