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We should all fall in love with Washington Irving

Halloween is in three days, so I obviously decided to pick up The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. My last memory of it was skimming it in my local library, hoping it would be similar to the Tim Burton movie despite KNOWING the Disney version was far more in line.


LITTLE WAS I TO KNOW that my teenage self was an idiot who did not appreciate finely-tuned prose and a near-paradisiacal level of vocab choice. Washington Irving, I want to know you better. And then probably have your babies. And also go on the tour of your house, because the tour guides are "dressed elegantly in hoop skirts or formal dress of the time" and that sounds super-fun.

You encouraged Hawthorne and Poe? AND had
a badass fur collar? Daaaamn, sir.

So he's part of Romanticism, but he's part of American Romanticism, which isn't nearly as stupid as English or German. All it did is make him interested in folk stories and write really, really well. So bravo, American Romanticism! Now let's look at The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

He begins with:

In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson

OH my lord, look at it. Immediately he's personified the land AND made it seem embracing; he's alluding to America's expansiveness as opposed to being like cramped, disgusting Europe; he's broadening the fame of one of America's rivers ("oh of COURSE, the Hudson"); and he's using 'indent' adorably like it's just a 'boop!' on the shore of the river.

Then Irving decides to be cheeky WHILE writing excellently:

there lies a small market-town[...]properly known by the name of Tarry Town. This name was given, we are told, in former days, by the good housewives of the adjacent country, from the inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village taven on market days. Be that as it may, I do not vouch for the fact, but merely advert to it, for the sake of being precise and authentic.


Other phrases everyone should die over: "listless repose," "sequestered glen," "phantoms of the mind that walk in darkness," "drowsy shades," "supernumerary dish of cakes," "the boding cry of the tree-toad,"  and how on earth can you ignore the description of Ichabod Crane YOU CANNOT IT IS PERFECTION:

He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock, perched upon his spindle-neck, to tell which way the wind blew. 

Wikipedia (implicitly accurate source that it is) says that when Washington Irving was publishing his first book in 1809 at age 26, he created a publicity hoax by publishing a notice in the newspaper, ostensibly from a hotel's proprietor, saying that if the author ("Mr Knickerbocker") did not return to the hotel to pay his bill, the proprietor would publish a manuscript he had left behind. People jumped on this story and his first book was very popular, despite being called A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty

So CLEARLY HE WAS A MAN OF BRILLIANCE. And had some sexy eyebrows. And have you finished your RIP reading for this year, tick tock, it's almost Halloween.


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