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[258] reach the high standard of the Columbus, it is doubtless because Irving possessed no such close familiarity with the environment of his subjects. In Spain he had made long sojourns and had become imbued with the atmosphere of the Spanish legends and ideals. He knew his Italy, in like manner, from personal observation and from sympathetic relations with the peasants no less than the scholars, but Arabia was to him a distant land.

The writing of Columbus prepared the way for Irving's chief historical achievement. The Life of Washington is not only a biography presenting with wonderful precision and completeness the nature and career of a great American, but a study, and the first study of importance, of the evolution of the republic. Irving had given thought and planning to the biography for years before he was able to put a pen to the work. As early as 1832 he had confided to some of his nearer friends his ambition to associate his name with that of Washington and to devote such literary and historical ability as he possessed to the creation of a literary monument to the Father of the Republic. The work had, of necessity, been postponed during his long sojourn in England and the later residence in Spain, but he never permitted himself to put the plan to one side. As soon as the sales of the new Putnam edition of the earlier works and of the later volumes that he had been able to add to these freed him from financial care, he began the collection of material for the great history. He had already travelled over much of the country with which the career of his hero was connected. He knew by the observations of an intelligent traveller the regions of New England, New Jersey, Western Pennsylvania, and Virginia, while with the territory of New York he had from his youth been familiar. The Hudson River, which had heretofore served as the pathway for Irving's dreams of romance, was now to be studied historically as the scene of some of the most critical of the campaigns of the Revolution. Since the date of Irving's work, later historians have had the advantage of fuller material, particularly that secured from the correspondence in the homes of Revolutionary leaders, North and South, but no later historian has found occasion for any corrections of importance, either in the details of Irving's narrative, or in his analysis of the characters of the men through whom the great contest was carried on. Irving possessed one qualification which is lacking

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