We know Seville as a traditional city, loved by people from all over the world. Yearly numerous tourists come to visit the Andalusian capital and get to know the city guided by locals or foreign guides from all different corners of the globe. Nowadays we toast to our differences, but we all know this stream of interest and love all started with one person. Let us call him the ‘’founding father’’ of modern Spanish tourism: Washington Irving. This week we tell you who he is, where he came from and what his connection is with Seville and Spain!
Washington Irving was born on the 3th of April 1783, in New York, just after the American Revolution. His parents, from Scottish (father) and English (mother) descent, called him after, yeah you could guess so, Founding Father and first president of the United States George Washington. When Irving was at the age of 6 he even met the president in their house in New York. From a young age he always wanted to be an artist. Washington already had a significant interest in Spanish history, knowing that in one if his most famous books ‘’Tales of the Alhambra’’ Irving refers to reading about Al-Andalus on the banks of the Hudson river.
The Spanish connection
As you already noticed Irving came past some significantly interesting people throughout his live, as we know in 1817 he visited his lifelong friend, nobody less than Sir Walter Scott in Scotland. Also his sister lived in the United Kingdom and so Irving stayed for a significant time in Europe, chasing his career as a writer. But it was in 1826 that the real love and connection for Spain started when a friend and American minister in Spain, Alexander Hill Everett, invited Irving to come to Madrid following the publishing of official manuscripts of the discovery of the New World. From this moment Irving started his research for eventually writing his book about Columbus: ‘’A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus’’. Irving had access to all types of sources at the time in state libraries and visited all places connected with Columbus in southern Spain. Bringing him to Palos de Frontera, where he met with the family Pinzón, known for their part in the first voyage of Columbus. They even loaned him a family history book to help him with his research.
So you were probably already guessing from where Irving made these trips to all these small places connected with Columbus, and again you guessed it right: Seville. Irving appeared in Seville in that year (1828) in a fashionable way. He came up the river Guadalquivir with the first steamboat ever used in Andalusia: the Betis. So from Seville he made his different trips to places like the Monastery of Cartuja, Niebla, Palos de Frontera and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, but he also used the Archivo de Indias and the Cathedrals library to read all kinds of direct sources and manuscripts. The time he had left he used being a tourist in Seville. In his diary, later published as ‘’Diary of Washington Irving of the Sunny Side Spain’’ he writes about loving the Sevillian culture and the people. He was so impressed by the Cathedral building he sometimes even visited it up to two times a day, not having to wait in the line like we have to do now! He even writes about seeing the body of Seville’s patron saint in the Cathedral, Saint Ferdinand, already a custom at that time. Today you can still visit the place he stayed in the Jewish Quarter, Callejón Agua nr. 2, where you will find a memorial stone on the wall.
In total Washington Irving lived roughly 7 years of his life in Spain, visiting different places or holding political functions such as ambassador. With the work he did he became one of the first American writers to earn fame in Europe. And his books ‘’Tales of the Alhambra’’, ‘’Diary of Washington Irving of the Sunny Side Spain’’ and ‘’A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus’’ created a general interest in the region of Andalusia which eventually still brings people every year to our beautiful region. For his experiences and his work nowadays people tend to call him: the first tourist in Spain.
Want to see the places Washington Irving visited in Seville yourself? Book a tour!
Interested in the ‘Tales of Alhambra’ and want to know more? Click the link: