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Stephen Crane's Sale of "An Episode of War" To The Youth's Companion by Paul Sorrentino
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Stephen Crane's Sale of "An Episode of War" To The Youth's Companion
Paul Sorrentino

Crane's reference to The Youth's Companion as the place of publication for "An Episode of War" has been confusing because none of his stories appeared there during his lifetime. The discovery remarked here of its posthumous publication in The Youth's Companion, however, confirms Fredson Bowers' hypothesis that Crane did, indeed, sell it to the magazine, and a headnote appended to the text helps to date the composition of the story.

An extremely popular family magazine in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, The Youth's Companion solicited and published material from well-known authors like Longfellow, Whittier, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Francis Parkman. Following the instant success of The Red Badge of Courage, the Corresponding Editor wrote Crane on 31 October 1895 asking for a submission:

Boston. October the 31th [1895]
> Mr. Stephen Crane
My dear sir

In common with the rest of mankind we have been reading The Red Badge of Courage and other war stories by you. And our editors feel a strong desire to have some of your tales in The Youth's Companion.

I want to invite you to submit some of your work to The Companion for consideration. While we have a number of standards inside of which all our stories have


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to fall I am confident that you would not find them a grave inconvenience. But to save you possible misdirection of effort, would you be so kind (if our invitation is acceptable to you) to write me and let me send you a few hints as to the kind of stories we want and dont want.

Will you also let me say that for the higher grades of work the substantial recognition which The Companion gives to authors is not surpassed in any American periodical.

Very Truly Yours
The Corresponding Editor
P.S. For your address I am indebted to the politeness of Messrs Copeland and Day, the former of whom is one of our editors.

L. B. [1]

Though Crane was then writing The Third Violet, he was interested in contributing:

Nov 5th [1895]
The Corresponding Editor,
The Youth's Companion,

My dear sir: I am very grateful for your letter of October 31st., and I am sure that I would be very glad to write for the Companion. My time is just now possessed by a small novel but in the future, I might perchance do a story that you would like. Such possible stories I would send to you, if I was informed of your literary platform and I would be happy to hear from you concerning it.

Very truly yours,
Stephen Crane. [2]

The Editor most assuredly replied with a statement of "literary platform," for he wrote "Ans./Nov 9" at the top of the letter.

Between November and March 1896, Crane wrote what has become known as "An Episode of War" and sold it to the Companion. Although an advertisement in the New York Press, 28 November 1896, p. 5, listed Crane as one of the ten "Leading Writers" for the magazine, the editors, apparently after acceptance, found the story unsuitable. Its sardonic treatment of war was probably too harsh for a family magazine that printed such "Departments" as "Nature and Science," "Current Events," and "Children's Page." To recover payment the publisher, Perry Mason & Co., sold the English rights and sent a copy of the story to The Gentlewoman, which printed it in the December


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1899 issue.[3] Twenty years later, however, as the country became disillusioned with war, the story proved timely. When an "Episode of War" eventually appeared in the 16 March 1916 issue of the Companion, p. 150, the editors appended a headnote: "When it is read in the light of the war news of to-day, this story has, we believe, an unusual interest. It was written for The Companion just twenty years ago this month by the young American who is best remembered for his battle story, 'The Red Badge of Courage.' Stephen Crane died in 1900, after a few years of brilliant achievement and even brighter promise."

Because the version in The Youth's Companion (YC) is most likely not an edited reprint of that in The Gentlewoman (G), the question arises concerning the textual authority of YC. Crane had sent a now lost typescript of the story to The Youth's Companion, whose publisher retained the American and Canadian copyright, but sold the English copyright to The Gentlewoman. When the story appeared there, "Messrs. Perry, Mason and Co." was listed as the holder of copyright in the United States and Canada. Because no evidence suggests that Crane read proofs of G, it seems certain that this text derives from a second typescript prepared and sent by Mason. One would normally conclude, therefore, that YC should be used as copy-text and that the approximately 100 substantive and accidentals variants in G are not authorial.

YC occasionally reflects Crane's manner of punctuation.[4] In a series of three, YC omitted the comma before and (91.5) and set off with a comma a dependent clause preceding an independent (92.30). YC's use of a dash instead of a comma after existence is typical of Crane and makes more sense in a story about the ironic deflation of the protagonist: "It is as if the wounded man's hand is upon the curtain which hangs before the revelations of all existence, [YC dash] the meaning of ants, potentates, wars, cities, sunshine, snow, a feather dropped from a bird's wing, and the power of it sheds radiance upon a bloody form, and makes the other men understand sometimes that they are little" (90.15-20). The dash is similar to that in The Red Badge of Courage: "Later, he began to study his deeds—his failures and his achievements" (II, 133.27-28). G, however, is more characteristic of Crane's treatment of some other accidentals. Crane did not normally separate compound sentences with a comma before the conjunction, as in "He came upon some stragglers and they told him how to find the field hospital" (91.30-31), and he did not usually set off with commas parenthetical expressions, as in "And so the orderly-sergeant while sheathing the sword leaned nervously backward" (90.24-25). Crane frequently wrote a period where a question mark would


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be expected, as in "What mutton-head had tied it up that way anyhow" (92. 27-28), and he invariably hyphenated compound words, as in "war-chorus" (91.18) and "bush-fires" (91.25). Ten hyphenated compounds in G appear as separate words in YC. In addition, Crane preferred the English spelling of grey (90.24, 92.18) as opposed to gray in YC.

G seems also to have more authority for at least some of the substantive variants. For example, the inclusion of green in "He saw a general on a black horse gazing over the lines of blue infantry at the green woods . . ." (90.38-39) typifies Crane's preoccupation with color, and the use of 'tend (92.31), which YC reads as attend, is appropriate for the speaker. Elsewhere in Crane's manuscripts—e.g., in Maggie (I, 22.5, 27.13, and 32.18)—he frequently used which for that, as in G's reading at 89.20 and 90.16, 37, 39. Finally Crane most certainly wrote ants, which YC deleted in "the revelations of all existence, the meaning of ants, potentates . . ." (90.16-17).

Readings in YC occasionally correct grammatical errors. In "He held his right wrist tenderly in his left hand, as if the wounded arm was made of very brittle glass" (90.31-33), YC reads were for was. In all probability Crane wrote was, and an editor (or compositor) of The Gentlewoman missed the need for the subjunctive mood.[5] In 1916 an editor (or compositor) of The Youth's Companion corrected the error. If Crane had written were, the editor of G would have had no reason to create an error intentionally. Similarly someone in 1916 noticed the ambiguous pronoun reference in "He saw a general on a black horse gazing over the lines of blue infantry at the green woods which veiled his problems. An aide galloped furiously, dragged his horse suddenly to a halt, saluted, and presented a paper. It was, for a wonder, precisely like an historical painting" (90.38-91.3). YC changed It to This scene because the pronoun could be misread as referring to paper instead of the previous two sentences.

In short, although G derives at one remove from the YC typescript, there is no way of knowing for certain whether variants were the result of house-styling in 1899 (G), 1916 (YC), or a combination of both. This is especially true, for Crane frequently seemed unconcerned with the general texture of accidentals; moreover, publishers have imposed since the nineteenth century an increasingly rigid house-style. Because G is closer to Crane's style, it should still be treated as copy-text and emended only if YC clearly preserves characteristics of Crane.

The appearance of the story as "An Episode of War" raises speculation about its original title. Sometime in the late spring or early summer of 1897, Crane made an inventory of stories, which lists "An Episode of War" as "The Loss of an Arm" and its place of publication as "Youth's Companion" (VI, lxxx-lxxxi). The story also appears in two other inventories, but without


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title. On the verso of leaf 6 of the manuscript of "This Majestic Lie," Crane wrote, sometime before September 1899, a table of contents for a projected seven-volume collection of much of his fiction. Volume I was to include "Story—Youth's Companion." In another list, compiled in January 1900, Crane left space for a title but noted its place of publication as "Gentlewoman" (i.e., The Gentlewoman).[6] Crane's method of notation in the second and third inventories could be attributed to his not having handy a copy of the manuscript and thus his forgetting the title, or he could have been undecided about what to call the story, as with "War Memories," which was variously titled "The Cuban Campaign" and "The Story for Lady Churchill" (V, cliv-clv). Perhaps the original title was "The Loss of an Arm: An Episode of War," which would have made it sound similar to The Red Badge of Courage: An Episode of the American Civil War. Following the publication of the Red Badge, Crane was an instant celebrity whose incoming correspondence had, he said, "reached mighty proportions."[7] Crane might have used a longer title to take advantage of the success of his most famous work. Though the typescript that Crane sent to the Companion in March 1896 is not extant, the publication of "An Episode of War" in 1916 suggests that this title was, if not the complete original version, at least part of it.

The text in the Companion is here collated with that in the Virginia edition (VI, 89-93). Each entry begins with a page-line reference. The first reading is from the edition; following the bracket is the reading in the Companion. A wavy dash (˜) signifies repetition of the same word in the edition; a subscript caret (∧) signifies lack of punctuation. An asterisk (*) means that the reader should consult the textual note for the entry in the Virginia edition.

    Substantive Variants

  • 89.2 coffee] ground coffee
  • 89.12-13 he suspected it was a case of personal assault] he had suspected a personal assault
  • *89.18-19 little puffs of white smoke] little white puffs of smoke
  • 89.20 which] that
  • 89.26 a bullet's journey] the journey of a bullet
  • 89.31 puzzled as to what] puzzled what
  • 90.4 by] in
  • 90.6 This] The
  • 90.9 this] that
  • 90.12 At the time] As he did so
  • 90.13 allow] permit
  • 90.13 finger] fingers
  • 90.14 Well] Unhurt
  • 90.16 is . . . which] were . . . that
  • 90.17 ants, potentates] potentates
  • 90.22 might] may
  • 90.28 away] all away
  • 90.33 was] were
  • 90.37 which] that
  • 90.39 green woods which] woods that
  • 91.2 It] This scene
  • 91.3 an] a

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  • 91.7 preserve their respectful interval] to keep their respectful distance
  • 91.8 about them,] round them∧
  • 91.20 of glass] glass
  • 91.21 lost, save] lost∧ except
  • 91.34 1the] and˜
  • 92.5 allowed one to think] intimated
  • 92.13 berating, while from] berating; from
  • 92.26 This] The
  • 92.26 the latter] him
  • 92.31 'tend] tend
  • 93.3 the portals] portals
  • 93.5 mother, his]˜∧ and ∧



R. W. Stallman and Lillian Gilkes, eds., Stephen Crane: Letters (1960), pp. 67-68. The text is there printed without the initials "L. B." "L. B." was probably either Louise Baker or L. J. Bridgman, both of whom frequently contributed to the Companion. Many of the details surrounding the publication of the magazine are unknown. Daniel S. Ford, its editor-publisher from 1867 to his death in 1899, preferred anonymity. During this time his name appeared only twice in the Companion, when he assumed sole ownership and when he died; and the masthead never included the editorial staff but simply listed the publisher by the fictitious name "Perry Mason & Co." For a brief history of the magazine, see the introduction to Richard Cutts, comp., Index to The Youth's Companion, 1871-1929, 1 (1972), v-xvii.


Joseph Katz, "Stephen Crane to Youth's Companion: A New Letter," Stephen Crane Newsletter, 2 (Winter 1967), 5.


Fredson Bowers, ed., Tales of War, Vol. VI of The Works of Stephen Crane, introd. James B. Colvert (Charlottesville: The Univ. Press of Virginia, 1970), p. lxxxi. Bowers used the version in The Gentlewoman as copy-text, which appears in volume VI, pp. 89-93. References to the story are cited in the text by page and line number. References to other volumes in the Edition include volume number.


Much of my knowledge regarding Crane's treatment of substantives and accidentals comes from Bowers' textual introductions in the Virginia Edition.


In a letter to Ripley Hitchcock, dated 2 April 1896, discussing Maggie, Crane wrote, "The proofs make me ill. Let somebody go over them—if you think best—and watch for bad grammatical form & bad spelling. I am too jaded with Maggie to be able to see it" (R. W. Stallman and Lillian Gilkes, eds., Stephen Crane: Letters [1960], p. 122). Crane's weariness notwithstanding, he was weak in grammar, punctuation, and spelling.


The first and third inventories are in the Columbia University Crane Collection at Butler Library; the second, in the Castle Collection at the Bryn Mawr College Library. For a brief discussion of Crane's projected seven-volume collection, see Paul Sorrentino, "Stephen Crane's Manuscript of 'This Majestic Lie,'" Studies in Bibliography 36 (1983), 221-223.


Stallman and Gilkes, p. 66. For another letter similar to that from the Companion, see Walter H. Page to Stephen Crane, 2 March 1896, in George Monteiro, "Stephen Crane and the Atlantic Monthly: Two New Letters," AN&Q, 16 (1977-78), 70-71.