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Detail of Brede Place

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Brede Place: Photographs of Stephen Crane's Home in England

January 21, 2020

American writer Stephen Crane (1871-1900) lived from 1899 to 1900 at Brede Place, a manor house built in Sussex, England in the 14th century. Prior to moving to that location, he earned widespread attention for such classics as the novels Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893) and The Red Badge of Courage (1895), the poetry collection The Black Riders (1895), and the volume of short stories The Open Boat (1897). During his short life, he published a wide array of literary works in various formats. His biographer Paul Sorrentino described Crane as the “most innovative American writer of the 1890s.”[1]

As his work was warmly received in England, Crane and his companion Cora E. Taylor moved into Ravensbrook Villa in Oxted, Surrey in 1897.  Later, while Crane was covering the Spanish-American War in 1898 as a journalist in Cuba, Cora negotiated with Moreton Frewen, the owner of Brede Place in Sussex, England, to rent the home. Many private individuals had lived in the house over the centuries, but it had been recently uninhabited. Stephen and Cora rented the home in February 1899, and Stephen wrote furiously during his time at the house.  He produced a remarkable number of works during this period, including a full novel, stories, and newspaper articles.

At Brede Place, Stephen and Cora entertained many of the leading luminaries in English literature, including Joseph Conrad, Henry James and H.G. Wells.  However, Stephen’s past financial debts and his battle against tuberculosis and malaria had followed him to Brede Place. His health failing, he traveled in 1900 from Brede Place to a tuberculosis sanatorium at Badenweiler, Germany, where he died on June 5, 1900.

Ames W. Williams (1912-1991), who wrote Stephen Crane: A Bibliography in 1948, donated his personal papers to the Booth Family Center for Special Collections.  In his gift, he included a set of photographs of Brede Place. One of those photographs is in Box 4 folder 128 of the Ames W. Williams Papers.  A note on the back of the photograph indicates that Crane wrote in the room above the entrance.   Williams made the photograph in December 1943.  This photograph measures approximately 7 ½” x 9 ½”.

Brede Place

11 more photographs of Brede Place are found in Box 1 folder 20.5,  five of which appear below. These photographs measure about 3” x 5”.  One of the photographs of the entrance to the house matches the photograph in box 4.  It appears that the larger photograph was reproduced from one of the smaller photographs.   Therefore, all of the photographs of Brede Place in the Ames W. Williams papers seem to date to December 1943.  Williams presumably made the photographs himself.

Brede Place  Brede Place

Brede Place

Brede Place

 

A fire ravaged Brede Place in 1979.  A restoration project from 1979 to 1983 rebuilt the house, and private individuals own the home again. The photographs of Brede Place from 1943 in the Ames W. Williams papers provide important visual evidence of the house before it was largely destroyed by fire.  The site remains the place of a brief but creative phase of Stephen Crane’s short life.

--Scott S. Taylor, Manuscripts Archivist

 

[1] Paul Sorrentino, Stephen Crane: A Life of Fire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 2014), 362.