The Original Knickerbocker

The Original Knickerbocker

The Life of Washington Irving

By Andrew Burstein

Basic Books (AZ), Hardcover, 9780465008537, 420pp.

Publication Date: February 2007

Washington Irving-author, ambassador, and Manhattanite-has largely slipped from America's memory, and yet, his creations are well known. Acclaimed historian Andrew Burstein returns Irving to the context of his native nineteenth century where he was an international celebrity-both a comic genius and the first American to earn his living as an author. Irving traveled through Europe and America, excavating tales and writing popular social satire, beloved children's stories, gothic drama, and picturesque history. He gave his young nation such enduring tales as "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle." His 1809 burlesque, "A History of New York," popularized the figure of jolly old St. Nicholas, and gave birth to the modern American Christmas. Irving was the original Knickerbocker; he also coined Gotham as the name for New York. By showing Irving as a leading architect of the American personality Burstein has managed to reinvigorate the legacy of one our nation's most outsized literary talents as well as to help us better understand the country we live in.

About the Author
Andrew Burstein is the Charles P. Manship Professor of History at Louisiana State University, and the author of "The Passions of Andrew Jackson, Jefferson's Secrets", and "Madison and Jefferson", among others. Burstein's writing has appeared in "The New York Times", "The" "Washington Post", "The" "Nation", and, and he advised Ken Burns' production "Thomas Jefferson." He has been featured on C-SPAN's "American Presidents Series and Booknotes, " as well as numerous NPR programs, including "Talk of the Nation" and "The Diane Rehm Show". He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.