Recasting: Gone with the Wind in American Culture

By Darden Asbury Pyron | Go to book overview

Richard Harwell


"A Striking Resemblance to a Masterpiece": Gone with the Wind in 1936

in August of 1936 a Midwesterner who described himself as a glue salesman wrote a fan letter to Margaret Mitchell. Like thousands of others of her correspondents he had just read Gone with the Wind and wanted to share his enthusiasm for the novel with its author. His letter stands out among the hundreds that Miss Mitchell was receiving daily at that time. The glue salesman was a bit more than that; he and his brother owned the manufacturing company for which he traveled. More importantly, he was Morris H. Williams who, as Billy Williams, had known Peggy Mitchell while she was a freshman at Smith College in 1918-19. Mr. Williams wrote:

I recall that many years ago you said to me in Northampton, "when I get through here, I'm going to find out if I really can write." I must confess that I thought it was the usual youthful phase, and that it would be forgotten soon enough. But where did you ever develop such a style, and such an intimate knowledge of the cerebral processes of both sexes? It's terrifying.1

Williams briefly reviewed his career in the years since his college days. He had had a more typical experience than hers in finding out whether or not he could really write. "I tried my hand at writing several years ago," he said, "had two gags published in Life, a letter in . . . Liberty . . . and 1750 rejection slips. I guess you either have it or you don't." He closed his letter asking for more novels from Miss Mitchell: "No matter how much the success of Gone with the Wind may have flabbergasted you, none of this 'never again' stuff. I'm looking forward to your next one with eagerness."2

She said in her reply: "Your 'voice from the dim past' brought back vividly the last time I saw you in 1919 in Northampton. We sat on the steps of the boathouse in a driving rain and the rain sloshed down the steps in a Niagara upon us. How primitive were the dating facilities at Smith College! I remember too we were both young and a little forlorn in that queer aftermath of the War."3

There are few records of Margaret Mitchell's schoolgirl days. A few grade school report cards escaped the general destruction of her personal, private papers that she requested of the executors of

____________________
This essay originally appeared in Atlanta Historical Journal 25 (Summer 1981): 21-38.

-39-

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