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       Washington Irving

washington irving

       Anthony Evergreen
       Diedrich Knickerbocker
       Friar Antonio Agapida
       Geoffrey Crayon
       Jonathan Oldstyle
       Launcelot Langstaff

In 1809 a number of American newspapers carried announcements signed by one Handiside, manager of the New York Columbia Hotel, to the effect that a hotel resident named Diedrich Knickerbocker had checked out of the hotel leaving a manuscript behind. The announcements described Knickerbocker’s appearance and character and requested anyone who knew of his whereabouts to contact Mr. Handiside who at the same time declared that if Mr. Knickerbocker did not return to the Hotel, he Handiside, would publish the manuscript to recover his losses, since the aforesaid Mr. Knickerbocker had not settled his account. All this was in fact the work of Washington Irving (1783–1859), intended as a build-up for his famous burlesque whose full title was ‘A History of New York, from the Beginning of the World to the end of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker’ (1809). Neither Knickerbocker nor Handiside existed, of course. Thanks to this unusual publicity the work enjoyed immense success, and a few months after the publication Irving revealed himself as the true author and thus ‘blew’ his hoax. After this he published under his real name. Irving set something of a fashion for literary hoaxes with humorous names of this kind, especially among American writers.

See also James Kirke Paulding.

Room, A. (1981), ‘Names for a Living’, Naming Names, p.20

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