Washington Irving on the Prairie: Or, a Narrative of a Tour of the Southwest in the Year 1832

Washington Irving on the Prairie: Or, a Narrative of a Tour of the Southwest in the Year 1832

Washington Irving on the Prairie: Or, a Narrative of a Tour of the Southwest in the Year 1832

Washington Irving on the Prairie: Or, a Narrative of a Tour of the Southwest in the Year 1832

Excerpt

On May 21, 1832 Washington Irving landed in New York after an absence of seventeen years in Europe. During this period he had become the friend of Walter Scott, had lived in the Alhambra, had served as Secretary of the American Legation in London, and had become famous in three nations as his country's first man of letters. He was, as Mayor Philip Hone and the committee of welcome perceived, a sophisticated citizen of the world. The tributes to him at the grandiose dinner in his honor emphasized his identification with the literature of Europe. Indeed, his love of England had aroused some suspicions in the critics whose chief test of a native writer was his nationalism. To the denunciations of his alleged expatriation Irving had long been sensitive, and his three books on the West now had their motivation partly in his desire to demonstrate his enthusiasm for American themes. Yet the important fact is that in this year (1832) Irving, apart from his rather docile adjustment to these criteria of his age, still cherished a boyhood passion.

This passion was a deep and honest interest in the life of the American frontier. Beginning in childhood in his family's association with the New York State trading posts and strengthened by a rigorous journey to Montreal at the age of twenty, a this interest had survived, through . . .

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