Thomas Beer, of course, infamously “ran into the same problem, a problem he solved by making things up and supporting his assertions by quoting from, as we now know, non-existent letters.” Monteiro points out that even in 1923, contemporary reviewers knew there was “something fishy” about Beer’s biography, including literary powerhouse and Berryman’s Columbia mentor Mark Van Doren, who in his 1924 Nation review “all but said it was a work of fiction.”2 Nevertheless, the book was a terrific success, enjoyed a lasting if pernicious impact on Crane scholarship, and it encouraged Alfred A. Knopf to launch The Work of Stephen Crane (1925–1927), a twelve-volume edition of Crane’s works edited by Wilson Follett with introductions to each volume by contemporary luminaries like Willa Cather, Amy Lowell, Sherwood Anderson, H. L. Mencken, and others.
American literature as a field, of course, was still largely considered the unwanted stepchild of British literature in the mid-twentieth century. In that climate Americanists often found it difficult to find a venue for traditional literary explication on an American writer aside from perhaps James or Hawthorne. Monteiro reports that on the heels of Follett’s anthology, the English writer H. E. Bates, “who first read Crane under the tutelage of Edward Garnett, perhaps Crane’s best contemporary reader,” promoted
Crane’s work in his 1931 essay “Stephen Crane: A Neglected Genius” and again ten years later in his book The Modern Short Story: A Critical Survey (1941). In that book, Monteiro notes, Bates “singled out Crane for his unique accomplishments in the American short story.”
Serious Crane scholarship took a monumental turn in 1948 when Ames W. Williams and Vincent Starrett released Stephen Crane: A Bibliography, their landmark compilation of primary Crane material, “a work that proved indispensable to subsequent Crane scholarship,” according to Monteiro, and which informed much of Berryman’s and Stallman’s biographies, and a half century later would be complemented by Wertheim and Sorrentino’s The Crane Log: A Documentary Life of Stephen Crane, 1871– 1900 (1994). Despite its publication date, Williams and Starrett’s work still garners respect among Crane scholars. Wertheim, for instance, told me in an email on March 9, 2010, that the rumor Crane started a lengthy novel about a boy prostitute in New York titled “Flowers of Asphalt” or “Flowers in Asphalt” is at least “conceivable” and that “the incident occurred either in 1896 or 1898” since Starrett had listed it in his bibliography, so he included an entry on it in the Crane Log.3
Monteiro notes that Stallman’s reading of The Red Badge of Courage as a tale of Christian redemption appeared when “the practices of ‘new criticism’ and archetypal criticism had taken hold in classroom teaching.” That work, along with Berryman’s biography, ignited broader scholarly interest in Crane as a subject. Next came Hoffman’s 1957 Poetry of Stephen Crane, which Monteiro contends “brought attention to what is still, despite the existence of a handful of useful essays and Joseph Katz’s variorum edition of the poems nearly forty years ago, a neglected area of Crane’s interest and achievement.” “Stallman’s work is still useful,” he says of Stallman’s biography, critical bibliography, and edited volumes of uncollected work and correspondence, including Stephen Crane: Letters (1960; co-edited with Lillian Gilkes and regrettably containing several of Beer’s fabrications). But Monteiro offers a personal caveat: “his prodigious efforts on Crane’s behalf—both in bibliography and biography—are often marred by his predilection for, and participation in, what might be figuratively described as hand-to-hand combat with all those he saw as his adversaries in any and all matters pertaining to Crane. Long diatribes in the guise of annotations, for example, take up page after page in this 642-page work.”
Monteiro found himself in the unenviable position of being caught in the middle of a notorious donnybrook between Berryman and Stallman, given that the two undisputed scions of Crane scholarship openly loathed each other. Even after Berryman’s suicide in 1972, Stallman attacked his old enemy in a notorious self-interview entitled “That Crane, That Albatross Around My Neck,” along with Joseph Katz (whom Stallman called “the Great Gatsby of Crane Scholars” ), Edwin Cady, and Thomas Gullason, among others. “Stallman really did a job on people like Berryman and Gullason,” Stanley Wertheim recalled in an email on September 23, 2009, “It’s remarkable that someone didn’t sue him and the journal. I couldn’t believe the editor would print that article. I’ve never seen anything like it in a scholarly journal. . . . it was a real bomb.” In this bizarre account of his life in Crane studies, Stallman asks himself, “You’ve met Berryman?” “No,” he replies (to himself ), “I didn’t care to. He gave a reading of his poems here [at the University of Connecticut]. He arrived in Storrs dead drunk and slept it off in the house of the Chairman of the English Department. His piss soaked through the bedsheets and mattress, and so he left a bad impression” (156). “That piece by Stallman is a hoot,” Monteiro laughed after I brought up the story. “I’d forgotten how he ‘got back’ at Berryman by telling that anecdote.” Stallman made public statements against Berryman prior to his adversary’s death as well. On one occasion Monteiro recollects, “Berryman told me that Stallman had had the nerve to ask him if he could look at and use his Crane notes after Stallman had attacked Berryman’s work. Berryman was in high dudgeon when he told me this.”
Monteiro maintained good relations with both Berryman and StallRobert man, whose monumental Stephen Crane: A Biography appeared in 1968, and neither accused him of taking sides. Quoting Ambrose Bierce’s mordant definition of “friendship” in his Devil’s Dictionary, “A ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul” (qtd. in Stallman,Stephen Crane: A Biography 151), Stallman lists Monteiro second in his conspicuously brief list of “personal friendships,” after French Crane scholar Jean Cazemajou of the University of Bordeaux (151). Monteiro is the only one explicitly listed as sharing a “friendship” before Stallman moves to professional relations with other Crane scholars like James Colvert, who later went on to co-edit the University of Virginia edition of the works of Stephen Crane with Fredson Bowers, J. C. Levenson, and Edwin Cady (152). Monteiro dedicated Stephen Crane: The Contemporary Reviews to Hoffman, Berryman, and Stallman, an act of academic
diplomacy if there ever was one, though the last two had been dead for some time.
However significant Stallman’s contribution, Monteiro submits that “the work needs to be redone, corrected, amended, re-annotated, and generally brought up-to-date.” (Paul Sorrentino may well make such an effort redundant with his forthcoming Crane biography with Harvard University Press.) All the same, Berryman, Stallman, and Hoffman sparked a “true academic flowering” of Crane scholarship by the following generations of scholars—Monteiro’s list includes monographs and biographies by Eric Solomon, Milne Holton, Donald Gibson, Jean Cazemajou, Frank Bergon, James Nagel, Christopher Benfey, James Colvert, Patrick Dooley, David Haliburton, Michael Fried, Michael Rober
tson, Linda Davis, and Keith Gandal, as well as hundreds of articles and essays. “In the midst of this surge of interest in Crane,” Monteiro recounts, “along with the drive by several teams of editors to establish texts for the work of major American writers,” appeared the University of Virginia’s edition of Crane’s collected works by Bowers, Cady, Colvert, and Levenson. Monteiro’s appraisal for the Virginia collection is mixed: “This ambitious work is notable more for its insightful introductions and detailed scholarly notes on composition and publication, than its establishment of reliable texts, given the inconsistent application of sometimes contrary principles of textual editing.” “More recently,” Monteiro continues, Paul Sorrentino’s comprehensive Stephen Crane Remembered (2006), “gathers together into a single volume the many written accounts by friends and acquaintances regarding Crane’s life and literary reputation—a very useful adjunct to existing biographies.”