Monday, April 25, 2016

Washington Irving visits his friend John Pendleton Kennedy

Novelist Washington Irving (1783-1859) who bought a cottage in 1835, and transformed it into the fanciful "Sunnyside" in Tarrytown, NY (picture below) wrote about his visits to Kennedy's "Patapsco" country home outside of Ellicott City.  The house had been built c1820 by his father-in-law Edward Gray within his textile manufacturing complex by the Patapsco River, with additions built over the years.  John Pendleton Kennedy (1795-1870) was a lawyer, politician, Secretary of the Navy, novelist, reformer, historian and kept a detailed journal.

From The Life of John Pendleton Kennedy by Henry T. Tuckerman.  NY: 1871 -

Writing his niece Irving said “The evening passed delightfully: we sat out in the moonlight on the piazza, and strolled along the banks of the Patapsco; after which I went to bed, had a sweet night’s sleep, and dreamt I was in Mahomet’s Paradise.”

"Our friend Irving has come here," writes Mr. Kennedy, "as to a Castle of Indolence, to get rid of work and to seduce me into a mountain foray into Virginia." 

His guest's own impressions of and associations with the place, are indicated in one of his letters: alluding to some of his friend's "improvements," Mr. Irving writes to Mrs. Kennedy,

"I envy K. the job of building that tower if he has half the relish for castle-building that I have —air castles or any other. I should like nothing better than to have plenty of money to squander on stone and mortar and to build chateaus along the beautiful Patapsco with the stone that abounds there; but I would first blow up the cotton-mills (your father's among the number) and make picturesque ruins of them; and I would utterly destroy the railroad, and all the cotton lords should live in baronial castles on the cliff; and the cotton spinners should be virtuous peasantry of both sexes, in silk skirts and small-clothes and straw hats with long ribbons, and should do nothing but sing songs and choruses and dance on the margin of the river."

Washington Irving's 'envy' of Kennedy and castle building does not ring quite true when observing his home "Sunnyside" -
Irving was also good friends with Kennedy's father-in-law Edward Gray (1776-1856) -
"Mr. Gray," writes Washington Irving, "is a capital specimen of the old Irish gentlemen— warm-hearted, benevolent, well-informed, and, like myself, very fond of music and pretty faces, so that our humors jump together completely." 

"I had to inquire my way to Kennedy's, or rather Mr. Gray's, as he shares the house of his father-in-law; … I felt myself in my paternal home; and ever since have been a favored child of the house. To be sure, there was no fatted calf killed; but there was a glorious tea-table with broiled oysters and other accessories worthy of a traveller's appetite."

All photographs are from the Library of Congress, except the tower image is from Images of America: Howard County by HC Historical Society.

©2016 Patricia Bixler Reber
Noteworthy women and historic homes of Ellicott City and Howard County, Md. HOME

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