Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lost Causes

"I've always had a weakness for lost causes once they're really lost." ~ Rhett Butler in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind

Clockwise from upper left:  Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara
Clark Gable as Rhett Butler
Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Hamilton Wilkes
Lesley Howard as Ashley Wilkes

When Tim was in the Army, he was transferred in 1986 to Fort McClellan, located adjacent to the small town of Anniston, Alabama.  Unable to land a job as a librarian while we lived there, I settled for a secretarial position in a local attorneys' office.  There for the first time I heard the Civil War referred to as the War of Northern Aggression.  It seemed to me that, despite more than 120 years of facts to the contrary, the two lawyers who employed me were in denial regarding the North's victory.  Or perhaps, like Rhett Butler, they had a weakness for the Confederacy's lost cause.

With only three days allotted to our stay in Atlanta, a city once burned to ashes by Union forces, Tim and I, too, blazed our way through this metropolis.  We had hoped to visit more of its sights, but that was a lost cause.  The rain and chill of mid-March kept us confined, albeit by choice, in the campground.

However, I insisted we visit Margaret Mitchell's house where the famous author wrote Gone With the Wind, a novel I've loved ever since I first read it at the age of twelve. 

This photo as well as others below are on display at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, GA.

While living in "The Dump" as she called her first floor apartment, Mitchell began Gone With the Wind by writing its final chapter first.

Mitchell interviewing Georgia Tech students

That's a writing method used by many newspaper and magazine journalists; Mitchell was one of their ranks.  She worked as a reporter for the Atlantic Journal before a series of injuries left her housebound.  During her confinement, she purportedly read every book in Atlanta's public library until her husband John, in desperation, brought home a typewriter for her, the typewriter she used to compose her masterpiece.

Although she wrote the novel over a ten year period, the majority of it was written while she sat at her desk by the parlor's window here in the house at 990 Peachtree Street.  

Loosely organizing her work by stuffing each chapter in a manila folder, Mitchell hid them around the small apartment in an effort to keep the manuscript a secret.

That she would choose the Civil War and its aftermath as the setting for her novel was a given.  Margaret recalled "sitting on the bony knees of veterans and the slippery laps of great aunts" while listening to stories of Atlanta and the Civil War.

Margaret Mitchell

Margaret once recalled, "When I was ten years old, it was a violent shock to learn that General Lee had been licked.  And I thought it all happened just a few years before I was born."

In April 1935, Harold Latham from Macmillan Publishing Company, arrived in Atlanta on a tour of the South looking for new authors.  When he learned of Margaret's manuscript, he asked to see it, a request she twice denied, but eventually she gave him the more than 80 folders that held her story.  After reading a portion of the book while en route to New Orleans, Latham straightaway sent the manuscript to New York.

By July, Macmillan gave Margaret a contract for the book with a $500 advance and ten percent of the book's royalties.  By the end of 1936, over one million copies of the book were sold around the world.  One year later, Mitchell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.  

A deeply private person, Mitchell refused to be interviewed and shunned the limelight.  With the proceeds from her book and the release of the motion picture, Mitchell quietly gave money to many philanthropic causes.  Perhaps personal regret regarding her portrayal of Mammy and other African Americans in her novel led her to give significant financial support to traditionally black Morehouse College.  

The Dutch translation of Gone With the Wind

Gone With the Wind's main character Scarlett is a larger than life figure.  Her determination to conquer all odds, despite the lost cause of the Confederacy, has always impressed me.  She was a survivor, able to come through catastrophe when everyone around her fell apart.  As a youth, that was a quality I, too, wanted to adopt, and while I haven't faced very many catastrophes, I have, like all of us, survived setbacks.  Yet, because Jesus Christ, the Lord of lost causes like me, promises forgiveness and an eternal relationship with Him, I trust that my life will not be--as the Confederacy was--gone with the wind.


  1. When we were in Georgia a few years ago my daughter in law Dustin and I visited The same place. I was fascinated by Margaret Mitchell as her manuscript was so large and how she hid it. It was interesting to see where she lived. She was also a trailblazer in her own right. Glad you visited there!

    1. It's such a small apartment. I can't imagine where she hid all her folders. And that tiny, tiney kitchen! You could barely turn around in it much less cook meals in it! Amazing, wasn't it?

  2. Love "Gone with the Wind" as you do ... what a wonderful recap of Margaret Mitchell! I always love to know "the rest of the story", and you did a fantastic job of filling me in! Wishing you well in the coming weeks!

    1. I grew up listening to Paul Harvey tell "The Rest of the Story" during his radio broadcasts so I'm honored by your compliment. We are heading south again after our stay here in DC. When you see insulation and 110-hose bib heaters around the campground's water faucets, you know you're too far north!