In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Stephen Crane

  • Introduction
  • Collected Works
  • New Directions and Additional Bibliographies

American Literature Stephen Crane
Patrick Dooley
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 January 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0118


Born on 1 November in Newark, New Jersey, Stephen Crane (b. 1871–d. 1900) was the fourteenth and last child of Reverend Jonathan Townley Crane, Methodist minister and religious publicist, and Mary Helen Peck, daughter of George Peck, prominent Methodist minister. His mother was active in the church and a leading figure in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Crane chafed at being a “PK” (preacher’s kid) and rebelled against his parents’ abstemious ways. His formal education was next to nil. After brief stays at Pennington Seminary (near Trenton, New York), he transferred to a military boarding school: Claverack (New York) College and Hudson River Institute. He also attended, for one semester each, Lafayette College and Syracuse University. He was an inconsistent, barely engaged student, more interested in baseball and observing life at the police station and court house than college. His first novel, Maggie, A Girl of the Streets was begun at Syracuse but finished while he lived in New York City. He was unable to find a publisher, and so he self-published it in 1893. His novella is generally regarded as the first work of American literary naturalism. At the age of twenty-one, with no firsthand knowledge of war, he began The Red Badge of Courage. An abbreviated version of the novel appeared in December 1894 in several newspapers; the full version was published by Appleton in October 1895. It became a best seller on both sides of the Atlantic and made him an international celebrity. Beyond Maggie and Red Badge, his landmark contributions include scores of newspaper articles, more than one hundred short stories and two books of poetry. In November 1896, as a correspondent for the Bacheller-Johnson syndicate he went to Florida to cover the growing insurrection in Cuba against Spain. On New Year’s Eve 1896 as an able seaman on the Commodore, he sailed for Cuba. His filibustering came to a swift end when the Commodore sunk off Jacksonville. His best and best-known short story, “The Open Boat,” described the thirty hours he spent in a lifeboat before finally reaching shore. In April 1897 he went to Greece as a war correspondent, and thereafter he settled in England where he wrote his best western stories, “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” and “The Blue Hotel.” Staving off bankruptcy and badly failing health he summoned enough energy to complete his last novella, The Monster, which was published in August 1898 in Harper’s Magazine. Suffering from tuberculosis and massive hemorrhages, he sought relief at a sanitarium at Badenweiler in the Black Forest of Germany. He succumbed on 5 June 1900, five months short of his twenty-ninth birthday. Though his writing career spanned less than a decade, Crane established himself as one of America’s (indeed the world’s) innovative writers, significantly impacting literary realism and naturalism, short stories, journalism, war correspondence, and poetry.

Collected Works

The first revival of interest in Crane was triggered by the issue of Follett 1925–1927, a twelve-volume edition edited by Wilson Follett and published by Knopf. With the Follett edition, the scope and sweep of Crane’s oeuvre was made widely available. By the mid- 1960s, believing the time to be ripe for a truly “complete” and accurate collection of Crane’s works, the University of Virginia, under the leadership of Fredson Bowers, launched a project to provide a critical edition of Crane’s works. The ten volumes of this edition appeared as Bowers 1969–1976. Bowers enlisted experienced Crane scholars to introduce and comment upon each volume. In 1984 work on Crane was made easier with the publication of the Library of America’s Stephen Crane: Prose and Poetry. Levenson 1984 reprinted what the author regarded as the best of the University of Virginia edition—amounting to less than half of the published works but none of Crane’s unpublished works or discarded drafts. Levenson 1984 has become the standard source and is used in virtually all scholarly commentary on Crane.

  • Bowers, Fredson, ed. The Works of Stephen Crane. 10 vols. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1969–1976.

    A critical edition encompassing all of Crane’s creative work and journalism. Each volume contains a general introduction by a noted Crane scholar, including James Colvert, Edwin Cady, and J. C. Levenson, along with a detailed textual introduction and notes by Bowers.

  • Follett, Wilson, ed. The Work of Stephen Crane. 12 vols. New York: Knopf, 1925–1927.

    While not all of Crane’s works were included, and some of the texts were not reliable, this edition was a boon for Crane scholarship. Follett commissioned distinguished authors and critics—notably Willa Cather, Sherwood Anderson, Thomas Beer, Carl van Doren, and H. L. Mencken—to prepare short introductions for each volume.

  • Levenson, J. C., ed. Stephen Crane, Prose and Poetry: Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, The Red Badge of Courage, Stories, Sketches, Journalism, The Black Riders & War Is Kind. New York: Literary Classics of the U.S., 1984.

    A reprinting of the best of Crane from the Virginia edition (except that Levenson used the 1893 Maggie and the Appleton’s 1895 Red Badge—see sections on each text for controversies on other versions of these works). Levenson’s volume includes a reliable chronology and helpful notes on the text and an index.

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