BADGE OF COURAGE by Linda H. Davis


The Life of Stephen Crane
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A well-textured account of the short-lived author of The Red Badge of Courage. After Crane’s death at the age of 28, his far-flung friends put their impressions of his forceful, unconventional personality to paper, and biographers have followed suit regularly ever since. Davis, biographer of the New Yorker editor Katharine White (1987), delivers a fully rounded account of Crane and his times. Crane once observed that if a preacher’s son and a bartender’s boy fell respectively from a park bench and the roof of the Waldorf hotel, they would hit the ground at the same velocity; the author of the muckraking Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, who was himself the son of a well-educated, novel-bashing Methodist minister, had a streak in him of the barroom boy. Even on the brink of fame, Crane consorted with streetwalkers and got into headline-making trouble with New York City Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt because of it. Dealing with his urban bohemian years, Davis puts Crane’s early literary career--local journalism in New Jersey and New York--into the grimy context of the Bowery and the jungle of Printer’s Row. After The Red Badge of Courage won Crane early notoriety, though not financial security, its themes of battle and bravery dominated his work as a war correspondent covering the Turkish war in Greece and the Spanish-American War. Crane’s grim Cuban dispatches, highlighted here, were vivid, even though his literary output declined. Moving to England with his common-law wife, he formed friendships with Joseph Conrad and other writers, but he was soon hounding his literary agent there with increasing demands for advances. His health already damaged by yellow fever contracted in Cuba, Crane succumbed to tuberculosis, fulfilling his lifelong presentiment of dying young. A thoroughgoing chronicle of literary and personal risks taken. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1998
ISBN: 0-89919-934-8
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1998


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