Francis Richard Stockton was born on April 5, 1834, in Philadelphia, the third child of Emily Hepzibeth Drean and William Smith Stockton, one of what would be a family of six children in addition to his father’s seven children by a previous marriage. His mother was a school administrator and his father a conservative religious writer. Stockton was born with one leg shorter than the other, an infirmity that kept him out of the Civil War. His family was torn by divided loyalties during the war. Frank sympathized with the South and privately printed “A Northern Voice Calling for the Dissolution of the Union,” but his aged father, a fire-and-brimstone Methodist, was an avid abolitionist. Ironically, the father’s self-righteousness drove his younger sons to the opposite extreme: They became the community pranksters, and Frank in particular became so disenchanted with his father’s stern faith that he turned to an absurdist’s view of universal chaos.
Stockton attended public schools in Philadelphia, wrote some juvenile poetry, and won a prize in a story contest. After graduation from high school in 1852, he became a wood engraver and draftsman, though he kept up his literary interests as a member of the Forensic and Literary Circle. He began writing magazine stories for children and then humorous novels, stories, and sketches. During this period, he focused mainly on fairy tales, but eventually he progressed to more realistic stories, yet ones...
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