Saturday, 26 April 2014

Wonderfully Witty Washington Irving

Washington Irving (1783-1859), having been born just before the the end of the American revolution was named in honour of its hero George Washington. One of the first American authors to achieve acclaim in Europe, Irving is perhaps best known for his stories: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle
Clink link for details on Wikipedia
The fictional 'Diedrich Knickerbocker'
by Felix O.C. Darley
Image courtesy of Wikipedia, click for details.

Irving also proved to be somewhat of a rascal. Clearly ahead of his time, Washington Irving was perhaps the originator of hoax marketing. His first major publication: A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, was written under the pseudonym; Diedrich Knickerbocker. However the overwhelming success of this publication resulted from a homemade hoax marketing campaign! Irving mischievously published missing person advertisements in local papers inquiring as to the whereabouts of a missing Dutch historian named 'Diedrich Knickerbocker'. Encouraged by local campaigns which were established to help locate the missing individual, Irving subsequently published an alleged threat from the hotel proprietor indicating that if Diedrich Knickerbocker did not return to clear his bill, they would publish a manuscript which he had left behind. Having achieved significant public interest in a fictional individual, Irving's book was published under this pseudonym to instant commercial success!

Retrospectively, I would be quite interested to know whether this unconventional marketing campaign had any influence on establishing wasting police time as a criminal offence as I suspect a similar strategy would prove rather ill-advised in the modern world!

Irving's mischievous wit is clearly evident in The Spectre Bridegroom which is a satirical Gothic ghost story complete with a clever climactic twist. Despite the brevity of the tale, Irving manages to amalgamate a Gothic setting, a tragic twist, and ghostly romance all completed with a fairy tale ending that has surprisingly been overlooked by Hollywood. If you haven't yet read this tale, I strongly recommend it!

Further reading:

This blog post was written in the spirit of the April 2014 A-Z Challenge whereby a post is written every day during the month of April (with the exception of Sunday). The theme of each post is meant to correspond with a letter of the alphabet in sequential order. Monday's post will be on X. For details and to visit the A-Z Challenge website, click here.

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