October 12, 2011

Irving: unwilling to shackle myself

On October 12, 1828, Washington Irving noted in his journal that he received a letter from English publisher John Murray: "[He] offers 1,000£ a year to conduct a monthly magazine, and to pay liberally besides for any original articles I may insert; offers one hundred guineas an article for contributions to the Quarterly Review."

To the latter, Irving roundly refused, noting to his older brother Peter Irving that the Review "has always been so hostile to our country, I cannot draw a pen in its service." But Irving was certainly intrigued by Murray's offer, noting elsewhere the details of the deal. The magazine Murray proposed would be exclusively focused on literature and the arts, without the usual mix of politics thrown in.

"I have declined," Irving wrote a few days later to a friend, "as I do not wish to engage in any undertaking that would oblige me to fix my residence out of America; and, indeed, I am unwilling to shackle myself with any periodical labour."

Between his comments about the Quarterly Review's attacks on American writing, and his expressed desire to fix his residence in the United States, Irving had abandoned his country for a time. In fact, he lived in Europe for 17 years straight (it was during this period that Murray contacted him). He did not buy Sunnyside, his home in the United States until 1835. Reluctantly, by 1839, he also became a regular contributor to a periodical, despite his aversion to it, when he started working with The Knickerbocker (a magazine named in his honor).

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