Porgy (novel)

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This article is about the novel and play. For the fish, see Sparidae.
Porgy (novel).jpg
First library edition 1934
Author DuBose Heyward
Country United States
Language English
Publication date

Porgy is a novel written by the American author DuBose Heyward and published by the George H. Doran Company in 1925, as well as a play which Dorothy Heyward helped him to write which was premiered in 1927.

Even before the play had been fully written, Heyward was in discussions with George Gershwin for an operatic version of his novel, which appeared in 1935 as Porgy and Bess (renamed to distinguish it from the play).


The novel tells the story of Porgy, a crippled street-beggar in the black tenements of Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s. The character was based on the real-life Charlestonian Samuel Smalls.[1] Some passages in the novel have the characters speaking in the Gullah language.


DuBose Heyward's wife, Dorothy Heyward, began working on a staged adaptation of her husband's novel soon after it was published in 1925. Some elements of the storyline in the play differ considerably from those in the novel. George and Ira Gershwin, along with DuBose Heyward, based the libretto of their opera version, Porgy and Bess, not on the original novel, but on the play. (In the novel, after Bess leaves with "Sportin' Life" and goes to New York, Porgy merely returns from jail, disillusioned, and resumes being a beggar, without making any effort to find Bess. At the end of both the play and the opera, he begins a journey to New York, hoping to find her.)

Porgy opened on Broadway at the Guild Theatre (today's August Wilson Theatre) on October 10, 1927, and ran for 367 performances. It was directed by Rouben Mamoulian. In 1928, Bibo, Bloedon & Lang, Inc. (New York) secured the international copyright for 11 "Spiritual Songs" arranged and edited by George Shackley. These can be found in a "Souvenir Edition" of the play published by Bibo-Lang, Inc. Music Publishers, 1595 Broadway, NY.

A 1929 revival was less successful, opening on September 13, 1929, and closing one month later after only 34 performances at the Martin Beck Theatre (today's Al Hirschfeld Theatre).


  1. ^ "Porgy and Bess Brings Back Memories of Sammy Smalls", News and Courier, October 14, 1985.

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