“The land of literature is a fairy land to those who view it at a distance, but, like all other landscapes, the charm fades on a nearer approach, and the thorns and briars become visible.” – Washington Irving
Born on this date in 1783, Irving is one of America’s earliest and most beloved storytellers, best known for his short stories "Rip Van Winkle” and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” both in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. The Sketch Book (as it is best known) was the first widely read work of American literature in Britain and Europe. It also helped advance the international reputation of American writers.
Being a short story writer was only a small part of Irving’s vast portfolio. Also a noted essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat, he served as U.S. Ambassador to Spain in the 1840s – a time when relations between our young nation and the well-established European nation were crucial. He is credited as one of the leading diplomats of his time.
Among Irving’s historical writings were best selling biographies of George Washington, Oliver Goldsmith, and Muhammad, and histories of 15th-century Spain on subjects such as Christopher Columbus, the Moors and The Alhambra. Using his celebrity, Irving pushed tirelessly for stronger copyright laws to protect the young American writing community at a time when their works often were pirated. Ultimately, he was instrumental in helping create international copyright laws.
In a piece of great advice for those who write, he noted, “One of the greatest and simplest tools for learning more and growing is simply working hard and doing more.”
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