"MY 13TH BOOK!": SCARCE PRESENTATION/ASSOCIATION FIRST EDITION OF SIMPLE TAKES A WIFE, INSCRIBED BY LANGSTON HUGHES TO PHILANTHROPIST AND LIFELONG FRIEND AMY SPINGARN, WHOSE HUSBAND JOEL AND BROTHER-IN-LAW ARTHUR EACH SERVED AS PRESIDENTS OF THE NAACP
HUGHES, Langston. Simple Takes a Wife. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1953. Octavo, original laminated pictorial tan cloth. $2800.
First edition of the breakthrough second work in Hughes' popular series, praised as a "superior achievement" (New York Times), a presentation/association copy inscribed to his close friend and benefactor Amy Spingarn, wife of NAACP President Joel Spingarn and sister-in-law of Arthur Spingarn, who succeeded Joel as NAACP President, with Hughes boldly inscribing on the colophon page, "Especially for Amy Spingarn—my 13th book! Sincerely, Langston, New York, April 13, 1953"—dated mere weeks after he was forced to testify before Joseph McCarthy's Subcommittee.
Simple Takes a Wife, the second in Hughes' popular series, won praise by Ralph Ellison as "a vivid picture of Negro life and its richness." On publication the New York Times declared it "a superior achievement to the first of the series, Simple Speaks His Mind (1950). The new book is more of a piece, the material is more carefully and competently arranged, more unexpectedly presented; it is more brilliant, more skillfully written, funnier, and perhaps just a shade more tragic than its predecessor… This is true humor with a bite to it, spoken in the authentic language of 135th Street." While Hughes, in his lifetime, was "an international figure and, notably, an inspiration for black writers in Africa and the Caribbean… only in recent years have his monumental accomplishments been fully realized… his insistence on the value of African-American culture resulted in an original 20th-century voice whose poetic innovations expanded the possibilities for all of American literature" (Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature I:242).
Hughes' 1957 Broadway play, Simply Heavenly, was largely based on Simple Takes a Wife. With "First Printing" on copyright page; as issued without dust jacket. Bruccoli & Clark III:163. Blockson 6381. Hughes inscribed this copy barely three weeks after he testified and defended himself before Joseph McCarthy's Senate Subcommittee. Philanthropist Amy Spingarn was the wife of civil rights leader Joel Spingarn, who served as president of the NAACP (1930-39), and established the prestigious Spingarn Medal. Her brother-in law was attorney Arthur Spingarn, who succeeded his brother as NAACP president (1940-1966). Upon meeting Amy and Arthur Spingarn in 1925, close "emotional ties were formed between Hughes and the Spingarn family that lasted for the rest of their lives. As Hughes' pro-bono attorney and personal friend for more than 40 years, Arthur Spingarn made the poet's concerns his own… Amy became a secret benefactress of the poet and a source of enduring encouragement" (Berry, Langston Hughes, 67). Joel Spingarn was, as well, a co-founder of the publishing house, Harcourt Brace, and a friend and colleague of W.E.B. Du Bois, "their personal rapport transcended race… In his first autobiography, soon after Spingarn's death, Du Bois wrote, 'I do not think that any other white man ever touched me emotionally so closely as Joel Spingarn" (Ellis, Race, War and Surveillance, 143). At Arthur Spingarn's death in 1971, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall paid tribute, saying, "If it had not been for Arthur Spingarn, we would not have an NAACP today" (New York Times). With laid-in newspaper clipping of the September 17, 1957 New York Times review of the third work in Hughes' series, Simple Stakes a Claim.
Only very tiny bit of rubbing to spine ends. A fine presentation copy with an especially important association.