Washington Irving was a prolific letter writer and lifelong journaler. His collected letters number in the hundreds, and more are being discovered every year in archives and attics around the world. For much his life, he filled notebook after notebook with commentaries, day-to-day ramblings, rough drafts of letters and stories (including an unpublished novel) and experimenting with different types of writing. While he was more reporter than diarist, the Irving that emerges from his letters, journals, and notebooks is all at once charming, shallow, generous, petty, elated, and depressed. He was also intensely interesting and always very, very funny.
While Irving was always an elegant writer in his published work, his private journals — where he expected nobody would be looking — are another matter. The letters and journal entries below retain Irving’s original spellings and punctuation (or lack thereof). While some have been broken into smaller paragraphs to make them easier on the eyes, the words, punctuation, and grammar remain Irving’s own.