Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 July 2010
“New Novels.” Manchester Guardian, April 2, 1902, p. 3
The unusual interest that attaches to the posthumous book of a writer who died while his powers were still unfulfilled is keenly roused by Mr. Stephen Crane's LAST WORDS. Although it would be unfair to criticise this heterogeneous collection of tales and sketches as though it were a finished performance put forward by the author himself, yet we may take it, in its very variety and unevenness, as affording clues to a singular and distinctive temperament. Here we find studies of London, New York, and Ireland; war stories of two centuries, besides sketches and tales, some humorous and some tragic. One quality, the quality of nervous force, runs through all these. The style, quick and pointed, is the same throughout. But the level of excellence reached is astonishingly different. While the humorous sketches all fall flat and the fanciful and imaginative sketches are failures, we find the impressionist studies of great cities and all the war stories and sketches most effective after their kind. It is by comparing his failure with his success that we gain an insight into Mr. Stephen Crane's peculiar faculty. It is an absolutely modern one, the fruit of life in great cities—that of working on the nerve. The tumult of his nerves makes itself felt in describing the ordinary affairs of life, even in comedy, and the result is often jarring and unpleasant. Movements of excitement rouse them to fury.