"TO… FRIENDS OF LONG STANDING (AND ONE OF THE REASONS I LOVE HARLEM)": SCARCE PRESENTATION FIRST EDITION OF SIMPLE TAKES A WIFE, INSCRIBED BY LANGSTON HUGHES
HUGHES, Langston. Simple Takes a Wife. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1953. Octavo, original laminated pictorial tan cloth. $2900.
First edition of the breakthrough second work in Hughes' popular series, praised as a "superior achievement" (New York Times), a presentation copy inscribed on the front flyleaf, "For the Tom Johnsons, friends of long standing (and one of the reasons I love Harlem), Sincerely, Langston. New York, April 22, 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. Without front free endpaper (blank). Bruccoli & Clark III:163. Blockson 6381. Inscribed to Dr. Thomas O. Johnson, a dentist with an office on 138th Street in Harlem, with his business card laid in.
Small chip at bottom corner of the first two leaves, not affecting Hughes' inscription. Some inevitable toning to paper, mild cloudiness to laminated boards. A near-fine copy, scarce and most desirable inscribed.