The American short story began in 1819 with Washington Irving. Short fiction there had been in America before The Sketch Book, some of it written by men of significance--Franklin, Freneau, Charles Brockden Brown--but from the standpoint of the modern short-story form none of it need detain us. Franklin wrote anecdotes with didactic intent; Freneau threw--off narrative propaganda, some of it in verse; Brown, as in his posthumously collected Carwin the Biloquist, and Other American Tales and Pieces, produced not short stories, but abortive romances, tales begun as novels and abandoned; others, especially in the magazines of the decade before The Sketch Book, wrote imitations of the Hannah More and Maria Edgeworth moral tracts which were so popular in England after the "great religious awakening." All of it is negligible: none of it influenced the evolution of the short story. A study of the form in its American phases begins with Irving.
The first observation to be made upon Irving concerns the fact that he was born in New York City of British parentage, and therefore was untouched by New England. The Puritan age had been introspective, and the New England of the early nineteenth century was still basically Puritan; the eighteenth century of