Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane (1871-1900) was an American writer, born in Newark, New Jersey. He began his career as a journalist, working, according to his own account, as a "slum reporter" in New York City. The experience provided him with important material for his first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. Crane, who released the book under a pseudonym, had to pay for the publishing himself. It was not a commercial success, though it was praised by several other writers of the time.

This was followed by The Red Badge of Courage (1896), a powerful tale of the American Civil War. The book won international acclaim for its realism and psychological depth in telling the story of a young soldier. Though Crane had never experienced battle personally, his descriptions of the trials of war persuaded a number of American and foreign newspapers to hire him as a correspondent in the Greco-Turkish (1897) and Spanish-American wars (1898). In 1896 the boat in which he accompanied an American expedition to Cuba was wrecked. Left to drift at sea for four days, the incident eventually resulted in Crane's tuberculosis. He recounted these experiences in The Open Boat and Other Tales (1898). In 1897, Crane settled in England, where he befriended writers Joseph Conrad and Henry James. Shortly before his death, he released Whilomville Stories (1900), the most commercially successful of the twelve books he wrote.

Stephen Crane died, aged twenty-eight, in Bademweiler, Germany.


Stephen Crane published two volumes of poetry:

His poems are short, untitled, unrhymed, unmetrical, and mysterious, almost koan-like. Rather than try to describe them, we exhibit two of his most famous:

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter—bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."
("The Black Riders and Other Lines," III)

A man saw a ball of gold in the sky;
He climbed for it,
And eventually he achieved it --
It was clay.
Now this is the strange part:
When the man went to the earth
And looked again,
Lo, there was the ball of gold.
Now this is the strange part:
It was a ball of gold.
Aye, by the heavens, it was a ball of gold
("The Black Riders and Other Lines," XXXV)

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