Stephen Vincent Benét Yale College BA 1919

Stephen Vincent Benét(1898-1943) in 1919. Photo by Yale College. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Stephen Vincent Benét
Born July 22 1898(1898-Template:MONTHNUMBER-22)
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Died March 13 1943(1943-Template:MONTHNUMBER-13) (aged 44)
New York City, NY
Occupation Writer
Nationality United States American
Alma mater Yale
Period 20th century
Genres Poetry, short story, novel

Stephen Vincent Benét (July 22, 1898 - March 13, 1943) was an American poet, short story writer, and novelist.

Life Edit


Benét is best known for his book-length narrative poem of the American Civil War, John Brown's Body, and for 2 short stories, "The Devil and Daniel Webster" and "By the Waters of Babylon".


Benét was born into a military family in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. His grandfather and namesake led the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps, 1874–1891, with the rank of brigadier general.

Most of Benét's miserable young life was spent in California. At about age ten, he was sent to the Hitchcock Military Academy. He hated it so 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. Benet published his first book at age 17. He was awarded an M.A. in English upon submission of his 3rd volume of poetry in lieu of a thesis.[1] Benet was also a part-time contributor for the early Time magazine.[2]

Man of lettersEdit

Benet 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.[3] Benet published debut volumes by James Agee, Muriel Rukeyser, Jeremy Ingalls, and Margaret Walker.


Benét died of a heart attack in New York City, on March 13, 1943, at the age of 44.[4]


Benet won the 1929 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his 1928 Civil War epic, John Brown's Body. He was also awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1944 for Western Star, an unfinished narrative poem on the settling of America.

He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1931.[5]

Benet's fantasy short story, The Devil and Daniel Webster (1937), won an O. Henry Award. The story furnished the material for Scratch, a one-act opera by Douglas S. 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 real-life historic figure Daniel Webster encounters the Leviathan of biblical legend.

Benét maintained a home (commonly referred to as Benét House), in Augusta, Georgia. Part of Augusta College (now Augusta State University), it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971.

In popular cultureEdit

Benet adapted the guardian myth of the rape of the Sabine Women into the story The Sobbin' Women, which in turn was adapted into the movie musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

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.

In 2009, The Library of America selected Benét’s story “The King of Cats” for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American Fantastic Tales, edited by Peter Straub.

Publications Edit


Plays and scriptsEdit

  • Tamburlaine the Great (adapted by Benét and Monty Woolley from Christopher Marlowe's play). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1919.
  • Nerves (revision of John Farrar's play, by Benét and Farrar). New York, Comedy Theatre, 1 September 1924.
  • That Awful Mrs. Eaton (by Benét and Farrar). New York, Morosco Theatre, 29 September 1924.
  • Abraham Lincoln (adaptation by Benét, continuity and dialogue by Benét and Gerrit Lloyd). United Artists, 1930.
  • The Headless Horseman (opera; libretto by Benét and score by Douglas Moore). Boston: Schirmer, 1937.
  • The Devil and Daniel Webster (opera; libretto by Benét and score by Douglas Moore). New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1939.
  • The Devil and Daniel Webster: Play in One Act. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1939.
  • They Burned the Books (radio play). New York & Toronto: Farrar & Rinehart, 1942.
  • Listen to the People (radio play). New York: Council for Democracy, 1941.
  • Cheers for Miss Bishop (adaptation by Benét based on Bess Streeter Aldrich's novel Miss Bishop). United Artists, 1941.
  • All That Money Can Buy (screenplay by Benét and Dan Tothroth, based on Benét's short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster"). RKO, 1941.
  • A Child Is Born: A modern drama of the Nativity. Boston: W.H. Baker, 1942.
  • Dear Adolf: A letter to Hitler (radio play). New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1942. (.PDF)
  • America. New York & Toronto: Farrar & Rinehart, 1944; London & Toronto: Heinemann, 1944.
  • We Stand United, and other radio scripts. New York & Toronto: Farrar & Rinehart, 1945.


  • Young People's Pride: A novel. New York: Holt, 1922.
  • The Beginning of Wisdom. New York: Holt, 1921; London & Sydney: Chapman & Dodd, 1922.
  • Jean Huguenot. New York: Holt, 1923; London: Methuen, 1925.
  • The Barefoot Saint. Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, Doran, 1929.
  • James Shore's Daughter. New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1934; London: Heinemann, 1934.

Short fictionEdit

  • Spanish Bayonet. New York: Doran, 1926; London: Heinemann, 1926.
  • The Litter of the Rose Leaves. New York: Random House, 1930.
  • The Devil and Daniel Webster. Weston, VT: Countryman Press, 1937.
  • Thirteen O'Clock: Stories of several worlds. New York & Toronto: Farrar & Rinehart, 1937; London & Toronto: Heinemann, 1938.
  • Johnny Pye & the Fool-Killer. Weston, VT: Country Man Press, 1938; London & Toronto: Heinemann, 1939.
  • Tales Before Midnight. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1939; London & Toronto: Heinemann, 1940.
  • Twenty-five Short Stories. Sun Dial Press, 1943.[6]
  • O'Halloran's Luck, and other short stories. New York: Penguin, 1944.
  • Selected Stories. Dublin & London: Fridberg, 1947.


  • The Magic of Poetry and the Poet's Art. Chicago: F.E. Compton, 1936.[7].
  • My Favorite Fiction Character. Ysletta Press, 1938.
  • We Stand United: A declaration. New York: Council for Democracy, 1940.
  • A Summons to the Free. New York & Toronto: Farrar & Rinehart, 1941; London: Oxford University Press, 1941.
  • Tuesday, November 5th 1940. New York: House of Books, 1941.

Collected editionsEdit

  • Selected Works of Stephen Vincent Benét. (2 volumes), New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1942.
  • The Last Circle: Stories and poems. New York: Farrar, Straus, 1946; London & Toronto: Heinemann, 1948.


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[9]

The City Revisited Stephen Vincent Benét Audiobook Short Poetry

The City Revisited Stephen Vincent Benét Audiobook Short Poetry

Poems by Stephen Vincent BenétEdit

  1. Portrait of a Boy

See alsoEdit

The Ballad of William Sycamore by Stephen Vincent Benet 1898 1943

The Ballad of William Sycamore by Stephen Vincent Benet 1898 1943


  • Bleiler, Everett (1948). The Checklist of Fantastic Literature. Chicago: Shasta Publishers. pp. 46–47. 
  • Fenton, Charles A. (1958 repr. 1978). Stephen Vincent Benét: The life and times of an American man of letters, 1898-1943. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313202001. 


  1. The New Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 12, Micropaedia, 15th edition, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. c. 1989. Print.
  3. Bradley, George. The Yale Younger Poets Anthology, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, pp. 23 - 53
  4. 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. 
  5. "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 22 April 2011. 
  6. Twenty-Five Short Stories By Stephen Vincent Benet, Web, Apr. 13, 2014.
  7. Stephen Vincent Benet Bibliography, Stephen Vincent Benet: Essays on His Life and Work (edited by David Garrett Izzo & Lincoln Konkle), Chicago: McFarland, 2003, 236. Google Books, Web, Apr. 13, 2014.
  8. Selected Letters of Stephen Vincent Benét (1960), Internet Archive. Web, Apr. 13, 2014.
  9. Stephen Vincent Benét 1898-1943, Poetry Foundation. Web, Apr. 13, 2014.

External linksEdit

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