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Sanctuaries in Washington Irving's «The Sketch Book»

The Sketch Book


Hugo G. Walter

The present volume comprises a collection of wonderful and insightful essays exploring the theme of sanctuaries in Washington Irving’s The Sketch Book. These are sanctuaries of natural beauty, peacefulness, architectural splendor, and mythical vitality. In addition, the book presents a short history of sanctuaries in nineteenth-century American and European literature.
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Chapter 2: Rip Van Winkle


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In her essay “Washington Irving: The Growth of a Romantic Writer” Joy S. Kasson says of Irving that “as he had found relief in literature after the death of Matilda Hoffman, he was able to overcome his despair and isolation after the bankruptcy by resolving to reconstruct himself as a man of letters” (30). Irving wrote in a letter of 1823 to Amelia Foster that part of his motivation in revitalizing his writing career was because he wanted to “reinstate” himself “in the world’s thoughts.” Kasson makes an important parallel between Irving and Geoffrey Crayon: “Geoffrey Crayon, a homeless bachelor, wanderer, frequenter of churchyards and libraries, literary pilgrim, observer of the emotions of others, reflected at least partially the mood of the melancholy, exiled Irving” (31). Kasson mentions the three themes of The Sketch Book which “characterized Irving’s reaction to the bankruptcy crisis, as he described it in the letter to Amelia Foster” (31) as “a sense of loss, a search for identity, and an expectation of redemption through suffering” (31). In his devoted endeavors to appreciate, observe, critically reflect on, and imaginatively and sensitively describe and depict “the shadowy grandeurs of the past” and various beautiful places of mythical and radiant sanctuary, in the natural environment and in castles, abbeys, and other splendid as well as picturesque public buildings, Crayon, and by implication Irving, will aspire to mitigate and overcome such ← 81 | 82 → a sense of loss, reinvigorate...

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