Washington Irving: An American Original

Brian Jay Jones, Author . Arcade $29.99 (468p) ISBN 978-1-55970-836-4

Policy analyst and speechwriter Jones traces the life of “America’s first bona-fide best-selling author,” following Washington Irving (1783–1859) through his childhood in a religious home in New York, his entry into law, the death of his fiancée, his years abroad and, of course, his writing career. Some of the most interesting sections describe Irving’s interactions with other writers, like Poe and Dickens. Irving emerges as a man with a deep need for praise and affirmation. He was especially worried that living in Europe for so many years would cost him his American readership. Jones does not argue that Irving was a truly great writer; rather, he gives him a great deal of credit for being the first American to figure out how to make a living as an author. There were no models, no one to guide him through the arcane details of international copyright. But this biography is unsophisticated in both the writing and portrayal of Irving: for instance, is there really the deep “conflict” Jones posits between Irving’s being publicly charming and privately petty? Andrew Burstein’s recent The Original Knickerbocker: The Life of Washington Irving remains the better choice. 8 pages of b&w illus. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 10/15/2007
Release date: 11/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 458 pages - 978-1-61145-295-2
Ebook - 739 pages - 978-1-62872-188-1
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-1-61145-354-6
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