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Stephen Crane was born in 1871 in Newark, New Jersey. The fourteenth child of highly religious Methodist parents, Crane lapsed into a rebellious childhood during which he spent time preparing for a career as a professional baseball player. After brief flirtations with higher learning at Lafayette College and Syracuse University, Crane turned to writing full-time. Convinced that he must invest his work with the authenticity of experience, he often went to outlandish lengths to live through situations that he intended to work into his novels. For his first book, Maggie, a Girl of the Streets (1893), Crane lived in poverty in the Bowery slum of New York City. Similarly, he based his short story “The Open Boat” on his experience as a castaway from a shipwreck.
Crane’s most enduring work, the short novel The Red Badge of Courage, was published in 1895. Though initially not well received in the United States, The Red Badge of Courage was a massive success in England. The attention of the English critics caused many Americans to view the novel with renewed enthusiasm, catapulting the young Crane to international literary prominence. His realistic depictions of war and battle led to many assignments as a foreign correspondent for newspapers, taking him to such locales as Greece, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. He published volumes of poetry as well as many works of fiction, including the landmark “The Open Boat” (1897). In 1899, Crane moved into a medieval castle in England with his lover, the former madam of a Jacksonville brothel. Here Crane wrote feverishly, hoping to pay off his debts. His health began to fail, however, and he died of tuberculosis in June 1900, at the age of twenty-eight.