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The Real Sleepy Hollow

25 Feb

Born in New York in 1783, Washington Irving was the son of a wealthy British merchant who had sided with the rebels in the Revolutionary War. It was following a visit to his fatherland, during which he made the acquaintance of Sir Walter Scott, that Irving (encouraged by Scott) wrote The Sketch Book, essays and tales under the pseudonym ‘Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.’, first published in 1820. This book, which is among the earliest examples of American fiction still read today, made Irving a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic. It contained  sketches of English life, essays on American subjects and American adaptations of German folk tales, including Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Before and after its publication, however, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which follows a tradition of folk tales and poems involving a supernatural wild chase, (including Robert Burns’ Tam O’ Shanter and the legend of The Wild Hunt) acquired something of a life of its own.

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