A member of the generation that came of age after the American Revolution, Washington Irving admiringly recorded European scenes and traditional society in England and Spain for an American (as well as a European) audience. His writing may be characterized by the title of one of his own works: Tales of a Traveller (1824). Born in New York City to a commercial family (his father was a hardware merchant and deacon in the Episcopal Church), Irving was indulged by his parents and six older brothers and sisters, who took pride in the “sensibility” that he would successfully exploit in his literary life. Instead of following his brothers to Columbia College, he chose to travel in Europe (1804-6), thus establishing the pattern of gentlemanly, nonprofessional self-cultivation reflected in his best-known literary productions. Although he read law and passed the New York State bar examination (March 24, 1806), Irving never devoted himself to the profession of the law.
His early writings were written for his own amusement and that of his friends and were published pseudonymously. With his brother William Irving and James K. Paulding he produced a comic periodical, Salmagundi (1807-8), and in 1809 he published “Diedrich Knickerbocker's” History of New York, a satiric history of Dutch colonial settlement that was admired by Sir Walter Scott. Between 1812 and 1815 he edited the Analectic Magazine, which contained original materials as well as reviews and articles reprinted from British periodicals. In May 1815 he sailed to England, intending to work for his family's import firm in Liverpool. When the firm went bankrupt in 1818, Irving became, for the first time, a professional author. The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., published serially in the United States (1819-1820) and as a book in England (1820), established him as the first American author since the American Revolution to be applauded in England. Writing as “Geoffrey Crayon, ” a sauntering,