Lover of the Fancy

Early C20th American culture and dissent

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Tales of New York
Stephen Crane


Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893) is a novel by American writer Stephen Crane. Self-published by Crane when the author was only 22 years old, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets has since been recognised as the first work of American literary Naturalism. Inspired by his experience as a working reporter in Manhattan, Crane sought to explore the effects of poverty, alcoholism, and abuse on a character whose determination and moral goodness are entirely ill-suited for survival.

The story begins with Jimmie Johnson, a young boy whose family lives in squalor in Manhattan’s Bowery neighborhood. When he tries to fight a gang of older boys, Jimmie is saved by his best friend Pete, only to go home to parents who–in a drunken rage–frighten and abuse their three young children. The deaths of their father and young brother Tommie place an enormous burden Jimmie, who works as a teamster to support himself and his alcoholic mother. Although Maggie finds work as a seamstress and begins a promising relationship with Jimmie’s childhood friend Pete, her life is derailed by her family’s resentment and by the hypocrisy of her community. Forced onto the streets, Maggie Johnson must do whatever she can to survive. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets is a gritty novel that takes a hard look at the lowest and darkest parts of American society in the age of industry. What it finds is a loss of morality and a need for not only assistance and education, but a complete reassessment of what it means to be human.

Paperback, 72pp
Mint Editions, 2021 (1893)
ISBN 9781513269535


STEPHEN CRANE (1871-1900) was an American novelist, poet, and short story writer. Born in Newark, New Jersey to a family of Methodists, Crane was the youngest of fourteen children. He was a sickly child who excelled from a young age in reading and writing and, when he officially entered school at the age of nine, quickly surpassed the requirements and standards for his age group. As a teenager he attended military school, where he became a star baseball player and developed an interest in military life and history while performing poorly in academics. Crane briefly attended Syracuse University before embarking on a career as a full-time writer, composing short stories, sketches, and articles for several New York newspapers before using his own money to publish his first novella in 1893 after several publishers rejected Crane’s manuscript. Although it generated some critical praise, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets was largely a commercial failure for Crane. Despite this, the novella has since been recognized as an important early work of Crane’s and as an invaluable precursor to The Red Badge of Courage (1895), a Civil War novel which cemented the writer’s reputation as a leading voice in contemporary fiction and pioneer of realism and literary Naturalism. When an 1896 scandal tarnished his reputation at home, Crane travelled abroad to work as a war correspondent, met his common-law wife Cora Taylor, survived a shipwreck off the coast of Florida, and moved to England, where he befriended such figures as Joseph Conrad and H.G. Wells. After a period of financial difficulty, Crane succumbed to tuberculosis at a sanatorium in Germany at the age of 28.