Item #15440 LYRICS OF THE HEARTHSIDE. Paul Laurence Dunbar.


New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1899. Original olive-green cloth decorated and embossed in gilt.

First Edition of this early title by this African-American poet whose parents, before they met, had both been Kentucky slaves; his father escaped to Canada, and wound up fighting in the Civil War for the Massachusetts 55th Regiment; his mother escaped to Ohio. Dunbar was born and raised in Dayton, where at Central High School (Class of 1890) he would be the only black student, the president of the literary society, and the editor of the school newspaper; one of his classmates was Orville Wright who, shortly after his mother died, would drop out of school before graduating -- to devote time to his fledgling printing business, and then (1892) to his and brother Wilbur's new bicycle business. Dunbar's first book (published as a favor by Orville's father) came out in 1893; by the time this book came out, he was already ill with the tuberculosis that would claim his life seven years later, at age 33.

As with many of his books, some of the verse is in proper English -- for which Dunbar wished he would be known -- and some is in "black dialect" -- for which he was widely known and praised. One of the former type is "Sympathy," which ends with the line "I know why the caged bird sings!" -- from which came (many decades later) the title of Maya Angelou's first book. Despite his intellect, Dunbar's race dictated that he could find work only as an elevator operator (where he tried to sell his volumes of verse to passengers); in this line he was referring to himself in his elevator cage.

Included is a frontispiece photograph of the poet; the binding design, in matte and embossed gilt, is by Alice Morse (so initialed). This copy is in near-fine condition (minor rubbing at the extremities, spine gilt less than bright, Christmas 1907 endpaper inscription). Blanck 4925. Item #15440

Price: $375.00

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