Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 July 2010
“World of Letters.” New York Mail and Express, October 11, 1899, p. 6
In “The Red Badge of Courage,” Mr. Stephen Crane wrote of a war that he did not see, in “Active Service” he tells us of a war that he did see, and which was not. Talk there was—Southern eloquence in comparison with which Daudet's Tarasconnais are taciturn—and embraces, kisses of transport and patriotism, shouts and songs, but no fighting. The modern Epaminondases and Leonidases played the most pitiful farce of modern history, and with their Crownprince marched up the hill and down again. Of all this opera bouffe campaign, which he went to report for a New York paper, Mr. Crane saw but one salient feature—the only one to be seen—and that was emotion misdirected in the channel of talk. There was not even mismanagement, or bad leadership—nothing but a skyrocket that fizzled in the air, and came down a smoking stick. The romance of modern Greece has been effectively dispelled by the modern Greeks themselves.
Having started out to tell a story about a war that was not war at all, Mr. Crane was forced to find its main interest elsewhere. The war, therefore, is mainly one between two women, in which the good one wins in the end, though she, like some of the other characters, occasionally behaves in such a puzzling manner as to perplex the reader.