As the clouds lay on the pavement, and the sun sets on the horizon while the birds start opening their wings to embrace the new day, it is easy to picture Washington Irving sitting at the side of the road with his pen on hand ready to write down what is happening around him. Irving was able to find a way into his readers' hearts through his ability to create pictures using words and emotions using memorable characters. Most importantly, Irving's heritage has continued to impact lives, despite the passing of the years, because of his ability to embrace aspects of both the Neoclassic and the Romantic movement in his writings. This essay analyses the main characteristics of American Neoclassicism and Romanticism that are the most strongly present in Irving's Sketch Book as well as the contributions of Irving to American Literature. The Sketch Book merges Neoclassical concepts like intellectual view of man, philosophic theory of literature, man's political and social activities are chief subjects, objective point of view, and concern with universal ideas with Romantic concepts like didactic belief, expressive theory of literature, imaginative treatment of materials, subjective point of view, and interest in the medieval past.
For starters, one of the main Neoclassical characteristic used by Washington Irving is the intellectual view of men. For example, in "Roscoe," Irving seems to express all the veneration he feels towards Mr. Roscoe. A quote that easily illustrates this is: "[Roscoe] born in a place apparently ungenial to the growth of literary talent, in the very market place of trade; without fortune, family connections, or patronage; self-promoted, self-sustained, and almost self-taught, he has conquered every obstacle, achieved his way to eminence, and . . . embellished his native town" (23). Irving is not interested in the good actions or moral of Roscoe as much as he is interested in his intelligence and character.