CRANE, Stephen (1871-1900). Autograph letter signed ("Stephen Crane") to [John Northern] Hilliard, Hartwood, N.Y., 2 January [1896].

Four pages, 314 x 202mm on lined paper with red ruled margin (minor marginal losses, light fold separations).

"I have only one pride and that is that the English edition of The Red Badge of Courage has been received with such praise by the English reviewers."

"My idea of happiness is the saddle of a good-riding horse." A biographical letter from Crane, describing his ancestry, early life and literary career—including The Red Badge of Courage. A lengthy and detailed letter to John N. Hilliard, editor of the Rochester Union and Advertiser, who had written to Crane seeking biographical information to include as part of a series on American writers. Summarizing his short yet eventful career to date, Crane reports that at "the latter part of my twenty-first year I began The Red Badge of Courage and completed it early in my twenty second year." Crane then comments that he had "only one pride," which was that "that the English edition of The Red Badge of Courage has been received with such praise by the English reviewers. I am proud of this simply because the remoter people would seem more just and harder to win."

In recounting his life and background, Crane opened with a summary of his ancestors in America. Confirming that his was not a "nom de guerre" but rather his birth name, he notes that the "first Stephen Crane to appear in America, arrived in Massachusetts from England in 1635." The second namesake settled in Connecticut, while the third briefly served in the Continental Congress representing New Jersey until a week before the vote for independence, "when he was obliged to return and serve as speaker" of the New Jersey Assembly, but "died in the old homestead at Elizabeth" just as British troops were marching toward their defeat at Trenton. (Oddly, Crane errs in this retelling somewhat. Stephen Crane was bayonetted by German mercenaries en route to the Battle of Springfield in 1780 and died from his wounds). On his mother's side, "everybody as soon as he could walk, became a Methodist clergyman — of the old ambling-wag, saddle-bag, exhorting kind." Crane recounts his attendance at Lafayette College and Syracuse University before embarking on a career as a writer, publishing his first work of fiction at age eighteen, but had been writing professionally for magazines since age sixteen. His first novel, Maggie, although not successful, earned him the friendship of "W. D. Howells and Hamlin Garland." After completing Maggie, Crane worked "mainly for the New York Press and for the Arena magazine. And Crane concludes noting his present situation: "I live in Hartwood, Sullivan Co., N.Y., on an estate of 3500 acres belonging to my brother and am distinguished for corduroy trousers and briar-wood pipes. My idea of happiness is the saddle of a good-riding horse." John Hilliard printed a large part of the contents of this letter in the 8 Febraury 1896 issue of the Rochester Union & Advertiser. Published in Correspondence, Vol. 1, pp. 165-167. [With:] correspondence relative to the publication of the letter's contents from R. W. Stallman, who with Lillian Gilkes issued the first collection of Crane's letters in 1960, as well as Paul Sorrentino, one of the editors of the more authoritative Correspondence. Provenance: John Northern Hilliard (by descent to:) – Helen Hilliard.
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