He spent 1804 to 1806 traveling widely in Europe. In 1809, Irving’s comic history of Dutch life in New York, A History of New York, was published by him under the pseudonym, Dietrich Knickerbocker. In 1815, Irving returned to Europe, where he lived for 17 years. In 1820, he published The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., a collection of stories containing his most famous creations, Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This book allowed him to become a full-time writer.
In 1828, during his stay in Spain, Irving wrote Columbus. In 1829, he published Conquest of Granada, followed in 1831 by The Companions of Columbus. Not through with his tales of Spain, he published Alhambra in 1832, a book about the history and legends of Moorish Spain. Irving returned to New York in 1832. In 1835, he turned his author’s eye towards his native land and wrote A Tour of the Prairies. In 1842, Irving was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Spain, a position he held until 1845. He was appointed President of Astor Library (now known at the New York Public Library) from 1848 until 1859.
In 1859, he chronicled the life of his namesake, George Washington, in a five-volume biography, The Life of George Washington.
Washington Irving died in Tarrytown, NY on November 28, 1859 after a long and distinguished career as one of America’s first men of letters.