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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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In this work I have discussed the supreme importance of sanctuaries in Irving’s The Sketch Book. These are sumptuously serene and aesthetically gorgeous spaces which give the individual an aura of profound tranquility and peacefulness where he may reflect on, meditate on, critically observe, describe, and even participate in the picturesque, the beautiful, and the sublime as well as the splendors of the past. Mythical sanctuaries in a beautiful natural environment are depicted in “Rip Van Winkle,” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” “Rural Life in England,” and “The Specter Bridegroom.” Twilight sanctuaries in a lovely architectural ambience, whether in private spaces of special significance or in the majestic interiors of a magnificent public venue, are represented in “The Mutability of Literature,” “Westminster Abbey,” “Stratford on Avon,” “The Boar’s Head Tavern, Eastcheap,” “The Art of Bookmaking,” “The Angler,” and “A Royal Poet.” The Sketch Book also offers various descriptions of and perspectives on the solitary intellect as a sanctuary of exemplary integrity and productivity, on the creative mind compelled by the circumstances and vicissitudes of the domain of everyday mortality, as in “Roscoe,” to cherish and devote himself to “the superior society of his own thoughts” (25).

The spirit of mythical vitality and poetic enchantment in “Rip Van Winkle,” “Stratford on Avon,” and “The Mutability of Literature,” for example, shares ← 231 | 232 → distinctive similarities with Percy Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” (which was first published in the Prometheus Unbound volume of 1820). In the “Ode to...

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