Columbia Library columns (v.32(1982Nov-1983May))

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  v.32,no.2(1983:Feb): Page 8  

The Majestic Caliph of Cordova


'Washington Irving was by instinct a storyteller, and whether
yarnsphming as an amateur or qiiilldriving as a professional, a
good one sometimes most memorable. The other side of this lit¬
erary coin is that he was also a good listener. Whether at home
in the Hudson Valley, or in Britain, or on the Continent, say in
Iberia, he eagerly stuffed his pilgrim's wallet with the folklore
and legends, the colorful gossip and chronicles, of the faraway
places and peoples around him. His "Ontmiades" manuscript at
Columbia is a case in point.

After reaching Spain in 1S26 Irving found that its present,
like its past so dramatic and troubled, quite fascinated him.
Thereafter a lifelong Hispanophile, this imprinting is best re¬
flected in his ''Morisco-Spanish" Alhambra, first published in
i8}2. But for every page on such matters Hispanic that woidd
see print, such as the Conquest of Granada (1821)), many hun¬
dreds were left unpublished, even unreadied for the press, at the
time of his death. Other more pressing volumes, or distractions
like service as the U.S. .Minister in Madrid from 1842 to 1846,
explain delay or disinterest. Some of these pigeonholed projects
would appear in Spanish Papers (1866). Others simply passed
into family hands as remembrances. His "Onnniades" is one of
the latter.

The author titled it "The Chronicle of the Ommiades" and it
is clear he meant to develop, reign by difjicidt reign, the role on
the peninsula of Moorish monarchs whose longtime capital was
Cordova. In that fabled medieval city the "Omeya" dynasty
held sway from the eighth to the eleventh century. Columbia's
sizeable manuscript was begun purposefully in 1821, put aside
then returned to with a will in 184-;, but never, in Irving's re¬
gretful words "thoroughly finished ojf." He had already in

  v.32,no.2(1983:Feb): Page 8