Those of you who enjoyed reading Elizabeth L. Bradley’s introduction to the recent Penguin Classics edition of Irving’s A History of New York should get a copy of her book Knickerbocker: The Myth behind New York (Rutgers University Press, 2009), a marvelous cultural history that examines the genesis and legacy of Irving’s venerable fictional historian. A brief version of Bradley’s argument appears in her contribution to Bryan’s and my The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of New York.
Those of you who are looking for intertexts to read alongside the History might head over to archive.org to consult a copy of Samuel Latham Mitchill’s The Picture of New-York; or, The traveller’s guide, through the commercial metropolis of the United States (1807), which paid such scant attention to Dutch New York that Irving wrote his own History as a rebuke of Mitchill’s work. Irving’s History is also read profitably alongside the first volume of William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation (1620). Indeed, passages like this one from the first book of Irving’s History sound like they have Bradford’s History in mind:
It is true they never stole nor defrauded, they were sober, frugal, continent, and faithful to their word; but though they acted right habitually, it was all in vain, unless they acted so from precept. The new comers therefore used every method, to induce them to embrace and practice the true religion