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Adventures of Captain Bonneville, U.S.A., in the Rocky Mountains of the far West.” In June, 1838, Irving was called on to meet one of the severest blows of his life in the death of his cherished brother Peter, who had for some time been domiciled at Sunnyside. He was deeply affected at this bereavement, which followed so soon after the decease of his brother John, and to rid himself of the melancholy feeling, he began the “ History of the Conquest of Mexico,” which, as a pendant to “ Columbus,” had long been a favourite theme with him, and he had not only commenced the work, but had made a rough draft to form the ground-work of the first volume, when he learnt that Mr. W. H. Prescott, who had become popular through his “History of Ferdinand and Isabella," was engaged on the same subject, and he at once gave up his own work in the handsomest manner, and left the field open to Prescott, giving him also valuable information on the subject, and this too at a time when he had relied on the produce of this work to recruit his finances, which had somewhat suffered from his unremunerative investments in land. Losing his subject in this way, he became a contributor to the “Knickerbocker Magazine," and also wrote a biography of Goldsmith, for , Harper's Family Library.” In 1841, he published a biography of Miss Margaret Davidson, the copyright of which he transferred to her mother, reserving merely the right to publish it at any time in connection with his other writings. Early in 1842, he was astounded at receiving the intimation that he was appointed Minister to the Court of Madrid, and though it troubled him to leave his delightful home and family connections at Sunnyside, the appointment was made in such a handsome manner, and so unanimously approved, that he at once determined to accept it. Previous to his departure, he presided at the dinner given to Charles Dickens, in NewYork, and though his speech in proposing the health of the guest was very short, it was most successful. On the 10th of April, 1842, he left America, and landed at Bristol on the 30th; visited London and Paris, where he was cordially received by his old friends, and arrived at Madrid, July 25th. He had an audience of the Regent Espartero, and was presented to the young Queen, then nearly twelve years of age.
During Irving's mission, Spain was the scene of continual political convulsions, which harassed and rendered him incapable of literary work. He sent in his resignation in the latter end of 1845, and in July, 1846, he took his leave of Madrid, and after a brief sojourn with his sister in Birmingham, returned to America, and his much valued home at Sunnyside, which he again enlarged, superintending the work himself. In 1848, he entered into an arrangement with George P. Putnam for the republication of a uniform revised edition of all his works, on terms which proved equally beneficial to both author and publisher, as the sale for republished books was unprecedented. Irving, in the meanwhile, was occupying himself with “The Life of Washington," but laid it aside to commence an enlarged “Life of Goldsmith,” which was published by Mr. Putnam in 1848, and followed in 1849 by the first volume of the “Life of Mahomet," the second volume following in 1850; both had an extensive sale, and were most favourably received by the literati. Nothing further appeared from his pen but “Wolfert's Roost,” published early in 1855, the title of which was derived from the name originally given to Sunnyside, the author's residence. The “Roost, or Rest of Wolfert Acker, one of the privy counsellors of the renowned Peter Stuyvesant.” In 1848, Irving was much disturbed at the contemplated desecration of Sunnyside by the railway, projected along the eastern bank of the Hudson, which, with all its noise and unsightliness at his very door almost, he feared, would entirely destroy the peculiar charms for which he had chosen the spot-its quiet and retirement. It was, however, useless to rebel, and the plan once settled upon, he began in his accustomed way to make the best of it. It was, however, determined to carry the line a little way out into the river, and while he was spared the annoyance of having his grounds destroyed, the trees along the bank formed a screen, that he hoped with a little care, would keep the traffic out of view, though they could not shut out the sound of the “ diabolical steamtrumpet.” During the first feelings of annoyance, he could not help wishing “ he had been born when the world was finished; " and declared his belief, that “if the Garden of Eden was now on earth, they would not hesitate to run a railway through it.”
But when the Committee, whose duty it was to arrange with owners of property for the terms of compensation, waited upon him, he submitted at once, stating that, since the damage was such as could not be compensated by a money payment, he left it entirely with themselves to determine the amount of their award, at the same time, giving them liberty to commence at once.
The Committee, in a letter dated April 4th, 1848, allude to the liberal and courteous spirit in which he met them at the commencement, and displayed during the formation of the line, had been quite a solace to them amidst the many cases of a contrary character which they had experienced.
The award of the Committee was 3500 dollars, on the receipt of the first payment of which, Irving remarked, “Why, I am harder on them, than the waggoner was on Giles Gingerbread; for he let him walk all the way to London alongside his waggon without charging him anything, while I make them pay for only passing my door.”
When Irving had just completed correcting the proofs of the first volume of “The Life of Washington," which was published early in 1855, he was thrown violently from his horse, when about a hundred yards from his own door. Fortunately no bones were broken, but his head was much bruised, and his chest severely wrenched by the violence of the fall, so
for some days he could not even turn in bed without assistance. His humour did not, however, desert him, and to his physician's inquiry how he felt, he replied, " I feel as if an attempt had been made to force my head down into my chest as you shut up a spy-glass.” The second volume of “ The Life of Washington,” was issued in December, 1855, and was followed, in July, 1856, by the third volume, during the preparation of which the author was perplexed with the idea that something would happen to prevent him finishing the work, which he had originally intended to complete in three volumes; but the subject grew upon him, and the manner in which he was sustained by the public, cheered him on. In a letter to his friend, Mr. H. T. Tuckerman, written just after the publication of the second volume, he states, “I aimed at the careful avoidance of rhetoric, the calm, patient, and faithful narrative of facts.”_"I have availed myself of the license of biography to step down occasionally from the elevated walk of history, and relate familiar things, in a familiar way, seeking to show the prevalent passions and feelings and humours of the day, and even to depict the heroes of '76, as they really were; men in cocked hats, regimental coats, and breeches, and not classic warriors in shining armour and flowing mantles, with brows bound with laurel and truncheons in their hands.” The fourth volume was published in May, 1857, a calamitous year for traders, and Irving found it necessary to make a settlement with Mr. Putnam, his pub