Lost Laysen

28 01 2010

I didn’t read Gone with the Wind until last year. I confess. I know, I know… I call myself a Southerner. But have you read it?? It’s LONG.

Ok, but no excuses. We all love the movie. I remember watching it countless times on weepy nights with college roommates. I remember seeing the romantic, sweeping love story once on one of my first dates with someday-husband at the Orpheum theater.

But I had never sat down and read the tome (oh, and do remind me to tell you sometime about the sweet idea husband had to track down a first edition for me as a gift, only to find out these sell for upwards of $10,000 — so if granny has one in her attic, send it to me immediately!).

What inspired me to finally pick it up was a more recently discovered shorter novel also written by Margaret Mitchell entitled Lost Laysen. My mom came across the short book tucked away in some second-hand store and gave it to me. How exciting. Previously, many scholars had even questioned if Margaret Mitchell had actually written Gone with the Wind since she apparently had not written anything else.

Or so we thought until 1996.

Margaret Mitchell had written Gone With the Wind in 1936, while bedridden with a broken ankle. A usually active girl, intellectually and physically, she devoured all the historical books from the library that her husband would bring, so when she declared boredom, he finally suggested she write her own! She typed chapters in no apparent chronological order from her own personal experiences in the South and from those that she knew (it’s said that Rhett Butler was perhaps modeled after her first husband who reportedly said to Mitchell as his last words, “My dear, I don’t give a …,” and that Scarlett might have been Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, mother of Theodore Roosevelt).

Once her ankle was all healed and better, she promptly forgot all about her masterpiece until she meet an editor visiting Atlanta, Harold Latham. As she escorted him around Atlanta, he made her promise that if she ever wrote a book, she’d show it to him first. As he prepared to depart from Atlanta, she found her old, crumbling manuscript and declared “Here, take this before I change my mind!”

The New York Evening Post hailed it as one of the best novels of the Southern Renaissance.

But now we know that when Ms. Mitchell was 15, she had given a written manuscript, in two notebooks, to a suitor by the name of Henry Love Angel. He had kept the novella for years and it was only discovered upon his death by his son, who donated the letters to the Road to Tara Museum.

The book was then printed in a volume containing the South Pacific love story, along with the story of Mitchell and Angel’s courtship. It also has many beautiful pictures and letters she had written.

Such a treat, from this Atlanta woman who defied conventions of class and time to work at the Atlanta Journal, won a Pulitzer Prize, had a film-adaptation of her most popular work that won a record ten Academy Awards, and has had the second most popular title of all time (after the Bible)!

Subsequently, 64 of her columns that were considered some of her best work during the South’s Jazz Age have been published as Margaret Mitchell, Reporter.

If you ever get the chance to visit the Margaret Mitchell House in midtown Atlanta, make sure you do! There is also Scarlett on the Square, located in Marietta, Georgia with costumes, screenplays, and many other artifacts from the film.

I’ll leave you with a quote today from a poem by Ernest Dowson, from which the title of Gone with the Wind was taken.

“I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,

Flung roses riotously with the throng.”

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3 responses

21 04 2010
13 10 2010
The Orpheum Theaters « Sweet Iced Tea

[…] concerts, films, ballet, and opera. I can even remember an early date with Husband, going to see Gone With the Wind as part of a summer film series at the Orpheum Memphis. And it holds annually more Broadway […]

4 11 2010
Sweet Iced Tea’s Top Ten Fictional Southern Characters « Sweet Iced Tea

[…] really, who did you think would be my number one Southern character? Whether you fancy Margaret Mitchell’s heroine, or Vivien Leigh as the […]

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