"IT'S TAKEN FANCY FAST FOOTWORK IN LOBBIES AND MUSEUMS TO ESCAPE…": VERY RARE LENGTHY AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED FROM MARGARET MITCHELL TO THE EDITOR WHO DISCOVERED HER AND HER MANUSCRIPT, WRITTEN SEVEN MONTHS BEFORE THE GONE WITH THE WIND MOVIE PREMIERE
MITCHELL, Margaret. Autograph letter signed. New Orleans, April 1, 1939. Two leaves of hotel stationery, each 7-1/2 by 10-1/2 inches, writing on rectos only. $11,000.
Very rare autograph letter signed from Margaret Mitchell to Harold Latham, who had famously discovered her and her book, about traveling incognito and possibly meeting. Written seven months before the Gone With the Wind premiere.
Harold S. Latham, an editor at Macmillan, famously pried the manuscript of Gone With the Wind away from Mitchell on a visit to Atlanta in 1935. On a tour of the South to find new writers, Latham received reports that Mitchell had a manuscript, a fact she repeatedly denied. Then she admitted that although there was a manuscript, it was unfinished. Finally, on the eve of Latham's departure, Mitchell showed up at his hotel with the entire manuscript—a pile of papers so large Latham needed to buy an extra suitcase to be able to carry it with him on the train. Although she regretted the action immediately and wrote to Latham asking him to return the manuscript, Latham refused, saying that he was certain that with revisions it would be not only publishable but popular. The story of Latham's "discovery" of Mitchell instantly passed into legend and became almost as well known as the book itself. Latham and Mitchell found themselves permanently tied together, both in the public imagination and in their own careers: she was his biggest discovery—none others even came close—and he was the person she consistently thanked for turning her into a popular writer. That mutual sense of interdependence led to a friendship that lasted for the rest of Mitchell's life. Seven months after this letter was written Latham was at Mitchell's in Atlanta for the premiere of the film version of Gone With the Wind.
The letter, written on stationery from the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, reads in full: "Saturday noon, April 1, 1939. Dear Harold: Your Wire of March 30 has just arrived. Stephens forwarded it by mail. Realizing that your office is already closed, I'm writing you instead of wiring and hoping that air mail-special delivery stamped will put it on your desk Monday morning. Stephens sent a brief note with your wire saying he had notified you that we were out of town but would probably be back by April 10th. Harold, I do not think we will be home by April 10th unless summoned by some catastrophe such as Miss Susie filing suit against me in Atlanta or an illness in the family. John's vacation will extend to about April 20th and it is our present intention to arrive home on or about that date. We expect to leave New Orleans in a day or two and look over the smaller resorts on the Gulf. If we find a quiet one, we will stay there for the rest of our vacation. If not, we'll keep moving. For your information, you can communicate with us through Stephens, office address, Peters Building, Atlanta, home address 1401 Peachtree Road N.E. We keep him informed of our whereabouts. Harold, if you can time your visit conveniently for the week of April 23rd, it would be marvelous for you must know how much we want to see you and how disappointed we would be if we missed you. But if your business arrangements are such that the week of the 23rd isn't convenient-then we'll have to swallow our disappointment and realize that Medora and the others are enjoying you around April 10th. Please do not wire or write us here. I must confess that we are not registered under our own names. This distasteful practice is necessary when traveling if we want to get any peace and rest. Here's an amusing happening—we picked New Orleans as the one town in the East or South where we know no one—especially newspaper folks. Arriving here several days ago we found the convention of the American College of Physicians, 1500 strong, in session and most of them registered here. I know practically all the Fulton County (Atlanta) medical association and I believe they are all here. It's taken fancy fast work in lobbies and museums to escape them. And while at Antoine's for supper last night, we saw one of the heads of a large press association but he didn't see us. I'm afraid we wouldn't make good criminals! Forgive this scrawl. I haven't written a letter in long hand in years and I've almost forgotten how it's done. I hope you will come around the 23rd. Best to you, Peggy."