Biography of Victorian Adventurer Cora Crane Part 1

About the Victorian era adventurer Cora Crane, wife of Stephen Crane, her history and biography.


CORA CRANE (1868-1910). Victorian adventuress.

Cora was born a proper Bostonian, heiress to the modest fortune of her father, John Howarth, who ran an art gallery at 26 Kneeland Street and held the patent on a process to restore the paintings of the old masters. Cora was raised to be more fastidious than Victoria herself, to personify the virtues and verities of the most stiflingly rigid social code ever devised. In spite of her upbringing, she defied convention by being what she damn well pleased-madcap American heiress, fashionable British socialite, Empire widow, bluestocking madam, war correspondent, social activist, and international scandal-meanwhile becoming involved in the most poignantly bizarre love affair in American letters.

Because unmarried women required chaperons, Cora married a fellow named Murphy so she could be free to come and go as she pleased. As she pleased was to elope to England with the dashing Capt. Donald William Stewart, who became her husband, later in England, after Murphy granted her a divorce. Cora liked England, where she cut a social swath after the fashion of fellow American Jennie Jerome, who had married Lord Randolph Churchill in 1874. However, when Captain Stewart was assigned to India. Cora elected to stay behind as what they called an Empire widow, apparently a very merry one.

Though twice married, Cora was far from content, and she threw herself into the glamorous swing of London society, becoming rather notorious in the process. Stewart always hated Cora for not remaining faithful to him in his absence. She made a fool of him after he lowered himself, in the eyes of British society, by making an honest woman of a wayward wife. Cora sailed into American waters on a private yacht. She apparently quarreled with her yachtsman lover and swam ashore in Jacksonville in her shift, to start from scratch in her native land. Calling herself Cora Taylor, she was hostess of a nightclub called the Hotel de Dream. The elegant establishment was not technically a brothel because, though a man could meet a girl there, they had to go elsewhere to conduct "business."

Jacksonville was a chic spa, a real boom town when yellow journalists began to whip up frenzy against the Spanish presence in Cuba, the jumping-off spot for filibustering expeditions, the mecca of gun-runners, spies, reporters, revolutionaries, rogues-just the sort of people Cora would like. One of them she even loved.

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