RARE PIECES OF GONE WITH THE WIND MANUSCRIPT RETURN TO ATLANTA
Atlanta History Center Displays Final Chapters of Manuscript
ATLANTA, GA – Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel, Gone With the Wind, occupies an important place in American literature. After breaking publishing records with one million copies in print within six months, the novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, has been translated into over forty languages, and remains one of the best-selling novels of all time.
In May 1939, Atlanta native Margaret Mitchell wrote to George Brett and said of her award-winning novel, “Long ago, I gave up thinking of “Gone With the Wind” as my book; it’s Atlanta’s.” It is only fitting that seventy-five years after the publication of Gone With the Wind, a rare piece of her manuscript, once thought to be destroyed, will find its way back to Atlanta.
As part of the Gone With the Wind 75th Anniversary programming, the Atlanta History Center is honored to be one of only two venues to display chapters of the original Gone With the Wind manuscript. On loan from the Pequot Library in Southport Connecticut, these pages are “considered a precious literary artifact,” according to Chris Coover, head of Rare Books & Manuscripts at Christie’s.
Atlanta’s Book: The Lost Gone With the Wind Manuscript, on display at the Atlanta History Center June 4 – September 5, 2011, will feature the last four chapters of the book, with the individual sheets of chapter sixty-three, the final chapter, mounted on the wall for visitors to view and read. Some of the pages feature handwritten changes by Mitchell and her husband, John Marsh. The manuscript was given to the Pequot Library in the 1950s by George P. Brett, Jr., who was president of their Board of Trustees at the time, and served as chairman of the American division of Macmillan Publishing and secured publishing rights to Gone With the Wind.
The pages surfaced in the library’s Special Collections department when Ellen Brown, co-author of the new book Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood, approached Pequot Library Director Dan Snydacker about Brett’s donation during her research. Realizing the importance of their collection and the coming celebration of the 75th anniversary of the book, Snydacker began planning the Library’s exhibit and found the manuscript listed in the catalogue of the Special Collections. Snydacker was thrilled with the discovery and began the effort to bring it to the public both in Southport and Atlanta. “Taking it back to Atlanta seemed like the perfect way to complete this chapter of the history of the book,” said Snydacker, “and the Atlanta History Center was the perfect place for it to be displayed. It puts the spotlight on the book and on Pequot Library’s internationally important Special Collections.”
Worldwide, Mitchell's novel has touched readers and captured imaginations, setting many individuals on a journey to visit Atlanta to walk in Mitchell’s footsteps and experience Scarlett's South. For a complete Gone With the Wind experience, guests can save 20% when purchasing dual tickets to the Atlanta History Center and Margaret Mitchell House, birthplace of Gone With the Wind.
Atlanta’s Book: The Lost Gone With the Wind Manuscript, Turning Point: The American Civil War, and War in Our Backyards: Discovering Atlanta, 1861-1865 are all included with Atlanta History Center general admission. For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit AtlantaHistoryCenter.com.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCUMENTS:
Letters and correspondence show that Margaret Mitchell basically wrote Gone With the Wind twice. Compiled over ten years, the first iteration consisted of a loose and incomplete assemblage of rough-draft chapters kept individually in a growing pile of manila envelopes in Mitchell’s apartment. In April 1935, Mitchell turned over this untitled document to Harold Latham, Macmillan editor in chief, while he was in Atlanta. In July, the publisher offered Mitchell a contract with the understanding that the manuscript required substantial work to complete the storyline. At that point, Mitchell asked Latham to send the draft back because she had not made carbon copies as she was writing. The firm returned the sole copy of the first draft – which it called “A Manuscript of the Old South” – to Mitchell that August.
For the next six months, Mitchell reworked the manuscript, completed missing chapters, and exhaustively edited the existing ones for grammar, style, dialect, historical accuracy, and internal consistency. She also deleted several chapters and scenes. Mitchell sent this second draft to Macmillan in sections as the pages were completed, making carbon copies for herself of this second iteration of her novel. The final batch of pages was sent to Macmillan in late January 1936. Due to production deadlines, Macmillan put the chapters into typesetting as soon as they were received. The pages were not initially subjected to any substantive editing or copyediting, but letters reveal she still was not happy with the revised chapters and continued to make corrections and edits on the carbons. She then sent corrected carbons to Macmillan to make adjustments as the book was being typeset. By now, the manuscript had a title: Gone With the Wind.
As Brown noted, “As far as we know, there was no sharing of edited pages back and forth between Macmillan and the author, so, with a fair degree of certainty, the document at the Pequot Library appears to be the one and only manuscript version of the iconic final chapter of Gone With the Wind. While there may have been later edits made to that section of the book they likely would have been made on long galley sheets or on Mitchell’s carbons. To our knowledge, she did not send any revised chapters on clean typed pages after January 1936.”
Brown continues: “This discovery is astounding. After Gone With the Wind was published in June 1936, Macmillan asked Mitchell if it could display a few pages of the manuscript at the New York Times Book Fair that fall. She refused, saying she did not like the idea of authors being judged on their drafts. She thought readers should evaluate an author only on the finished product, and that it was essentially an invasion of privacy to look behind the printed book. However, she was glad Macmillan had asked because its inquiry brought to her attention the fact that she did not have the manuscript and wanted it back. Panic ensued when Macmillan realized it did not know where the manuscript was. The document eventually was located in a Macmillan vault. The publisher shipped the document back to her, minus three pages, which she reluctantly allowed them to display at the book fair. Those pages later were returned to her.”
For the rest of her life, Mitchell was asked to display or donate the manuscript to various institutions, said Brown’s co-author, John Wiley Jr. She declined, claiming she had already or was going to destroy the document. (In 1937, she allowed a single page from a deleted section of the original manuscript to be reproduced to illustrate a magazine article about her.) After her death, Mitchell’s husband apparently destroyed the bulk of the “Manuscript of the Old South” as well as the draft Gone With the Wind manuscript. He did, however, set aside a few sections and place them in a safe deposit box should they ever be needed to establish Mitchell’s authorship. Those pages remain in a bank vault today.
“To have in hand any portion of the manuscript is remarkable – to have the final chapter absolutely thrilling. It surely ranks among the most precious literary artifacts in America,” Wiley said.
Throughout 2011, the Atlanta History Center's Margaret Mitchell House, located in Midtown Atlanta, celebrates the 75th anniversary of the publication of Mitchell’s acclaimed novel with a series of exclusive public programs for Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind 75th Anniversary Celebration. For a full description of these programs, updates, admission discounts, and other 75th Anniversary activities at the Margaret Mitchell House, please visit MargaretMitchellHouse.com/GWTW75.
ABOUT THE ATLANTA HISTORY CENTER:
Founded in 1926, the Atlanta History Center is an all-inclusive, thirty-three acre destination featuring the Atlanta History Museum, one of the Southeast’s largest interactive history museums; two historic houses, the 1928 Swan House and the 1860 Smith Family Farm; the Centennial Olympic Games Museum; the Kenan Research Center; the Grand Overlook event space; Chick-Fil-A at the Coca-Cola Café, a museum shop, and acres of Historic Gardens with paths and the kid-friendly Connor Brown Discovery Trail. In addition, the History Center operates the Margaret Mitchell House. Located in Midtown Atlanta, the two-acre campus features tours of the apartment where Margaret Mitchell wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gone With the Wind, an exhibition highlighting the life of Margaret Mitchell, a Gone With the Wind movie exhibition, and a museum shop.
Book Review - ‘Gone With the Wind' has its own story
By Ben Steelman
Published: Saturday, May 28, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 7:51 p.m.
On June 30, 1936, Macmillan formally released Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind."
Seventy-five years later, Virginia writers Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley III have produced a biography not of the writer but of the book: How an unwieldy, 400,000-word manuscript went into print – at a jaw-dropping $3 per copy, big money during the Great Depression – how it made it into the movies and how it became a worldwide phenomenon with a half-life extending into the 21st century.
Much of "Margaret Mitchell's ‘Gone With the Wind': A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood" will appeal mainly to book collectors, hardcore GWTW fans and those involved in the book trade. There's much here, though, that will enthrall the general reader as well as the wannabe author.
Mitchell – the Atlanta lawyer's daughter blackballed by the Junior League for a scandalous "Apache dance" at a charity ball – had grown up on stories of the Civil War and its aftermath. Suddenly divorced from an alcoholic, probably abusive husband (the likely model for Rhett Butler), she cut her teeth as a feature writer for the Atlanta Journal's Sunday magazine.
By the mid-1920s, however, arthritis and back injuries from an auto accident forced Mitchell to give up full-time reporting.
She seems to have taken up the big novel to keep her mind occupied, originally thinking of "Tomorrow Is Another Day" or "Tote the Weary Load" as possible titles. "Gone With the Wind" came later, inspired by a line from the English poet Ernest Dowson's "Cynara."
With a basic outline in her head, Mitchell apparently wrote the last chapter first, then skipped around, composing chapters out of order. She stored chapter drafts in manila envelopes, which soon stuffed the small apartment she kept with her husband, John Marsh, a mid-level executive with Georgia Power; some occasionally propped up tables.
The rough draft seems to have been finished by 1929, but then Mitchell laid it aside. Then, in 1935, Macmillan editor Harold Latham passed through Atlanta on a scouting trip and looked up Mitchell on the advice of his assistant, Lois Dwight Cole, a former Atlantan. Mitchell had introduced Cole to her future husband, and the two had been close friends.
Brown and Wiley give us a dramatic scene of Mitchell, her hair frazzled, rushing the half-finished manuscript to Latham's hotel room with bellboys following behind to pick up manila envelopes as they dropped from the stack in her hands.
The novel went through an extensive rewrite. Mitchell had called her heroine "Pansy O'Hara" until relatively late. Apparently, Latham warned her that "pansy" was slang for a male homosexual in other parts of the country. She then switched to Scarlett.
Brown and Wiley carry the story past Mitchell's death in 1949 through the publication of the authorized sequels by Alexandra Ripley in 1991 and Donald McCaig in 2007, as well as the estate's squabbles over Alice Randall's parody "The Wind Done Gone."
Among the book's more remarkable artifacts are its reproductions of foreign GWTW covers. In Japan, where Mitchell faced a struggle to get royalties, Rhett and Scarlett sometimes appear as big-eyed, childlike manga characters. (Japan is also home to the Takarazuka Revue, which stages frequent musical versions of "Gone With the Wind" with women handling all the roles, including Rhett's.)
Different cultures tend to read Mitchell's novel in different ways, often well removed from Dixie. Brown and Wiley report the story, also noted by Molly Haskell in her book "Frankly My Dear," of how the book's Ethiopian translator wrote out his copy on the foil linings of cigarette packs while imprisoned by Ethiopia's former Marxist regime.
A stray English copy of "Gone With the Wind" was a favorite among those African prisoners, who glossed over the elements of race and slavery. For them, the novel was a story of how good people could survive in hard times and how tomorrow really could be another day.