It All Began with a $1 Purchase


By Steve Sears

Back in the early 1990s, my township library would schedule a yearly book sale, the goal being to ferret and discard any books that, per their records, hadn’t been checked out in a good period, and to accept books that had “gathered dust” from residences, all to gain money for the library support.

Purchases were a steal: .50 for paperbacks, $1.00 for hardcovers.

On a very warm, May morning, I bought one book, it being the only one that won my interest: a 1908 version of The Sketch Book by Washington Irving.

I had heard of Irving but was unaware that he had written “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. I would educate myself that day and the following day by reading, in my opinion, some of the most luscious word usage I had ever encountered. Yes, the previously mentioned classics were great reads, but so were – and maybe more so for me – “The Mutability of Literature”, “The Wife”, “The Widow and Her Son”.

This led to visits to both his beloved home, Sunnyside, in Tarrytown, New York, and his grave in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and frequent sojourns to Christ Episcopal Church, which is halfway between Sunnyside and the cemetery, and is often a (I feel) forgotten or unknown tourist attraction. Inside are his pew he sat in for Sunday services, a monument dedicated following his death, and a tiny library where photos, first editions, and personal notes are on display. Further proof of my devotion was my purchase of and stocking my home library with books about and by Irving, many from the 19th century, including The Crayon Miscellany, Pierre Irving’s three-volume Life & Letters of Washington Irving, and a first edition of Wolfert’s Roost (1855). Please know that I read the latter in one evening, it falling apart in my hands, and now held together by an elastic band. This may appear to be disrespect shown the book and history, but I think it better said that reading it in one night is apt respect to my writing hero more so.

2019 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of The Sketch Book, and I’ll close by saying that I think it’s wonderful that Irving’s great Headless Horseman legend is kept alive each fall, but I think he’s deserved of more adulation than just a month or two out of the year. Yes, visitors visit Sunnyside and Irving’s grave year-round, but he I note is often forgotten when mention is made of our country’s and the world’s better 19th century, historic writers.

Dickens, Poe, and good company are all mentioned and deservedly so, but shouldn’t Washington Irving’s sun rise just as high – and maybe higher?


– – –

The Washington Irving Society would like to thank Steve Sears for writing this week’s blog. Feel free to comment here to communicate with Steve. You can also contact him at:

Published in: on May 15, 2019 at 2:03 pm  Comments (1)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Appreciate yoou blogging this


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: