A reading of Rip Van Winkle

Contributed photo

On a recent Sunday, we spent an hour at the Wayside Inn Park in Haines Falls; it was a beautiful, warm, fall Sunday, and we were there for a reading of Washington Irving‘s 200-year-old story of Rip Van Winkle. It was a great day.

There were a dozen different readers, each one adding a different tone to the story. This was the first reading of Rip Van Winkle, the successful idea of a local young woman, Alexandria Prince. Her reason for hosting it is to keep the legend of Rip Van Winkle alive. It was a great crowd with about 30 adults and a couple of children. Two of the younger teenage girls did a great job taking a role as a reader.

To add to the enjoyment, we had a couple of different dogs begging to play the part of “Wolf,” and they did great.

The dozen or so readers kept the interest alive with their distinct voices, tones, and volume. It was a great experience. It was fun to listen to the story with the different readers. Listening instead of reading gave you a chance to appreciate the story of Rip in another way.

Next year, 2021, Alexandria will be hosting the second annual reading of Rip Van Winkle on the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend at 4 p.m. Oct. 10, 2021 at the Wayside Inn Park, across from Stewart’s shop in Haines Falls. Come and share the Apple Cider and donuts Alexandria provided. Of course, Rip Van Winkle was there walking the grounds enjoying his own story.

Here’s a brief history of story writer Washington Irving, and hopefully, it gives us a quick insight into Rip and his creator.

Washington Irving was born in Manhattan on April 3, 1783, during the American Revolution. His mother (both parents being Scottish-English immigrants) named him after George Washington. Irving’s death at his beloved home Sunnyside came in 1859. Sunnyside, Washington Irving’s house, had been called Wolfer’s Roost before he changed it to Sunnyside. It is now a historic site, owned and operated by the Historic Hudson Valley.

Irving wore many titles: short story writer, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat.

Rip Van Winkle came to us from Washington Irving, or by another name, Jonathan Oldstyle. Irving had many pseudonyms, Oldstyle being the first that he would use in his many writings. Washington Irving, the youngest of eleven children, relished a more relaxed look at life than did his siblings. He lived by the motto; “I endeavor to take things as they come with cheerfulness.”

Irving’s career was varied: he served briefly in the military during the War of 1812. He got a law degree, and in the 1840s served as United States Ambassador to Spain; Irving frequently said, “I was not a good student, and I barely passed the bar.”

A poor student possibly, but a very social man. Irving continued to socialize and keep up with his correspondence, and his fame and popularity continued to soar, well into his 70’s.

Washington Irving is known as the American Man of Letters, and the first to earn his living solely by his pen. As a young man, Irving made several trips up the Hudson, passing the Catskill Mountains, the future home of Rip Van Winkle. Irving later wrote, “the Kaatskill Mountains had the most witching effect on my boyish imagination.” (Some articles say that Irving had never seen the Catskills, you decide).

“Rip Van Winkle” was a short story written by Washington Irving in 1819, while staying with his sister Sarah in Birmingham, England. It took only one night for him to complete the development of Rip.

Thanks to Jonathan Oldstyle, Rip has been around the Catskills for more than 200 years.

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