The Alhambra


Washington Irving (1783‒1859) was one of the most widely read American authors of his day, and one of the first to be recognized in Europe for his works of fiction. Born in New York City, Irving frequently wrote about old New York (New Amsterdam) and the Hudson Valley under the original Dutch settlers, at first by creating a literary persona, the fictional Dutchman “Diedrich Knickerbocker.” In 1829, while serving in the American Legation in Madrid, Irving visited the fortress complex of the Alhambra in Granada, where he stayed in the rooms once occupied by Queen Elizabeth Farnese, overlooking the Garden of Lindaraxa. Irving wrote this book during his sojourn in the Alhambra, which was the royal residence of the Nasrid Arab kings of the Emirate of Grenada in the 13th century. Comprised of 30 chapters, the book begins with descriptions of the Andalusian countryside as well as views of the interior and exterior of the palace quarters, bringing to life such parts of the fortress as the Hall of the Ambassadors, the Tower of Comares, and the Generalife. Other chapters recount Spanish legends associated with Alhambra or its last Arab king Boabdil (also called Abu `Abdallah Muhammad XII), which include the legends of “The Three Beautiful Princesses” and “The Rose of The Alhambra.” Irving also describes his encounters with his hosts and with other people he met at the Alhambra. The book is illustrated with numerous drawings showing the interior architecture of the palace complex, as well as depictions of the surrounding landscape. The last Muslim kingdom in Spain, the Emirate of Granada, was founded in the 1230s after the collapse of Almohad rule in Al-Andalus. It survived for more than 250 years but finally surrendered to the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. The Alhambra was first published in London in 1832. A U.S. edition was published months later in Philadelphia. In an 1857 edition, Irving rewrote the book, adding new chapters and rearranging old ones. This edition was published in London in 1896.

Last updated: October 30, 2017