Back Stephen Crane, “Stories Told by an Artist”

Stephen Crane (1871–1900)
From Stephen Crane: Prose & Poetry

Stephen Crane in Corwin Knapp Linson’s studio on West 22nd Street, Manhattan, c. 1894, when Crane was writing The Red Badge of Courage. (Syracuse University Libraries via Roger Williams University)

Stephen Crane was only 28 when he died, yet he was already at work on his seventh novel and had also published two volumes of poetry and more than a hundred stories, sketches, and pieces of journalism.

The year he turned 22 was pivotal for launching his career. While residing (or as we would say today, “crashing”) in the room shared by three young artists in the old Art Students League building in New York, he finished his second novel, The Red Badge of Courage, started his third, George’s Mother, and began writing regularly for The New York Press and various magazines.

For much of that period—from the fall of 1893 to the spring of 1894—he ate sparsely and lost a significant amount of weight. Most of his friends were not much better off than he was. One of his roommates later remembered, “The hard and meagre life—two poor meals a day, a bun or two for breakfast and a dinner of potato salad and sausages warmed over the little stove that heated the room, frequently eaten cold because there was no coal for the stove—could be borne if he were progressing towards his end.” His friends would often give him a nickel so he could get a meal in a local pub. “His teeth, his bad hours and his disregard for his health and proper food caused us such concern,” wrote another roommate. “I think these things helped cause his death.”

In a semi-autobiographical account published in The New York Press, he described the hand-to-mouth life of his artist roommates. Although they were often obsessed with worry over where the next meal and the rent were going to come from, “Stories Told by an Artist” focuses more on the camaraderie and banter among four men living together in a small studio with only one bed and an improvised cot.

We present “Stories Told by an Artist” as our Story of the Week selection, with an introduction describing in greater detail the eight months he spent in the old Art Students League building.

Read “Stories Told by an Artist” by Stephen Crane

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