Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ivanhoe, Rebecca & Washington Irving at the Rosenbach

At 6 p.m. on March 3, 2011, Brian Jay Jones, the award-winning biographer of Washington Irving, will be joining me at the Rosenbach Museum and Library for a speculative discussion about the origins of Sir Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe.

According to literary legend, Irving, on a visit to Scott in 1817, told him about Rebecca Gratz, and from this conversation Scott developed the character of Rebecca, the lovely Jewish maiden who is the moral center of his medieval romance Ivanhoe.

Could the legend be true? A friendship between Irving and Gratz can be documented as can Irving's visit to Scott.
Beyond that? Brian and I will be investigating the length and depth of the Irving-Rebecca friendship, the qualities which Rebecca Gratz and the fictional Rebecca had in common, Irving's personal charm and powers of description and if an American Jewish woman could have become the focus of conversation between two literary men in Scotland in the late summer of 1817.

It should be an interesting evening for Rebecca Gratz aficionados -- and, I think, a wonderful opportunity to learn about America's first man of letters, Washington Irving. (That's him, pictured above, and I ask you, don't you want to know more?)

For more information about the event, please click here.


  1. I am more than interested! Can you tell me something about the portrait? Do you know how old Irving was when this was painted? And who painted it?


  2. This painting was done by John Wesley Jarvis, who despite his legendary dissipation was a talented artist. The Jarvis painting at the Rosenbach of Aaron Levy is also very good, but an old man in black cannot compete with a young man in fur.

    Jarvis began the painting in 1809, when Irving was 26. (Irving and Rebecca met in 1806 so this is essentially what he looked like at the time.)
    I have an earlier post about this painting called "A Portrait of Washington Irving," which talks about the picture and its reception by the belles of Philadelphia.

    I am not sure but it may still be at Sunnyside,
    Irving's home.


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