January 21 - A Plea to Treat Me Nice

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On January 21, 1905, John Alden Carpenter in Chicago wrote to Paul Laurence Dunbar in Dayton.  Carpenter was in his late twenties and employed in his father's business, though he later became a significant American composer.  His letter to Paul was written on stationery of the "Geo. B. Carpenter & Co., Dealers in Twines & Cordage, Chicago."

I am forwarding you by registered mail manuscript copy of the song in question and sincerely hope that you will consider it a fit setting for your charming verses.  I do not want you to have the idea that I am one of [an] army of hopeless amateurs.  I am an amateur, but I hope not hopeless.

John Alden Carpenter to Paul Laurence Dunbar, January 21, 1905.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 1).

Carpenter used Paul's dialect poem "A Plea" as the lyrics for his song "Treat Me Nice," which was issued by a Chicago music publisher in 1905.  At the bottom of the first page was the acknowledgement, "Words used by kind permission of Paul Laurence Dunbar."

Treat me nice, Miss Mandy Jane,
Treat me nice.
Dough my love has tu'ned my brain,
Treat me nice.
I ain't done a t'ing to shame,
Lovahs all ac's jes' de same;
Don't you know we ain't to blame?
Treat me nice!


Excerpt from "A Plea," by Paul Laurence Dunbar.  Published in Lyrics of Love and Laughter (1903).

"Treat Me Nice" was one of Carpenter's first published songs, and on the front cover of the sheet music, Paul's name appeared above Carpenter's name.  After he evolved from amateur songwriter to prominent composer, "Treat Me Nice" was republished with Carpenter's name in large print at the top.