From an unsigned review, Philadelphia Press

October 13, 1895, 30


This review compares Crane's novel to Bret Harte's Clarence. It is important because it expresses many of the concerns which would occupy later critics of this and other works by Crane. Among these are the novelist's vigorous but sometimes affected style, his graphic realism, his concentration on the unheroic aspects of war, and his having been influenced by writers like Tolstoy and Kipling.

. . . the other, The Red Badge of Courage is, if we mistake not, the first sustained effort in fiction of a young author, Stephen Crane, throughout whose previous occasional work in prose and in verse there has peeped the bud of promise.... Mr. Crane's book may be called a military romance only through courtesy, there being nothing whatever of a romantic quality in his graphic narrative of a single episode of the Civil War. Let us consider the volumes separately.

[Comments on and paraphrases Harte's novel.]

For, it should be premised, Mr. Crane's book is nothing more or less than a series of battle pictures. The Red Badge of Courage describes the sensations of a young soldier receiving his baptism of fire. There is so little of personal or romantic interest in it that one learns only in the middle of the book and then quite as though by accident, his name. Other than himself only several figures show vaguely through the smoke. Now, this performance of Mr. Crane is remarkable for one or two reasons. First, that so young a writer, born after the war, should have evolved from his imagination purely what strikes the reader as a most impressive and accurate record of actual personal experiences. To be sure, one's wonder at this is tempered presently by noting the unmistakable influences upon the writer of Tolstoi and Rudyard Kipling. It is not so much that he obviously, if unconsciously, mimics the manner of Kipling; but one hears throughout the thrilling strife the echo of Sebastopol, and, above all, of 'The Drums of the Fore and Aft.' The other noticeable fact in Mr. Crane's brilliant fanciful study is his ample recognition of the demands of art in the reproduction of the most tragic scenes. He keeps himself in admirable control; he does more than that he quite effaces himself. Whereas Tolstoi, in denying the genius of generalship, would exalt the courage and the power of the common soldier, young Mr. Crane reduces the general to the ranks (inasmuch as he makes him swear like a trooper), at the same time that he impeaches the courage of the raw recruit. In a word, his book is intended to show us how a simple country youth first withstood and then fled from the fire of the enemy, and then faced it again, and from wavering acquired the Bersekir rage and so was graduated from the shame of cowardice to the high honor of The Red Badge of Courage.

[Quotes from Harte's novel and then from Crane's, ch. 6, for comparison.]

We have selected this passage from Mr. Crane's book, not because it is a particularly fine one, but because it is fairly representative of the author's style and is singularly free from oaths and other horrors. So, our readers may make their choice. Here are two stories of the great war. In one it is clothed with romance; in the other it is stripped of it. And thus stand the elder and the younger writers of fiction.

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