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George Washington: A Biography

George Washington: A Biography (Paperback) by Washington Irving (Author)

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Washington Irving’s Life of George Washington (published in five volumes in 1856–59) was the product of his last years and remains his most personal work. Christened with the name of the great general, Irving was blessed by Washington while still a boy of seven, and later came to know many of the prominent figures of the Revolution. In these pages he describes them using firsthand source material and observation. The result is a book which is fascinating not only for its subject (the American Revolution), but also for how it reveals in illuminating detail the personality and humanity of a now remote, towering icon. Here is an intimate portrait of Washington the man, from Virginia youth to colonial commander to commander-in-chief of the patriot army to first president and great guiding force of the American federation. But one cannot read Irving’s Life without marveling at the supreme art behind it, for his biography is foremost a work of literature. Charles Neider’s abridgment and editing of Irving’s long out-of-print classic has created a literary work comparable in importance and elegance to the original. George Washington, A Biography, Neider’s title for his edition of Irving’s Life, makes the work accessible to modern audiences. The extensive introduction provides a detailed analysis of Irving’s life and times, and the difficulties he faced as he worked against his own failing health to finish what he felt was his masterpiece. This new edition of the superb biography of America’s first citizen by America’s first literary artist remains as fresh and unique today as when it was penned.



4 out of 5 stars This was a fascinating book: detailed, but not without flaws, October 21, 1998

By A Customer


This edition of Washington Irving's biography of George Washington has been substantially reduced in size via editing from the original editions, published in the 1850's. Irving was one of, if not the first American author to receive literary acclaim in the salons of Europe. This book was Irving's life's dream. The book details Washington's life, military career, and political thoughts in a very deferential way, as the author appears to have remained in awe of the "Great Man" who had patted him on the head when he was but a child. Irving seems incapable of finding any fault with Washington, and his conclusions on that score probably do not fully reflect later historical thinking. The book does suffer from a lack of maps, as the stories of the military campaigns of the Revolutionary War are recounted in great detail. In addition, having been written almost 150 years ago, there is a substantial amount of archaic word usage that could give your dictionary a workout, if you are so inclined. In addition, the book treats the latter stages of Washington's life thinly, due largely, I believe, to Irving's declining health as the last editions of his multi-edition biography was being written. Thus, if your focus is on Washington's Presidential years, look elsewhere. Otherwise, one could hardly choose a better biography of Washington; it is probably the oldest biography of Washington that is easily accessible to the average reader today. Overall, the book was very enjoyable to read.


4 out of 5 stars Powerful & sagacious review of the first Commander in Chief, December 6, 2002

By Cambo (MI)


Washington Irving's biography on Washington is by far the most detailed review on our first President from youth through his post Presidential years. Given that Mr. Irving personally met George Washington at the young age of 7, Irving's book has all the more [relevance] than today's revisionist historians can ever provide. However, the "old english" that Washington used in his correspondence makes for difficult comprehension. It is interesting to note that by 1850 the change to a more modern writing style by Irving presents a clearer picture of Washington's time, but it still requires an occasional re-read to fully understand Irving's point. A person with a limited interest in the Revolutionary War may be better suited to purchasing a more contemporary biography for ease of reading.


However, this book does provide such [insight] into the minds of Washington and those around him and it allows the reader to finally start to understand why our Founding Fathers risked all for the sake of freedom and liberty from the English. Today we take for granted rights that never existed anywhere in the 1770's and such historical works penned in the mid 1850's provides an [insight] that should be required reading for both liberals and conservatives. Overall, the book is long and difficult to read, but well worth the time, effort and cost.


5 out of 5 stars A Great Bio of a Great Man, October 29, 2001

By Frederick L. Merritt Jr. (Louisville, KY USA) (REAL NAME)    


The life of Washington should be required reading for everyone. The amount of difficulty he faced throughout his life is unimaginable to modern man. Washington had a life of privilege which is the main reason he was placed in a position of responsibility so early in life. However, in all of his campaigns he was dealing with shortages, sicknesses and other difficulties that make our own seem not so difficult.


Reading this work will provide the reader with an understanding how lucky America was to have a man of such temperament at her founding. Washington was a man of great intellect. He proved that by defeating the British on a number of occasions. He was a man of high honor which he proved when the various cabals tried to remove him from his office and he answered them with excellent performance and an absence of the acrimony so many would have used. He was a man of [incomprehensible] determination. The crossing of the [Delaware], the winter at Valley [Forge] and hundreds of other examples prove this. He was a man of tremendous resourcefulness as is shown by his ability to field an army when provisions were always in want for many years and at the same time attend to so many other details.


Washington Irving's work will provide the reader with an excellent understanding of all of these qualities. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Washington's life. The vast majority of this work deals with the revolution so if you are interested in the early years or the later years you will not find a great deal of detail in this particular work.

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