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Stephen Vincent Benét

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Title: Stephen Vincent Benét  
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Subject: Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, William Rose Benét, O. Henry Award, List of years in poetry, The Devil and Daniel Webster (film)
Collection: 1898 Births, 1943 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Novelists, 20Th-Century American Poets, American Male Novelists, American Male Poets, American Male Short Story Writers, American People of Catalan Descent, American Short Story Writers, Deaths from Myocardial Infarction, Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Guggenheim Fellows, O. Henry Award Winners, People from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Poets from Pennsylvania, Pulitzer Prize for Poetry Winners, The Yale Record Alumni, Writers from Pennsylvania, Yale University Alumni
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Stephen Vincent Benét

Stephen Vincent Benét
Stephen Vincent Benét, Yale College B.A., 1919
Born (1898-07-22)July 22, 1898
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, United States
Died March 13, 1943(1943-03-13) (aged 44)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation Writer
Nationality American
Alma mater Yale University
Period 20th century
Genre Poetry, short story, novel
Notable works John Brown's Body (1929)
The Devil and Daniel Webster (1936)
By the Waters of Babylon (1937)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) (adapted from Benét's story The Sobbin' Women)
Notable awards Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1929)
O. Henry Award (1937)
Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1944, posthumous)
Children Thomas, Stephanie, and Rachel
Relatives William Rose Benét (brother)
Laura Benét (sister)

Stephen Vincent Benét (July 22, 1898 – March 13, 1943) was an American author, poet, short story writer, and novelist. Benét is best known for his book-length narrative poem of the American Civil War, John Brown's Body (1928), for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1929, and for two short stories, "The Devil and Daniel Webster" (1936) and "By the Waters of Babylon" (1937). In 2009, The Library of America selected Benét’s story "The King of the Cats" (1929) for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American Fantastic Tales, edited by Peter Straub.


  • Life and career 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Man of letters 1.2
    • Death and legacy 1.3
  • Selected works 2
  • References 3
  • Sources 4
  • External links 5

Life and career

Early life

Benét was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to James Walker Benét, a colonel in the United States Army, and his wife. His grandfather and namesake was a Minorcan descendant born in St. Augustine, Florida, who led the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps, 1874–1891, with the rank of brigadier general; he was a graduate of the United States Military Academy and served in the American Civil War. The younger Benét's paternal uncle, Laurence Vincent Benét, a graduate of Yale, was an ensign in the United States Navy during the Spanish–American War and later manufactured the French-Hotchkiss machine gun.[1][2]

At about age ten, Benét was sent to the Hitchcock Military Academy. He graduated from The Albany Academy in Albany, New York and Yale University, where he was "the power behind the Yale Lit", according to Thornton Wilder, a fellow member of the Elizabethan Club. He also edited[3] and contributed light verse to campus humor magazine The Yale Record.[4] Benét published his first book at age 17. He was awarded an M.A. in English upon submission of his third volume of poetry in lieu of a thesis.[5] Benét was also a part-time contributor for the early Time magazine.[6]

Man of letters

Benét helped solidify the place of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition and the Yale University Press during his decade-long judgeship of the competition.[7] Benét published the first volumes of James Agee, Muriel Rukeyser, Jeremy Ingalls, and Margaret Walker. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1931.[8]

Benét's fantasy short story about a devil, The Devil and Daniel Webster (1936) won an O. Henry Award. He furnished the material for Scratch, a one-act opera by Douglas Moore. The story was filmed in 1941 and shown originally under the title All That Money Can Buy. Benét also wrote a sequel, Daniel Webster and the Sea Serpent, in which the man Daniel Webster encounters the Leviathan of biblical legend.

Young Benét lived in a home (commonly referred to as

External links

  • Fenton, Charles A. (1978) [1958]. Stephen Vincent Benét: The Life and Times of an American Man of Letters, 1898–1943. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.  


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ "Stephen Vincent Benét". Obituary Record of Graduates of Yale University Deceased during the Year 1942–1943. New Haven: Yale University. January 1, 1944. p. 123.
  4. ^ Bronson, Francis W., Thomas Caldecott Chubb, and Cyril Hume, eds. (1922) The Yale Record Book of Verse: 1872-1922. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 16–17, 24, 42–43, 50–51, 67–68, 82–83.
  5. ^ The New Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol. 12, Micropaedia, 15th edition, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. c. 1989
  6. ^ [3]
  7. ^ Bradley, George. The Yale Younger Poets Anthology, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, pp. 23–53
  8. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 22 April 2011. 
  9. ^ Weicksel, Amanda (2001). "Stephen Vincent Benét". Literary and Cultural Heritage Map of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Center for the Book, Penn State University. Retrieved May 24, 2010. 
  10. ^ Canby, Henry Seidel. "The 100 Outstanding Books of 1924–1944". Life Magazine, 14 August 1944. Chosen in collaboration with the magazine's editors.
  11. ^ Stephen Vincent Benét, Nathan Wallach (1917). The Drug-shop, Or Endymion in Edmonstoun. Yale University Press. 


  • Western Star, 1943 (unfinished)
  • Twenty Five Short Stories, 1943
  • America, 1944
  • O'Halloran's Luck and Other Short Stories, 1944
  • We Stand United, 1945 (radio scripts)
  • The Bishop's Beggar, 1946
  • The Last Circle, 1946
  • Selected Stories, 1947
  • From the Earth to the Moon, 1958

These works were published posthumously:

  • Five Men and Pompey, a series of dramatic portraits, Poetry, 1915
  • The Drug-Shop, or, Endymion in Edmonstoun (Yale University Prize Poem), 1917[11]
  • Young Adventure: A book of Poems, 1918
  • Heavens and Earth, 1920
  • The Beginnings of Wisdom: A Novel, 1921
  • Young People's Pride: A Novel, 1922
  • Jean Huguenot: A Novel, 1923
  • The Ballad of William Sycamore: A Poem, 1923
  • King David: A two-hundred-line ballad in six parts, 1923
  • Nerves, 1924 (A play, with John Farrar)
  • That Awful Mrs. Eaton, 1924 (A play, with John Farrar)
  • Tiger Joy: A Book of Poems, 1925
  • The Mountain Whippoorwill: How Hill-Billy Jim Won the Great Fiddler's Prize: A Poem., 1925
  • Spanish Bayonet, 1926
  • John Brown's Body, 1928
  • The Barefoot Saint: A Short Story, 1929
  • The Litter of Rose Leaves: A Short Story, 1930
  • Abraham Lincoln, 1930 (screenplay with Gerrit Lloyd)
  • Ballads and Poems, 1915–1930, 1931
  • A Book of Americans, 1933 (with Rosemary Carr Benét, his wife)
  • James Shore's Daughter: A Novel, 1934
  • The Burning City, 1936 (includes 'Litany for Dictatorships')
  • The Magic of Poetry and the Poet's Art, 1936
  • By the Waters of Babylon, 1937
  • The Headless Horseman: one-act play, 1937
  • Thirteen O'Clock, 1937
  • Johnny Pye and the Fool Killer: A Short Story, 1938
  • Tales Before Midnight: Collection of Short Stories, 1939
  • The Ballad of the Duke's Mercy, 1939
  • Elementals, 1940–41 (broadcast)
  • Freedom's Hard-Bought Thing, 1941 (broadcast)
  • Listen to the People, 1941
  • A Summons to the Free, 1941
  • Cheers for Miss Bishop, 1941 (screenplay with Adelaide Heilbron, Sheridan Gibney)
  • Selected Works, 1942 (2 vols.)
  • Short Stories, 1942
  • Nightmare at Noon: Short Poem, 1942 (in The Treasury Star Parade, ed. by William A. Bacher)
  • A Child is Born, 1942 (broadcast)
  • They Burned the Books, 1942
  • They Burned the Books, 1942 (broadcast)

Selected works

Benét fathered three children: Thomas, Stephanie, and Rachel. His brother, William Rose Benét, was a poet, anthologist and critic who is largely remembered for his desk reference Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia (1948). His sister Laura Benét was also an author.

His play John Brown's Body was staged on Broadway in 1953, in a three-person dramatic reading featuring Tyrone Power, Judith Anderson, and Raymond Massey, and directed by Charles Laughton. The book of the same name was included in Life Magazine's list of the 100 outstanding books of 1924–1944.[10]

He adapted the Roman myth of the rape of the Sabine Women into the story "The Sobbin' Women". It was adapted as the movie musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

The title of Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a history of Native Americans in the American West in the late nineteenth century, is taken from the final phrase of Benét's poem "American Names". The full quotation, "I shall not be there/I shall rise and pass/Bury my heart at Wounded Knee," appears at the beginning of Brown's book. Benet's poem is not about the plight of native Americans, and Benet would have been unlikely to approve of the author's tenditious approach. Wounded Knee, (a village on a reservation in South Dakota) was the location of last major confrontation between the U.S. Army and American Indians. The event is known formally as the Wounded Knee Massacre, as more than 150, largely unarmed, Sioux men, women, and children were killed that day.

Benét died of a heart attack in New York City, on March 13, 1943, at the age of 44[9] and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Stonington, Connecticut, where he had owned the historic Amos Palmer House. He was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1944 for Western Star, an unfinished narrative poem on the settling of the United States.

Death and legacy
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