“The Devil and Tom Walker” in Paris

BY TRACY HOFFMAN

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Last time, I left the blog pondering why Irving purchased celery and cabbage seeds while working on The Sketch Book. I haven’t solved the mystery yet, but I have checked out more journal entries, specifically ones he completed while writing “The Devil and Tom Walker.”

On Thursday, May 6, 1824, while in Paris, Irving records the following in his journal: “This morning wrote story of the Devil & Tom Walker.” On Friday, May 7, he writes: “Wrote all the morning at Tom Walker.” And on Saturday, May 8, he notes: “Wrote this morng at Story of Tom Walker” (Reichart, Journals and Notebooks III, 327-28).

His notations about writing the story continue on Monday, May 10: “Awoke early — Birds Singing — beautiful weather. breakfasted in my room Between 7 & 8. Wrote a little at the Story of Tom Walker, introducing dialogue between him & D[evil] – on subject of the bargain…” (Reichart 329).

Then later on Friday, May 21, Irving says, “This morning rewrote parts of Tom Walker & latter part of Wolfert Webber” (334).

He includes other tidbits in his 1824 journal entries from France, and I’ll point out a few highlights.

Though he mentions some purchases, he doesn’t seem overly concerned about financial matters even though he’s writing fiction with financial themes.

On Saturday, May 1, he writes: “A rainy day – Arranged & burnt papers, letters &c” (Reichart 326). How nice of him to burn letters and papers, which twenty-first century scholars might have found useful. (I’m sure many of them had to do with his tawdry love affair with Mary Shelley!)

Irving leaves Paris on Monday, May 24, for England. It is clear, then, that he writes “The Devil and Tom Walker” while in France.

On Tuesday, May 25, Irving jots down: “Anniversary of my departure from America” (335). He sets “The Devil and Tom Walker” in America though other stories in the collection are set in England, Italy, and even Paris.

Irving’s decision to stay abroad until he could prove himself financially as a writer combined with thoughts of America while in France confirm that the short story has some connections to Irving’s biography.

Until next week, please feel free to add to the conversation wherever you like: Twitter, Facebook, on this page. Comments are very much welcomed. Also feel free to message me at Tracy_Hoffman@baylor.edu. I try to respond to all correspondence on Wednesdays and also update the WIS page.

Published in: on February 7, 2019 at 5:25 am  Leave a Comment  

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