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  • Published: 1 December 1992
  • ISBN: 9780553213621
  • Imprint: Bantam Dell
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 896
  • RRP: $19.99

Four Great American Classics



These four landmark novels of nineteenth-century American literature have gained a permanent place in our culture as great classics. They are not only part of our national heritage, but masterpieces of world literature whose deep and lasting influence is felt to this day.

The Scarlet Letter vividly records America’s moral and historical roots in Puritan New England and masterfully re-creates a society’s preoccupation with sin, guilt, and pride.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn carries readers along on Huck’s unforgettable journey down the Mississippi in America’s foremost comic epic—the first great novel in a truly American voice.

The Red Badge of Courage re-creates the brutal reality of war and its psychological impact on a young Civil War soldier in one of the most moving and widely read American novels.

Billy Budd, Sailor, and Other Stories joins the world’s great tragic literature as a doomed seaman becomes the innocent victim of a clash between social authority and individual freedom.

  • Published: 1 December 1992
  • ISBN: 9780553213621
  • Imprint: Bantam Dell
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 896
  • RRP: $19.99

About the authors

Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane (1871–1900) was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of a Methodist minister and the daughter of a Methodist bishop. 'Stevie,' their fourteenth and last child, turned from his devout roots to a young manhood of pool, poker, and baseball. Following preparatory school at Claverack College, his formal, but hardly his real, education ended with one semester at Lafayette and one at Syracuse University.

Maggie, a Girl of the Streets appeared in 1893, part of it written at Syracuse, part in New York City's Bowery. Slum life and war attracted Crane imaginatively and then literally. The Red Badge of Courage (1895) made him famous before he ever saw any fighting. Active as a reporter in the West, Mexico, Greece, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, he eventually became involved romantically, and perhaps chivalrously, with Cora Howorth Stewart (Taylor), madame of the Hotel de Dream in Jacksonville, Florida.

Crane penultimately settled down with Cora Howorth Stewart (Taylor) in England in 1899, writing energetically to pay debts and alternately enjoying and feeling plagued by the company of visiting writers, among them Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and H. G. Wells.

He died on June 5, 1900, in Badenweiler, Germany, where he and Cora had sought relief for his tuberculosis. After his death Cora returned to her former profession in Jacksonville, opening a new house modelled, so the legend goes, along the lines of Brede Place, the medieval pile they had occupied in England.

Two volumes of poetry, The Black Riders and Other Lines (1895) and War Is Kind (1899); several volumes of later fiction, including some of his very best as well as some hasty and sentimental work; and an unfinished romance, The O'Ruddy (published in 1903 as completed by Robert Barr), form part of the ten-volume Works, edited by Fredson Bowers and published (1969–75) by the University Press of Virginia.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain's real name was Sam Clemens, and he was born in 1835 in a small town on the Mississippi, one of seven children. He smoked cigars at the age of eight, and aged nine he stowed away on a steamboat. He left school at 11 and worked at a grocery store, a bookstore, a blacksmith's and a newspaper, where he was allowed to write his own stories (not all of them true). He then worked on a steamboat, where he got the name 'Mark Twain' (from the call given by the boat's pilot when their boat is in safe waters). Eventually he turned to journalism again, travelled round the world, and began writing books which became very popular. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are his most famous novels. He poured the money he earned from writing into new business ventures and crazy inventions, such as a clamp to stop babies throwing off their bed covers, a new boardgame, and a hand grenade full of extinguishing liquid to throw on a fire. With his shock of white hair and trademark white suit Mark Twain became the most famous American writer in the world. He died in 1910.

Herman Melville

Herman Melville was born on August 1, 1819, in New York City, the son of a merchant. Only twelve when his father died bankrupt, young Herman tried work as a bank clerk, as a cabin-boy on a trip to Liverpool, and as an elementary schoolteacher, before shipping in January 1841 on the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific. Deserting ship the following year in the Marquesas, he made his way to Tahiti and Honolulu, returning as ordinary seaman on the frigate United States to Boston, where he was discharged in October 1844. Books based on these adventures won him immediate success. By 1850 he was married, had acquired a farm near Pittsfield, Massachussetts (where he was the impetuous friend and neighbor of Nathaniel Hawthorne), and was hard at work on his masterpiece Moby-Dick.

Literary success soon faded; his complexity increasingly alienated readers. After a visit to the Holy Land in January 1857, he turned from writing prose fiction to poetry. In 1863, during the Civil War, he moved back to New York City, where from 1866-1885 he was a deputy inspector in the Custom House, and where, in 1891, he died. A draft of a final prose work, Billy Budd, Sailor, was left unfinished and uncollated, packed tidily away by his widow, where it remained until its rediscovery and publication in 1924.