Title: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Author: Washington Irving.
Genre: Fiction, short story, horror, ghost story, speculative fiction.
Publication Date: 1820.
Summary: The story is set around the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town, New York, in a secluded glen called Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow is renowned for its ghosts and the haunting atmosphere that pervades the imaginations of its inhabitants and visitors. It is a tale of Ichabod Crane, an extremely superstitious schoolmaster from Connecticut, who competes with Abraham "Brom Bones" Van Brunt, the town rowdy, for the hand of Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and sole child of a wealthy farmer, and who encounters the King of the ghosts in Sleepy Hollow himself - the headless horseman.
My rating: 7/10
My Review: I have a huge soft spot for Victorian and Gothic horror and literature in general, so I'm not sure how I've gone not reading one of the staples of American Gothic horror for so long. In my mind, however, it doesn't really register as horror. What appealed to me most about this story is the picture of Sleepy Hollow itself - a charming, charmed place where time stands still, things are simple, and superstition abounds. The author's subtle tongue-in-cheek description of Ichabod Crane elicits
♥ From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the originals Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of Sleepy Hollow, and its rustic lads are called the Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout all the neighbouring country. A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was bewitched by a high German doctor during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs; are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighbourhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with he whole nine fold, seems to make it the favourite scene of her gambols.
...It is remarkable, that the visionary propensity I have mentioned is not confined to the native inhabitants of the valley, but is unconsciously imbibed by everyone who resides there for a time. However wide awake they may have been before they entered that sleepy region, they are sure, in a little time, to inhale the witching influence of the air, and begin to grow imaginative - to dream dreams, and see apparitions.
I mention this peaceful spot with all possible laud; for it is in such little retired Dutch valleys, found here and there embossed in the great state of New York, that population, manners, and customs, remain fixed, while the great torrent of migration and improvement, which is making such incessant changes in other parts of this restless country, sweeps by them unobserved. They are like those little nooks of still water, which border a rapid stream, where we may see the straw and bubble riding quietly at anchor, or slowly revolving in their mimic harbour, undisturbed by the rush of the passing current. Through many years have elapsed since I trod the drowsy shades of Sleepy Hollow, yet I question whether I should not still find the same trees and the same families vegetating in its sheltered bosom.
♥ All these, however, were mere terrors of the night, phantoms of the mind, that walk in darkness; and though he had seen many spectres in his time, and been more than once beset by Satan in diverse shapes, in his lonely perambulations, yet daylight put an end to all these evils; and he would have passed a pleasant life of it, in despite of the Devil and all his works, if his path had not been crossed by a being that causes more perplexity to mortal man, than ghosts, goblins, and the whole race of witches put together, and that was - woman.
♥ Such was the formidable rival with whom Ichabod Crane had to contend, and, considering all things, a stouter man than he would have shrunk from the competition, and a wiser man would have despaired. He had, however, a happy mixture of pliability and perseverance in his nature; he was in form and spirit like a supple jack -- yielding, but tough; though he bent, he never broke; and though he bowed beneath the slightest pressure, yet, the moment it was away - jerk! - he was as erect, and carried his head as high as ever.
From L'Envoy, written as an afterword to second volume of London edition:
With these considerations he ventures to serve up this second volume in the same heterogeneous way with his first; simply requesting the reader, if he should find here and there something to please him, to rest assured that it was written expressly for intelligent readers like himself; but intrearing him, should he find any thing to dislike, to tolerate it, as one of those articles which the author has been obliged to write for readers of a less refined taste.
From the Appendix:
I had heard enough! I thanked my old playmate for his intelligence, and departed from the Sleepy Hollow church, with the sad conviction that I had beheld the last lingerings of the good old Dutch times, in this once favoured region. If any thing were wanting to confirm this impression, it would be the intelligence which has just reached me, that a bank is about to be established ion the aspiring little port just mentioned. The fate of the neighborhood is, therefore, sealed. I see no hope of averting it. The golden mean is at an end. The country is suddenly to be deluged with wealth. The late simple farmers are to become bank directors, and drink claret and champagne; and their wives and daughters to figure in French hats and feathers; for French wines and French fashions commonly keep pace with paper money. How can I hope that even Sleepy Hollow can escape the general inundation? In a little while, I fear the slumber of ages will be at end; the strum of the piano will succeed to the hum of the spinning wheel; the trill of the Italian opera to the nasal quaver of Ichabod Crane, and the antiquarian visitor to the Hollow, in the petulance of his disappointment, may pronounce all that I have recorded of that once favored region, a fable.