IRVING, Washington (1783-1859)
Plaque erected in 1983 by Greater London Council at 8 Argyll Street, Soho, London, W1F 7TF, City of Westminster
Literature, Politics and Administration
WASHINGTON IRVING 1783-1859 American Writer lived here
Washington Irving was one of the first American writers to achieve fame on both sides of the Atlantic. He is best known for the stories ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘Rip van Winkle’.
NEW YORK TO LONDON
Born in New York, Irving travelled in 1829 to London, where he served as Secretary to the American Legation. He lived just south of Oxford Street at 8 Argyll Street from about 1830 until his return to America in 1832.
By the time he arrived in London Irving was already a published author. His first major success was The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon (1819), a collection which included the popular stories ‘Rip van Winkle’ and ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’.
Among the fans of Geoffrey Crayon was Charles Dickens. He had read the stories as a child and later told Irving that they were like ‘second nature’ to him. It’s thought that Dickens’s Christmas scenes in The Pickwick Papers were largely inspired by those in Irving’s collection.
WRITING IN ENGLAND
At number 8, which dates from the 1730s, Irving put the finishing touches to The Alhambra (1832), a product of his trip to Spain in 1826–9 and published in London under the pseudonym of Geoffrey Crayon. One of his last journeys in England before returning to America was to the Nottinghamshire home of his hero Lord Byron, which he described in Abbotsford and Newstead Abbey (1835).
On his return to America, Irving was greeted as a celebrated man of letters and went on to become one of the country’s major literary figures.