A Collection in the
Clifton Waller Barrett Library
The Special Collections Department
Accession Number 4116-a
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Washington Irving Collection, 1819-1820, Accession # 4116-a, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
This collection was donated to the University of Virginia Library on December 31, 1962 by Mr. Clifton Waller Barrett of Charlottesville, Virginia.
Mr. Barrett had purchased the manuscript from a dealer. The following passage detailing the earlier provenance of the manuscript is copied from the dealer's sale catalogue:
"Irving was in England when he conceived and wrote The Sketch Bookand he intrusted his old friend, Henry Brevoort, with its publication in America. Their correspondence, now in the Yale University Library, gives a detailed ... account of its publishing history. It is unquestionably due to Brevoort, also, that this precious manuscript has been preserved. Apparently only the manuscript of these first three parts was sent to him, hence it was all he could save. Irving wrote to him on Aug. 2, 1819: 'I forward Sketck Book No. 4 to my brother E. Irving.' This has been lost. Later Irving wrote Brevoort: 'I shall send no more manuscript to America until I put it to press here,' so it seems most likely that the final three American parts were set up from English sheets and that the manuscript was not preserved by the English publisher, Murray, or by Irving, if Murray returned it to him ...
"[This manuscript of the first three parts] has been privately owned [ex libris Bois Penrose II] since its publication, [and] was recently purchased by private treaty by Scribners ... [It] is now offered for the first time for public sale."
The manuscript of Washington Irving's The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.in the Clifton Waller Barrett Library, consists of 213 leaves, 4to, of the first three parts of the seven-part work, mounted in bound volume (28 1/2 cm.), with an engraving of Washington Irving by G. Parker in front, plus the twelve-leaf manuscript of "The Broken Hear" and the first two leaves of the published version of "A Royal Poet." (The version of "A Royal Poet" contained in the volume is at variance with the published text). With the exception of "The Wife," some introductory notes published with the stories, and the remaining portion of the published version of "A Royal Poet," the manuscript appears complete. The manuscript contains extra title-page and contents leaf, and each story is preceded by an extra title-page.
Literary Evaluation of the Work
The sale catalogue includes the following literary evaluation of The Sketch Book:
" The Sketch Bookholds a most important place in American literary history. 'The Legend of Rip Van Winkle' of course, is immortal and has always been recognized as the charming and abiding production of its author. The Sketch Bookitself is the volume by which Irving is best known today among readers on both sides of the Atlantic ...
"'...In the production of The Sketch Book, Irving was able not only to enhance his fame by a charming contribution to literature, but to render a special service to two countries - England and America. The book came into print at a time when the bitterness of the war, which closed in 1814, was still fresh in the minds of both contestants. It was a time when it was the fashion in America to use Great Britain as a bugaboo - as a synonym for all that was abominated in political theories, and in political action. The word 'British' was associated in the minds of most Americans with an attempt at domination, while in England, on the other hand, references to the little Yankee nation were no more friendly, and things American were persistently decried and sneered at. ... It was given to Irving to make clear to his countrymen that Americans were competent not merely to organize a state but to produce a literature...and it was in part (this book) which showed such sympathetic appreciation of things and of men English, that England was brought to a better understanding of America... If Irving's descriptions of rural England were to give fresh interest to American readers in the old home of their forefathers, the skill with which he utilized the traditional legends of the Catskill Mountains made it clear to readers on the other side of the Atlantic that imagination and literary style were not restricted to Europe.' [ Cambridge History of American Literature, Vol. I, p. 255-257.]
"Sidney Smith's famous sneer in The Edinburgh Review: 'In the fourt quarters of the globe, who reads an American book?' was answered."