's first published poem in the Newburyport Free Press
was a barefooted boy on Long Island
, and Lowell
, likewise seven years of age, was watching the birds in the treetops of Elmwood
But it was Washington Irving
who showed all of these men that nineteenth century England
would be interested in American books.
The very word Knickerbocker
is one evidence of the vitality of Irving
's happy imaginings.
In 1809 he had invented a mythical Dutch
historian of New York named Diedrich Knickerbocker
and fathered upon him a witty parody of Dr. Mitchill
's grave Picture of New York
To read Irving
's chapters today is to witness one of the rarest and most agreeable of phenomena, namely, the actual beginning of a legend which the world is unwilling to let die. The book made Sir Walter Scott
's sides ache with laughter, and reminded him of the humor of Swift
But certain New Yorkers were slow to see the joke.
was himself a New Yorker, born just at the close of the Revolution, of a Scotch father and English mother.
His youth was pleasantly idle, with a little random education, much theatergoing, and plentiful rambles with a gun along the