Biography of Victorian Adventurer Cora Crane Part 2

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

FOOTNOTE PEOPLE IN U.S. HISTORY

CORA CRANE (1868-1910). Victorian adventuress.

Stephen Crane had just turned 25 in the autumn of 1896, but he was already an international celebrity as the author of The Red Badge of Courage. A journalist covering the Cuban situation for the newspaper syndicate of Irving Bacheller, Crane cut a romantic figure with his alias Sidney Carlton and a money belt with $700 in gold strapped around his midsection. Crane and Cora felt an immediate affinity. Both were instinctive rebels against Victorian hypocrisy, both hated the tyranny of "society dragons" and "weasels of gossip." Crane had a soft spot for blonds like Cora, an attractive woman who managed to make herself striking by letting her long hair flow and by wearing loose dresses of her own design that were in sharp contrast to the buttons, bones, and bustles of the day.

Crane sailed from Jacksonville on New Year's Day, 1897, aboard the filibustering ship Commodore, which was sunk, doubtless by sabotage, the next day. Crane was reported lost at sea, to Cora's wild dismay. When he was washed ashore alive a few days later, Cora rushed to nurse him back to health in the romantic swamps behind Daytona. American literature had a classic short story, "The Open Boat," and Cora had the love of her life.

When Crane went to Greece to cover the war in the Balkans, Cora went along, becoming the world's first woman war correspondent by filing copy under the pseudonym Imogene Carter, her dispatches appearing in Hearst's Journal in April and May of 1897. The embittered Captain Stewart refused Cora a divorce, so she simply ignored this trifling matter and called herself Mrs. Stephen Crane, taking the intent for the deed. They settled in England, near the American writer Harold Frederic, London correspondent for the New York Times and author of The Damnation of Theron Ware, a man whose domestic status was even more tangled than their own (Frederic lived with his wife, Ruth, and their children during the week and with his mistress, Kate Lyon, ex-Chicago schoolteacher, and their children on the weekends). Soon Cora and Stephen moved to ramshackle Brede Place, a stately Sussex mansion in genteel disrepair, where they held a sort of permanent open house for their fellow bohemians, "Indians" in a world of stuffy "Palefaces." They liked some Palefaces--Henry James, for example, because he was so unfailingly kind--but for the most part they lived in scandalous dissipation and disarray among an entourage of drunken journalists, failed poets, nervous spinsters, and a whole host of charming sponges.

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