First published: 1893
Time of plot: Late Nineteenth Century
Locale: New York City
Stephen Crane, the youngest of fourteen children, was born November 1, 1871 in Newark, New Jersey. His father, the Reverend Dr. Jonathan Townley Crane, was a Methodist minister. His mother, Mary Peck Crane, was an educated and involved woman for Victorian times. This deeply religious family moved often as his father changed churches, but, on Dr. Crane's death in 1880, the mother returned with Stephen to New Jersey, first to Newark and then to Asbury Park. She was elected president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in that city and lectured frequently in support of this organization.
Crane, now in his teens, rebelled against his strict upbringing, and was sent to military school. After high school, he attended college for a year and then dropped out. He moved to New York City, where he began his career as a newspaper journalist. He learned much about big city life and his explorations of the Bowery gave him material for his first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, published in 1893. Because of the book's controversial subject matter, he had to print it privately. It was not a commercial success but did receive several favorable reviews, including one from the noted author, William Dean Howells.
Crane continued to write and, in 1896, published his most famous work, The Red Badge of Courage This novel was critically acclaimed, and led to international fame. However, his defense of a New York prostitute who had been harassed by the police led to trouble with the authorities, and he fled to Florida to report on the Cuban insurrection against Spain. In Florida he met the madam of a brothel, Cora Taylor, with whom he lived for the rest of his short life. He continued to seek adventure by reporting on conflicts in Greece and the Spanish American War. He lived his last years in England, feverishly writing articles, stories and poems to keep his creditors at bay. He died of tuberculosis in Germany, where Cora had taken him in search of a cure, on June 5, 1900 before he reached the age of thirty. During the next twenty years his work was almost forgotten. In 1923 Thomas Beer published a biography of Crane which once more brought him to public attention, and his reputation has steadily increased since.