Description of the New Netherlands

23 Washington Irving’s services for American history and for the study of history among our people were scarcely less than his services for our general literature, in which field his is the first great name. The lives of Washington, Columbus, Mahomet, and Goldsmith, “The Conquest of Granada,” the “ Spanish Papers,” an,d so much besides witness to the wide range of his historical activities; and everywhere—in Spain, in England, and at home — it is with the historian’s eye that he looks upon the world. But above all other places New York was dear to him and is his debtor. Her early history most stirred his imagination from first to last, and it was fitting that his final home and his grave should be upon the banks of the Hudson whose legends he did most to vivify. His early work, “Diedrich, Knickerbocker’s History of New York,” was a burlesque; but it had a great effect in awakening interest in the early period of New York history. Professor Jameson well surmises that “ the great amount of work which the State government in the next generation did for the historical illustration of the Dutch period, through the researches of Mr. Brodhead in foreign archives, had this unhistorical little book for one of its principal causes.” Irving himself says that at the time he wrote his humorous book few of his fdllow-citizens were aware “that New York had ever been called New Amsterdam or had heard of the names of its early Dutch governors or cared a straw about their ancient Dutch progenitors.” “ The main object of my work,” says Irving, “had a bearing wide from the sober aim of history. It was to embody the traditions of our city in an amusing form; to illustrate its local humors, customs, and peculiarities; to clothe home scenes and places and familiar names with those imaginative and whimsical associations so seldom met with in our new country, but which live like charms and spells about the cities of the Old World, binding the heart of the native inhabitant to his home.” “ When I find, after a lapse of nearly forty years,” he wrote at Sunnyside in 1848, “this haphazard production of my youth still cherished among the descendants of the Dutch worthies, when I find its very name become a household word and used to give the home stamp to everything recommended for popular acceptation,— such as Knickerbocker societies, Knickerbocker insurance companies, Knickerbocker steamboats, Knickerbocker omnibuses, Knickerbocker bread, and Knickerbocker ice,— and when I find New Yorkers of Dutch descent nriding themselves upon being ‘ genuine Knickerbockers,’ I please myself with the persuasion that I have struck the right chord.” It will be remembered that when Diedrich Knickerbocker found his end approaching he disposed of his worldly affairs, leaving to the city library his Heidelberg Catechism and Adrian Van der Donck’s famous account of the New Netherland, “by the use of which he had profited greatly in his second edition.” Van der Donck’s “ Description of New Netherland ” is the most important work which has come down to us describing New York in the early period; and the selection from it published in the present leaflet is given in connection with the Old South lecture on Irving as one of the best illustrations of the original documents among which Irving loved to delve. “ Jonker Adrian van der Donck, Doctor of Laws and advocate oi the Supreme Court of Holland, has done more to give to his contemporaries a full knowledge of the country of his adoption than any other man. Sent