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Stephen Crane | Biography

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Stephen Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey, on November 1, 1871. His father was a presiding elder and later pastor in the Methodist church and author of religious tracts. He died in 1880, leaving Crane, the youngest of 14 children (only nine survived infancy), to be raised by his mother, who was active in the temperance movement and then wrote articles to support her family after her husband's death. Crane attended Pennington Seminary, a Methodist boarding school in New Jersey, for two years (1885–87), and then Claverick College-Hudson River Institute in New York State, a military boarding school, for two years (1888–90). During the summers, he worked for his brother Townley at the news-reporting business Townley owned in Ashbury Park, New Jersey, for the New York Tribune. Crane published his first sketch in the Claverick College Vidette in 1890. He left Claverick partway through his studies and enrolled in Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, for a little over one semester before enrolling in Syracuse University, where he played varsity baseball and published in the school paper.

In 1891 Crane met Hamlin Garland, an American author, poet, and essayist. Leaving school without a degree, Crane wrote for the New York Tribune and other papers. He made excursions into the Bowery in Lower Manhattan and published his first novel Maggie: A Girl of the Streets in 1893. Maggie is one of the first examples of naturalist literature, which explores the effect of the environment on the individual. Crane lived on the Lower East Side in the 1890s and wrote articles for papers and journals about the hardships of tenement life.

Crane was named for a relative who had fought in the Revolutionary War and grew up listening to stories from soldiers who had fought in the Civil War, which ended six years before he was born. In The Red Badge of Courage this influence is evident when Henry Fleming prepares in his mind how he will recount to his mother and others back home his actions during the battles. As a teenager, Crane was interested in the military and enjoyed his time at Claverick. Crane began writing the novel after reading eyewitness accounts in Century Magazine's series "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War." He offered the manuscript to the S.S. McClure newspapers syndicate for serial publication but withdrew it after delays; he then offered it to Bacheller, Johnson & Bacheller, which agreed to serialize it without the last three chapters, paying Crane $90.

The serial version was well received and after Crane and his editors made revisions, D. Appleton & Company published a final version in 1895. The initial reviews of the book were positive but with reservations regarding some of the crudeness of language and style of writing; the British review in the Saturday Review was strong in its praise, comparing Crane to other well-known writers. The text was reprinted 14 times in 1896 and was reissued by the publisher again in 1989 and 1900.

Crane worked as a roving reporter, traveling to Mexico, Nebraska, and Louisiana. In 1896 on his way to Cuba to cover the insurrection, he met his future common-law wife Cora Stewart in Jacksonville, Florida. Stewart would later take Crane's name, though she would stay legally married to her previous husband, who would not grant her a divorce.

During Crane's journey, the boat on which he was traveling sank when an engine exploded. Crane managed to escape, spending some 30 hours in a dinghy; this experience later inspired the story, "The Open Boat."

Cora Stewart joined Crane in Greece, where he had gone to cover the Greco-Turkish War. They moved to England where Crane continued writing stories. In 1898 Crane traveled to Cuba and Puerto Rico as a news reporter to cover the Spanish-American War and continued to write stories and poems after the conflict ended.

Crane suffered tubercular hemorrhages while in England, where he and Cora moved in 1899. He died of tuberculosis at a sanatorium in Badenweiler, Germany, on June 5, 1900, at age 28.

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