Washington Irving (1783-1859) was born on April 30, 1783, in New York City. He began to contribute satirical essays and sketches to New York newspapers as early as 1802. A group of these pieces, written from 1802 to 1803, was collected under the title Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent. A History of New York (1809), ostensibly written by Irving's famous comic creation, the Dutch-American scholar Diedrich Knickerbocker, is generally considered the first important contribution to American comic literature. Under the pen name of Geoffrey Crayon he wrote the essays and short stories collected in the Sketch Book (1820), his most popular work. Two of the stories, "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," set in days when New York was a Dutch colony, are classics in American literature. In 1842 he was appointed U.S. minister to Madrid, where he lived until 1846, continuing his historical research and writing. He returned to the U.S. again in 1846, settling at Sunnyside, his country home near Tarrytown, New York. There, as the acknowledged leader of American literature, he remained until his death on November 28, 1859. Among his other works are Bracebridge Hall (1822), Tales of a Traveller (1824), History of Christopher Columbus (1828), A Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada (1829), The Crayon Miscellany (1835), Oliver Goldsmith (1849), and Life of Washington (5 vol., 1855-59).