“When I Knew Stephen Crane”

I have found it difficult to write about single essays.  I end up simply wanting to say “read this”.  However, at online-literature.com (which is where I found the pictures below), I found an enlightening essay written in 1900 (Stephen Crane died in 1900 at the age of 29) by Willa Cather about her previous interaction with Crane.  I believe she was writing for a newspaper in Lincoln, Nebraska, when he showed up in town waiting on money to be wired to him.  He stayed around town for a few weeks and she got to know him a little.

Willa Cather

Stephen Crane

He was disheveled and extremely skinny.  It seemed he had already written The Red Badge of Courage but had not yet really taken the literary world by storm.  At the time that Cather met him, he was 24.  She had the sense he knew he would not be living a long time.

For anyone interested in artists interacting with other artists, especially ones that are no longer living, this essay is a gem.  My favorite passage described what she thought was the purpose of their relationship:

Men will sometimes reveal themselves to children, or to people whom they think never to see again, more completely than they ever do to their confreres. From the wise we hold back alike our folly and our wisdom, and for the recipients of our deeper confidences we seldom select our equals. The soul has no message for the friends with whom we dine every week. It is silenced by custom and convention, and we play only in the shallows. It selects its listeners willfully, and seemingly delights to waste its best upon the chance wayfarer who meets us in the highway at a fated hour. There are moments too, when the tides run high or very low, when self-revelation is necessary to every man, if it be only to his valet or his gardener. At such a moment, I was with Mr. Crane.

But I won’t continue explaining the essay, I’ll simply say “read this”!

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2 responses to ““When I Knew Stephen Crane”

  1. What a great passage that is! I am becoming more and more interested in Cather. I dd an “extra-curricular” read of her short story, “The Enchanted Bluff” earlier today. It was wonderful.
    -Jay

    • “The Enchanted Bluff” is on my Deal Me In list. I’m looking forward to it! She has some other essays about other authors. She seemed to be an Edgar Allan Poe fan (but then who isn’t?). I haven’t read any of them, but it didn’t sound like they were as personal as this one.

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