Sue Young Histories

Washington Irving 1783 - 1859

December 10, 2007

irvingWashington Irving 1783 - 1859 was an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century.

Washington Irving relied strongly on his homeopathic physician John C Peters, whom he and his family consulted no fewer than 598 times in the last seven years of his life.

Washington Irving was the brother in law of Henry van Wart, a Trustee of the Birmingham Homeopathic Hospital in England, and he was a friend of Nathaniel Barton, who was on the Management Committee, a Treasurer and a Trustee of the London Homeopathic Hospital,

Irving recommended homeopathy to his friends, including John Pendleton Kennedy. Irving assisted homeopathic supporter William Cullen Bryant in his career and Bryant won recognition as America’s leading poet.

Irving also mentored homeopathic supporters Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and also Edgar Allan Poe.

Irving was a friend of homeopathic supporter Frances Seward, a friend of homeopath Lucretia Mott. Irving was also a close friend of homeopathic supporter John Jacob Astor.

On February 21, 1854, Irving wrote to a friend: ”I have found, in my own case, great relief from homeopathy, to which I had recourse almost accidentally; for I am rather slow at adopting new theories”. He went on to say that after homeopathic treatment he was more able to continue his literary efforts.

Later that same year, he wrote: “You ask me whether the homeopathics still keep me quite well. I really begin to have a great faith in them. The complaint of the head especially, which troubled me last year, and obliged me to throw by my pen, has been completely vanquished by them.”

It is not surprising that Irving chose Dr. John C. Peters of New York as his homeopath since he was both a respected clinician and the editor of a leading homeopathic journal of that time, the North American Journal of Homeopathy.

Irving began consulting with Dr. Peters in 1852 due to recurrent symptoms of dizziness (Wershub, 1965). Dr. Peters prescribed Cocculus indicus, made from an herb called Indian cockle (Peters, 1860). Irving continually called on care from Dr. Peters for himself and members of his family. Dr. Peters became a regular visitor at Irving’s Sunnyside estate and they developed a strong friendship.

Dr. Peters determined that one of Irving’s problems resulted from his own self-treatment with a conventional patent medicine. Irving treated himself with a remedy for catarrh (mucus) by snuffing it into his nostrils. Although this medicine dried up his nasal discharge temporarily, it soon led to a violent asthma attack.

Oliver Wendell Holmes had written a book extremely critical of homeopathy, though embarrassingly ill-informed on the subject (and in correspondence with Peters who explained the Irving’s heart was enlarged, Wendell Holmes admitted ’I suppose we all do pretty much the same thing in cases like this’).

Because Wendell Holmes had such respect for Washington Irving, he chose to visit him and suggest treatment for Irving’s asthma and cough. He prescribed medicated cigarettes and ”Jonas Whitcomb’s Cough Remedy” (a nineteenth-century patent medicine), without having examined his patient.

Dr. Peters wrote an admirably restrained reply to Holmes, suggesting that his treatment was not based on adequate understanding of this patient. Dr. Peters gave Irving the patent medicine to show good faith toward Dr. Holmes, despite Holmes’s bad-faith actions toward homeopathy. Irving experienced noticeable improvement that first night from this remedy. However, two days later he suffered a severe nervous attack, and Dr. Peters then chose to use only homeopathic medicines for Irving (Hendrick 1987, 174).

Temporary improvement followed by the development of different and more serious symptoms are typical results from conventional drugs of the nineteenth century as well as today, and while conventional physicians pride themselves on their ability to reduce or suppress symptoms, homeopaths have sharply criticized treatments that provide short-term benefits but create long-term problems.

At Irving’s funeral the famed writer-editor William Cullen Bryant gave the eulogy that was published in the New York Times (April 4, 1860). Irving’s personal homeopathic medicine kit is on display at his Sunnyside home in Tarrytown, New York, which was bought by fellow homeopathic appreciator, J. D. Rockefeller in 1945 and opened to the public in 1947. continue reading:

Irving wrote A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty _under the pesudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, _The Legend of Sleepy Hollow_ and _Rip Van Winkle _contained in the book of short stories _The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon_, _Bracebridge Hall _or _The Humorists, A Medley, __The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, __Voyages of the Companions of Columbus, __Tales of the Alhambra, __The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, __Astoria, __Legends of the Conquest of Spain, __The__ Conquest of Granada_ and so much else besides. Irving also wrote _A Tour on the Prairies_ in which he defends the American Indians and the sketch _Wolfert’s Roost_._

Washington’s home - Sunnyside

  • is still standing, just south of the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown, New York. The original house and the surrounding property were once owned by 18th-century colonialist Wolfert Acker, about whom Irving wrote his sketch Wolfert’s Roost (the name of the house). The house is now owned and operated as an historic site by Historic Hudson Valley and is open to the public for tours…

Washington Irving Memorial Park and Arboretum… In Spain, the room at which he stayed in the Alhambra is labelled and referred to as his room and there is a hotel named for him just outside the Alhambra… The southernmost section of Lexington Avenue in New York City (between 14th and 20th Streets) is named Irving Place, named so after Washington Irving in 1833… Across the street from this house is the Washington Irving High School (New York City). On the corner of 16th Street and 3rd Avenue (one block east of Irving Place), is the Washington Irving House apartment building. In Roslindale, Massachusetts a Middle School is named for him.

In Fremont, California, the districts of Irvington and Washington and their respective high schools (Washington, Irvington) are also named in his honor… There was also a Washington Irving High School in Clarksburg, West Virginia


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