DuBose Heyward
  • DuBose Heyward

  • Date of birth: August 31, 1885
  • Died: June 16, 1940
  • Born: in Charleston, The United States.

  • Description: Edwin DuBose Heyward was a white American author best known for his 1925 novel Porgy. This novel was the basis for the play by the same name (which he co-authored with his wife Dorothy) and, in turn, the opera Porgy and Bess with music by George Gershwin.

    Heyward was born in 1885 in Charleston, South Carolina and was a descendant of Thomas Heyward, Jr., who was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of South Carolina. As a child and young man Heyward was frequently ill; he also caught polio when he was eighteen, then two years later contracted typhoid fever and the following year fell ill with pleurisy. Although he described himself as " a miserable student" who was uninterested in learning, and dropped out of high school in his first year, aged fourteen, he had a lifelong and serious interest in literature and passed the time in his sickbed writing verses and stories.

    In 1913 Heyward wrote a one-act play, An Artistic Triumph, which was produced in a local theater. Although a derivative work which reportedly showed little promise, this minor success encouraged him to pursue a literary career. In 1917, while convalescing from his illnesses, he began to devote himself seriously to fiction and poetry. In 1918 his first published short story, "The Brute," appeared in Pagan, a Magazine for Eudaemonists. The next year he met Hervey Allen, who was then teaching at the nearby Porter Military Academy. They became close friends and formed the Poetry Society of South Carolina, which helped spark a revival of southern literature; Heyward edited the society's yearbooks until 1924 and contributed much of their content. His poetry was well received, earning him a Contemporary Verse award in 1921. In 1922 he and Allen jointly published a collection, Carolina Chansons: Legends of the Low Country and they jointly edited a southern issue of Poetry magazine. During this period Heyward and a friend, Henry T. O'Neill, had operated a successful insurance and real estate company and by 1924 Heyward had achieved a measure of financial independence, allowing him to give up business and devote himself full time to literature. Between stints of writing he supplemented his income by lecturing on southern literature at colleges.[3]

    The poet and playwright Langston Hughes said Heyward was one who saw "with his white eyes, wonderful, poetic qualities in the inhabitants of Catfish Row that makes them come alive."[4] Biographer James M. Hutchisson characterizes Porgy as "the first major southern novel to portray blacks without condescension" and states that the libretto to Porgy and Bess was largely Heyward's work.[citation needed] Many critics have believed that Heyward was sympathetic in his portrayal of the Southern black. Others, however, have noted that the characters in Porgy, though viewed sympathetically, are still viewed for the most part as stereotypes.[citation needed]

    Heyward and his wife Dorothy, whom he met at the MacDowell Colony in 1922, spent many years in Charleston, where he taught at the Porter Military Academy, while observing and thinking deeply about the lives of blacks of that area. His mother participated in an amateur Southern singing society performing Gullah songs, and he sometimes joined her. It was open to anyone whose family had lived on a plantation, whether as owner or slave.[citation needed] In Charleston, Heyward found inspiration for his book, including what would become the setting (Catfish Row) and the main character (a disabled man named Porgy). Literary critics cast Heyward as an authority on Southern literature, later writing, "Heyward's attention to detail and reality of the Southern black's lifestyle was not only sympathetic but something that no one had ever seen done before."[citation needed]

    Opening on Broadway in 1927, the non-musical play "Porgy" was a considerable success, more so than the Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess e

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