Belonging to the literary trend of local manners, Washington Irving was born in New York in 1783, the first prose writer on American letters. He is the first author to use cartoonish elements to make people laugh, satirizing reality and also creating the American colloquial style, which Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway would later emulate.
In 1829, the writer and also a North American diplomat traveled a route that would take him from Seville to Granada, in Spain, throughout the beautiful Andalusian countryside. Irving quickly fell in love with those places. Such exuberance and exoticism served as inspiration for the artist to write his famous Tales of the Alhambra.
Washington Irving in Andalusia
Perhaps he was not the first, but he was one of the first travelers in Seville. He arrived in the peninsula on board the first steamboat in Spain, the Betis, which went up the Guadalquivir river that spring of 1828. His fascination with Andalusia and his stories was so great that his stay lasted for space of 14 months.
He will say about Spain in His Tales: “Almost everyone imagines Spain as a beautiful southern region, with the soft charms of voluptuous Italy; but it is, on the contrary, for the most part, a harsh and melancholic country, of rugged mountains and vast plains devoid of trees, of indescribable isolation and aridity, that share the wild and solitary character of Africa ”.
He came to Seville on a study trip. He had already visited Spain two years before and had to put the finishing touches on that story of Columbus and compile material for a chronicle on the conquest of Granada.
He wrote intensely at the Queen’s inn (Hotel Alfonso XIII at the time). Almost all of his Hispanic production is written in Seville. He ends the Life and Travels of Christopher Columbus, Chronicle of the conquest of Granada and part of the Travels of Columbus’s companions. Here he begins the Legend of the conquest of Spain and the Tales of the Alhambra.
He was a great lover of Seville and its monuments. He thus expressed it in a letter to Mlle. Belvillier: “if you ever come to Seville, be sure to visit its glorious cathedral …”
This indefatigable American also made a stop in Antequera, where he stayed for some time. The historical, natural, cultural and gastronomic heritage of this town is so rich that it is impossible to cover it in a single day.As Irving himself once said about Antequera in his verses: “… seated in the lap of the great mountain range that runs through all of Andalusia. A noble plain stretched out at their feet, like an oil painting of peaceful fertility framed by rocky elevations… Everything in this venerable city has a decidedly Spanish stamp ”.
The Fuente del Toro is a tribute to Washington Irving, due to his visit in May 1829, spending the night at the Posada de San Fernando and because of his mention of Antequera, in a legend that appears in the Tales of the Alhambra.
He also stayed the night, lived and loved Granada. There he wrote his masterpiece and the most widely read on the Alhambra. He was looking for any pretext to be able to travel to the south of Spain, until he was appointed consul.
But, it was on his second visit that he lived in the Alhambra itself, from May 4 to August 29, 1829, in the company of his friend, the Russian prince Dolgorouki. The Alhambra of 1829 was abandoned and inhabited by all kinds of vagabonds and travelers. Excited to discover some rooms that were closed and abandoned, he decided to stay there. These rooms were once prepared for Queen Elizabeth, wife of Emperor Charles V.
On the other hand, as a good rebel, he decided to fight for its preservation and reconstruction. Therefore, the prince and the diplomat decided to donate the First Guest Book of the Alhambra, with the intention that people could stamp their signature there and not on the walls, as a souvenir of his stay.
He spoke in some of his articles about the need to recover the palace and to give it the place that it really deserves in the history of Granada and Humanity, and that is more than obvious today.
The tales of the Alhambra
Originally titled The Alhambra: A Set of Stories and Sketches on Moors and Spaniards, the Tales of the Alhambra were written by Washington Irving in 1829, and published in 1832.
It is a novel in which a series of stories are mixed with the structure of a diary. Narrated in the first person, the common thread is the author himself, who tells us about his journey through those Andalusian lands.
Also, Irving went to the city of Ronda, Malaga, in search of more emotions and inspiration, as it was a land that brought together bullfighters, flamenco and bandits. He lived for a time in those places that he would once write: “There is something in the austere presence of this Spanish landscape that wounds the soul with a feeling close to the sublime.”