An Experiment in Misery


Hamlin Garland said that he had passed along to Crane a suggestion W.D. Howells had made to him -- that he “go down and do a study of this midnight bread distribution which the papers are making so much of.” This sketch seems to be one of the results of Garland’s hint. A version of the meeting in which the suggestion was made is used to open the sketch in its first appearance, in the New York Press, April 22, 1894, Part 3, p.2:

Two men stood regarding a tramp.

“I wonder how he feels,” said one, reflectively. “I suppose he is homeless, friendless, and has, at the most, only a few cents in his pocket. And if this is so, I wonder how he feels.”

The other being the elder, spoke with an air of authoritative wisdom. “You can tell nothing of it unless you are in that condition yourself. It is idle to speculate about it from this distance.”

“I suppose so,” said the younger man, and then he added as from an inspiration: “I think I’ll try it. Rags and tatters, you know, a couple of dimes, and hungry, too, if possible. Perhaps I could discover his point of view or something near it.”

“Well, you might,” said the other, and from those words begins this veracious narrative of an experiment in misery.

The youth went to the studio of an artist friend, who, from his store, rigged him out in an aged suit and a brown derby hat that had been made long years before. And then the youth went forth. The situation between the “old friend” and the “younger man” is continued in the opening section of “An Experiment in Luxury,” a sequel to this sketch that appeared in the Press on the following Sunday.

This "matching" story appeared in the New York Press, April 29, 1894:

An Experiment in Luxury
The Experiences of a Youth Who
Sought Out Croesus.
A Fully Acrobatic Kitten Which Held
Great Richness at Bay.
Are there, After All, Burrs Under
Each Fine Cloak and Benefits
in All Beggars’ Garb?


“If you accept this invitation you will have an opportunity to make another social study,” said the old friend.

The youth laughed. “If they caught me making a study of them they’d attempt a murder. I would be pursued down Fifth avenue by the entire family.”

“Well,” persisted the old friend who could only see one thing at a time, “it would be very interesting. I have been told all my life that millionaires have no fun, and I know that the poor are always assured that the millionaire is a very unhappy person. They are informed that miseries swarm around all wealth, that all crowned heads are heavy with care, and --”

“But still --” began the youth.