The Gone With the Wind author on the South’s perspective of Rhett Butler: “Many sweet old ladies have confided to me, under oath of secrecy, that he reminded them so much of wild brothers they had had or beaux who were killed in the War”
Superb collection of seven TLSs from author Margaret Mitchell, each signed “Margaret Mitchell Marsh,” all of which have been folded and tipped neatly into a hardcover copy of Gone With the Wind (November 1936 printing). The letters are dated between 1937 and 1941, typed on her personal letterhead, and were each addressed to Judge Leonard Harl McMahan of Salem, Oregon. Mitchell touches upon her health and travel plans, sends thanks for compliments and gift baskets, talks of “sacrifice and courage” during wartime, and expounds on her recently published Civil War novel Gone With the Wind, discussing her research, Southern sentiment, and her opinion of U.S. Grant. The letters, in part: April 29, 1937 “Thank you so much for your interesting letter and all the fine things you said about ‘Gone With the Wind.’ I appreciated them all very much. I am so glad that you thought my book would bring about a better understanding between the two sections of our country. If ‘Gone With the Wind’ did nothing else, then I would be supremely satisfied. Thank you for saying that you thought Rhett was a real and understandable character. It is a strange thing, but most people from out of this section feel that he is not a plausible character. Southerners say that, though he is a scamp, he is very true to type. Many sweet old ladies have confided to me, under oath of secrecy, that he reminded them so much of wild brothers they had had or beaux who were killed in the War.” December 10, 1937 “In reply to your remarks about the blame for the failure to exchange prisoners being laid on President Lincoln—that calls for an explanation of my method of handling the ‘contemporaneous’ angle of ‘Gone With the Wind.’ I attempted to write it not from the viewpoint of a person living in the sixties. To this end I put into the minds and the mouths of characters beliefs, rumors and prejudices (some which have been proven right and some wrong in the light of history). I gathered from reading letters of that day, newspapers, memoirs et cetera, that President Lincoln bore the blame for many things in the minds of Southern people. Prejudice as well as death loves a shining mark and, rightly or wrongly, Southerners, for the most part, believed Lincoln responsible for the failure to exchange prisoners. Your statement that your father spoke of General Grant as ‘a butcher’ interested me. I used that word in connection with him because I came across it frequently in Northern newspapers of the day. There was a time when Grant was very unpopular in the North because he seemed to be very carelessly hurling thousands of Federal soldiers to their deaths and many of the newspapers criticized him venomously and called him a butcher. I have had some letters from Northern people who apparently did not know of this and they felt that my use of the word ‘butcher’ showed a Southern prejudice and gate. This, of course, was far from being the truth. I, like most other Southerners, can never forget that, while Grant was a ruthless foe in battle, he was a generous and courteous man when the Surrender occurred. His thoughtfulness in permitting the Confederates to keep their sidearms and the horses which they personally owned will never be forgotten. Had it not been for those horses, which stepped from the battlefield into the furrows, the South would probably have seen much more destitution in 1865 and 1866 than it did see.” August 2, 1940 “Thank you for the generous stack of postcards you sent me. You chose them with an eye to showing me your state from the mountains to the sea, and I have enjoyed them so very much. I am especially glad to have the kodak picture of you on horseback. Being feminine and curious, of course I wondered what you looked like and I confess that I plied your friend with questions when I called on her during her visit to Atlanta. She told me, among other pleasant things, that you were most distinguished looking and this kodak picture bears out her words. I know you are a Westerner and proud of being a Westerner, so do not take it amiss when I tell you that you look very much like our North Georgia people.” January 21, 1941 “We have just returned from a motor trip through the orange belt of Central Florida—a real full-length vacation of three weeks. It was quite the nicest vacation we have had since ‘Gone With the Wind’ was published…This time we visited several writing friends we had not seen in years and had the sort of fun that appeals most to talkative people—arguing through the nights with congenial people over many cups of strong coffee. Last year when I was in the hospital you were kind enough to express interest in my health, so I will tell you what is good news to me. It probably would be a calamity to most women, but I am very proud that I have gained twenty-five pounds. Kind friends say that I am plump; the truth is that I am fat and very pleased about it.” July 1, 1941 “Thank you for the postcard pictures of your beautiful Oregon country. I was interested in the comments you wrote on the back of them. When I looked at the graded, paved and banked road with guard rails, which you remember as an Indian trail it made me realize how young our country is. It set me to thinking of the many shaded red roads on which I went horseback riding, which are now hard-surfaced and without trees and ugly with hot dog stands. I am not so terribly old but I feel old when I remark upon such matters and the younger generation looks respectfully at me as if they were listening to a female Daniel Boone describing what a virgin Kentucky looked like.” August 2, 1941 “It was good of you to send me a copy of ‘The Brimfield Heroine Letter.’ When we read such records of courage and endurance how can we doubt the future of our country and our people? I do not hold with the prevalent idea that we have become soft and frightened. Endurance and courage are still in our bones. The trouble nowadays is that most people have not been bred up to expect to endure, but if the time comes when sacrifice and courage are needed I believe we’ll equal our grandparents and great-grandparents. I am just preparing to go North to the launching of the new cruiser ‘Atlanta.’ I have been selected as sponsor and you can imagine how honored I feel. I am enclosing a page from the Atlanta Journal about the affair.” December 27, 1941 “I had to make a quick trip to New York for Christmas Eve but returned home late Christmas afternoon. It’s not good to be traveling at such a time, but I saw things that made my trip worth while. I went to New York to be present at the commissioning of the new cruiser ‘Atlanta.’ When I saw the things the Navy was doing I felt much easier about our national defense. I imagine that you people on the West Coast take an even more serious view of the war than we in the East, though God knows we are serious enough. But I am wishing you a fine 1942 in spite of blackouts and submarines and the Japanese navy.” Also tipped in is a January 20, 1940, letter from Mitchell’s husband John Marsh, sending news on his wife’s recent successful operation (removal of abdominal adhesions) and making mention of the film adaptation of Gone With the Wind, which had been released a month earlier: “Mr. Selznick had to condense a great deal, but the film shows that he worked hard to follow the story and to be faithful to its atmosphere and background. Mrs. Marsh and I have seen it twice and we liked it better the second time than the first. The cast is excellent and, while some things are deserving of criticism, the general effect is good. I especially recommend that you notice the work of Hattie McDaniel, who plays the part of Mammy.” For her performance, McDaniel won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, thus becoming the first African American to win an Oscar. In overall fine condition, with expected folds and some scattered stains or wear. Accompanied by a vintage pearl-finish 6 x 8.25 photo of Mitchell, a program entitled “A Tribute to Margaret Mitchell,” produced by the Trust Company of Georgia, and several newspaper clippings related to her passing, her novel, and her sponsorship of the USS Atlanta.