During the past several weeks, I have been spending an usual amount of time researching and contemplating the first American writer to stand on the international stage–Washington Irving, who penned such beloved classics as “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
My post from last summer examined the connection between Washington Irving, America’s first international author and a connoisseur of Dutch culture, and the village of Communipaw—a part of contemporary Jersey City.
This post has proven to be my most read piece with visitors from around the globe, illustrating the power and the possibility of culture—whether it be art, literature, music, or cuisine–to transcend nationality, race, religion, and ethnicity. Although culture is often mocked by power and society (including President Obama, disappointingly enough), culture does not only enrich individual lives, but it intellectually and even spiritually serves as the bedrock of civilization. If a society does not value culture, what might it become? ISIS is the most horrific contemporary example.
But I digress.
My main summer goal is taking more advantage of the cultural and recreational offerings in Jersey City and the New York City region. After writing my post on Washington Irving’s relationship with Jersey City, I decided to visit Irving’s estate, Sunnyside, a National Historic Landmark in Irvington, New York.
Best known for his classic short stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle,” Washington Irving was America’s first man of letters. Being the first American writer to gain a European audience, Irving elevated not only his professional stature but that of American literature. His position allowed Irving to advocate for emerging authors, such as future heavyweights Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, and to agitate for strong copyright laws to protect authors’ work and livelihood.
While leafing through Dutch New York: the Roots of Hudson Valley Culture, I discovered the artist John Quidor (See a previous blog post on the book itself).
Many historic and literary types likely have seen reproductions of Quidor’s paintings inspired by Washington Irving’s two more popular short stories, Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, in various American literature compilations and studies.