Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American short story writer, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat of the early 19th century. He is best known for his short stories "Rip Van Winkle" (1819) and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1820), both of which appear in his collection, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. His historical works include biographies of Oliver Goldsmith, Muhammad, and George Washington, as well as several histories of 15th-century Spain dealing with subjects such as Alhambra, Christopher Columbus, and the Moors. Irving served as the U.S. ambassador to Spain from 1842 to 1846.
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History fades into fable, fact becomes clouded with doubt and controversy, the inscription molders from the tablet, the statue falls from the pedestal. Columns, arches, pyramids — what are they but heaps of sand, and their epitaphs but characters written in the dust?