Percy, LANTERNS OF THE LEVEE. 1st Ed. in Excellent Jacket.
Percy, William Alexander. LANTERNS ON THE LEVEE. Recollections of a Planter's Son. New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 1941. . 347,  pages. Original blue cloth with gilt lettering and decorations on the spine and monogram in blind on front cover; top edge stained red. 22 x 15 cm. Near fine in like dust jacket. The jacket is just a little sun-faded on the spine panel, shows some minor wear, and has a tiny, closed tear at the head of the front panel. Still, an exceptionally nice copy.
FIRST EDITION. The acclaimed autobiography of a wealthy planter from the Mississippi Delta. William Alexander Percy (1885-1942) was the son of LeRoy Percy, the owner of the massive Trail Lake plantation near Greenville, a prominent lawyer, and a U.S. Senator. The younger Percy studied at Harvard, became an attorney, served in the First World War, stood with his father in his fight against the Ku Klux Klan in 1922, and led the local relief effort after the Mississippi flood of 1927. Following his father's death in 1929, he assumed management of his estate and the multitude of African Americans who worked it.
Percy supported segregation and his sense of racial superiority is plainly avowed in this memoir. On the other hand, "he tried to make Trail Lake a model of benevolent plantation management; his efforts were applauded outside the Delta but criticized at home for 'spoiling' the black tenants. Percy contributed to local intellectual life by entertaining such visitors as black poet Langston Hughes and psychoanalyst Harry Stack Sullivan, and he supported the 1930s crusades of Hodding Carter, who years later would win a Pulitzer Prize for his antiracist editorials." --Bertram Wyatt-Brown in ANB.
Percy was also a poet, but he is remembered today primarily for two things. One was raising his orphaned cousin, the acclaimed novelist Walker Percy. The other is Lanterns on the Levee, which has been praised more as a penetrating work of literature than as a documentary account. "The deep South, the old South, a new South, several Souths, move across Percy's autobiography. If the writing of one who has learned the craft counts, if candor and honesty and forthright confession count, if a heart and mind haunted by some of the most ancient issues of justice and charity count, this rates among the autobiographies requisite to understanding America." --Carl Sandburg (qt. on the dust jacket).
The book was a massive bestseller as well as a critical success, and there was a demand for ten printings in the first year alone. The first edition has become scarce with the dust jacket, especially in such nice condition.
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