Columbia Library columns (v.9(1959Nov-1960May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



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  v.9,no.2(1960:Feb): Page 28  

Alma Mater To "Geoffrey Crayon"



IRVING, Washington AM 1821 Hon, LL D 1829, d 1859."
So reads the entry in the Columbia University Alumni
Register which links the famous author of The Sketch
Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent, to the foremost university in
the city of his birth. And the honorary master's degree in 1821 is
a remarkable double "first," for it was not only the first academic
honor for Irving, but the first such Columbia accolade to a cele¬
brated professional man of letters.

The attention focused on Irving during 1959, the centenary of
his death, uncovered in Columbiana, the collection of university
records and relics, an interesting manuscript reminder of this spe¬
cial moment in our literary history. It is the virtually unknown
letter in which Irving expressed to President William Harris his
gratitude for what was to prove only his first Columbia degree.'

Dear Sir

1 have just received your letter accompanyhig a Diploma of
Master of Arts, which the Trustees of Columbia College have
done me the Honor of conferring on me. If any thing could add
to this distinguished mark of approbation and esteem, it would be
the very flattering manner in which it was bestowed. 1 beg you
will covmninicate to the board of Trustees my deep sense of their
unexpected, and, I must say, unmerited kindness; I feel that it is
far, far beyond my deserts.

Nothing is nearer to my heart than the desire of m.eriting the
good opinion of my countrymen; and, above all of my Towns¬
men; but their good will has outstripped all my efforts; and I

1 Two sentences of this letter \\ ere quoted in passing in A History of Coliivi-
bia University, i-jj(f-i()04, page io8.
  v.9,no.2(1960:Feb): Page 28