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Frank R. Stockton


Centurion, 1890–1902

Full Name Frank Richard Stockton

Born 5 April 1834 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Died 20 April 1902 in Washington, District of Columbia

Buried Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Proposed by Thomas Moran and Charles Collins

Elected 1 November 1890 at age fifty-six

Archivist’s Note: Author of the short story “The Lady, or the Tiger?”

Century Memorial

It was but a dozen years ago that Frank R. Stockton entered the fellowship of The Century, in which he soon became exceedingly at home, winning friends here as he won them all over the land and in other lands by the charm of his keen and kindly mind shining in all that he wrote and said. He had an extraordinary capacity for work and a rare talent for diversion, and The Century was honored by his well-earned fame and fortunate in its share in his ever fresh and varying companionship. Stockton came late to so much of success as depends on popularity. He was forty-five when the American public first awoke to his inimitable quality in the Rudder Grange stories, and nearly fifty when the English-speaking world was plunged into delicious bepuzzlement over the riddle of The Lady or the Tiger. But he was already known to a wide circle of eager little friends, watching month by month for his fascinating children’s tales in St. Nicholas. For years before this time he had been that hardest working of hard workers—the office journalist. He brought to his later work the discipline of long and rather tedious labor, with the capital amassed by acute observation, on which his original imagination wrought the sparkling miracles that we know. He has been called the representative American humorist. He was that in the sense that the characters he created had much of the audacity of the American spirit, the thirst for adventure in untried fields of thought and action, the subconscious seriousness in the most incongruous situations, the feeling of being at home no matter what happens. But how amazingly he mingled a broad philosophy with his fun, a philosophy not less wise and comprehending than his fun was compelling! If his humor was American, it was also cosmopolitan, and had its laughing way not merely with our British kinsmen, but with alien peoples across the usually impenetrable barrier of translation. The fortune of his jesting lay not in the ears, but in the hearts of his hearers. It was at once appealing and revealing. It flashed its playful light into the nooks and corners of our own being and wove close bonds with those at whom we laughed. There was no bitterness in it. He was neither satirist nor preacher, nor of set purpose a teacher, though it must be a dull reader that does not gather from his books the lesson of the value of a gentle heart and a clear, level outlook upon our perplexing world.

Edward Cary
1903 Century Association Yearbook