|Subject||History of New York City|
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A History of New York, subtitled From the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, is an 1809 literary parody on the history of New York City by Washington Irving. Originally published under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, later editions that acknowledged Irving's authorship were printed as Knickerbocker's History of New York.
Irving had previously published his compilation of sketches Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent. (1802) and headed a short-lived periodical called Salmagundi (1807–1808). He completed his satirical A History of New York in 1809 after the death of his 17-year-old fiancée Matilda Hoffman. It was his first major book and a satire on local history and contemporary politics. Before its publication, Irving started a hoax by placing a series of missing person advertisements in New York newspapers seeking information on Diedrich Knickerbocker, a Dutch historian who had allegedly gone missing from his hotel in New York City. As part of this guerilla marketing ruse, he placed a notice from the hotel's proprietor informing readers that, if Mr. Knickerbocker failed to return to the hotel to pay his bill, he would publish a manuscript that Knickerbocker had left behind.
Unsuspecting readers followed the story of Knickerbocker and his manuscript with interest, and some New York city officials were concerned enough about the missing historian to offer a reward for his safe return. Irving then published A History of New York on December 6, 1809 under the Knickerbocker pseudonym, with immediate critical and popular success. "It took with the public", Irving remarked, "and gave me celebrity, as an original work was something remarkable and uncommon in America". The name Diedrich Knickerbocker became a nickname for Manhattan residents in general and was adopted by the New York Knickerbockers basketball team.
The book loosely inspired the musical Knickerbocker Holiday.
In the introduction to the 2008 edition, Elizabeth L. Bradley argues that the work is an unconventional novel; she notes that early readers were reminded of Sterne's Tristram Shandy, and that "the proto-postmodern innovations of the History" resemble "the same inventive qualities in such subsequent American writers as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Thomas Pynchon, and Don DeLillo".
In 2012, reviewer Jerome McGann said that, despite the book being satire, it also contains useful historical facts and context.
- Burstein, Andrew (25 December 2005). "How Christmas Became Merry". The New York Times.
- Jones, Brian Jay. Washington Irving: An American Original. Arcade, 2008: 118-27. ISBN 978-1-55970-836-4
- Burstein, Andrew. The Original Knickerbocker: The Life of Washington Irving. Basic Books, 2007: 72. ISBN 978-0-465-00853-7
- Washington Irving to Mrs. Amelia Foster, [April–May 1823], Works, 23:741.
- "Knickerbocker". Oxford English Dictionary.
- Ferguson, Robert A. (June 1981). ""Hunting Down a Nation": Irving's A History of New York". Nineteenth-Century Fiction. 36 (1): 22–46. doi:10.2307/3044549.
- Wade, Christine (25 May 2015). "A Satirical Novel of Historic New York". Off the Shelf.
- Introduction, A History of New York (NY: Penguin Books, 2008), xvi, xxiv.
- McGann, Jerome (2012). "Washington Irving, A History of New York, and American History". Early American Literature. 47 (2): 349–376. doi:10.1353/eal.2012.0031.
- Bradley, Elizabeth L. (22 January 2009). "Diedrich Knickerbocker's History of New York | The Leonard Lopate Show". WNYC. The Leonard Lopate Show.