Several papers were written by Irving in 1839 and the following year, for the " Knickerbocker," a monthly periodical conducted by his friend, Lewis Gaylord Clark, all of them such as he only could write. They were afterward collected into a volume, entitled " Wolfert'sRoost," from the ancient name of that beautiful residence of his on the banks of the Hudson, in which they were mostly written. They were, perhaps, read with more interest in the volume than in the magazine, just as some paintings of the highest merit are seen with more pleasure in the artist's room than on the walls of an exhibition.
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Washington Irving – A Biographical Primer
A Chronicle Of Wolfert's Roost.
To The Editor Of The Knickerbocker.
To The Editor Of The Knickerbocker.
A Chronicle Of Wolfert's Roost.
The Birds Of Spring.
Recollections Of The Alhambra.
The Enchanted Island.
The Adelantado Of The Seven Cities.
Desultory Thoughts On Criticism.
Legend Of Don Munio Sancho De Hinojosa.
Conspiracy Of The Cocked Hats.
A Legend Of Communipaw.
Guests From Gibbet-Island.
The Three Kings Of Bermuda.
Pelayo And The Merchant's Daughter.
The Knight Of Malta.
The Grand Prior Of Minorca,
Legend Of The Engulphed Convent.
The Count Van Horn.
Wolfert's Roost, W. Irving
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Washington Irving (1783-1859), American man of letters, was born at New York on the 3rd of April 1783. Both his parents were immigrants from Great Britain, his father, originally an officer in the merchant service, but at the time of Irving's birth a considerable merchant, having come from the Orkneys, and his mother from Falmouth. Irving was intended for the legal profession, but his studies were interrupted by an illness necessitating a voyage to Europe, in the course of which he proceeded as far as Rome, and made the acquaintance of Washington Allston. He was called to the bar upon his return, but made little effort to practice, preferring to amuse himself with literary ventures. The first of these of any importance, a satirical miscellany entitled Salmagundi, or the Whim-Whams andOpinions of Launcelot Langstaff and others, written in conjunction with his brother William and J. K. Paulding, gave ample proof of his talents as a humorist. These were still more conspicuously displayed in his next attempt, A History of New York from theBeginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by “Diedrich Knickerbocker” (2 vols., New York, 1809). The satire of Salmagundi had been principally local, and the original design of “Knickerbocker's” History was only to burlesque a pretentious disquisition on the history of the city in a guidebook by Dr Samuel Mitchell. The idea expanded as Irving proceeded, and he ended by not merely satirizing the pedantry of local antiquaries, but by creating a distinct literary type out of the solid Dutch burgher whose phlegm had long been an object of ridicule to the mercurial Americans. Though far from the most finished of Irving's productions, “Knickerbocker” manifests the most original power, and is the most genuinely national in its quaintness and drollery. The very tardiness and prolixity of the story are skillfully made to heighten the humorous effect.
Upon the death of his father, Irving had become a sleeping partner in his brother's commercial house, a branch of which was established at Liverpool. This, combined with the restoration of peace, induced him to visit England in 1815, when he found the stability of the firm seriously compromised. After some years of ineffectual struggle it became bankrupt. This misfortune compelled Irving to resume his pen as a means of subsistence. His reputation had preceded him to England, and the curiosity naturally excited by the then unwonted apparition of a successful American author procured him admission into the highest literary circles, where his popularity was ensured by his amiable temper and polished manners. As an American, moreover, he stood aloof from the political and literary disputes which then divided England. Campbell, Jeffrey, Moore, Scott, were counted among his friends, and the last-named zealously recommended him to the publisher Murray, who, after at first refusing, consented (1820) to bring out The Sketch Book ofGeoffrey Crayon, Gent. (7 pts., New York, 1819-1820). The most interesting part of this work is the description of an English Christmas, which displays a delicate humor not unworthy of the writer's evident model Addison. Some stories and sketches on American themes contribute to give it variety; of these Rip van Winkle is the most remarkable. It speedily obtained the greatest success on both sides of the Atlantic. Bracebridge Hall, or the Humourists (2 vols., New York), a work purely English in subject, followed in 1822, and showed to what account the American observer had turned his experience of English country life. The humor is, nevertheless, much more English than American. Tales of a Traveller (4 pts.) appeared in 1824 at Philadelphia, and Irving, now in comfortable circumstances, determined to enlarge his sphere of observation by a journey on the continent. After a long course of travel he settled down at Madrid in the house of the American consul Rich. His intention at the time was to translate the Coleccionde los Viajes y Descubrimientos (Madrid, 1825-1837) of Martin Fernandez de Navarrete; finding, however, that this was rather a collection of valuable materials than a systematic biography, he determined to compose a biography of his own by its assistance, supplemented by independent researches in the Spanish archives. His History of the Life and Voyages ofChristopher Columbus (London, 4 vols.) appeared in 1828, and obtained a merited success. The Voyages and Discoveries ofthe Companions of Columbus (Philadelphia, 1831) followed; and a prolonged residence in the south of Spain gave Irving materials for two highly picturesque books, A Chronicle of theConquest of Granada from the MSS. of [an imaginary] FrayAntonio Agapida (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1829), and The Alhambra:a series of tales and sketches of the Moors and Spaniards (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1832). Previous to their appearance he had been appointed secretary to the embassy at London, an office as purely complimentary to his literary ability as the legal degree which he about the same time received from the university of Oxford.
Returning to the United States in 1832, after seventeen years' absence, he found his name a household word, and himself universally honored as the first American who had won for his country recognition on equal terms in the literary republic. After the rush of fêtes and public compliments had subsided, he undertook a tour in the western prairies, and returning to the neighborhood of New York built for himself a delightful retreat on the Hudson, to which he gave the name of “Sunnyside.” His acquaintance with the New York millionaire John Jacob Astor prompted his next important work — Astoria (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1836), a history of the fur-trading settlement founded by Astor in Oregon, deduced with singular literary ability from dry commercial records, and, without labored attempts at word-painting, evincing a remarkable faculty for bringing scenes and incidents vividly before the eye. TheAdventures of Captain Bonneville (London and Philadelphia, 1837), based upon the unpublished memoirs of a veteran explorer, was another work of the same class. In 1842 Irving was appointed ambassador to Spain. He spent four years in the country, without this time turning his residence to literary account; and it was not until two years after his return that Forster's life of Goldsmith, by reminding him of a slight essay of his own which he now thought too imperfect by comparison to be included among his collected writings, stimulated him to the production of his Life of Oliver Goldsmith, with Selections fromhis Writings (2 vols., New York, 1849). Without pretensions to original research, the book displays an admirable talent for employing existing material to the best effect. The same may be said of The Lives of Mahomet and his Successors (New York, 2 vols., 1840-1850). Here as elsewhere Irving correctly discriminated the biographer's province from the historian's, and leaving the philosophical investigation of cause and effect to writers of Gibbon's caliber, applied himself to represent the picturesque features of the age as embodied in the actions and utterances of its most characteristic representatives. His last days were devoted to his Life of George Washington (5 vols., 1855-1859, New York and London), undertaken in an enthusiastic spirit, but which the author found exhausting and his readers tame. His genius required a more poetical theme, and indeed the biographer of Washington must be at least a potential soldier and statesman. Irving just lived to complete this work, dying of heart disease at Sunnyside, on the 28th of November 1859.
Although one of the chief ornaments of American literature, Irving is not characteristically American. But he is one of the few authors of his period who really manifest traces of a vein of national peculiarity which might under other circumstances have been productive. “Knickerbocker's” History of NewYork, although the air of mock solemnity which constitutes the staple of its humor is peculiar to no literature, manifests nevertheless a power of reproducing a distinct national type. Had circumstances taken Irving to the West, and placed him amid a society teeming with quaint and genial eccentricity, he might possibly have been the first Western humorist, and his humor might have gained in depth and richness. In England, on the other hand, everything encouraged his natural fastidiousness; he became a refined writer, but by no means a robust one. His biographies bear the stamp of genuine artistic intelligence, equally remote from compilation and disquisition. In execution they are almost faultless; the narrative is easy, the style pellucid, and the writer's judgment nearly always in accordance with the general verdict of history. Without ostentation or affectation, he was exquisite in all things, a mirror of loyalty, courtesy and good taste in all his literary connexions, and exemplary in all the relations of domestic life. He never married, remaining true to the memory of an early attachment blighted by death.
The principal edition of Irving' s works is the “Geoffrey Crayon,” published at New York in 1880 in 26 vols. His Life and Letters was published by his nephew Pierre M. Irving (London, 1862-1864, 4 vols.; German abridgment by Adolf Laun, Berlin, 1870, 2 vols.) There is a good deal of miscellaneous information in a compilation entitled Irvingiana (New York, 1860); and W. C. Bryant's memorial oration, though somewhat too uniformly laudatory, may be consulted with advantage. It was republished in Studies of Irvine (1880) along with C. Dudley Warner's introduction to the “Geoffrey Crayon” edition, and Mr. G. P. Putnam's personal reminiscences of Irving, which originally appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. See also Washington Irving (1881), by C. D. Warner, in the “American Men of Letters” series; H. R. Haweis, American Humourists (London, 1883).
Sir: I have observed that as a man advances in life, he is subject to a kind of plethora of the mind, doubtless occasioned by the vast accumulation of wisdom and experience upon the brain. Hence he is apt to become narrative and admonitory, that is to say, fond of telling long stories, and of doling out advice, to the small profit and great annoyance of his friends. As I have a great horror of becoming the oracle, or, more technically speaking, the "bore," of the domestic circle, and would much rather bestow my wisdom and tediousness upon the world at large, I have always sought to ease off this surcharge of the intellect by means of my pen, and hence have inflicted divers gossiping volumes upon the patience of the public. I am tired, however, of writing volumes; they do not afford exactly the relief I require; there is too much preparation, arrangement, and parade, in this set form of coming before the public. I am growing too indolent and unambitious for any thing that requires labor or display. I have thought, therefore, of securing to myself a snug corner in some periodical work where I might, as it were, loll at my ease in my elbow-chair, and chat sociably with the public, as with an old friend, on any chance subject that might pop into my brain.
In looking around, for this purpose, upon the various excellent periodicals with which our country abounds, my eye was struck by the title of your work—"THE KNICKERBOCKER." My heart leaped at the sight. DIEDRICH KNICKERBOCKER, Sir, was one of my earliest and most valued friends, and the recollection of him is associated with some of the pleasantest scenes of my youthful days. To explain this, and to show how I came into possession of sundry of his posthumous works, which I have from time to time given to the world, permit me to relate a few particulars of our early intercourse. I give them with the more confidence, as I know the interest you take in that departed worthy, whose name and effigy are stamped upon your title-page, and as they will be found important to the better understanding and relishing divers communications I may have to make to you.
My first acquaintance with that great and good man, for such I may venture to call him, now that the lapse of some thirty years has shrouded his name with venerable antiquity, and the popular voice has elevated him to the rank of the classic historians of yore, my first acquaintance with him was formed on the banks of the Hudson, not far from the wizard region of Sleepy Hollow. He had come there in the course of his researches among the Dutch neighborhoods for materials for his immortal history. For this purpose, he was ransacking the archives of one of the most ancient and historical mansions in the country. It was a lowly edifice, built in the time of the Dutch dynasty, and stood on a green bank, overshadowed by trees, from which it peeped forth upon the Great Tappan Zee, so famous among early Dutch navigators. A bright pure spring welled up at the foot of the green bank; a wild brook came babbling down a neighboring ravine, and threw itself into a little woody cove, in front of the mansion. It was indeed as quiet and sheltered a nook as the heart of man could require, in which to take refuge from the cares and troubles of the world; and as such, it had been chosen in old times, by Wolfert Acker, one of the privy councillors of the renowned Peter Stuyvesant.
This worthy but ill-starred man had led a weary and worried life, throughout the stormy reign of the chivalric Peter, being one of those unlucky wights with whom the world is ever at variance, and who are kept in a continual fume and fret, by the wickedness of mankind. At the time of the subjugation of the province by the English, he retired hither in high dudgeon; with the bitter determination to bury himself from the world, and live here in peace and quietness for the remainder of his days. In token of this fixed resolution, he inscribed over his door the favorite Dutch motto, "Lust in Rust," (pleasure in repose.) The mansion was thence called "Wolfert's Rust"—Wolfert's Rest; but in process of time, the name was vitiated into Wolfert's Roost, probably from its quaint cock-loft look, or from its having a weather-cock perched on every gable. This name it continued to bear, long after the unlucky Wolfert was driven forth once more upon a wrangling world, by the tongue of a termagant wife; for it passed into a proverb through the neighborhood, and has been handed down by tradition, that the cock of the Roost was the most hen-pecked bird in the country.
This primitive and historical mansion has since passed through many changes and trials, which it may be my lot hereafter to notice. At the time of the sojourn of Diedrich Knickerbocker it was in possession of the gallant family of the Van Tassels, who have figured so conspicuously in his writings. What appears to have given it peculiar value, in his eyes, was the rich treasury of historical facts here secretly hoarded up, like buried gold; for it is said that Wolfert Acker, when he retreated from New Amsterdam, carried off with him many of the records and journals of the province, pertaining to the Dutch dynasty; swearing that they should never fall into the hands of the English. These, like the lost books of Livy, had baffled the research of former historians; but these did I find the indefatigable Diedrich diligently deciphering. He was already a sage in year's and experience, I but an idle stripling; yet he did not despise my youth and ignorance, but took me kindly by the hand, and led me gently into those paths of local and traditional lore which he was so fond of exploring. I sat with him in his little chamber at the Roost, and watched the antiquarian patience and perseverance with which he deciphered those venerable Dutch documents, worse than Herculanean manuscripts. I sat with him by the spring, at the foot of the green bank, and listened to his heroic tales about the worthies of the olden time, the paladins of New Amsterdam. I accompanied him in his legendary researches about Tarrytown and Sing-Sing, and explored with him the spell-bound recesses of Sleepy Hollow. I was present at many of his conferences with the good old Dutch burghers and their wives, from whom he derived many of those marvelous facts not laid down in books or records, and which give such superior value and authenticity to his history, over all others that have been written concerning the New Netherlands.
But let me check my proneness to dilate upon this favorite theme; I may recur to it hereafter. Suffice it to say, the intimacy thus formed, continued for a considerable time; and in company with the worthy Diedrich, I visited many of the places celebrated by his pen. The currents of our lives at length diverged. He remained at home to complete his mighty work, while a vagrant fancy led me to wander about the world. Many, many years elapsed, before I returned to the parent soil. In the interim, the venerable historian of the New Netherlands had been gathered to his fathers, but his name had risen to renown. His native city, that city in which he so much delighted, had decreed all manner of costly honors to his memory. I found his effigy imprinted upon new-year cakes, and devoured with eager relish by holiday urchins; a great oyster-house bore the name of "Knickerbocker Hall;" and I narrowly escaped the pleasure of being run over by a Knickerbocker omnibus!
Proud of having associated with a man who had achieved such greatness, I now recalled our early intimacy with tenfold pleasure, and sought to revisit the scenes we had trodden together. The most important of these was the mansion of the Van Tassels, the Roost of the unfortunate Wolfert. Time, which changes all things, is but slow in its operations upon a Dutchman's dwelling. I found the venerable and quaint little edifice much as I had seen it during the sojourn of Diedrich. There stood his elbow-chair in the corner of the room he had occupied; the old-fashioned Dutch writing-desk at which he had pored over the chronicles of the Manhattoes; there was the old wooden chest, with the archives left by Wolfert Acker, many of which, however, had been fired off as wadding from the long duck gun of the Van Tassels. The scene around the mansion was still the same; the green bank; the spring beside which I had listened to the legendary narratives of the historian; the wild brook babbling down to the woody cove, and the overshadowing locust trees, half shutting out the prospect of the great Tappan Zee.
As I looked round upon the scene, my heart yearned at the recollection of my departed friend, and I wistfully eyed the mansion which he had inhabited, and which was fast mouldering to decay. The thought struck me to arrest the desolating hand of Time; to rescue the historic pile from utter ruin, and to make it the closing scene of my wanderings; a quiet home, where I might enjoy "lust in rust" for the remainder of my days. It is true, the fate of the unlucky Wolfert passed across my mind; but I consoled myself with the reflection that I was a bachelor, and that I had no termagant wife to dispute the sovereignty of the Roost with me.
I have become possessor of the Roost! I have repaired and renovated it with religious care, in the genuine Dutch style, and have adorned and illustrated it with sundry reliques of the glorious days of the New Netherlands. A venerable weathercock, of portly Dutch dimensions, which once battled with the wind on the top of the Stadt-House of New Amsterdam, in the time of Peter Stuyvesant, now erects its crest on the gable end of my edifice; a gilded horse in full gallop, once the weathercock of the great Vander Heyden Palace of Albany, now glitters in the sunshine, and veers with every breeze, on the peaked turret over my portal; my sanctum sanctorum is the chamber once honored by the illustrious Diedrich, and it is from his elbow-chair, and his identical old Dutch writing-desk, that I pen this rambling epistle.
Here, then, have I set up my rest, surrounded by the recollections of early days, and the mementoes of the historian of the Manhattoes, with that glorious river before me, which flows with such majesty through his works, and which has ever been to me a river of delight.
I thank God I was born on the banks of the Hudson! I think it an invaluable advantage to be born and brought up in the neighborhood of some grand and noble object in nature; a river, a lake, or a mountain. We make a friendship with it, we in a manner ally ourselves to it for life. It remains an object of our pride and affections, a rallying point, to call us home again after all our wanderings. "The things which we have learned in our childhood," says an old writer, "grow up with our souls, and unite themselves to it." So it is with the scenes among which we have passed our early days; they influence the whole course of our thoughts and feelings; and I fancy I can trace much of what is good and pleasant in my own heterogeneous compound to my early companionship with this glorious river. In the warmth of my youthful enthusiasm, I used to clothe it with moral attributes, and almost to give it a soul. I admired its frank, bold, honest character; its noble sincerity and perfect truth. Here was no specious, smiling surface, covering the dangerous sand-bar or perfidious rock; but a stream deep as it was broad, and bearing with honorable faith the bark that trusted to its waves. I gloried in its simple, quiet, majestic, epic flow; ever straight forward. Once, indeed, it turns aside for a moment, forced from its course by opposing mountains, but it struggles bravely through them, and immediately resumes its straightforward march. Behold, thought I, an emblem of a good man's course through life; ever simple, open, and direct; or if, overpowered by adverse circumstances, he deviate into error, it is but momentary; he soon recovers his onward and honorable career, and continues it to the end of his pilgrimage.
Excuse this rhapsody, into which I have been betrayed by a revival of early feelings. The Hudson is, in a manner, my first and last love; and after all my wanderings and seeming infidelities, I return to it with a heart-felt preference over all the other rivers in the world. I seem to catch new life as I bathe in its ample billows and inhale the pure breezes of its hills. It is true, the romance of youth is past, that once spread illusions over every scene. I can no longer picture an Arcadia in every green valley; nor a fairy land among the distant mountains; nor a peerless beauty in every villa gleaming among the trees; but though the illusions of youth have faded from the landscape, the recollections of departed years and departed pleasures shed over it the mellow charm of evening sunshine.
Permit me, then, Mr. Editor, through the medium of your work, to hold occasional discourse from my retreat with the busy world I have abandoned. I have much to say about what I have seen, heard, felt, and thought through the course of a varied and rambling life, and some lucubrations that have long been encumbering my portfolio; together with divers reminiscences of the venerable historian of the New Netherlands, that may not be unacceptable to those who have taken an interest in his writings, and are desirous of any thing that may cast a light back upon our early history. Let your readers rest assured of one thing, that, though retired from the world, I am not disgusted with it; and that if in my communings with it I do not prove very wise, I trust I shall at least prove very good-natured.
Which is all at present, from
* * * * *
Worthy Sir: In a preceding communication, I have given you some brief notice of Wolfert's Roost, the mansion where I first had the good fortune to become acquainted with the venerable historian of the New Netherlands. As this ancient edifice is likely to be the place whence I shall date many of my lucubrations, and as it is really a very remarkable little pile, intimately connected with all the great epochs of our local and national history, I have thought it but right to give some farther particulars concerning it. Fortunately, in rummaging a ponderous Dutch chest of drawers, which serves as the archives of the Roost, and in which are preserved many inedited manuscripts of Mr. KNICKERBOCKER, together with the precious records of New-Amsterdam, brought hither by Wolfert Acker at the downfall of the Dutch dynasty, as has been already mentioned, I found in one corner, among dried pumpkin-seeds, bunches of thyme, and pennyroyal, and crumbs of new-year cakes, a manuscript, carefully wrapped up in the fragment of an old parchment deed, but much blotted, and the ink grown foxy by time, which, on inspection, I discovered to be a faithful chronicle of the Roost. The hand-writing, and certain internal evidences, leave no doubt in my mind, that it is a genuine production of the venerable historian of the New-Netherlands, written, very probably, during his residence at the Roost, in gratitude for the hospitality of its proprietor. As such, I submit it for publication. As the entire chronicle is too long for the pages of your Magazine, and as it contains many minute particulars, which might prove tedious to the general reader, I have abbreviated and occasionally omitted some of its details; but may hereafter furnish them separately, should they seem to be required by the curiosity of an enlightened and document-hunting public. Respectfully yours, GEOFFREY CRAYON.
* * * * *
FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS OF THE LATE DIEDRICH KNICKERBOCKER.
About five-and-twenty miles from the ancient and renowned city of Manhattan, formerly called New-Amsterdam, and vulgarly called New-York, on the eastern bank of that expansion of the Hudson, known among Dutch mariners of yore, as the Tappan Zee, being in fact the great Mediterranean Sea of the New-Netherlands, stands a little old-fashioned stone mansion, all made up of gable-ends, and as full of angles and corners as an old cocked hat. Though but of small dimensions, yet, like many small people, it is of mighty spirit, and values itself greatly on its antiquity, being one of the oldest edifices, for its size, in the whole country. It claims to be an ancient seat of empire, I may rather say an empire in itself, and like all empires, great and small, has had its grand historical epochs. In speaking of this doughty and valorous little pile, I shall call it by its usual appellation of "The Roost;" though that is a name given to it in modern days, since it became the abode of the white man.
Its origin, in truth, dates far back in that remote region commonly called the fabulous age, in which vulgar fact becomes mystified, and tinted up with delectable fiction. The eastern shore of the Tappan Sea was inhabited in those days by an unsophisticated race, existing in all the simplicity of nature; that is to say, they lived by hunting and fishing, and recreated themselves occasionally with a little tomahawking and scalping. Each stream that flows down from the hills into the Hudson, had its petty sachem, who ruled over a hand's-breadth of forest on either side, and had his seat of government at its mouth. The chieftain who ruled at the Roost, was not merely a great warrior, but a medicine-man, or prophet, or conjurer, for they all mean the same thing, in Indian parlance. Of his fighting propensities, evidences still remain, in various arrowheads of flint, and stone battle-axes, occasionally digged up about the Roost: of his wizard powers, we have a token in a spring which wells up at the foot of the bank, on the very margin of the river, which, it is said, was gifted by him with rejuvenating powers, something like the renowned Fountain of Youth in the Floridas, so anxiously but vainly sought after by the veteran Ponce de Leon. This story, however, is stoutly contradicted by an old Dutch matter-of-fact tradition, which declares that the spring in question was smuggled over from Holland in a churn, by Femmetie Van Slocum, wife of Goosen Garret Van Slocum, one of the first settlers, and that she took it up by night, unknown to her husband, from beside their farm-house near Rotterdam; being sure she should find no water equal to it in the new country—and she was right.
The wizard sachem had a great passion for discussing territorial questions, and settling boundary lines; this kept him in continual feud with the neighboring sachems, each of whom stood up stoutly for his hand-breadth of territory; so that there is not a petty stream nor ragged hill in the neighborhood, that has not been the subject of long talks and hard battles. The sachem, however, as has been observed, was a medicine-man, as well as warrior, and vindicated his claims by arts as well as arms; so that, by dint of a little hard fighting here, and hocus-pocus there, he managed to extend his boundary-line from field to field and stream to stream, until he found himself in legitimate possession of that region of hills and valleys, bright fountains and limpid brooks, locked in by the mazy windings of the Neperan and the Pocantico. [Footnote: As every one may not recognize these boundaries by their original Indian names, it may be well to observe, that the Neperan is that beautiful stream, vulgarly called the Saw-Mill River, which, after winding gracefully for many miles through a lovely valley, shrouded by groves, and dotted by Dutch farm-houses, empties itself into the Hudson, at the ancient drop of Yonkers. The Pocantico is that hitherto nameless brook, that, rising among woody hills, winds in many a wizard maze through the sequestered banks of Sleepy Hollow. We owe it to the indefatigable researches of Mr. KNICKERBOCKER, that those beautiful streams are rescued from modern common-place, and reinvested with their ancient Indian names. The correctness of the venerable historian may be ascertained, by reference to the records of the original Indian grants to the Herr Frederick Philipsen, preserved in the county clerk's office, at White Plains.]
This last-mentioned stream, or rather the valley through which it flows, was the most difficult of all his acquisitions. It lay half way to the strong-hold of the redoubtable sachem of Sing-Sing, and was claimed by him as an integral part of his domains. Many were the sharp conflicts between the rival chieftains for the sovereignty of this valley, and many the ambuscades, surprisals, and deadly onslaughts that took place among its fastnesses, of which it grieves me much that I cannot furnish the details for the gratification of those gentle but bloody-minded readers of both sexes, who delight in the romance of the tomahawk and scalping-knife. Suffice it to say that the wizard chieftain was at length victorious, though his victory is attributed in Indian tradition to a great medicine or charm by which he laid the sachem of Sing-Sing and his warriors asleep among the rocks and recesses of the valley, where they remain asleep to the present day with their bows and war-clubs beside them. This was the origin of that potent and drowsy spell which still prevails over the valley of the Pocantico, and which has gained it the well-merited appellation of Sleepy Hollow. Often, in secluded and quiet parts of that valley, where the stream is overhung by dark woods and rocks, the ploughman, on some calm and sunny day as he shouts to his oxen, is surprised at hearing faint shouts from the hill-sides in reply; being, it is said, the spell-bound warriors, who half start from their rocky couches and grasp their weapons, but sink to sleep again.
The conquest of the Pocantico was the last triumph of the wizard sachem. Notwithstanding all his medicine and charms, he fell in battle in attempting to extend his boundary line to the east so as to take in the little wild valley of the Sprain, and his grave is still shown near the banks of that pastoral stream. He left, however, a great empire to his successors, extending along the Tappan Zee, from Yonkers quite to Sleepy Hollow; all which delectable region, if every one had his right, would still acknowledge allegiance to the lord of the Roost—whoever he might be. [Footnote: In recording the contest for the sovereignty of Sleepy Hollow, I have called one sachem by the modern name of his castle or strong-hold, viz.: Sing-Sing. This, I would observe for the sake of historical exactness, is a corruption of the old Indian name, O-sin-sing, or rather O-sin-song; that is to say, a place where any thing may be had for a song—a great recommendation for a market town. The modern and melodious alteration of the name to Sing-Sing is said to have been made in compliment to an eminent Methodist singing-master, who first introduced into the neighborhood the art of singing through the nose. D. K.]
The wizard sachem was succeeded by a line of chiefs, of whom nothing remarkable remains on record. The last who makes any figure in history is the one who ruled here at the time of the discovery of the country by the white man. This sachem is said to have been a renowned trencherman, who maintained almost as potent a sway by dint of good feeding as his warlike predecessor had done by hard fighting. He diligently cultivated the growth of oysters along the aquatic borders of his territories, and founded those great oyster-beds which yet exist along the shores of the Tappan Zee. Did any dispute occur between him and a neighboring sachem, he invited him and all his principal sages and fighting-men to a solemn banquet, and seldom failed of feeding them into terms. Enormous heaps of oyster-shells, which encumber the lofty banks of the river, remain as monuments of his gastronomical victories, and have been occasionally adduced through mistake by amateur geologists from town, as additional proofs of the deluge. Modern investigators, who are making such indefatigable researches into our early history, have even affirmed that this sachem was the very individual on whom Master Hendrick Hudson and his mate, Robert Juet, made that sage and astounding experiment so gravely recorded by the latter in his narrative of the voyage: "Our master and his mate determined to try some of the cheefe men of the country whether they had any treacherie in them. So they took them down into the cabin and gave them so much wine and aqua vitae that they were all very merrie; one of them had his wife with him, which sate so modestly as any of our countrywomen would do in a strange place. In the end one of them was drunke; and that was strange to them, for they could not tell how to take it." [Footnote: See Juet's Journal, Purchas Pilgrim.]
How far Master Hendrick Hudson and his worthy mate carried their experiment with the sachem's wife is not recorded, neither does the curious Robert Juet make any mention of the after-consequences of this grand moral test; tradition, however, affirms that the sachem on landing gave his modest spouse a hearty rib-roasting, according to the connubial discipline of the aboriginals; it farther affirms that he remained a hard drinker to the day of his death, trading away all his lands, acre by acre, for aqua vitae; by which means the Roost and all its domains, from Yonkers to Sleepy Hollow, came, in the regular course of trade and by right of purchase, into the possession of the Dutchmen.
Never has a territorial right in these new countries been more legitimately and tradefully established; yet, I grieve to say, the worthy government of the New Netherlands was not suffered to enjoy this grand acquisition unmolested; for, in the year 1654, the local Yankees of Connecticut—those swapping, bargaining, squatting enemies of the Manhattoes—made a daring inroad into this neighborhood and founded a colony called Westchester, or, as the ancient Dutch records term it, Vest Dorp, in the right of one Thomas Pell, who pretended to have purchased the whole surrounding country of the Indians, and stood ready to argue their claims before any tribunal of Christendom.
This happened during the chivalrous reign of Peter Stuyvesant, and it roused the ire of that gunpowder old hero; who, without waiting to discuss claims and titles, pounced at once upon the nest of nefarious squatters, carried off twenty-five of them in chains to the Manhattoes, nor did he stay his hand, nor give rest to his wooden leg, until he had driven every Yankee back into the bounds of Connecticut, or obliged him to acknowledge allegiance to their High Mightinesses. He then established certain out-posts, far in the Indian country, to keep an eye over these debateable lands; one of these border-holds was the Roost, being accessible from New Amsterdam by water, and easily kept supplied. The Yankees, however, had too great a hankering after this delectable region to give it up entirely. Some remained and swore allegiance to the Manhattoes; but, while they kept this open semblance of fealty, they went to work secretly and vigorously to intermarry and multiply, and by these nefarious means, artfully propagated themselves into possession of a wide tract of those open, arable parts of Westchester county, lying along the Sound, where their descendants may be found at the present day; while the mountainous regions along the Hudson, with the valleys of the Neperan and the Pocantico, are tenaciously held by the lineal descendants of the Copperheads.
* * * * *
The chronicle of the venerable Diedrich here goes on to relate how that, shortly after the above-mentioned events, the whole province of the New Netherlands 'was subjugated by the British; how that Wolfert Acker, one of the wrangling councillors of Peter Stuyvesant, retired in dudgeon to this fastness in the wilderness, determining to enjoy "lust in rust" for the remainder of his days, whence the place first received its name of Wolfert's Roost. As these and sundry other matters have been laid before the public in a preceding article, I shall pass them over, and resume the chronicle where it treats of matters not hitherto recorded:
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