Washington Irving, one of the first Americans to achieve international recognition as an author, was born in New York City in 1783. His A History of New York, published in 1809 under the name of Diedrich Knickerbocker, was a satirical history of New York that spanned the years from 1609 to 1664. Under another pseudonym, Geoffrey Crayon, he wrote The Sketch-book, which included essays about English folk customs, essays about the American Indian, and the two American stories for which he is most renowned--"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle." Irving served as a member of the U.S. legation in Spain from 1826 to 1829 and as minister to Spain from 1842 to 1846. Following his return… to the U.S. in 1846, he began work on a five-volume biography of Washington that was published from 1855-1859. Washington Irving died in 1859 in New York.
Charles Dickens, perhaps the best British novelist of the Victorian era, was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England on February 7, 1812. His happy early childhood was interrupted when his father was sent to debtors' prison, and young Dickens had to go to work in a factory at age twelve. Later, he took jobs as an office boy and journalist before publishing essays and stories in the 1830s. His first novel, The Pickwick Papers, made him a famous and popular author at the age of twenty-five. Subsequent works were published serially in periodicals and cemented his reputation as a master of colorful characterization, and as a harsh critic of social evils and corrupt institutions. His many books… include Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Great Expectations, Little Dorrit, A Christmas Carol, and A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens married Catherine Hogarth in 1836, and the couple had nine children before separating in 1858 when he began a long affair with Ellen Ternan, a young actress. Despite the scandal, Dickens remained a public figure, appearing often to read his fiction. He died in 1870, leaving his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished.