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RETURN TO AMERICA. 161
panic,- a noble infirmity, which characterized also Hawthorne and Thackeray. The enthusiasm manifested for the homesick author was equaled by his own for the land and the people he supremely loved. Nor was his surprise at the progress made during seventeen years less than his delight in it. His native place had become a city of two hundred thousand inhabitants; the accumulation of wealth and the activity of trade astonished him, and the literary stir was scarcely less unexpected. The steamboat had come to be used, so that he seemed to be transported from place to place by magic ; and on a near view the politics of America seemed not less interesting than those of Europe. The nullification battle was set; the currency conflict still raged; it was a time of inflation and land speculation ; the West, every day more explored and opened, was the land of promise for capital and energy. Fortunes were made in a day by buying lots in “paper towns.” Into some of these speculations Irving put his savings; the investments were as permanent as they were unremunerative.
Irving's first desire, however, on his recovery from the state of astonishment into which these changes plunged him, was to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the entire country and its development. To this end he made an extended tour in the South and West, which passed beyond the bounds of frontier settlement. The fruit of his excursion into the Pawnee country, on the waters of the Arkansas, a region untraversed by white men, except solitary trappers, was “A Tour on the Prairies,” a sort of romance of reality, which remains to-day as good a description as we have of hunting adventure on the plains. It led also to the composition of other books on the West, which were more or less mere pieces of book-making for the market. Our author was far from idle. Indeed, he could not afford to be. Although he had received considerable sums from his books, and perhaps enough for his own simple wants, the responsibility of the support of his two brothers, Peter and Ebenezer, and several nieces, devolved upon him. And, besides, he had a longing to make himself a home, where he could pursue his calling undisturbed, and indulge the sweets of domestic and rural life, which of all things lay nearest his heart. And these two undertakings compelled him to be diligent with his pen to the end of his life. The spot he chose for his “Roost” was a little farm on the bank of the river at Tarrytown, close to his old Sleepy Hollow haunt, one of the loveliest, if not the most picturesque, situations on the Hudson. At first he intended nothing more than a summer retreat, inexpensive and simply furnished. But his experience was that of all who buy, and renovate, and build. The farm had on it a small stone Dutch cottage, built about a century before, and inhabited by one of the Van Tassels. This was enlarged, still preserving the quaint Dutch characteristics; it acquired a tower and a whimsical weathercock, the delight of the owner (“it was brought from Holland by Gill Davis, the King of Coney Island, who says he got it from a windmill which they were demolishing at the gate of Rotterdam, which windmill has been mentioned in ‘Knickerbocker’”), and became one of the most snug and picturesque residences on the river. When the slip of Melrose ivy, which was
brought over from Scotland by Mrs. Renwick and given to the author, had grown and well overrun it, the house, in the midst of sheltering groves and secluded walks, was as pretty a retreat as a poet could desire. But the little nook proved to have an insatiable capacity for swallowing up money, as the necessities of the author's establishment increased: there was always something to be done to the grounds; some alterations in the house; a green-house, a stable, a gardener's cottage, to be built, — and to the very end the outlay continued. The cottage necessitated economy in other personal expenses, and incessant employment of his pen. But Sunnyside, as the place was named, became the dearest spot on earth to him; it was his residence, from which he tore himself with reluctance, and to which he returned with eager longing; and here, surrounded by relatives whom he loved, he passed nearly all the remainder of his years, in as happy conditions, I think, as a bachelor ever enjoyed. His intellectual activity was unremitting, he had no lack of friends, there was only now and then a discordant note in the general estimation of his literary work, and he
was the object of the most tender care from