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Washington Irving: An American Original

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  80 ratings  ·  22 reviews
The first American writer to make his pen his primary means of support, Washington Irving rocketed to fame at the age of 26. In 1809 he published A History of New York under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker to great acclaim. The public's appetite for all things Irving was insatiable; his name alone guaranteed sales. At the time, he was one of the most famous men in the ...more
Hardcover, 456 pages
Published January 4th 2008 by Arcade Publishing (first published November 1st 2007)
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4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  80 ratings  ·  22 reviews

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Schuyler Wallace
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Washington Irving was, in the early 1800s, the country’s foremost writer and famous throughout the world. Brian Jay Jones has adeptly caught the esoteric image of a man both driven and haunted by a personality that has defied scrutiny. In “Washington Irving,” Jones puts the bright light on a flawed man with intense inner feelings and countless outer weaknesses that were always a challenge throughout his existence.

Irving, along with being a skillful writer, was a diplomat, lawyer, loyal advisor
Chuck Neumann
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This biography of Washington Irving was well researched and well written. I discovered a lot about America's first great author. My impressions of Irving were incorrect in many areas. I discovered he was rather a slackard as a younger man, much more likely to go drinking and going to plays with his close circle of male friends than to work, either as a lawyer - his profession though he did very little work - or as a writer. His early work was more like writing for Saturday Night Live than the gr ...more
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Washington Irving: The Definitive Biography of America's First Best-Selling Author is exactly what it purports to be - an extensive, in-depth, and engaging biography of the marvelous storyteller and writer. Jones digs into Irving's family life, his riotous younger years, his extensive friendships with the great in politics, society, art, literature, and publishing, his business and administrative skills (I had no idea that Irving was the first to suggest means of curtailing copyright infringemen ...more
K. Counihan
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Comprehensive Biography Fascinating

The scope of the writing from fiction to history, diplomatic papers,etc, all hand written before being published. He was the first American to make a living by writing. He mingled with Presidents, diplomats, kings, queens, indians, and frontiersmen.
Oct 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Washington Irving was not only a writer but a traveler,diplomat and friend to many,which the author brings to life.
Martin Bakner
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With exhaustive attention to detail, Jones gets to the heart and soul of the "Sleepy Hollow" creator, showing us a man of great talents and delicate personality.
Nov 08, 2009 rated it liked it
I looked forward to reading this biography of Irving. His Sketchbook was among the first “serious books” from my father’s collection to attract my attention and I still have occasion to return to it. Jones provides much of interest on Irving’s life but, like others, I found him at times careless with terminology and a little too quick to make assertions—particularly about Irving’s sexuality—with little evidence to back them up.

That said, I did enjoy the book and am happy to see a boyhood hero ge
Kathleen Hulser
Oct 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Lively narrative of the first American man of letters who took longer to find himself than many a wandering soul of our time. He lost piles of money in ill-fated speculations and generous attempts to help his equally inept businessman brother. But eventually his deals with Sir Walter Scott's powerhouse British publisher helped him earn the moolah his entertaining historical tales deserved. His Columbus portrait was the source of most Columbus mythology for the 100 years, although there was plent ...more
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's widely believed that Washington Irving was America's first great writer. Born in 1783 in New York City, Irving lived to age 76 at time when America grew from an upstart young republic to a respected nation around the world. Brian Jay Jones biography is very detailed and covers Irving's entire life, focusing as much on his incredible number of famous friends and colleagues as on his writings. Best known for his early short stories such as "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", W ...more
Peggie Ross
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I decided to read this biography because Conner Prairie uses the Headless Horseman as it's signature October night time event. Growing up I knew about Rip Van Winkle and Icabod Crane but nothing of Irving's life. I am now in awe of the man and his incredible life. From his birth and the reason for his first name through to the incredible list of famous men who eulogized him, he lived a life of one unusual event after another. It would be cruel of me to ruin another reader's experience by telling ...more
Buddy Don
May 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
What fun! I had no idea how interesting Irving's life was. I'd enjoyed some of his early work, items such as "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and the story of Rip Van Winkle, but I had no idea how much more he'd written, no idea how much he'd lived. He spent a large portion of his life in Europe, even serving as minister to Spain during the administrations of Van Buren and Polk. He seems to have met most of the major writers of his day -- Dickens, James Fenimore Cooper, William Cullen Bryant, Edgar ...more
Bob Gustafson
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read "Sketch Book", "A History of New York" and "The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus" and I wanted to find out about the person who wrote them. This book satisfied that need.

The writing is pleasant. There is no ax to grind, nor does the author want to nominate his subject for sainthood. It is facts, but not a boring play by play. It was exactly what I wanted.

I recommend this book highly.
Steve Wiggins
May 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very readable biography. Sometimes a bit repetitive, but overall a very good introduction to an important American author. This account is great for non-specialists who want to know more about the man who made New York City's self image much of what it is. Further comments may be found here: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.
Dec 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Interesting account of the life of America's first famous author illustrating the joys and rewards of being a talented author and bon vivant while coping with the drudgery of paying bills having to produce an income.
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable

This was well written and very interesting. Not a real "page-turner", hence the length it took for me to finish it! But, well worth the effort.
Apr 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: school
Delightfully entertaining.
Jan 16, 2009 added it
the internationalism of Washington Irving was unexpected. I assumed he was so American.
Elizabeth Bradley
feh. Had to cover all the bases, but it was pretty thin gruel.
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hands down one of the best biographies I have ever read.
Sep 22, 2013 is currently reading it
I need to come back to this. It was as dry as a bone, but it could be me. I will give it another chance. Did YOU ever have to be in the mood for a book? Timing may not have been right.
Pedro Trujillo
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Incredible, a hard work with a very literary scent. It has been the first time that I have been moved by a biography. It has been my faithful guide in my investigation on Irving
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Brian Jay Jones is the award-winning, bestselling biographer of some of the world's most iconic creative geniuses, from American writer Washington Irving and Muppet master Jim Henson, to Star Wars creator George Lucas and children's writer/artist Dr. Seuss.

Brian's biography of Jim Henson won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Biography of 2013, an honor he still appreciates every day.

A note from
“I have no relish for puritans either in religion or politics, who are pushing for principles to an extreme, and overturning everything that stands in the way of their own zealous career…. I always distrust the soundness of political councils that are accompanied by acrimonious and disparaging attacks upon any great class of our fellow citizens.” 0 likes
“when I cannot get a dinner to suit my taste I endeavor to get a taste to suit my dinner.” 0 likes
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