Stephen Vincent Benét (beh-NAY) made his major contribution to literature as a poet and primarily as the author of the book-length poem John Brown’s Body. Benét was a prolific writer in several genres, however, and his canon includes short stories, novels, radio scripts, and nonfiction.
Benét’s short stories are collected in Thirteen O’Clock (1937) and Tales Before Midnight (1939). The first collection contains the well-known “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” which he adapted as a play, opera, and film script. He wrote several novels: The Beginning of Wisdom (1921), Young People’s Pride (1922), Jean Huguenot (1923), Spanish Bayonet (1926), and James Shore’s Daughter (1934). Benét chose to support himself and his family as a writer and, as a result, his short stories and novels often were hack work churned out for whoever would pay him the most money.
Benét also composed radio scripts, collected in We Stand United, and Other Radio Scripts (1945), plays, and a short history. These writings were propagandistic, wartime efforts that he felt he had to do no matter what the effect on his literary reputation.
The best collections of Benét’s works are the two-volume hardback edition, Selected Works of Stephen Vincent Benét (1942; Basil Davenport, editor), and the paperback edition, Stephen Vincent Benét: Selected Poetry and Prose, also edited by Davenport (1942).