« PreviousContinue »
trains then. He will not bend for hours over a desk. Each day will be Sunday, each day for her. Purple curtains and fine furniture in a castle - sometime.
He is reading the funny paper.
"Dinner is ready," she says, "if you will just help me put it on the table."
He rises quickly. The funny paper falls from his hands to the ground beside the porch.
"Yes", he replies.
He goes into the house to help her.
It is Sunday. Gladness sings in their hearts. Tonight they will lie in the hammock with golden darkness all around. They are of each other.
A man and a woman given to life. Long hours caring for the house dusting, cooking, putting things in order. Long hours over a desk, high in a great building of the city. Years will come and go, and come and go long years, short years, on and on. Today is today, tomorrow is yesterday.
WASHINGTON IRVING, ESQUIRE
By George S. Hellman
EDITOR'S NOTE: The publishers of "Washington Irving, Esquire" have given us permission to use quotations from it before publication. Of this first internationally recognized man of letters, Mr. Hellman has made a human and appealing character. Irving was popular in his day and important to America in gaining the understanding of Europe and in furthering amity.
N outstanding fact in considering the life and work of Irving is that, in contradistinction to far the greater number of our representative authors, he had in him nothing of the Puritan strain. Emerson, Thoreau, Lowell, Longfellow, Whittier, Bryant, the genial Curtis and the witty Holmes, whether or not of Puritan ancestry, all carried on that New England tradition which includes an emphatic interest in reform, in moralizing, or in the general relationship of instruction to entertainment. Irving, on the other hand, believed in enjoying life and in making life as pleasant as possible for others. He was not the exponent of morality but the proponent of good will. He was an observer, not a teacher; and he cared much more to observe and to enjoy than to be taught.
ince (for he took the U. S. to be a mere Province) was not a great wine country and whether it was not in the neighbourhood of Turkey or somewhere thereabout!" At another time Irving records that Americans have a name for drunkenness and public disturbance. "Pho- it's only some drunken American or other", was a comment he overheard at some street ruction, drunkenness being considered in an American “merely as a custom of his country". Still another time he was accosted by a French officer. "Vous etes anglais, Monsieur?" asked the officer. "Pardonnez moi," replied Irving, "je suis des Etats Unis d'Amerique.' -“Et bien, c'est la meme chose.” Another Frenchman thinks that when America becomes stronger the Americans intend to drive all the Europeans out of their country. A merchant from Frankfort, while interested in our customs, knows little of the United States. At Lure a man asks Irving whether they are near Asia. On being told that they are not, 'Alors,' said he, 'ils sont tout pres de l'Afrique.' — 'Non, pardon Monsieur, point du tout.''Diable. Comme je me trompe-ils sont dans le voisinage d'Europe.'-I again informed him he was mistaken. - 'F', replied he, 'est il possible? Ou sont ils donc, Monsieur?"" And so it goes on, vast numbers of persons believing that whoever goes to America "runs the
narrowest risks of his life there from the yellow fever or the savages". And everywhere Irving, and Cabell with him when they were together, satisfy the curiosity and dispel the ignorance of those they meet. A Geneva merchant, a Protestant minister, engraver of Basle, a gentleman of Lucerne, the nobility of Italy, the peasants of France, these and many more came into their real knowledge of America, imparted to them with that charm, that courtesy, that gayness and geniality, and always that well balanced patriotism which made them friendly not only to their instructor but also to the country which so graciously he represented. As we go on with our study of the life of Washington Irving, Esquire, we shall, if I am not much at fault, reach the conclusion that no other American has won more friends than did he for his country, this first journey to Europe being the initial step in his imponderable yet magnificent service as our ambassador at large.
M. Irving. In his attempt to perpetuate this gentle myth, Pierre M. Irving had recourse to comments, to suppressions, and to elisions whose nature is now apparent through a careful study of Irving's Dresden diaries.
There are three of these Dresden diaries, and what dances and dinners and all manner of entertainments are packed in their entries! In the merry life of the little capital of Saxony we meet an Irving vastly different from that of immediately preceding or subsequent years a gay and rejuvenated Irving. The financial cares and the physical ailments from which he was never, for any great length of time, wholly free, were then only the lightest of shadows. He immediately became a great favorite at court, the formal yet intimate, gracious yet intellectual little court of a kingdom still in its teens.
Amateur theatricals, whereof various were given at Mrs. Foster's residence, with Irving as the prime spirit in getting them up, account in great measure for the rapidity with which he fell in love with Emily. That delightful comedy, "Three Weeks After Marriage", was not the only one of the plays in which Irving was either the avowed lover or the actual husband of the young girl. There were frequent rehearsals where histrionic love making, on Irving's part at least, soon began to take on the character of serious courtship.
Mrs. Foster did her best to persuade her daughter into marriage with the distinguished and charming American, but when Emily thanked Irving for his lines it was as a friend; and that was all. Yet he persisted in the hope to win her,
and it was years before he entirely gave up that hope.
With the New York girl who died during their betrothal, with the Scotchborn woman who was too old for him, and the English girl who was too young, there is completed the list of the women who were desired in marriage by Washington Irving. Much more difficult it is to determine who and how many were those who were disappointed at Irving's failure fully to return the affection they felt for him. Madame de Bergh we may dismiss as merely a partner in a casual flirtation. Not so lightly can we pass by Mary Fairlie, Mary Shelley, and Antoinette Bolvillier.
After all manner of news of friends, Mary approaches the conclusion with, "If you write a very long letter I may be again induced to follow your example. If you do not I shall consider it as a hint, that you do not wish to be troubled by me. All our family send their love to you. And Mama particularly requests that you take care of your health." Then, after she has signed herself as "Your Friend, M. Fairlie", Mary adds as a postscript: "Don't you admire this pretty paper - I like it so much that I have been trying, in vain, to leave it, these ten minutes but my pen today has the same propensity that my tongue has, when talking to you, I know not when to have done."
The second Mary to come under the spell of Irving's charm was the daughter of William Godwin, the philosopher, and of Mary Wollstonecraft, a pioneer in the assertion of women's rights. The widow of Percy Bysshe Shelley was twenty eight years old, and Irving
forty, when the two were brought together in 1824 by John Howard Payne. Payne himself was at the time deeply devoted to Mary Shelley, but losing hope as a suitor for her hand (or for her less formal favors) he seems to have resigned himself to the thought that Irving, to whom he was under obligations and with whom he then was collaborating in dramatic writing, might as well be successful where he had failed. In a mood wherein motives of friendship for Irving and Mary Shelley mingled with other less happy emotions, Payne wrote to Irving of his belief that Mary Shelley had sought him merely as a source of introduction to Irving. While this may be regarded as an overstatement, Mary had told Payne that Irving "had interested her more than anyone she had ever seen since she left Italy"; that he was "gentle and cordial"; and that "she longed for friendship" with him.
But Irving, in 1824, was still caught up in his infatuation with Emily Foster. The situation was much like that which Heine describes in one of his ironic lyrics: Payne was in love with Mary; she, it would seem, with Irving; he with Emily; and Emily was later to marry a fifth.
At Madrid, in 1826 and 1827, where Irving was so industriously engaged on his history of Columbus, the home where he was most often, and very often, a guest was that of the Russian Minister, D'Oubril. Antoinette Bolvillier, Madame D'Oubril's niece, was the most delightful member of the Russian Minister's household, and with her Irving became on terms of really rare friendship. When he left Madrid in the early part of 1828 to spend his re
maining two years in Spain mainly at Seville and Granada, Antoinette received his promise to write to her.
Intelligent and high spirited, Antoinette Bolvillier struck some of the finest chords in Irving's nature, and led him to write, from the sheer point of artistry, the most perfect of his letters. Entering again upon the field of surmise, we venture the opinion that if, with his second great disappointment in love, Irving had not forever renounced the idea of marriage, this girl who was so sympathetic a companion in the Madrid days might have won his enduring affection.
It seems perhaps a cruel thing to say, but I am convinced that if Matilda Hoffman had lived, the man of letters that the world of literature knows as Washington Irving would never have come into being. As the son-in-law of Josiah Hoffman, Irving would in all probability have had a sinecure as a junior partner in a distinguished law firm and later, perhaps through the influence of Hoffman, of Judge Van Ness and of other New Yorkers with voice at Washington, have obtained in early manhood the secretaryship of legation which he unsuccessfully sought during the administration of James Madison. There might, from time to time, have issued some piece of writing from his facile pen, but would there have been that prod of necessity which ultimately forced Irving into the career of an author? Not even the success of "Knickerbocker's History" could stir Irving from the happy, indolent life of a young man about town. It is difficult to say whether his aversion from work or his love for society was more marked in the days of his early manhood; but
in any event he presents the unparalleled case of an author leaving his pen almost unemployed for a period of nine years immediately following the appearance of a phenomenally successful book.
The struggle between his characteristic spirit of independence, and his equally characteristic tendency to underrate his own capacity, was soon to terminate in the first international triumph of an American man of letters. After two months of hesitations and misgivings Irving settled down to the first serious attempt at literary work since his arrival in Europe, and so well did he get on that by the end of the following February he had finished the first number of "The Sketch Book", and had succeeding numbers in partial readiness.
As number after number was issued
first in the United States and then, shortly afterward, in England - the enthusiasm aroused by "Rip Van Winkle", by that universal favorite "The Broken Heart", by "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", grew greater and greater. If Scott was especially delighted with the legend of the Headless Horseman, William Godwin seemed to find most to praise in the essay on "Rural Life in England". "It is, I believe, all true", wrote Godwin; "and one wonders, while reading, that nobody ever said this before." Godwin's praise was the first in that great chorus which was, in 1819, to make Irving famous all over Europe; and the comment that Godwin made - Godwin, whose work on political justice was one of the epoch making books of all times - is especially significant of what Irving began, in "The Sketch Book", to