light in an era marked by bitterness and obscuration.
It was a triumph of character as well as of literary skill.
But the skill was very noticeable also.
's prose is not that of the Defoe-Swift
type of plain talk to the crowd.
It is rather an inheritance from that other eighteenth century tradition, the conversation of the select circle.
Its accents were heard in Steele
and were continued in Goldsmith
, and Charles Lamb
's successors, George William Curtis
and Charles Dudley Warner
and William Dean Howells
have been masters of it likewise.
It is mellow human talk, delicate, regardful, capable of exquisite modulation.
With instinctive artistic taste, Irving
used this old and sound style upon fresh American material.
In Rip van Winkle
and The legend of Sleepy Hollow
he portrayed his native valley of the Hudson, and for a hundred years connoisseurs of style have perceived the exquisite fitness of the language to the images and ideas which Irving
desired to convey.
To render the Far West
of that epoch this style is perhaps not “big” and broad enough, but when used as Irving
uses it in describing Stratford
and Westminster Abbey
and an Old English