"I HAD EXCELLENT REASONS FOR NOT WISHING THE PUBLIC TO BE ABLE TO SAY 'SCARLETT LIVED HERE OR THERE'… I BEG OF YOU IN THE FUTURE IF ANYONE SHOULD ASK YOU ABOUT WHERE MY CHARACTERS LIVED, PLEASE SAY THEY LIVED ONLY IN MY MIND": FASCINATING ORIGINAL THREE-PAGE TYPED SIGNED LETTER FROM MARGARET MITCHELL TO THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE ATLANTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY DEMANDING THAT HE STOP PROVIDING LOCATIONS FOR THE HOMES IN GONE WITH THE WIND AND ASSERTING THAT ALL CHARACTERS AND LOCATIONS IN THE BOOK WERE COMPLETE INVENTIONS
MITCHELL, Margaret. Typed letter signed. Atlanta, Georgia, February 23, 1939. Three sheets of unlined Margaret Mitchell letterhead, each measuring 7 by 11 inches; pp. 3, with original mailing envelope. $7800.
Lengthy original typed letter, dated 1939, from Margaret Mitchell to Franklin M. Garrett, the Vice President of the Atlanta Historical Society, in which Mitchell informs Garrett that she has become aware of Atlanta historical tours claiming to show tourists locations from Gone With the Wind and then asks Garrett to stop "identifying" such locations from the novel as she purposely made them entirely fictional, boldly signed by Mitchell.
This typed signed letter, dated "Atlanta, Georgia. February 23, 1939," implores the Vice President of the Atlanta Historical Society, Franklin M. Garrett, to cease offering the specific locations of houses in Gone With the Wind, as he evidently gave those alleged locations to the Atlanta Convention Bureau, which made them part of the city tour. Mitchell explains that she expended considerable effort to use fictional homes located in fictional places, so as to prevent people from singling out a particular person or family as the inspiration for her characters. Further, she argues that Garrett should have known this based on hundreds of public statements she has made affirming the fictional nature of her book and the characters and locations therein. Finally, Mitchell reiterates her distress and pleads with Garrett to never again link actual Atlanta locations and people to Gone With the Wind.
The letter, typed on Margaret Mitchell's letterhead, reads in full: "Dear Franklin: I have an embarrassing matter to take up with you, and I know of no other way of handling it except to dive right in.
"Several days ago I noticed an item in the papers about the "See Atlanta First" Tour which will take place on February 24th. I noted with distress and a great sense of weariness that, among other points of interest which were to be visited, were the sites of the homes of my characters, 'Aunt Pittypat, Rhett and Scarlett, Ashley and Melanie.' My distress and weariness rose from the fact that for two and a half years I have spent most of my time telling people – by word of mouth, by letter, through the newspapers and over the radio – that my characters were completely fictional and so were their homes. There were no 'sites' for my characters' homes. Because I did not wish the places to be identified, I went to great pains to mix up Atlanta geography. I studied old maps to make sure that even in my own mind I was locating houses where houses could not have stood. I went to as much pains about this as I did about the names of my characters, and it was a long and wearying affair. I had excellent reasons for not wishing the public to be able to say that 'Scarlett lived here or there.' I knew if the rumor went about that Scarlett had lived upon a certain spot inevitably people would believe that the family who had lived on that spot in the sixties were Scarlett's family. That would be highly embarrassing to innocent people and to me too.
"One of my greatest problems since 'Gone With the Wind' was published has been the determination of tourists and many Atlanta people to identify such spots. I believe that I, and I alone, am the only person in the world who knows the truth about this matter, and if I say I had no definite sites in mind, then I am speaking the truth and everyone else is wrong. I have made this statement to the newspapers no less than a hundred times; people who have made radio talks about my book never failed to mention it; I have written hundreds of letters; and I have no count of the number of people whom I have told personally that neither the houses nor the sites of the houses of my characters existed.
"So, you can understand my indignation and my sense of defeat when I read in the papers that the Atlanta Convention Bureau, which should know better, was busy adding and spreading and giving authenticity to these errors. As I was ill with a cold, John telephoned Faber Bollinger to find out why the Bureau was deliberately trying to embarrass me and to cause me even greater trouble from tourists that I have already had. Mr. Bollinger replied that he was very sorry, as such had not been their intent, and that the sites of the houses had been given to him by you. Coming as they did from the Vice President of the Atlanta Historical Society, Mr. Bollinger naturally thought he was getting accurate information. he said he would gladly eliminate these alleged points of interest from the tour, and regretted that the newspaper story had already gone out.
"Franklin, I know you would not deliberately cause me any trouble, not would you for worlds go on record with an inaccurate statement. So I am at a loss to understand why you included these nonexistent houses in a historical tour, especially in view of the two-year fight I have made in the papers on the subject. I do not doubt that to many people my feeling about this matter seems very strange. but I feel very deeply on the subject, even as I do when people make flat-footed statements identifying characters in my book with actual people. When I went to so much trouble to keep this very thing from happening, it is disheartening to have friends make all my efforts go for nothing. I beg of you, in the future, if anyone should ask you about where my characters lived, please say they lived only in my mind.
"I am sorry to have to write this letter, but I know I'm in for another session of trouble, both from tourists and from the descendants of people who once lived on the sites you mentioned. So I thought I'd better write you frankly and tell you that I intend to lay the blame on you. Sincerely, [signed] Margaret Mitchell Marsh."
Surprisingly given the tone of the letter, Mitchell and Garrett were close friends, frequent correspondents, and occasional partners in the preservation and interpretation of Atlanta's history. Today, Garrett is known for having been the only official historian of Atlanta and for writing Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of its People and Events, widely regarded as the finest history of Atlanta ever written. Ironically, one of Garrett's last actions prior to his death was arguing for the restoration of the building where Mitchell wrote most of Gone With the Wind—an initiative she never would have supported given her belief that her book should have no monument to it. With an addendum in an unknown hand that reads: "Misunderstanding adjusted to MM's entire satisfaction 2/29/39 WMF." With typed and postmarked envelope.