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Lot 69: Fine Washington Irving Autograph Letter Signed to Introduce His Nephew to Businessman Joshua Bates in London
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: IRVING, WASHINGTON. (1783-1859). American author; best known for his stories Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. ALS. (“Washington Irving”). 1p. 8vo. New York, May 18, 1858. To American businessman and prominent expatriate JOSHUA BATES (1788-1864). ********** “My nephew, the Rev. Pierre P. Irving, who will be the bearer of this, makes a brief visit to Europe. Any facilities you may be able to give him for making his sojourn in London pleasant and profitable will be considered personal favor to myself. He is a “curious” traveler and may want to get access to curious and interesting places, in which you may be able to assist him. He is an elder brother of Theodore, whom you and Mrs. Bates may remember in the home of Mr. McLanes first … With kindest remembrances to Mrs. Bates…” ********** Down on his luck in France, Irving happily received, in early 1826, an invitation from the U.S. Embassy in Madrid to visit Spain and translate a book about Columbus by the naval officer and scholar, Don Martin Fernandez de Navarrete. Deciding to enlarge this work, Irving, with Navarrete’s assistance, spent the next two years completing an original manuscript about America’s discoverer. Published by Murray in 1828, it was, according to the DAB, “the most painstaking effort of Irving’s life...Superseded by modern histories and biographies on the same subject, it still charms, and is a testimony, with its carefully documented pages, to Irving’s minor gift as an amateur historian.” ********** He was joined in Spain by his 24-year-old nephew, Pierre Irving (1802-1876), “the fourth of William Irving Jr.’s eight children [who] had recently passed the bar and was making a tour of Europe before setting up a practice in New York. His reunion with Washington owed more to luck than planning. Arriving in Madrid, Pierre had approached Minister Alexander Everett about a new passport – and a delighted Everett steered Pierre to his uncle, still huddled in [the] library… Irving was delighted with the young man. Pierre was more than just family; he was surprisingly good company. ‘He has stuff in him to make a valuable man,’ Washington said appreciatively. For the next three weeks, Pierre was his constant companion,” (Washington Irving: An American Original, Jones). Irving later collaborated with Pierre on Astoria and ultimately appointed him his biographer; beginning in 1862 Pierre published The Life and Letters of Washington Irving. ********** Our letter mentions Louis McLane (1786-1857), an American Congressman who served as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the United Kingdom beginning in 1829. Irving was his legation secretary and “recorded McLane’s diplomatic triumph in London,” namely his success in “opening American trade with the West Indies on the same equal and reciprocal basis enjoyed by the British,” (The Great Road: The Building of the Baltimore and Ohio, the Nation's First Railroad, 1828-1853, Dilts). It was on this same trip that “McLane got to know such influential neighbors as Joshua Bates [1788–1864], a Bostonian who through adroit capital manipulation had become a full partner in Baring Brothers & Company, the premier merchant banking house in Europe,” (ibid.). Bates was a prominent member of the American expat community in London. “McLane’s British idyll ended in mid-1831 when he was called home to become secretary of the treasury during a general cabinet shake-up,” (ibid.). ********** Accompanied by the original envelope, which indicates that Irving’s letter was brought personally to Bates by Pierre Irving. Both letter and address leaf are tipped onto slightly larger pieces of paper. Some very light wear and in very fine condition.