Stephen Crane's Life, Love are Chronicled


Photograph: Cora Taylor, 1899 sketch.

Photograph: Stephen Crane, 1899 photo.


The life and literary career of novelist Stephen Crane and his unconventional common-law wife, Cora, are chronicled in a new exhibition at Columbia titled "'The Tall Swift Shadow of a Ship at Night': Stephen and Cora Crane."

The exhibit opens Nov. 2 and celebrates the centennial of The Red Badge of Courage, Crane's classic novel of the Civil War.

The 120 items on view in Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library through Feb., 16, 1996, include signed letters from Joseph Conrad, Henry James, H.G.Wells and William Dean Howells, first editions of The Red Badge and Crane's New York slum novel, Maggie, a Girl of the Streets, original manuscripts, scrapbooks, photographs and memorabilia, including Crane's pocket watch. The exhibition is open to the public Mon. from Noon to 7:45 P.M. and Tues. through Fri. from 9:00 A.M. to 4:45 P.M.; admission is free. The exhibit is closed Nov. 7 and 20-24; Dec. 25-26, and Jan. 1-2. To confirm hours call 854-5153.

Columbia's Crane Collection, among the largest in the nation, consists mainly of materials owned by Cora Crane at her death in 1910.

Stanley Wertheim of William Paterson College, a leading Crane scholar and collector, will give a gallery lecture on Crane at 6:00 P.M. Dec. 7 in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. It is open to the public. First editions, signed manuscripts and letters from Wertheim's personal Crane collection will be on display in another exhibition celebrating the Red Badge centennial at the Grolier Club, 47 E. 60th St., Nov. 30 through Jan. 12.

Crane died of tuberculosis in 1900 at age 28, having achieved celebrity four and a half years earlier with the publication of Red Badge . A pioneering realist, he had convincingly portrayed New York City tenement life in Maggie, A Girl of the Streets in 1892 and had written compelling short stories based on his own adventures and on small town life, many of which depict race relations in the North at the turn of the century.

Born in 1871 in Newark, N.J., Crane was the son of a prominent Methodist minister. He attended Lafayette College and Syracuse University, worked as a reporter in New Jersey and moved to New York where he lived a bohemian life and wrote Red Badge, a psychological novel about the Civil War.

Cora Taylor met the young writer when he arrived in Jacksonville, Fla., on his way to cover the Cuban war for independence and maintained a tumultuous relationship with him until his death. The madam of an elegant brothel called the Hotel de Dream, she took his name as his common-law wife and traveled with him to Greece, to cover the Greco-Turkish war for the New York press. Billed as the first female war correspondent, she wrote under the penname Imogene Carter. After the war ended, the Cranes settled in England, where they socialized with literary luminaries including Conrad, James and Wells.

Following his death, Cora unsuccessfully attempted a literary career of her own and then opened another bordello in Jacksonville. Columbia purchased many Crane papers from her estate. In 1974 the state of Florida presented Columbia with the contents of her safe deposit box.


Columbia University Record -- November 3, 1995 -- Vol. 21, No. 9