August 29, 2012
Seeing this intention of traveling as mere idleness, Irving only offered this advice because, he wrote, of his high opinion of his nephew and his hope that the young man would set himself on something useful which might "strengthen his mind." By the time the letter reached New York, however, Pierre had already set sail for Europe.
Even if it had reached him, Pierre certainly would have considered his uncle a bit hypocritical. The letter was written from Paris, after all, and Washington Irving's own idleness and inability to "earn his mere bread by his talents and his industry" was infamous. By 1825, he had already given up on becoming a lawyer, and often relied on his brothers for financial bailouts (despite making some good business deals on his published works). He had been in Europe for ten continuous years already; it would be another seven before he returned to the United States.
Perhaps Irving saw more of himself in his nephew Pierre, and wanted to discourage him from a similar life of idleness, more focused on social advancements rather than intellectual ones. Eventually, Irving helped Pierre find steady work. After the elder Irving's death, Pierre became his first official biographer.