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Stephen Crane: Born in Newark, Author of the Red Badge of Courage and Renowned 19th Century Poet (1871-1900) by Daniela Gioseffi ©2001 for NJPoets.com

Poems by Stephen Crane

The Black Riders and Other Lines

War is Kind and Other Lines

Stephen Crane was in Newark, New Jersey, in 1871. The 14th child of a Methodist minister, Crane was raised in Port Jervis, N.Y and Asbury park, New Jersey. He graduated from Lafayette College and Syracuse University, and in 1891 began work in New York City as a freelance jounalist amidst life in the poverty stricken ghettos of the city. From his own impoverished life on the Bowery, he garnared themes for his first novel, Maggie, a Girl of the Streets (1893), self-published with his own funds under the name, Johnston Smith. The novel was the forsaken and sympathetic tale of a youthful prostitute who committed suicide. It was praised by the established American writers Hamlin Garland and William Dean Howells, which gave Crane heart to continue with his writing, but the book was not a financial success or widely read. Crane's next novel, The Red Badge of Courage (1895), won international acclaim as a deeply realistic psychological study of a young soldier of the American Civil War (1861-1865). The book is still considered one of the great classics of 19th Century American literature, and it places Crane among the first American exponents of naturalism as style of writing akin to the "naturalism" of the great Russian writer, Emile Zola. Crane is known for his bleak and grim portrayals of the human condition His brutal realism is counter-pointed by an alluring poetic grace and deeply empathetic character portrayal. Though he stressed irony and paradox, he made inventive use of imagery and symbolism.

Stephen CraneCrane, himself, had never lived through the experience of serving in the military, but his profound understanding of the ordeals of armed combat, inspired both American and foreign newspapers to enlist him as a war correspondent at the junctures of the Greco-Turkish War of 1897 and the Spanish American War begun in 1896. He served as a journalist in Cuba and in Greece, and in 1897 he married Cora Taylor, who was the mistress of a Florida brothel which he frequented upon his return from Cuba. Cora Taylor would remain his devoted friend and wife until the end of his life and she would nurse him on his deathbed, but his unorothodox, common law marriage, coupled with his bohemian ways stimulated rumors that Crane was a drug addict and even a worshipper of satan. Due to his work among the poor and downtrodden, and his early life of proverty as a freelance writer amidst the slums of the city, he contracted tuberculosis–a prevalent disease of his time. His own life and suffering were the basis for the title story of his 1898 collection of short fiction, The Open Boat and Other Stories. Crane’s free wheeling life style and his sexual affairs caused enough scandal to drive him to the life of an expatriot and he moved to England in 1897 where he met H.G. Wells and Joseph Conrad with whom he shared camraderie. To escape the widespread slander of American Puritanical judgements, Crane spent the last years of his life in Europe, dying of tuberculosis in Germany at the youthful and tragic age of twenty-eight with Cora Taylor–the prostitute whom he had saved from her life as a brothel queen-- his faithful companion at his side. The world will never know what further masterpieces of American literature Stephen Crane might have produced if his countrymen had been less judgemental--or if Crane had lived to the age of Walt Whitman, for one example, with shom he shared his realizations of the evils of the American Civil War in his writings. Despite this poet’s early demise, he has forged a lasting and seminal place in 19th Century American literary art–a place which heralded the styles of American poets who would follow. C.K. Williams, for one contemporary example, also born in Newark, shares his bleak and naturalistic consciousness of social evils, and C.K. Williams’s poetry also embodies a deeply psychological tone somewhat akin to that of The Red Badge of Courage.

Along with his work as a novelist, journalist, and short-fiction writer, Stephen Crane was renown as an original and innovative writer of verse. His two collections of poetry, The Black Riders and Other Lines (1895) and War Is Kind and Other Poems (1899), are influential early experiments in free verse and display Crane’s sardonic wit, as in the samples given below. His other writings include Active Service (1899), Whilomville Stories (1900), and Wounds in the Rain (1900). The Collected Letters of Stephen Crane were published in 1954 and add much insight to the poet’s work and life.

Bibliographical Sources:

For more on Stephen Crane visit Online Encyclopedia at: http://encarta.msn.com

or The Columbia Encyclopedia’s Sixth Edition, 2001. Works of Stephen Crane. 10 vols. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1967-75, works of Stephen Crane, ed. by F. Bowers (10 vol., 1969—76); letters, ed. by S. Wertheim and P. Sorrentino (2 vol., 1988); biographies by J. Berryman (1950, repr. 1975), R. W. Stallman (1968), who has assembled a useful bibliography, 1972, and L. H. Davis (1998); studies by M. Holton (1972), R. M. Weatherford, ed. (1973), F. Bergon (1975), D. Halliburton (1989), and C. Benfey (1992); The Correspondence of Stephen Crane. Ed. Stanley Wertheim and Paul Sorrentino. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988. Stallman, Robert Wooster. Stephen Crane: A Critical Bibliography. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1972.. Wertheim, Stanley.The Crane Log: A Documentary Life of Stephen Crane, 1871-1900. New York: G. K. Hall, 1994.

The above article written from various sources cited above by Daniela Gioseffi © 2001, NJPoets.com


Born in Newark, New Jersey 1871 - Died in Europe 1900

Poems by Stephen Crane

The Black Riders and Other Lines

War is Kind and Other Lines

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