1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Crawford, Francis Marion

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CRAWFORD, FRANCIS MARION (1854-1909), American author, was born at Bagni di Lucca, Italy, on the 2nd of August 1854, being the son of the American sculptor Thomas Crawford (q.v.), and the nephew of Julia Ward Howe, the American poet. He studied successively at St Paul's school, Concord, New Hampshire; Cambridge University; Heidelberg; and Rome. In 1879 he went to India, where he studied Sanskrit and edited the Allahabad Indian Herald. Returning to America he continued to study Sanskrit at Harvard University for a year, contributed to various periodicals, and in 1882 produced his first novel, Mr Isaacs, a brilliant sketch of modern Anglo-Indian life mingled with a touch of Oriental mystery. This book had an immediate success, and its author's promise was confirmed by the publication of Dr Claudius (1883). After a brief residence in New York and Boston, in 1883 he returned to Italy, where he made his permanent home. This accounts perhaps for the fact that, in spite of his nationality, Marion Crawford's books stand apart from any distinctively American current in literature. Year by year he published a number of successful novels: A Roman Singer (1884), An American Politician (1884), To Leeward (1884), Zoroaster (1885), A Tale of a Lonely Parish (1886), Marzio's Crucifix (1887), Saracinesca (1887), Paul Patoff (1887), With the Immortals (1888), Greifenstein (1889), Sant' Ilario (1889), A Cigarette-maker's Romance (1890), Khaled (1891), The Witch of Prague (1891), The Three Fates (1892), The Children of the King (1892), Don Orsino (1892), Marion Darche (1893), Pietro Ghisleri (1893), Katharine Lauderdale (1894), Love in Idleness (1894), The Ralstons, (1894), Casa Braccio (1895), Adam Johnston's Son (1895), Taquisara (1896), A Rose of Yesterday (1897), Corleone (1897), Via Crucis (1899), In the Palace of the King (1900), Marietta (1901), Cecilia (1902), Whosoever Shall Offend (1904), Soprano (1905), A Lady of Rome (1906). He also published the historical works, Ave Roma Immortalis (1898), Rulers of the South (1900) — renamed Sicily, Calabria and Malta in 1904, — and Gleanings from Venetian History (1905). In these his intimate knowledge of local Italian history combines with the romancist's imaginative faculty to excellent effect. But his place in contemporary literature depends on his novels. He was a gifted narrator, and his books of fiction, full of historic vitality and dramatic characterization, became widely popular among readers to whom the realism of “problems” or the eccentricities of subjective analysis were repellent, for he could unfold a romantic story in an attractive way, setting his plot amid picturesque surroundings, and gratifying the reader's intelligence by a style at once straightforward and accomplished. The Saracinesca series shows him perhaps at his best. A Cigarette-maker's Romance was dramatized, and had considerable popularity on the stage as well as in its novel form; and in 1902 an original play from his pen, Francesca da Rimini, was produced in Paris by Sarah Bernhardt. He died at Sorrento on the 9th of April 1909.