Stephen Crane Biography

Biography (History of the World: The 19th Century)

0111201197-Crane.jpg(Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Article abstract: Crane is best remembered for his war novel, The Red Badge of Courage (1895); he also wrote estimable poetry and more than a dozen other novels and collections of stories.

Early Life

Stephen Crane, the youngest son of a youngest son, was the last of fourteen children born to the Reverend Jonathan Townley Crane and his wife, Mary Peck. Crane’s father was a presiding elder of the Newark, New Jersey, district of the Methodist Church (1868-1872) when Stephen was born and served in a similar capacity in the Elizabeth, New Jersey, district of the church from 1872 until 1876. Because Methodist clergymen were subject to frequent transfer, the young Stephen was moved from Newark to Paterson, New Jersey, before he was old enough to attend school and to Port Jervis, New York, shortly before he began school. His The Third Violet (1897) and Whilomville Stories (1900) are set in villages modeled after Port Jervis.

Crane’s father died in 1880, when the boy was eight years old, and, in 1883, Stephen and his mother moved to Asbury Park, New Jersey, a seaside resort some sixty miles from New York City, to be near the Methodist camp community of Ocean Grove, a town adjacent to Asbury Park, which Jonathan Crane had been instrumental in establishing. Stephen’s brother Townley already ran a press bureau in Asbury Park, and soon their sister Agnes moved there to teach in the public schools.

As Stephen strayed from the religious teachings of the Methodist Church, his mother became concerned about his spiritual welfare, and, in 1885, she sent him to Pennington Seminary, some ten miles from both Trenton and Princeton, in the hope that he would receive a solid academic background and would simultaneously grow closer to the Church. Crane’s father had been principal of Pennington Seminary for the decade from 1848 to 1858, and his mother had spent the first ten years of her marriage at Pennington.

Stephen, a handsome, dark-haired youth with a prominent nose, sensuous lips, and deep, dark eyes, rankled under Pennington’s strong religious emphasis. In 1888, he enrolled in the Hudson River Institute in Claverack, New York, a coeducational institution with a military emphasis for its male students. It was perhaps during this period that Crane became extremely interested in war.

During the summers, Crane assisted his brother in his news bureau, learning something about journalism as he went about his work. He entered Lafayette College in 1890 to study engineering, but failed in his work there and left after the Christmas holiday to attend Syracuse University, where he played baseball, managed the baseball team, and worked on the school newspaper. He was not a strong student, and he left school in 1891 to seek his fortune in New York City. His mother died on December 7 of that year.

Stephen, who had met and established a friendship with Hamlin Garland in the summer of 1891, tried to make his living as a newspaperman, but he was not initially successful in this work. In 1892, however, the serial publication of seven of his “Sullivan County Sketches” gave him the encouragement he needed to pursue a literary career diligently.

Life’s Work

Buoyed up by seeing his work in print, Crane, in 1893, paid for a private printing of Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893), a book gleaned from his experience of living in New York City’s Bowery during the preceding two years. This early work, highly shocking in its time because it views with sympathy a girl who becomes pregnant out of wedlock and shows the hypocrisy of her lower-class family’s morality, was first published under the pseudonym Johnston Smith.

Maggie was unabashedly naturalistic, somewhat in the tradition of Émile Zola. Despite William Dean Howells’s attempts to get the book distributed, it sold hardly any copies in its original edition. In 1896, however, Crane revised it, cutting out much of its offensive profanity, omitting some of its graphic description, and regularizing the grammar and punctuation. His reputation had by this time been established with the publication, the preceding October, of The Red Badge of Courage, a book that grew out of Crane’s fascination with war, battles, and men in combat. Maggie, although it still was deemed shocking to delicate sensibilities, was more favorably received in 1896 than it had been three years earlier.

The Red Badge of Courage existed in some form in 1894, when it was published abridged in newspapers by the Bacheller Syndicate. George’s Mother (1896) appeared two years later, and in its use of realistic detail it goes far beyond that of William Dean Howells, who had become Crane’s friend.

With the publication of both The Black Riders and Other Lines and The Red Badge of Courage in 1895, Crane became an overnight celebrity. In March of that year, he also went to Mexico for the...

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Stephen Crane Biography (Short Stories for Students)

Stephen Crane Published by Gale Cengage

Stephen Crane enjoyed both popular success and critical acclaim as a leading American author of the Realist school. Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1871, Crane was the youngest of fourteen children born to Jonathan Townley Crane and Mary Helen Peck Crane. His father was a Methodist minister and his mother a devout social activist. Crane was raised in the idealistic atmosphere of evangelical reformism. Crane's father died in 1880 and his mother had to support the family by doing church work and writing for religious journals. Death became a familiar event in the Crane household; by 1892 only seven of the fourteen children were still living.

Crane attended military school at Claverack College, where he pursued an interest in Civil War studies. He later spent some semesters at Lafayette College and then Syracuse University, though during these years he was mainly concerned with freelance writing and the prospect of becoming a novelist. In 1891, Crane moved to New York City, where he supported himself by writing for the New York Tribune. His first-hand observations of the gritty life in the Bowery inspired his first novel Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, published in 1893 under the pseudonym "Johnston Smith." Its frank portrayal of the sordid lives of the urban poor caused many publishers to reject the manuscript, requiring Crane to publish it on his own. Although Maggie received critical praise from prominent literary Realists, including Hamlin Garland and William Dean Howells, it was not widely read until its second printing in 1896 after Crane's reputation was established. In 1895, Crane achieved international fame with his second novel, The Red Badge of Courage, which told the story of a young Henry Fleming's experiences in the Civil War. This unsentimental account vividly captured the sensations of the battlefield as well as the emotions of the young soldier whose romantic illusions about warfare are shattered by his encounter with the real thing. Crane also published a collection of poetry in 1895 titled The Black Riders and Other Lines.

In 1897 Crane decided to leave New York to become a war correspondent. While covering the Cuban Revolution, Crane met Cora Taylor, the proprietor of a Florida hotel and brothel. The couple would eventually move to England as common-law husband and wife. While still covering the war in Cuba in 1897, Crane was shipwrecked at sea off the Florida coast. He was stranded at sea for thirty hours with three other men, who eventually rowed to shore in a small life raft. One of the men, an oiler named Billy Higgins, drowned in the surf while trying to swim to shore. Crane later turned the experience into what many consider his greatest short story, ‘‘The Open Boat’’ (1897). For the rest of his life, he continued to work as a journalist and war correspondent, using his experiences as the basis for his fiction. Unable to return to New York because of his conflict with police, Crane spent most of his last years in England, where he lived beyond his means. His reputation as a leading author of the Realist school led him to form close friendships with other major writers, including Joseph Conrad, Henry James and H. G. Wells. Crane's later works, including The Third Violet (1897) and Active Service (1899), were not considered up to the level of his earlier successes. In 1899 Crane's health began to deteriorate and he found himself plagued with financial troubles. While working on a new novel in 1900, Crane succumbed to tuberculosis and died at the age of twenty-eight.

Stephen Crane Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Crane is a crucial transitional figure in American literature. The psychological depths of Henry James, the master realist of Crane’s lifetime, went virtually unrecognized at the time; the dominant figure was William Dean Howells, most of whose genteel social realism is unread today except by scholars. It was Crane who made the great leap inward—who, in The Red Badge of Courage, exhumed buried feelings to which the public responded with a shock of recognition. Such a response to a work so radically new is almost unheard of in the history of literature. For an instantaneous success to continue to speak to later generations is rarer still. Crane’s fiercely unconventional honesty, above all, makes of his small body of...

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Stephen Crane Biography (Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

To some degree, Stephen Crane’s life followed a perverse pattern. He was acclaimed for the authenticity of his writings about events that he had never experienced and then spent the remainder of his few years experiencing the events that he had described in prose—often with disastrous consequences.

Born on November 1, 1871, in Newark, New Jersey, Crane was the last child in the large family of a Methodist minister, Jonathan Townley Crane. The family moved frequently from parish to parish and, in 1878, came to Port Jervis, New York, in forested Sullivan County, where Crane would set most of his early stories. Two years later, his father died, and his mother had to begin struggling to support the family, doing church...

(The entire section is 623 words.)

Stephen Crane Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Born on November 1, 1871, in the Methodist parsonage in Newark, New Jersey, Stephen Crane was the fourteenth and last child of Mary Peck Crane and Reverend Jonathan Crane, whose family dated back more than two centuries on the American continent. On the Peck side, almost every male was a minister; one became a bishop. By the time his father died in 1880, Crane had lived in several places in New York and New Jersey and had been thoroughly indoctrinated in the faith he was soon to reject. Also around this time, he wrote his first poem, “I’d Rather Have.” His first short story, “Uncle Jake and the Bell Handle,” was written in 1885, and the same year he enrolled in Pennington Seminary, where he stayed until 1887. Between 1888...

(The entire section is 526 words.)

Stephen Crane Biography (Poets and Poetry in America)

Born in a Methodist parsonage in Newark, New Jersey, Stephen Crane was the fourteenth and last child of a minister whose family had been in America for more than two centuries. On his mother’s side, almost every man was a minister; one became a bishop. By the time his father died in 1880, Crane had lived in several places in New York and New Jersey and had been thoroughly indoctrinated in the faith he was soon to reject. Also around that time, he wrote his first poem, “I’d Rather Have—.” His first short story, “Uncle Jake and the Bell Handle,” was written in 1885, and the same year he enrolled in Pennington Seminary, where he stayed until 1887. Between 1888 and 1891, he intermittently attended Claverack College, the...

(The entire section is 525 words.)

Stephen Crane Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201197-Crane.jpgStephen Crane. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Born in Newark in 1871, Stephen Crane was the fourteenth child in the ministerial household of the Reverend Jonathan Townley Crane and his wife Mary, an active participant in the New Jersey temperance movement. His father’s frequent moves to pastorates in New Jersey and New York gave the youngest Crane an opportunity to grow up in a variety of environments. As a boy he shocked his family by announcing his disbelief in hell, a protest against the apparent futility of his father’s devoted service to Methodism. Ideals with which the Reverend Crane sternly allied himself did not correspond to life as his son came to know it. Stephen later wrote of his father, who died in 1880, “He was so simple and good that I often think he...

(The entire section is 1177 words.)

Stephen Crane Biography (Novels for Students)

Stephen Crane Published by Gale Cengage

The youngest of fourteen children, Stephen Crane was born November 1, 1871, in Newark, New Jersey, to a Methodist minister, Jonathan Townley Crane, and Mary Helen (Peck) Crane. His interest in writing developed in part from his parents, who wrote articles of a religious nature, and from two of his brothers, who were journalists. Crane began his higher education in 1888 at Hudson River Institute and Claverack College, a military school where he developed an interest in Civil War studies and military training. Throughout his one-year college experience, he wrote for his brother Townley's news service and began a sketch of his famous first novel, Maggie, A Girl of the Streets while still at Syracuse University. In 1891, he quit school to work full time as a reporter with Townley, and to live in the tenements of New York, where he gained firsthand knowledge of poverty.

In 1893, he privately published Maggie under a pseudonym, after several publishers rejected the work on the grounds that his description of slum realities would shock readers. He pioneered in writing naturalistic fiction and poetry: in Maggie, he wrote about a girl who becomes a prostitute and is driven to suicide by poverty and sweatshop labor. In The Red Badge of Courage, published in 1895, Crane stressed the irony of chance and examined man's weaknesses in the midst of impersonal forces. In this novel, which brought Crane fame, he limited his point of view to a common soldier in the Civil War and dramatized the protagonist's bewilderment and fear as he eventually overcomes his initial cowardice.

Crane also published the poetry collection The Black Riders, and Other Lines in 1895. This volume of free verse foreshadowed the work of the Imagist poets with its concise, vivid images. The religious poems in this volume—written about the same time as The Red Badge—reflect the anguish of Crane's spiritual crisis and preoccupation with questions of faith. His poetry and fiction describe man's alienation in a God-abandoned world of danger and violence. During this time, Crane continued to work as a journalist, traveling throughout the American West and Mexico for a news syndicate, and later he used these experiences as the basis for fictional works. Crane wrote four volumes of short stories, which include such notable works as "The Open Boat" and "The Monster." His free-verse poems in War is Kind (1899) demonstrated once again how Crane was a pathfinder for present-day poets devoted to experimental reform and non-sentimentality.

In 1879 Crane met Cora Taylor, the proprietor of a hotel, nightclub, and brothel. Together as common-law husband and wife, they moved to England where Crane formed literary friendships with Joseph Conrad, H.G. Wells, and Henry James. Shortly after this move, Crane left to report on the Spanish-American War for the New York World, an assignment he accepted, in part, to escape financial debts. Although Crane was ill when he returned to England, he continued writing fiction to satisfy his artistic needs and to earn money to pay his debts. One of these exercises was Active Service, which records his experiences as a war correspondent in the Greco-Turkish War. Critics often describe it as uneven and sprawling. By 1900, Crane's health had rapidly deteriorated due to a general disregard of his physical well-being. After several respiratory attacks, he died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-eight in Badenweiler, Germany. His young life was a prolific one, transcended by his increasing fame as more and more readers recognized Crane's brilliant work. His Collected Works were published from 1925 to 1926 in twelve volumes, and in the 1950s in ten volumes.

Stephen Crane Biography (The Open Boat: Literary Touchstone Classic)

Stephen Crane was born on November 1, 1871, the last of fourteen children in a devout Methodist family. Son to a roaming minister, Crane soon left his birthplace of Newark, New Jersey, to begin a life of wandering. His schooling was short-lived, and Crane began a writing career by going to work with his brother on a newspaper in New York.

Crane's first serious attempt to publish a novel was unsuccessful. In Maggie: A Girl of the Street, Crane wrote about the harsh realities of a prostitute's life, but the novel's material made it nearly impossible for him to obtain a publisher. Crane's next endeavor, however, The Red Badge of Courage, proved successful.

Crane's thirst for new experiences led him to Cuba, to cover its rebellion against Spain. While in Florida, though, he met and fell in love with Cora Taylor, a married woman. Crane traveled to Greece, where he worked as a war correspondent. While in Greece, Cora unexpectedly joined Crane, and the unmarried couple then moved to Sussex, England.

In 1898, Crane once again traveled to Cuba as a war correspondent, this time during the Spanish-American War. While in Cuba, however, he contracted malaria, and his health rapidly deteriorated.

Stephen Crane died from tuberculosis in 1900, at the age of 29.

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Stephen Crane Biography (Poetry for Students)

Born in Newark, New Jersey, on November 1, 1871 to Mary Helen Peck Crane, Stephen Crane was the last of fourteen children. His father, the...

(The entire section is 324 words.)

Stephen Crane Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Stephen Crane was born November 1, 1871, in Newark, New Jersey, the fourteenth and last child of the Reverend Jonathan Townley Crane and Mary Helen Peck Crane. Dr. Crane was an eminent Methodist ecclesiastic, one consequence of which was that the family moved frequently: in 1874, 1876, and finally, in 1878, to Port Jervis, New York, a town that would figure in Stephen Crane’s late fiction as Whilomville (Whilomville Stories, 1900). Dr. Crane died suddenly in 1880.

One plausible source of Stephen Crane’s universal skepticism is rebellion against his religious upbringing. His rootlessness and death-haunted fiction may have been influenced by the crucial events of his early childhood. On the positive side,...

(The entire section is 1003 words.)

Stephen Crane Biography (Novels for Students)

Stephen Crane was born on November 1, 1871, in Newark, New Jersey, the last of fourteen children to Jonathan and Mary. His father was a...

(The entire section is 396 words.)