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do for England, for English literature, and for the relationship between England and the United States.
One more quotation, and we shall have ended with the memoranda jotted down by Irving during his Vienna days. "Nations", he writes, "are fast losing their nationality. The great and increasing intercourse, the exchange of fashions, the uniformity of opinions by the diffusion of literature are fast destroying those peculiarities that formerly prevailed. We shall in time grow to be very much one people, unless a return of barbarism throws us again into clans." Is there not in this concluding sentence one of the first expressions by an American man of letters of the spirit of internationalism?
A great favorite at court (the Queen on one occasion sent the Master of Ceremonies to bring Irving to her; told him that she had not seen him for a century, and paid him many compliments on "The Sketch Book" which she was then reading in a French translation), he had the royal gardens to walk in. He heard Carl Maria von Weber playing his own music on the piano; he talked with the King of Bavaria about Benjamin Franklin whom the King had known in Paris and whose horse and cabriolet the Bavarian monarch had bought after Franklin's departure; he discussed with the younger princes the future of Europe, with Russia as its vast and dangerous factor. There were gay luncheons at inns and at hunting pavilions; country excursions; sails on little lakes; dinners under trees on the lawn. And through it all the songs and whispers of Madame de Bergh, and the surging music of the heart so deeply stirred by Emily Foster.
The author of "The Sketch Book", his name now honored both in Europe and America, felt some hesitation in entering into the less dignified field of adaptation; but his passion for plays, his entire willingness to add to a purse somewhat depleted by the monetary demands of the unsuccessful steamboat enterprise, and last, but assuredly not least, his desire to be of service to a friend and a countryman more hard pressed than himself, were the determining factors in an acquiescence which included the condition that his participation should remain secret.
While Irving gave advice, and probably more than advice, in connection with many of the plays that Payne worked upon during the years 1823 and 1824, two of these were very largely his handiwork "Charles II" and "Richelieu". With them we may consider "Abu Hassan" and "The Wild Huntsman" adapted by Irving from the German as the four finished pieces of Irving the playwright. And after that there shall be a glance at the germinal ideas of plays whose writing Irving contemplated but never carried out.
In the following month Irving conceived the plan of a play to be entitled "The Cavalier", and during the following week wrote almost feverishly. After this all trace of the play is lost. Nothing remains of "The Cavalier". But loosely placed between the pages of a diary of that year have been discovered the notes for a play based on a suggestion given to Irving the preceding March by Lord Byron's friend, Captain Medwin. "El Embozado"
- The Cloaked Figure - is a drama of the dual nature of man. The plot that Irving worked up from Medwin's note reveals an aristocratic and disso
lute young man who seduces a peasant girl. After having given her love, the girl learns that her hero is engaged to a young noblewoman. She kills herself. The night before the marriage her seducer is carousing with his boon companions. Later, when he is alone, he is confronted by a mantled figure that accuses him for his evil ways; will hear nothing in extenuation; threatens and commands. The spoiled young fellow becomes enraged and is about to attack the stranger when he realizes that the unknown visitor is himself. His other self his better self-stands in the way of his career of riches, happiness, and of cold and selfish vice. But how shall a man get away from himself? The keenest sword cannot cut the strings of conscience; and in Irving's play as later, differently evolved, in Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
- the solution is the hero's death.
Byron is more frequently mentioned in Irving's notebooks of this period than any other writer. Irving's writings delighted Byron, and Thomas Moore had doubtless shown Irving Byron's letter of July, 1821, wherein the English poet had written of his enthusiasm for the writings of "your Mr. Irving". On the other hand, Irving took such pleasure in Byron's poetry that he sent him
the only gift presented
to a man whose acquaintance he had never made a copy of "The Sketch Book". He inscribed the first of the two volumes: "Lord Byron with the author's high respect and admiration. Washington Irving, Dresden, May, 1823." The phrase to be noted is "high respect".
From critical and non-critical alike; from the reviewers in the journals and
the boys at college; from royalty and diplomats; from lodging house keepers and country folk; in a word, from the high places and from the byways of English life, praise and affection flowed forth to Washington Irving; and it was as the most affectionately regarded of Americans that he sailed for his native land. The last of his recorded visits to any friends in London was at the home of the Fosters. Did he - years after the Dresden offer of marriage then make the final attempt to bring Emily as his bride across the waters?
The reception given to Irving by his fellow citizens was cordial beyond his most hopeful expectations. He found himself "in a tumult of enjoyment... pleased with everything and everybody and as happy as a mortal can be". Seventeen years had gone by since his home town had seen its famous son. Its chief citizens immediately arranged for a public dinner which Irving could not well refuse, although he looked forward to it "with awe", and wrote Peter that he would be "heartily glad when it was over". Doubtless he would have preferred to assume the rôle of the maidservant described by William Irving, a man almost as shy as his younger brother. On the occasion of a large dinner given by her mistress the servant had asked permission to go to bed early on the ground that she did not feel at ease with so much company about.
Although his interest in national politics was quickened by his attendance at Congress in 1833 and by later visits to Washington, Irving continued in his early aloofness from political affairs. His dislike for the grime of politics and his aversion from public
office led him to decline candidacy for Congress during the Jacksonian era; the nomination for the mayoralty of New York City offered him by Tammany Hall in 1838; and, shortly thereafter, the appointment to the secretaryship of the navy under his old friend, Van Buren. Statesmen and fellow citizens were continually trying to honor him, and he was continually trying to escape.
Before his arrival at Madrid as the new American minister, Irving was to have more than three months of welcome and acclaim among many of the most distinguished personages of England and France. The diary wherein he sets down the doings of those days seems entirely to have escaped the attention of Pierre M. Irving and has remained unknown to succeeding biographers.
With Samuel Rogers he went on May fourth to Lady Holland's to her home in South Street where she "keeps up a kind of Holland House on a small scale", her larger establishment in Kensington having been the famous resort of statesmen and men of letters. There he met "Lady Seymour, the Queen of Beauty", and Colonel Charles Fox, "grown stout and grey". Two days later he accompanied Edward Everett to Queen Victoria's levee.... Of Victoria and her consort he wrote: "The Queen is pleasing in her appearance and acquits herself with grace and ease; Prince Albert, tall and elegantly formed, bland and prepossessing in countenance and demeanour." He found Victoria "though not decidedly handsome, agreeable and intelligent", and was impressed by the devotion of the young couple to one another.
"It is rare", he wrote, "to see such a union of pure affection on a throne."
Old Samuel Rogers was greatly affected on meeting Irving again. Irving's other friends were no less delighted, Thomas Moore in especial. At the anniversary dinner of the Literary Fund where Prince Albert presided, Sir Robert Inglis and G. P. R. James, the novelist, Lockhart, Lord Lansdowne, and many other Englishmen of prominence joined heartily in the toasts that were drunk to Washington Irving. Irving sat between Moore and Hallam, laughing with them at the maudlin speech that Thomas Campbell (having indulged too freely in wine) made in Hallam's honor. The next day (May 13), Irving breakfasted with Hallam, where he again met William Wordsworth to whom, a few days before, he had been introduced at a breakfast given by Miss Rogers. Wordsworth, at the age of seventy three, was the next year to become poet laureate, after having arranged with Sir Robert Peel that no official verse should be required of hima stipulation offering evidence that Wordsworth was indeed a poet.
The insurrection culminating in the Regent's overthrow in July, 1843, was preceded by the siege of Madrid, insurgent armies having marched upon it from various directions. Streets were deserted, shops closed, and the city was lighted up at night. (These were the days before bombing aeroplanes.) Thousands of Espartero's soldiers were waiting for the invaders who might at any time succeed in breaking through the gates and barricades. Irving was advised not to leave his residence, as "one may get involved in tumults in
such times". But the gentle, nonmilitant country gentleman paid no attention to this advice, and on the day when Narvaez, the insurgent general, was with his troops only a few miles from Madrid, Irving drove forth as usual, at times alighting and walking among the soldiers. From gate to gate he drove, his carriage being one of the only three in the usually crowded thoroughfares of the city. He wrote to his niece Mrs. Storrow that he "could not resist the desire to see something of a city in the state of siege. I sallied forth with as much eagerness as, when a boy, I used to break bounds and sally forth at midnight to see a fire." But may one not assume that the real reason, modestly withheld, was quite different? No doubt it seemed to Irving that in a time of danger the American envoy should not refrain from following his usual custom; and when he alone of all the foreign diplomats at Madrid sauntered forth among the soldiers, he laid another stone in that structure of admiration wherein to this day his name is preserved by the people of Spain.
Thrice welcome, indeed, was Washington Irving on his final return to the land of his birth. The verses of Lowell expressed the attitude of all Americans toward the man of whom and to whom William C. Preston, in the final year of both their lives, wrote: "I do not believe that any man in any country has ever had a more affectionate admiration for him than that given to you in America. I believe that we have had but one man who is so much in the popular heart.'
Irving's love for little children that had ever been so predominant a trait
a quality which some may regard as surely the wisest as it is the happiest of traits is instanced throughout the closing years. He would make merry with them on meeting little boys and girls in the city streets or country lanes. Once, in a railway car, he noticed that two restless children were giving some trouble to their mother. So he took both little boy and little girl on his lap and so effectively entertained them that, "Ah! Sir," said the mother, "one can see that you are the kind father of a big family!"
Irving's kind nature flowed forth of course in warm current also toward his fellows of the pen. When Edgar Allan
Poe sought permission for the use of something that Irving had written as the material for a story of his own, the request was immediately granted, although the acquaintance between Poe and Irving was of the slightest. Whether Poe ever wrote this story, and what was the theme of Irving's that he may have adapted, remain interesting subjects for special research.
The thirteen years that intervened between Irving's return from the post he had resigned as minister to Spain and his death in 1859, have been called a period largely idyllic. The joys of friendship, of family life, of his country place; the pleasure of opera and plays; of authorship and of reading; mild horseback rides, until too many falls ended these; occasional games of whist, chess, and backgammon; correspondence whose chief charm lay in the reminiscences they involved; playing with children; a little churchgoing toward the end these attest the quiet tenor of the life that along paths of simplicity
and in surroundings of natural beauty approached its gentle termination. In the sphere of public events there is nothing more important to record than Irving's participation, with William Cullen Bryant and Daniel Webster, in the trio that presided at the exercises in commemoration of James Fenimore
Cooper. In civic celebrations perhaps the most important episode was associated with the laying of the Atlantic cable in 1858, which, as Irving wrote, "caused a day to be set apart for everyone throughout the union to go crazy on the subject". However important an influence he may have been, and was, in affecting the American world. of letters, the former diplomat played no part in political events or in social movements during this period. In women's rights, free trade, temperance societies, states rights, and the abolition of slavery he seemed curiously uninterested.
That he was an old man eager to enjoy repose, is not the explanation; nor that Preston, the Senator from South Carolina, and Henry Clay, the Senator from Kentucky, and men of all parties had been his friends from youth; nor that he did not love the Union; nor that he was not opposed to any system of human slavery. The cause of Washington Irving's abstention from the controversy which shook the foundations of his country is too deep for any surface explanation. He had, as a young man, become even at the risk of the severance of friendships, even at the cost of being misinterpreted by indignant fellow countrymen, firmly convinced that an author best serves the world by adhering to the employ
ment of those talents as an author which are peculiarly his natural gifts.
He believed in self development, but not greatly in the reform of others; in the sunshine of Nazareth rather th an in the lightning of Sinai. He was the patriarchal embodiment of good will toward men, and it is much to be questioned whether his value to America would have been greater had he, in those pre-Civil War days, swerved from that beneficent symbolization.
Indeed, it is not too much to say that of all Americans during their lifetime he was the most unqualifiedly endeared to his countrymen. Benjamin Franklin may have been his peer in this regard, but neither the immensely popular Henry Clay, nor the intensely admired Daniel Webster, nor Washington, nor Lincoln, was loved in such unpartizan manner.
In concluding, we must with emphasis recur to the thought that it was Irving, more than any other man, who brought into accord the English speaking peoples; that it was Irving who through his legends and his descriptions developed in his countrymen local sentiment and pride in the natural grandeur of their land. A fate not wholly kind to this kind and winning gentleman showed a fitting courtesy in bringing him to his simple grave at Sleepy Hollow before his brothers of the north and of the south faced one another, with vindictive eyes, on the however imperative, yet intellectually humiliating and ever tragical, field of