Although he died at only 28 years of age, Stephen Crane lived a full and adventurous life, traveling, writing, and interviewing people for his many stories, novels, and articles. He managed to produce a staggering body of work from time he began writing his first short stories at the age of eight. Due to the lack of commercial success of novels that are now part of the literary canon (The Red Badge of Courage,Maggie: A Girl of the Streetsin particular) Crane spent a great of deal of time working as a freelance reporter and writer for several newspapers in New York. This journalistic style is apparent in several of his greatest works and he always researched his subjects thoroughly, from living in the notorious Bowery district where Maggie is set and interviewing Civil War veterans for The Red Badge of Courage. Crane had an intense fascination with truth in all its forms and often wrote about gritty topics in multiple settings from the dim urban (Maggie) to the open West (such as in the short story “The Blue Hotel”), which was partly to blame for the meager sales of his books. Despite the fact that he was not commercially successful, he formed close friendships with a few prominent writers who recognized the merits of his work such as William Dean Howells, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, and Ford Maddox Ford.
To backtrack, Stephen Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey on November 1, 1871 into a family of fourteen children, of which he was the youngest. His father was a strict Methodist Minister who came from a long line of the same. The family moved around New England as his father sought appointments, but with his death in 1880, the family moved to Asbury Park, New Jersey where they remained. Like so many famous writers of the past century, Crane’s academic work was hardly stellar. He studied at Lafayette College as well as Syracuse, where he played baseball, all the while writing small articles for the New YorkTribune. After college, Crane sought writing work wherever he could find it while working on his two most famous novels, Maggie (which he claimed to have written in a mere two days) and The Red Badge of Courage. The lack of commercial success was disappointing, but did not stop Crane from contributing to his ever-increasing body of work. In 1896, Crane met Cora Taylor who owned a large hotel and was several years older than her lover. Although there are no records of their marriage, Cora took Crane’s last name as they traveled through Europe, finally settling in London. Crane, who had contracted tuberculosis while writing in Cuba, died in 1900 in Germany and is buried in Hillside New Jersey.