Writer, born in New York City, New York, USA. He was educated privately, studied law, and began to write essays for periodicals. He travelled in France and Italy (1804–6), wrote whimsical journals and letters, then returned to New York City to practise law in a haphazard way. He and his brother William Irving and James Kirke Paulding wrote the Salamagundi papers (1807–8), a collection of humorous essays. He first became more widely known for his comic work, A History of New York (1809), written under the name of Diedrich Knickerbocker. In 1815 he went to England to work for his brothers' business, and when that failed he composed a collection of stories and essays that became The Sketch Book, published under the name Geoffrey Crayon (1819–20), which included ‘Rip Van Winkle’ and ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’. In 1822 he went to the Continent, living in Germany and France for several years, and was then in Spain (1826) and became attache at the US embassy in Madrid. While in Spain he researched for his biography of Christopher Columbus (1828) and his works on Granada (1829) and the Alhambra (1832). He was secretary of the US legation in London (1829–32), and later returned to Spain as the US ambassador (1842–6), but he spent most of the rest of his life at his estate, ‘Sunnyside’, near Tarrytown, NY, turning out a succession of mainly historical and biographical works, including a five-volume life of George Washington. Although he never really developed as a literary talent, he has retained his reputation as the first American man of letters.
Information found at: http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9350087