He was an American author, short story writer, essayist, poet, travel book writer, biographer, and columnist. "I am always at a loss to know how much to believe of my own stories."-From Tales of a Traveler.
Washington Irving was born in New York City, New York on April 3, 1783 as the youngest of eleven children. His father was a wealthy merchant, and his mother, an English woman, was the granddaughter of a clergyman. The first thirty-two years of his life were spent in New York getting educated and inspired. When he was young he began reading novels such as Robinson Crusoe, Sinbad the Sailor, and The World Displayed. As he became older he began studying law in the offices of Henry Masterson and briefly wrote for "The Morning Chronicle." .
Irving took his first tour of Europe from 1804-1806. When he returned home to the United States he was admitted to the New York bar. He became a partner with his brothers in the family hardware business which was established in both New York City and in Liverpool, England. The English branch collapsed in 1818. .
Irving published his first periodical titled "Salmagundi" from January 24, 1807 to January 25, 1808 with his brother William and James Paulding. This periodical encouraged not "French slops and fricasseed sentiment," but rather it encouraged "genuine American tastes." The three writers decided to produce the periodical in a new, more convenient fashion. They printed it on hot-pressed vellum paper, which was much more convenient to their women readers because it was easy-fitting in their pockets and their work bags. This idea got a very good response and production of the periodical was astounding. .
Irving's success in social life and literature was shadowed by a personal tragedy. He was engaged to be married to Matilda Hoffmann who died at the age of seventeen, in 1809. Later he wrote in a private letter, addressed to Mrs. Forster, as an answer to her question why he had not been married: "For years I could not talk on the subject of this hopeless regret; I could not even mention her name; but her image was continually before me, and I dreamt of her incessantly.