Frank Stockton's short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" first published in 1882, tells the story of a "semi-barbaric" princess who is thrown into a difficult situation: having to decide whether her lover will marry another woman, or face a ravenous...
Frank R. Stockton was born in Philadelphia on April 5, 1834, and died at the age of 68 in April of 1902. By the time of his death, Stockton was a widely celebrated and beloved author of short stories and children's literature. In 1903, the year after Stockton's death, Edwin W. Boven published a biography of Stockton's life. Boven remarks on Stockton's world-renowned fame during his life: "Stockton is favorably known and read throughout the country. Nor is his fame confined to our American shores. His clever short stories and juvenile books have contributed to make his name in England almost as familiar as a household word, and his works were well-nigh as popular in English homes as his native land."
Stockton was educated in Philadelphia public schools. After he graduated from Central High School in 1850, he accepted a position at an engraver's office and intended to remain an engraver for the rest of his career. He was not encouraged to become a writer. Despite this, in 1867, he abandoned engraving work and became a journalist, starting as a staff reporter at the Philadelphia Morning Post. He later moved to New York City, where he became an associate editor at Hearth and Home. He also became a regular contributor to Punchinello and Vanity Fair. Later, he moved to the editorial staff of Scribner's Magazine and was appointed assistant editor of St. Nicholas, a juvenile monthly.
Stockton's most famous story was, and remains, "The Lady, or the Tiger?" Despite this, however, he was also very well known for his tales for children. In fact, he is remembered for revolutionizing children's literature. His stories began appearing at a time when there was little fantasy written for children published in the United States, other than Nathaniel Hawthorne's book of Greek myths. Stockton wrote of his artistic process, "I was young when I determined to write some fairy tales because my mind was full of them—I set to work, and in course of time, produced several which were printed. These were constructed according to my own ideas."
He was known as a person who had a warm place in his heart for the young. Boven writes that Stockton himself "never lost interest in youthful aspirations, hopes, and amusements. It was a young heart that beat in his bosom, and that heart never grew old, despite his advancing years." Stockton's children's literature was meant to teach good morals to his young readers and offer them good, wholesome amusement. Stockton was known for writing works that had high moral value. As Boven writes, "[Stockton] wrote nothing of a questionable character. . . He wrote nothing which he or anyone else could have wished blotted out because of its dubious morality."
Besides fiction for adults and children, Stockton wrote essays on science, travel, and history. He also translated French and German stories and poems and a book of real-life pirate tales, among a myriad of other published works during his prolific career. Many of his lesser-known writings were published under pseudonyms.