Chicago Tribune Notes

  • Experiences of the Novelist of the Commodore.

Crane, working for the Bacheller-Johnson newspaper syndicate, sailed for Cuba to work as a war correspondent during the years preceding the Spanish-American war.

  • Commodore

Stephen Crane’s own story describes the sinking of the SS Commodore, a ship bound for Cuba from Jackonsville, Florida. The steamship, outfitted with a crew of 28 and munitions, sailed for Cuba with the intention of providing support for the rebels during the Cuban War of Independence.

  • …writes the story of the wreck and his narrow escape to the New York Press.

This opening paragraph is the first of many editorial interventions. The Chicago Tribune differs markedly from those versions published by other print houses. Of the four editions, the Tribune goes the farthest with its omissions and emendations – the Tribune keeps a mere 35% of the original text. In the following paragraphs, take note of how often and substantially the Tribune strays from Crane’s solid copy as published by the Press, and how the tone changes in light of these editorial choices.

  • On the decks of the Commodore there were exchanges of farewells in two languages.

Here is the first of several glaring omissions on the part of the Tribune. Preceding these words, the New York Press published an additional paragraph detailing the contents and condition of the Commodore. Compare this jump cut to the longwinded word painting in other versions. Is the Tribune, with its strict attention to fact and omission of detail, more ‘journalistic’ per se?

  • …we did considerable reflecting.

This is perhaps one of the largest omissions in the text, amounting to nearly 400 words on the details of the Boutwell. Notice the language omitted here: details of the ship’s gleaming exterior, the dialogue between two captains, and sensory phrases that change the pacing and substance of the text. How do these changes and the resulting styles change the story overall? How does concision impact the reader?

  • To The Lifeboats.

This section title was added by the Chicago Tribune.

  • Leeward

On or toward the side sheltered from the wind; downwind.

  • Davit

A small crane on board a ship, especially one of a pair for suspending or lowering a lifeboat.

  • Then

Appears as “them” in the New York Press.

  • “Shove Off.”

Section title added by Chicago Tribune.

  • Dingy

Modern spelling.

  • Left to Their Fate.

This section is a combination of the sections titled Mate’s Mad Plunge and Tried to Tow the Rafts from the New York Press.

  • But we tried it

In the New York Press Edition this sentence goes on to read, “and would have continued to try it indefinitely, but that some-thing critical came to pass.”

  • Note

This section, in New York Press, contains a description of a “crazed negro” who pulled on the line of the boat.

  • engineer

In the New York Press edition includes: “and all this time, mind you, there were no shrieks, no groans, but silence, silence, and silence ” after this.

  • lurched

Is originally the shorter word “turned” in New York Press.

  • swung

“afar” is inserted after “swung” in the New York Press.

  • by

New York Press includes “this frightful maw of” after this word.

  • ocean

Before this comes a description of the men on the dingy and a naming of the location they were headed too, Mosquito Inlet.

  • with clearness

Crane’s description as reported in the NYP was: amid the wildness of the breakers as clearly as if he had been on the quarter deck of a battleship.

  • He stripped off his clothes

Description from New York Press: as he ran the air was filled with clothes.

  • leaped into the water, and brought Mr. Crane ashore.

Crane was not the first man Kitchell removed from the water, first he retrieved the cook, then he went to the captain who sent him to Crane instead.

  • was lying clear of the water, dead.

Crane’s actually description was a little less blunt: “Billy Higgins, lying with his forehead on sand that was clear of the water, and he was dead. “