London: William Heinemann, 1937. 8vo (220 x 145 mm; 8 x 5¾ in.). 431 pages. Black-and-white plates. Original cloth; dust jacket. Dampstaining to jacket and covers. Provenance: Paul Robeson; Huntly Carter (ca 1862-1942), British writer and critic of performing and visual arts; Herbert P. J. Marshall (1906-1991), British writer, filmmaker, theater designer and director; Robert Hollister. Item #403107
FIRST EDITION, PAUL ROBESON'S COPY, signed by him on the pastedown. Paul Robeson’s copy, signed by him on the pastedown. Robeson was a contemporary of Coward’s and had great success in England after his 1928 performance in Show Boat where he established the definitive version of “Old Man River.” Paul and his wife Essie first met Coward in 1926, probably introduced by their mutual friend Rebecca West. Essie’s diaries reveal that she saw Coward a great deal during the winter of 1930-31, when he was the recipient of her woes about her marital difficulties with Robeson. “His attentions were evident from a letter Robeson wrote to Essie in January 1931: ‘I had a talk with NC. We talked frankly as he said he knew all the facts.... He was noncommittal, and rightly so. After all, his business with you is your concern, not mine....’ Robeson’s biographer. Martin Duberman, found ‘no evidence of a sexual affair.... Nonetheless, the oblique reference in Paul Robeson’s letter leaves the matter in doubt.’ Essie and Noël ‘stopped traffic’ when they arrived together at the NAACP ... annual ball at the Savoy” (Philip Hoare, Noël Coward: A Biography). Laid-in: Playbill for Coward’s Present Laughter at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. A fine association copy. .