WASHINGTON IRVING: Moderation Displayed by Edward Wagenknecht

WASHINGTON IRVING: Moderation Displayed

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This interesting but rather unexciting little book is a portrait of Irving rather than a full-blown biography. The author has gone to considerable trouble to give an impression of Irving as a person, frequently quoting from his letters and lesser known writings. Irving's early life in New York, his journeys in the American wilderness, his reaction to his family's financial troubles, his travels in England and Spain, and his many friendships (notably his cordial acquaintance and later estrangement from Charles Dickens) are examined in relation to his personality and character, as is his perpetual bachelorhood. Although of a gregarious and friendly nature, and not unattractive, Irving probably had a sentimentalized view of women. He emerges from this portrait as a rounded character, but the book remains a little flat -- at least partly because Irving himself just was fairly ordinary. He was not a man of genius, and was not a flamboyant character to make up for it -- he was only a rather nice old bachelor. Indeed, his biographer's reservations about Irving's talent -- Mr. Wagenknecht's moderation displayed -- necessarily detract from the appeal of the book. But the author deserves credit for refusing to sentimentalize Irving in his ivy covered cottage at Sunnyside.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1962
Publisher: Oxford