Anglo-American westward expansion provided a major impulse to the development of the young United States' narrative tradition. Early U.S. writers also looked to the South, that is, to the Spanish New World and, in some cases, to Spain itself. Washington Irving's “A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus” (1828), the first full-length biography of the admiral in English, inaugurated the trend, and Mark Twain's “Life on the Mississippi” (1883) transformed it by focusing on the life and lives of the Mississippi River Valley and using an approach informed by Miguel de Cervantes's “Don Quijote de la Mancha.” From Irving's “discovery of America” to Twain's tribute to the disappearing era of steamboat travel and commerce on the Mississippi, the tales about “western waters,” told via their authors' varied engagements with Spanish history and literature, constitute a seldom acknowledged dimension in Anglo-America's nonfictional narrative literary history.

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