Stephen Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey. He was the fourteenth and
youngest child of a poor clergyman. When Stephen was not yet ten years
old, his father died and the family moved to New York where an older son
was in charge of a news bureau for New York and Philadelphia newspapers.
A few years later this elder brother gave Stephen his first
news-reporting job, scouting for vacation news at a small sea-side town.
But his apprenticeship did not last long. Once when the elder brother
had to leave town, young Stephen took entire charge of the work. Amang
the incidents of that week was a parade of mechanics, in connection with
a State holiday, which Stephen had witnessed. He reported the parade in
a way to suggest comparison between the parading poor workmen and the
fashionable crowd who watched them, whom the writer called idlers. The
feature-story appeared in the New York Tribune the owner of which was
then running for vice-president in the elections. His political enemies,
offended by the story, discredited him with the result that his opponent
won the elections. Of course, Stephen's brother who was considered
responsible for the story was immediately discharged.
Crane had meanwhile attended two private schools. His interests at the
time centred chiefly on poetry and on baseball. He would have continued
these pursuits at the university but could not afford to go on with his
education for want of money: after a term each at the college of
Lafayette and Syracuse University he brought his student days to an end
Crane was a born writer and naturally turned to newspaper work as a
means of earning a living. It was Crane's nature to be experimental. He
had a keen sense of the dramatic. His mind instantly caught the absurd
or ridiculous aspect of any incident and he would draw out an account of
it in his own entertaining fashion. But editors did not like news
stories in which the reporters' impressions dominated over the facts,
and he had to give up newspaper work. Now and then he wrote stories
which were sometimes accepted by various papers. Crane was very
independent, in financial as well as in intellectual matters. He refused
to take financial help from friends and relatives. As to his writings he
was spoken of as a writer of the "pioneer type". He also wrote free
verse. In protest against conventions he wrote the following poem:
"Think as I think," said a man,
"Or you are abominably wicked,
You are a toad."
And after I had thought of it,
I said: "I will then be a toad."
For several years Crane lived in the poorest section of New York and in
cities in New Jersey. He suffered extreme poverty. He saw the
destitution in the slums. It was perhaps at this time that he wrote:
A man said to the universe:
"Sir, I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."
The general spirit of the nineties, as pointed out in the introduction
to this chapter, was that of unrest and alarm, which increased after the
0