About Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone With the Wind, was born November 8, 1900, in Atlanta, the daughter of Eugene Mitchell and May Belle Stephens.

Mitchell was a fourth generation Atlanta resident, and her great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Mitchell fought in the American Revolutionary War. Her grandfather Russell Mitchell fought in the Civil War.

Mitchell attended the finishing school Washington Seminary from 1914-1918, where she founded the drama club. In 1918, she met Clifford Henry and they became engaged before he left for WWI. In October he would be killed while fighting in France.

In September, Mitchell began her college education at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. This is where she exchanged the formal “Margaret” for the informal “Peggy.” The 1918 influenza pandemic led to cancellation of her freshman year classes. Her mother died of influenza in January 1919 the day before she returned home.

In 1922, she married Berrien Kinnard Upshaw and also landed a job with Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine, writing under the byline Peggy Mitchell. She would work there for four years.

Upshaw left Atlanta four months after the wedding; two years later the marriage was annulled. In 1925, John Marsh became her second husband; he had been Upshaw’s best man.

She broke her ankle in 1926 and began writing Gone With the Wind to escape boredom. In 1935, Harold Latham, an editor for Macmillan publishing, was touring the South in search of new manuscripts. By July 1935, she had a Macmillan contract with a $500 advance (equivalent to slightly less than $9,000 today) and 10% of the royalties.

The title of the novel comes from a favorite poem by Ernest Dowson:

Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae
(I am not as I was under the reign of the good Cynara – Horace)

LAST night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine
There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed
Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;
And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,
Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;
Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
When I awoke and found the dawn was gray:
I have been faithful to you, Cynara! in my fashion.

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, all the time, because the dance was long;
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine;
And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, hungry for the lips of my desire:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

Published in 1936, Gone With the Wind was 1,037 pages long and sold for $3.

The movie based on the novel premiered in 1939.

On August 11, 1949, Mitchell was struck by a speeding taxi as she and her husband started to cross Peachtree Street, near 13th Street. Mitchell died on August 16, 1949, having never regained consciousness, and was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.

Excerpted from the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949)