Date of this Version
University of Nebraska Studies : New Series no. 33
The central purpose of this study is to explore the nature of Waldo Frank's influence upon Hart Crane. More exactly, I will attempt to answer these questions: who was Waldo Frank, what body of ideas did he represent, and which of those ideas were important to Crane? Second, what part did Frank and his ideas play in the composition of Crane's most ambitious poem, The Bridge? These questions are the kind that demand for their satisfaction not only a knowledge of the ideas that each man represents, but also a knowledge of those ideas as they developed in a causal sequence. As in all biographical criticism, what must be accomplished is the recreation of an historical event. That these questions are worth answering should be evident from the following information.
In the fall of 1922, while one day reading the latest copy of Secession, Hart Crane was so struck by the power and honesty of a certain short story that he immediately sat down and dashed off a letter to its author, whom he had never met. The story was entitled "Hope," and the author was Waldo Frank. Frank was not long in returning the compliment. A month later he wrote a lengthy letter to Crane that contained acute critical praise for Crane's latest poem, "For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen," then being published by installment in the same magazine. Crane soon replied that "such major criticism as both you and Gorham have given my 'Faustus and Helen; is the most sensitizing influence I have ever encountered."! Soon after this, in the spring of 1923, Crane traveled to New York City and the two young writers met for lunch in the company of their common friend, Gorham Munson. On the day following, Crane confessed in a letter to Frank that "Yours is the most vital consciousness in America, and ... potentially I have responses which might prove interesting, even valuable, to us both." This is a laudatory statement, even for Crane, and represents in its magnitude a tribute he paid to no other writer of his time.