My Tribute to James Edward Hoffman, Washington Irving, and My English 4382 Great Authors Class

Thursday, December 8, 2022

President of the Washington Irving Society

When I was an emotional wreck in December 2022, I included this message on the last page of a final exam, but then deleted it. I decided my students were dealing with enough–final exams and other mentally, emotionally, and spiritually challenging circumstances of their own. However, now that some time has passed, I’d like to share what I had to say. The direct audience, then, for this blog is my English 4382 Great Authors/Washington Irving class at Baylor University in Fall 2022. I hope the blog speaks to someone out there.

As a tribute to my dad and to Washington Irving, I want to pass some information along to you, my English 4382 Washington Irving class. If it gets rather long, I may also post a version as a Washington Irving Society page blog. If my rough draft writing rambles on and on, please don’t feel obligated to read all of this. My work today involves getting your exam posted and writing Dad’s obituary, so I apologize for too much information. If it’s meaningful to you, then I’m glad. If not, then that’s okay, too. You may not need to hear all of this, but I need to write it.

I am so, so very happy we were able to do our Bracebridge Christmas reception on Thursday. It was such a blessing to do something for Christmas with my favorite course and my favorite students since most of my other Christmas plans have been canceled. Dad loved mincemeat pie, so I’m glad we had the mini mincemeat pies for the party.

My dad lived a good, long life, he was ready to go, and he didn’t suffer long. He was my number one fan, so I lost my biggest supporter this week. He was there for every single one of my graduations, and there were many: high school, undergrad, master’s, and doctorate. Dad and Mom literally sang “Happy Birthday” to me for every single one of my birthdays, whether in person or over the phone, and there have been plenty of those, too.

He had three daughters who are all teachers, one loving wife of more than 50 years, and one grandson he adored. Dad “retired” at age 40 from one job, but he was always working, the hardest worker I have ever known. He was no Rip Van Winkle. He paid for all three of us kids to go to college, and is currently paying for his grandson’s college education. Dad ran his race, and he finished well. And he would want all of us to be prepared to meet Jesus and him on the other side of eternity.

Family celebrated his 80th birthday in August when we took him out to his favorite restaurant, Texas Roadhouse, which ironically shut down for repairs the morning of December 5, when Dad passed away. We had a good chuckle, imagining the shutdown being a tribute to him. Visiting Texas Roadhouse was the first dining out experience he and my mom had enjoyed since pre-Covid. One of the reasons Dad really liked Texas Roadhouse, I think, was because they treated veterans well on Memorial Day and Veterans Day (and on Dad’s birthday.) As an Army veteran, Dad loved getting his free meals and other perks. He was proud of his service to our country.

As I’m writing this exam, I came across a stack of Washington Irving books my Daddy had purchased. They were in a cabinet in his office, and I pulled them down to help me write the exam, since I didn’t have my Irving books with me. 

As you might guess, my dad was only interested in Washington Irving because I was interested in Washington Irving. Dad would study up on him because he loved me. They say you follow those you love, and Dad was certainly a follower of Dr. Hoffman, and thus a follower of Washington Irving.

He listened to snippets of the first Washington Irving podcast I was ever on, but he didn’t finish listening to the episode. He said it was a little boring. He was honest, and he tried to like what I liked. I sent him the link to our class’s cemetery podcast, but I’m not sure if he ever listened to it.

I can remember him calling me often from Half-Price Bookstore. He’d buy books and sell them, and while he was waiting for the offers from Half-Price, he’d read a little Washington Irving and call me to chat about some tidbit, or to see if I wanted some Irving books on the Half-Price shelves. We shared a love for books. His had more to do with finding a valuable book to sell, and my love has more to do with the power of words, but we still shared the love of books in print.

I trust both Daddy and Washington Irving are in heaven together. My dad would have been greeted by his very best friend, Donald, and his mother who passed when I first came to Baylor. But, at some point, I can see Daddy and Washington Irving making plans to have lunch, coffee, or dinner—to talk about me. Both loved food and coffee, as does Dr. Hoffman. “My daughter really liked you. We should definitely get together to talk about it,” I can hear Daddy saying. The thought of them together, talking about me, makes me smile and gives me more joy than I can express.

Thank you for taking English 4382 and diving into Washington Irving’s writing. I hope one great takeaway for you will be to see the value in author society work. If it’s not Washington Irving, perhaps another writer will be fortunate enough to have some of your time, money, and attention.

Please stay in touch—by email, social media, or in person. I would love to know how your Baylor Bearness goes out into the world, making it a better place. Sic ‘Em!

Daddy (left) and Donald at Niagara Falls. The three of us drove two round trips from Dallas-Fort Worth to Rochester, New York, for two antique toy shows. I’m so glad I was able to share this experience with them. –Photo by Tracy Hoffman
Published in: on February 15, 2023 at 1:41 pm  Comments (2)  

Washington Irving Society Meeting 2022

Thursday, 5-26-22:  1:30-2:50 p.m.

1. ALA 2023 CFPs

Any suggestions?

2. Irving Updates

  • One panel and one round table at ALA 2022 (no participation in 2020 or 2021)
  • April 2022 festivities in Irving, Texas: storyteller Jiaan Powers and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Irving Trivia for The City and the Man
  • Rip Van Winkle’s Republic, edited by Andrew Burstein (2022, forthcoming)
  • Washington Irving’s Critique of American Culture: Sketching a Vision of World Citizenship (2021) by J. Woodrow McCree
  • Other recent or forthcoming Irving scholarship??
  • 200th anniversary events were canceled in New York to celebrate The Sketch Book.
  • Washington Irving Wednesdays: updates, blogs, social media posts??
  • Reminder of our social networking addresses:

Twitter Irving Society @ irvingsociety1



 Instagram               washingtonirvingsociety, WIS          

  • Kirsten Stine (treasurer), Sean Keck (vice-president), Tracy Hoffman (president), and John Anderson (Facebook coordinator) are willing to continue in their offices unless someone else would like to serve.

3. 501C3 Status

  • After getting 501C3 status in 2021, Tracy Hoffman and Kirsten Stine attempted to file with the IRS, but ended up contacting an accountant since an electronic provider must file for us. We filed a six-month extension.

4. Other officers?

  • Is anyone interested in serving as an officer in another capacity? Are you into Snapchat? TikTok?
  • We need an email coordinator. Perhaps a secretary could work on such a job? If you’re an expert at social media, your help is also very much welcomed.

5. Panel at another conference?

  • If you would be interested in putting together a panel on behalf of the Washington Irving Society for a conference other than ALA, please let us know.

6. Membership dues?

  • If we begin taking dues for membership, what would you like in exchange for your dues? (journal, ALA reception, t-shirt, scholarship, awards, website maintenance, digitizing archives, etc.) How much should we charge?
  • At this point, we want to get 501C3 filed and then set up membership.

7. Washington Irving Society Awards

  • Let’s have at least one award. What might we call this? We could give it away at next year’s ALA.

8. Special thanks to the Thomas Wolfe Society

  • Bob R. Powell, the treasurer, called Tracy Hoffman to share his journey as treasurer. The organization saw the blog and wanted to help us get moving.

9. Other business?

Published in: on May 26, 2022 at 7:16 am  Leave a Comment  

31 Days of Washington Irving in Progress

President of the Washington Irving Society

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Since this is the first Wednesday in October, the busiest month for Irving on social media, I decided it was time to post on a Washington Irving Wednesday.

Because “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” lends itself to Halloween and because Columbus Day falls on October 11, and Irving wrote a biography about him, more people comment about Washington Irving during this time than in April, his birthday month.

We’re posting #31daysofwashingtonirving on Twitter. If you haven’t checked Twitter lately, be sure to give the daily quote a like, retweet, and/or comment. I’ve been experimenting with Canva, so I’m trying to make tiny improvements on Twitter. We have a simple, black and orange, moving image to announce the October theme.

I would like #31daysofwashingtonirving to be a constructive tool for dealing with any negativity about Washington Irving with regard to his writing of Columbus. By posting quotes from his tremendous collection of writing, we can give a more balanced approach to how Washington Irving is viewed and how he viewed the world. He wrote about the mistreatment of Native-Americans and the abuses of Columbus, while simultaneously viewing Columbus as a bridge between the Old World and the New.

Even though we’re moving along on Twitter, Instagram is another story. This past week, I started a Washington Irving Society account on Instagram, yet I don’t find many author societies in that space. Of course, scholars tend to be wordy, as opposed to picture-oriented, so we may need to give links to other really good Instagram feeds, such as those posting pictures from Sleepy Hollow, instead of trying to do something ourselves.

If you’re an Instagram guru and interested in helping out the Washington Irving Society, let me know. We may give you the reigns of the account, or advertise an account you’re already running. John Anderson has been monitoring and posting in Facebook for quite some time, but I’m still working the Twitter account, and dabbling with Instagram.

If you didn’t catch my last blog post, we have 501C3 status. After consulting with treasurer Kirsten Stine, I have decided to wait until 2022 to open a checking account and begin accepting dues for membership. If we started moving before January, I would front $1500 or so to open a checking account, and then I wouldn’t want to claim the write-off on my taxes because it would then create more red tape for the WIS.

Instead, we’re planning to begin accepting memberships via check in January, use those checks to open a checking account, and hopefully, we won’t need a big chunk of money from one person to get on track financially. A $10 annual membership would help us keep the website moving and build funds for future conferences. Once we have a checking account set up, we could then, of course, take electronic membership dues.

If you work with another author society and have useful advice on how to best set up finances, please reach out! I’m open to advice for best practices.

Finally, we’re gearing up for the American Literature Association (ALA) conference in Chicago. The CFP should go out soon. We already have one round table on American Hauntings, left over from ALA 2020, but after I consult with our vice-president Sean Keck, who oversees conference panels at ALA, we’ll get the CFP posted here on the website and in our social media outlets.

I’ll try to get back to blogging at the conclusion of our #31daysofwashingtonirving to let you know how it went. Perhaps if all goes well, we can do #25daysofwashingtonirving to celebrate his Christmas stories in December.

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Feel free to add to the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or on this page. Comments are very much welcomed.

Published in: on October 6, 2021 at 1:53 pm  Comments (1)  

It’s Official: The Washington Irving Society Has Received 501-C3 Status

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

President of the Washington Irving Society

I’m finally back to blogging on a Washington Irving Wednesday, and it’s been awhile. I’ve been awaiting “the letter” giving the Washington Irving Society non-profit status, and at last, we have it. Though the formal, printed letter never arrived at the university, according to mail authorities at Baylor, I did manage to find the letter on the IRS website, which I’ve been monitoring periodically.

Tomorrow, on July 29, I have an appointment with a bank to set up our very own checking account. I was told to hold off until we had the 501-C3 letter because it rather changes the setup. In consultation with other officers, particularly treasurer Kirsten Stine, we look forward to our membership drive in 2022.

Until then, I would encourage Washington Irving enthusiasts who also dabble in Nathaniel Hawthorne, to join the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society:

We at the Irving Society have benefited from the work of the Hawthorne Society in a number of ways. As a member of the organization, I have learned about how they operate, which has helped me see how things might work on the Irving side.

As many of you know, the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society fell victim to wire fraud recently. They could use your support to rebuild their funds. I am grateful for the transparency of the officers during the situation so that other author societies, like the WIS, can avoid similar trouble.

I assure you, our treasurer and I have consulted about this matter, and we will never send money to anyone unless we have confirmation in person or via a phone conversation.

Until my next post on a Washington Irving Wednesday, please stay healthy and cool, for the remainder of the summer. In Texas, we’re finally hitting our normal highs for July: the 100s.

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Feel free to add to the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or on this page. Comments are very much welcomed.

Published in: on July 28, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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We filed for 501C3 status Feb. 23, 2021: Still Waiting for Response…

In late February, 2021, we paid the $275 to file for 501C3 status with the Internal Revenue Service. As of May 1, 2021, the IRS is looking at Jan. 30, 2021, submissions, and in early April, that date was Jan. 21, so they’ve moved 9 days in a month. At this rate, we’ll be waiting for much of 2021. We’ve been holding back on offering paid memberships to the Washington Irving Society until we have a clear path with the IRS. Stay tuned. Until then, consider yourself a member!

Published in: on May 1, 2021 at 6:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

4-3-21: Counting down the days to Washington Irving’s Birthday

person holding lighted sparkler stick
Photo by cottonbro on

President of the Washington Irving Society

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. October and April are our busiest months because of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” during Halloween and because of Irving’s birthday on April 3. So I stepped away from blogging in November until now.

Several times, I thought about posting comments concerning the presidential election, comments about racial protests, more comments about Covid, and comments about vaccines. I drafted a number of blogs, but every single time I came to this space, it didn’t seem appropriate to post anything. Listening seemed appropriate.

This semester, one particular comment about Washington Irving caught my attention on Twitter. On February 5, 2021, Sid Howard @sidhowardokc tweeted: “When I took Oklahoma history in Jr High we were told the significance of Crutcho Creek. It’s where Washington Irving fell off his horse while touring the territory. Not one word was said about the Tulsa race massacre.”

By February, I had already lectured on Washington Irving. We didn’t talk about Irving falling off a horse, and I’m not teaching in Oklahoma. But I do recall talking about Sam Houston, the gigantic statue of him in Texas off I-45, and Irving meeting Houston. Unfortunately, I mentioned very little about my research regarding race and Irving.

We did spend quite a bit of time talking about Native-American culture early in the semester, and this subject came up briefly with Irving, too. But I failed to go beyond Native-American culture and Dutch culture with Irving. Yes, Dutch culture comes up when we talk about “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle.”

During Black History Month, we experienced Snowmageddon in Texas, so my plans to talk about Phillis Wheatley and her legacy in African-American literature was postponed. When we finally got back to the classroom and to Wheatley, I shared the Oklahoma tweet from Sid Howard, reiterated the significance of the Tulsa Massacre, and apologized for not sharing more pertinent information about my research regarding race and Irving.

I teach Toni Morrison and other contemporary writers later in the semester. I told my classes about how Irving brought me to read more Morrison because of her novel Paradise, set in Oklahoma. I shared with them about my trips to the Fort Gibson area investigating Madam Bradley, a woman Irving writes about in A Tour on the Prairies. And I spoke a few minutes about miscegenation laws in America at the time since Bradley was a black woman married to a white man living in Oklahoma Territory in the 1830s. Chances are, they moved there so they could be together.

In the fall, my Washington Irving lecture will be revamped to cover Bradley, Morrison, and other research relevant to current concerns about race. And my Black History Month lectures in 2022 will be much better after taking some time to listen best I can. I began investigating Irving because of the various cultures represented in his texts, and it saddens me to think that I haven’t fully communicated this richness to my students.

And my inability to demonstrate the fullness of Irving’s writing goes beyond my sphere at Baylor. People are understandably upset about many concerns in America right now, and my comments have unintentionally hit the wrong buttons.

In October, I posted a blog about why Irving shouldn’t be blamed for Christopher Columbus, with the intent of posting another blog outlining reasons why he should be blamed for Columbus. The big idea floating through my head was to eventually put together a short book about Irving’s research on Columbus. I never made it to the second blog.

The fierce feedback stopped me in my tracks. “I didn’t sign up for this,” kept coming to mind. The Washington Irving Society is here to encourage Irving scholarship, not to argue with people on Twitter. In case you’re searching for the blog, I took it down, though I do hope to put together a short book about the issue.

So, on this Wednesday in March 2021, I’m back to blog after a much-needed respite to think, to listen, and to work behind the scenes on behalf of the Washington Irving Society.

We aren’t sponsoring panels at this summer’s American Literature Conference in Boston, but we plan to be back for May 2022 in Chicago. Because we won’t have an annual meeting at ALA in July, I’ll be sure to post our 2021 report on the website.

I’ll also do my best to report back on the birthday celebration. If you’re interested in the Zoom birthday celebration next weekend, here’s the announcement.

BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION: April 3, 2021. The City of Irving’s Heritage Society will be hosting a happy hour on April 3 at 5 p.m. to celebrate Washington Irving’s birthday. Please contact the Heritage Society for the invitation and link:

In truth, I’ve been counting the days since I last blogged, waiting for the right moment to begin again, and the brink of Irving’s birthday seemed like the last possible moment. I plan to have guest bloggers on board for the summer. If you’re interested, please message me at, and we’ll get you slotted for an upcoming Washington Irving Wednesday. Until next time, stay healthy and happy, and don’t quit.

Please feel free to add to the conversation wherever you like: Twitter, Facebook, and/or on this page. Comments are very much welcomed.

Published in: on March 24, 2021 at 4:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Takeaways from Washington Irving’s Repeated Takeoffs

Photo by Anna Shvets on

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

President of the Washington Irving Society

He was an attorney, yet he quit practicing.

His family owned a hardware business, yet it went bankrupt.

He was ambassador to Spain, yet he quit the job.

He was engaged, yet he never married.

He proposed to another woman, yet she declined.

He died single.

Irving quit on marriage, diplomacy, business, the law, and perhaps dozens of other goals.

For instance, I’m pretty sure he gave up on public speaking after attempting to introduce Charles Dickens to a large crowd in New York.

But the one thing he didn’t quit on–and the one important thing his failures produced–was his writing.

He never gave up on writing and publishing, even when the reception of his writing didn’t go so well; Tales of a Traveller, for example, which caused him to flee England and take off for Spain.

And in his final years, Irving churned out five thick volumes on George Washington. He gave up his travel itinerary in his later years, but he never set aside his writing agenda.

We like to watch the underdog come from behind and win. Washington Irving didn’t start out poor and end up rich, so his story isn’t the classic rags-to-riches American narrative, but his episodes of epic failure were followed by moments of success, and he kept going. That seems pretty American to me, too.

These extreme moments of failure followed by respites of success not only kept him going but they also kept his readers intrigued. These fluctuations keep scholars fascinated by his writing and legacy today. Like other great writers, his ups and downs gave him the depth necessary for prolific writing of high quality.

Ironically, Irving survived being quarantined for months aboard ship, and he dodged pandemic in New York. Those situations, it seems, were minor distractions from his writing. And if we can get a bigger picture of our life’s work, I think Irving’s quitting on some things while never giving up on the most important, despite the circumstances, is a lesson everybody can use about now.

I started this blog in August, planning to publish on August 5, but ended up throwing up my hands on blogging for the entire month of August. I’m currently teaching four face-to-face classes of American Literature, and the daily flurry of emails and preparation for the past month have taken precedence over my blogging efforts.

This morning, I came back to the rough draft, and I contemplated quitting on blogging for the remainder of our semester. But, once again, Irving has inspired me to keep going. Perhaps this blog and Irving’s legacy may have the same effect on you today as you read it.

Until my next post on a Washington Irving Wednesday, please stay healthy, and don’t quit on what’s most important.

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Feel free to add to the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or on this page. Comments are very much welcomed.

If you need a thoughtful reply, please message me at

I try to respond to Washington Irving Society-related email on Wednesdays, and I also update the WIS page on Washington Irving Wednesdays. If things get hectic and other jobs and responsibilities take precedence over author society business, my email responses might get backlogged, and therefore be delayed by weeks or months. However, I will eventually get around to reading and responding to all messages, most likely on Wednesdays.

Published in: on September 9, 2020 at 5:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Tour of the Pandemic: Irving Dodges Cholera Outbreak, Travels West to Oklahoma Territory

Oneil Myrie photo

–Photo by tyrese myrie from Pexels.

President of the Washington Irving Society

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Last week, I got caught up reading Washington Irving’s journals. It happens from time to time. I was digging for Irving’s thoughts on Columbus and political commentary to tackle conspiracy theories fluttering through Twitter.

Instead of picking up Columbus and political cues, however, notes about cholera in New York caught my attention. Upon returning from Spain, after having been abroad for seventeen years, Irving was touring surrounding areas of New York, and he was dodging disease in the process.

We’re familiar with Elizabeth Bradley’s discussion of Irving being quarantined as a youth in Tarrytown during the 1793 yellow fever outbreak, which may have inspired “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Because of Bradley’s assessment, I kept thinking about how the outbreak of 1832 may have inspired A Tour on the Prairies, published in 1835.

The 1832 cholera outbreak was another episode of disease hysteria during Irving’s lifespan. Flipping through Irving’s journals reminds us how often he and his contemporaries endured such outbreaks. Noting his commentary about cholera makes me want to review his thoughts on disease in A Tour on the Prairies, particularly where he records native illnesses. It’s quite likely that his comments on Native-Americans in that book came from these 1832 scenes from his journals prior to the prairies.

Rather than commenting too much today, I’ll throw out some quotes from Irving’s 1832 journal to let you see what I spied. In future blogs, I may have more to say after I think about these passages in unison with A Tour on the Prairies.

Here we go:

On Saturday, August 4, 1832, Irving writes: “Albany half deserted on a/c of the cholera” (p. 7).

Editor’s note on August 4 journal: “The plague prompted Latrobe to write that during ‘the second week in July, after being witnesses to the panic caused in New York by the outbreak of the cholera, we prepare to follow Mr. Irving to Boston’ (Rambler, I, 42); this same plague was still raging in New York in early August and caused WI’s early departure” (p. 7).

On Saturday, August 18, 1832, Irving writes: “pleasant drive to Oneida—The latter a small village on a pretty creek—fine wooded hills inhabited by the Oneida Indians—find the Count at Oneida (villa) Castle Stroll out with him to Indian village—Indian ill with fever. Gentlemanlike fellow—handsome squaw have picture of GWashtn.—worked mat—Squaw light—slender make [–] small feet & (arm) hands—Soft talk[.] walked up between cornfields to hill commanding a view over the rich plain” (p.16).

In response to Irving’s August 18 journal, “Leave Trenton Falls –1/2 past 7—in post wagon stop at Trenton,” a Twayne editor’s note states: “Whether the decision to change routes was made as a result of news he heard in Trenton or whether he had made the decision earlier is not clear; at any rate, WI decided that the cholera which was rapidly spreading through the northern part of the United States and had reached Utica, New York, imposed too great a threat and he wrote to Peter: ‘I shall leave that place out of my route …though hitherto I have never avoided the malady, nor shall I do so in the course of my tour; simply observing such genteel diet and habits of living as experience has taught me are best calculated to keep my system in healthful tone’ (PMI, III, 32)” (p. 15).

I haven’t done too much with 1832 cholera and the 1835 book, and I’m not sure it’s worthy of much further investigation. However, at the very least, any upcoming lecture I may give involving Tour on the Prairies needs adjustment. In addition to wanting to prove his patriotism after being abroad for seventeen years, Irving’s decision to go on a buffalo hunt out west may have also been prompted by the desire to escape from the cholera epidemic. Irving may have considered set-aside lands for natives in the Oklahoma Territory as an oasis from disease.

Until my next post on a Washington Irving Wednesday, please stay healthy.

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Works Cited, Consulted

Bradley, Elizabeth. “What ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ Tells Us about Contagion, Fear and Epidemics.” 30 October 2014, Accessed 22 July 2020.

Ross, Sue Fields. The Complete Works of Washington Irving, Journals and Notebooks vol. V. Twayne, 1986.

Wilford, John Noble. “How Epidemics Helped Shape the Modern Metropolis.” 15 April 2008, Accessed 22 July 2020.

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Feel free to add to the conversation wherever you like: Twitter, Facebook, on this page. Comments are very much welcomed. If you need a thoughtful reply, please message me at I try to respond to Washington Irving Society-related email on Wednesdays, and I also update the WIS page on Washington Irving Wednesdays. If things get hectic and other jobs and responsibilities take precedence over author society business, my email responses might get backlogged, and therefore be delayed by weeks or months. However, I will eventually get around to reading and responding to all messages, most likely on Wednesdays.

Published in: on July 22, 2020 at 2:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Headless Horseman Considerations for the Washington Redskins

selective focus close up photo of brown wilson pigskin football on green grass

Photo by Jean-Daniel Francoeur on


President of the Washington Irving Society

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Several ideas for blogs have been swirling through my brain, most notably Irving’s connections with Alexander Hamilton and wild theories about Irving’s biography on Christopher Columbus. It never ceases to amaze me how relevant Washington Irving can be.

Despite other writing plans, this morning as I was checking social media, one post struck my fancy. Jazz Funkenstein, with a Twitter descriptor of “Not gonna tweet about the Loch Ness Monster, but he/she is still very on my mind,” writes: “The Redskins should change their name to the Washington Irving’s and have their mascot be a headless horseman. That would be badass.”

Another hessians

On behalf of the Irving Society, I liked and retweeted the post, and didn’t really think too much about the Washington Irvings and a D.C. horseman. That is, until an hour or so later, and then I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I’m not suggesting that an NFL team take Jazz Funkenstein’s idea to heart, nor do I expect anyone involved in this decision to read my blog, but I would like to highlight a few quirky coincidences for Washington Irving scholars and fans. If Tracy Hoffman owned the Redskins franchise, we’d certainly consider the possibility of the Washington Hessians. Here are some reasons why.

First off, Washington Irving was a diplomat in his later years, serving as Ambassador to Spain, and he spent considerable time in Washington, D.C. Scholars have Irving’s journals with thoughts and notes from his visits. We also know as a young boy, he met George Washington in New York, a reminder that the first capital was in New York, not in the District of Columbia.

And that leads to a second point: Columbia. Too often Washington Irving is solely credited for making Columbus famous in America. The District of Columbia reminds us that America considered Columbus long before Irving wrote his famous biography about him.

Thirdly, according to a city proclamation, Irving, Texas, was named after Washington Irving. And Dallas Cowboys fans know that Irving, Texas, is also the former home of the Dallas Cowboys. That’s an interesting circle to consider. If the Redskins borrowed a mascot associated with the former home of the Dallas Cowboys: well, that would be an interesting twist to their rivalry.

Lastly, we should remember that Irving wrote A Tour on the Prairies about his adventure to the Oklahoma Territory, and he wrote two other western narratives, too. He romanticizes Native-Americans, and we must recognize this, but his empathy for their plight and harsh criticism of American policy toward them should also be noted.

Some scholars think of Irving as our gentleman writer who spent an extraordinary amount of time abroad, and such an assessment is correct. However, upon his return to America in the 1830s, he headed westward and wrote of his experiences there. This was a major shift in his body of writing. You can’t fully understand his life’s work without knowing about his western narratives.

So there you have it: a handful of thoughts for a headless horseman mascot in Washington, D.C. I’ll try to stay posted on this matter and get back with you in the future.

Until my next post on a Washington Irving Wednesday, please stay healthy.

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Feel free to add to the conversation wherever you like: Twitter, Facebook, on this page. Comments are very much welcomed. If you need a thoughtful reply, please message me at I try to respond to Washington Irving Society-related email on Wednesdays, and I also update the WIS page on Washington Irving Wednesdays. If things get hectic, my email responses might get backlogged for awhile, so be patient with me. I eventually get around to reading and responding personally to all messages, most likely on Wednesdays.


Published in: on July 8, 2020 at 8:24 pm  Comments (2)  

Washington Irving at the Center of 2020: What’s Wrong with this Picture?


By Christian Schussele (16 April 1824 – 1879) – Flickr, Photographer: cliff1066, 26 August 2008, CC BY 2.0,

President of the Washington Irving Society

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

For the past two semesters in my American Literary Cultures classes, I’ve launched the first week of lectures with this famous painting of Irving and other outstanding writers of his day.

In honor of the 200th anniversary of “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” I began my course with these two short stories. After Irving, we moved back into the 1600s with writers such as Mary Rowlandson, and we finished with contemporaries like Sandra Cisneros and Toni Morrison.

Over the past several weeks, as I’ve been trying to think of something useful to say on this Washington Irving Society platform, the Sunnyside painting keeps coming to mind. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I’ve found this to be true for the Sunnyside painting. What might normally take me fifteen or twenty minutes to set up in a lecture can be said by flashing this one painting, telling students it represents American writers, and asking them: “What’s wrong with this picture?”

They quickly tell me these writers are all white men, and it shakes some of them, I think for the first time, into the reality of the white narrative we’ve all been given. What comes next in the class discussion is the kind of discussion, it seems to me, we need to have in larger contexts. What would a better representation of American writers be, and what would we like it to be? What does America currently look like, and what’s our grand vision for the future?

If I were a skillful painter and if I were an expert on contemporary American literature, my first instinct would be to repaint an updated version of the Sunnyside painting, detailing a female of color at the center, surrounded by a diverse group of American writers currently in vogue. As the recent phenomenon of recreating old family photos has taken hold of us during this pandemic, I have a vision of this painting being recreated with a better representation of America’s current writers.

But after thinking things over, as an expert on Early American Literature and Washington Irving, I’m pretty sure my first instinct is off-base.

Should we instead keep some of these old writers like Irving in our “new painting” and add more diverse writers to the template? On the other hand, instead of reimagining this painting or adding to it, should we delete such scenes from our memory and start afresh?

America has some things to figure out: as we work through the hurtful past and repair current injustices, we also need to think about the future. As I’ve often said, I’m stuck in the past when it comes to scholarship, so brainstorming about the future of American literature and America is tough for me.

I have taken several weeks off from blogging and Washington Irving Wednesdays for a number of reasons: eye strain after an online semester, computer monitor flashing like a disco light, and two lengthy episodes of no Internet service. I was making plans to return in June after a late-May getaway for my birthday. But after May 25, my Irving blogs seemed unimportant. After George Floyd’s tragic death, I decided it would be better for me to listen for awhile, rather than jump into a conversation about Washington Irving. I also recognize that my fatigued mindset pales in comparison to the hurt many Americans are experiencing today. 

At our last Washington Irving Society panels in 2019 at the American Literature Association conference in Boston, we heard from scholars who brought compelling and thoughtful commentary about race in Irving’s writing. If you are such a scholar, and would like to use this space to discuss your research, please let me know. We would be happy to open up this forum to more guest bloggers. 

After checking on our Twitter feed, I noted several tweets about Washington Irving’s treatment of Columbus. Every year on Columbus Day, I have opportunity to address the misinformation spread about Irving, and I attempted to address comments made recently.

All of my exchanges were productive. Along with pointing out errors, I also thanked people for their consideration of research in light of current debates and let them know we weren’t trying to defend Columbus, but only directing people to Irving’s texts for further insight. If such discussions continue, we might want to address that topic, too, in some blogs. If you’ve been researching Irving and Columbus and would like to share in a blog or post, please let me know and feel free to add to the conversation on social media.

Until another Washington Irving Wednesday, please take care of yourselves and stay healthy.

According to Wikipedia, here’s the key to the painting of “Washington Irving and his friends at Sunnyside,” from left to right. I bulleted them for your easy perusal. Wikipedia gave them in paragraph form:

  • Henry T. Tuckerman (1813-1871)
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)
  • William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870)
  • Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790-1867)
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
  • Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867)
  • William H. Prescott (1796-1859)
  • Washington Irving
  • James Kirke Paulding (1778-1860)
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
  • William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)
  • John Pendleton Kennedy (1795-1870)
  • James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)
  • George Bancroft (1800-1891)

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Feel free to add to the conversation wherever you like: Twitter, Facebook, on this page. Comments are very much welcomed. If you need a reply, please message me at I try to respond to Washington Irving Society-related email on Wednesdays, and I also update the WIS page on Washington Irving Wednesdays. If things get hectic, my email responses might be a few weeks in the future, but I will eventually get around to reading and responding.

Published in: on June 25, 2020 at 12:47 pm  Comments (2)  
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