The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
§ 10. Irvings Cosmopolitanism
Washington Irving occupied an exceptional position among the literary workers of his country. It was his good fortune to begin his writing at a time when the patriotic sentiment of the nation was taking shape, and when the citizens were giving their thoughts to the constructive work that was being done by their selected leaders in framing the foundations of the new state. It was given to Irving to make clear to his countrymen that Americans were competent not merely to organize a state, but to produce literature. He was himself a clear-headed and devoted patriot, but he was able to free himself from the local feeling of antagonism towards the ancient enemy Great Britain, and from the prejudice against other nations, always based upon ignorace, that is so often confused with patriotism. Irving’s early memories and his early reading had to do with the events and with the productions of colonial days. Addison and Goldsmith are the two English writers with whose works his productions, or at least those relating to English subjects, have been most frequently compared. His biography of Goldsmith shows the keenest personal sympathy with the sweetness of nature and the literary ideals of his subject. Irving’s works came therefore, to be a connecting link between the literature of England (or the English-inspired literatre of the colonies) and the literary creations that were entitled to the name American, and they expressed the character, the method of thought, the ideals, and the aspiration of English folk on this side of the Atlantic.