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Washington Irving (1783–1859). Rip Van Winkle & The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

Criticisms and Interpretations. II. By Leon H. Vincent

IRVING’S prose is distinguished for grace and sweetness. It is unostentatious, natural, easy. At its best it comes near to being a model of good prose. The most striking effects are produced by the simplest means. Never does the writer appear to be searching for an out-of-the-way term. He accepts what lies at hand. The word in question is almost obvious and often conventional, but invariably apt.

For a writer who produced so much the style is remarkably homogeneous. It is an exaggeration to speak of it as overcharged with color. There are passages of much splendor, but Irving’s taste was too refined to admit of his indulging in rhetorical excesses. Nor is the style quite so mellifluous as it seemed to J. W. Croker, who said: “I can no more go on all day with one of his [Irving’s] books than I could go on all day sucking a sugar-plum.” The truth is that Irving is one of the most human and companionable of writers, and his English is just the sort to prompt one to go on all day with him.

Yet there is a want of ruggedness, the style is almost too perfectly controlled. It lacks the strength and energy born of deep thought and passionate conviction, and it must be praised (as it may be without reserve) for urbanity and masculine grace.—From “American Literary Masters” (1906).