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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY
Stephen Crane was born on November 1, 1871, six years after the close of the Civil War. Born in Newark, New Jersey as the fourteenth and final child of a devoutly Methodist family, Crane moved frequently in his youth, for his father was an itinerant minister. As a youth, he suffered greatly. His health was poor, and his father died when he was eight, leaving the large family almost destitute. For a brief time, he attended a military school, Claverack College, where he rose to the rank of captain; but he was not a good student and never finished his education. As a young man, he moved to New York City and worked as a newspaper correspondent. In New York, he began to write novels, determined that they would be realistic instead of sentimental or romantic.
His first significant work was Maggie: A Girl of the Street, a book about a prostitute. Its contents were so shocking that Crane could not find a publisher; he borrowed money and had the book privately published in 1893. Few copies were sold, and Crane was forced to live in poverty. He next wrote The Red Badge of Courage, which first appeared as a serial newspaper publication. It was published in book form in 1895, when Crane was twenty-four years of age. The novel brought him brief fame and allowed him to escape poverty before his early death. Today the novel is judged as a masterpiece of psychological realism.
The year of 1896 was a significant one for Crane. He published George's Mother, The Little Regiment, and The Third Violet. Maggie: A Girl of the Street was also republished and gained popularity. During the year, Crane became disillusioned with his notoriety and accepted an offer to cover the Cuban rebellion against Spain, departing on December 31, 1896. It would be the first time he had ever seen war first hand, but his boat sank before arriving in Cuba.
Crane met Cora Taylor, the proprietor of the Hotel de Dream in Jacksonville, Florida, and fell in love with her, even though she was married. Thinking marriage to Cora impossible, he left to cover the Greek-Turkish war as a correspondent. To his surprise, Cora joined him in Greece, and they then settled in Sussex, England. The couple eventually moved into a manor house, called Brede House, and had the writers Henry James and Joseph Conrad as neighbors and friends. During the American War with Spain in 1898, Crane traveled to Cuba as a war correspondent and contracted malaria, which accelerated his already failing health. He died from tuberculosis in 1900, at the young age of 28.