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R O B E R T G L E N D E A M E R Rochester, Indiana Remarks on the Western Stance Of Stephen Crane Writing about his friend “Stevie” in 1927, Ford Madox Ford gave us the following vivid image of the Stephen Crane who for nearly ten months (July, 1897 to April, 1898) had liv«;d in Ravensbrook Villa at Oxted, Surrey: I can see him sitting in the singularly ugly drawing room of the singularly hideous villa he lived in for a time at Oxted. Then he wore — I dare say to shock me — cowboy breeches and no coat, and all the time he was talking he wagged in his hand an immense thing that he called a gun and that we should call a revolver. From time to time he would attempt to slay with the bead-sight of this Colt such flies as settled on the table, and a good deal of his conversation would be taken up with fantastic boasts about what can be done with these lethal instruments. I don’t know that he celebrated his own prowess, but he boasted about what heroes in the Far West were capable of. . . . Crane in those days . . . was in the habit of posing as an almost fabulous Billy the Kid.1 This portrait, taken alone, is striking enough — but, as a matter of fact, both Crane’s life and his writings are rich with incidents of western role-playing and with images of the West. As a boy not yet in his teens, ' “Stevie and Co.,” New York Herald Tribune Books, 2 January 1927, p. 1. 124 Western American Literature he “had been devouring Western paper-backs, becoming ingenious — as his health improved — in gang games based on them.”2 And when he was sixteen, “Stephen begged five dollars from his mother to start a lost cowboy back to Wyoming and the man gave him a real revolver alleged to have slain six Indians.”3 At Lafayette College two years later (in September, 1890), a band of hazing sophomores was stopped short upon breaking down the door of Crane’s room. A witness of the scene relates that “Steve was petrified with fear and stood in a grotesque nightgown in one corner of the room with a revolver in his hand. His usual sallow complexion seemed to me ghastly green. Whether he ever pointed the revolver or not, I do not know, but when I saw him, both arms were limp and the revolver was pointed to the flpor.”4 Perhaps Crane was green with fear; it is more likely, as Edwin H. Cady has said, that he was green with the “shock proceeding from the realiza­ tion that he had nearly murdered somebody.” In any case, “Crane was hazed no more.”5 It can be added that Ford’s portrait of Crane in England is supported by at least one other Ravcnsbrook visitor who records that “Mr. Crane [shot] with his revolver after lunch and he is a very fine shot.”0 Then, as he quarreled with Harold Frederic over The Monster, we find “Crane swarming up and down beating his revolver-butt on the furniture.”7 Crane made a point, too, of decorating his den at Ravensbrook with a Mexican blanket and with a set of silver spurs which he had collected from a ranch near the Nevada border.8 In “Stephen Crane and the Western Myth” (1972),9I have already argued the seriousness and importance of Crane’s attitude toward the American myth of the West. Several years of further research and 2John Berryman, Stephen Crane (New York: William Sloane Associates, 1950), p. 13. 3Thomas Beer, Stephen Crane: A Study in American Letters (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1923), p. 54. 4Lyndon Upson Pratt, “The Formal Education of Stephen Crane,” American Literature, 10 (January, 1939), 468. 5Edwin H. Cady, Stephen Crane (New York: Twayne, 1962), p. 28. 0Stephen Crane: Letters, eds. R. W. Stallman and Lillian Gilkes (New York: New York University Press, 1960), pp. 154-155. Hereafter cited as Letters. 7Berryman, p. 205. 8Beer, p. 113, mentions the ranch and the spurs. For a photograph of Crane in his den...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 123-142
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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