In 1809, New Yorkers were buzzing about a series of classified ads concerning the whereabouts of Dutch historian Diedrich Knickerbocker. They were unaware that Washington Irving had invented the man entirely and placed the ads himself. Knickerbocker's purported manuscript, A History of New York, was Irving's own. Told from Knickerbocker's point of view, A History of New York is a chronicle of New York's fifty years under Dutch rule in the 1600s that plays fast and loose with the facts, to uproarious effect. A History of New York propelled Irving to the heights of literary stardom.
Washington Irving (1783 - 1859) was born into a rich New York family, the youngest of eleven children. Young Washington's early education was patchy but he developed an early love for books and writing. As an adult he didn't have to worry about earning a living and after practising law for a few years he began to write for newspapers and magazines. His first book, Knickerbocker's History of New York (1809), was the first American humorous book which was also literature. It was a great success but Irving continued to be only a part-time writer. In 1815 he moved to London to manage the British end of the family business and stayed for seventeen years. When the family business collapsed in 1817, He had to make a living for the first time. The immediate result was The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent which contained his two most famous fantasy stories, Rip van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. These classic stories have kept Washington Irving's name alive. He is often called 'the father of American literature' because of the charm and style of his writing and because he was always breaking new ground.