MITCHELL, MARGARET, Author. Thirteen autograph letters signed, one autograph postcard signed, one autograph note signed ("Peg"), to Henry Love Angel, her childhood friend and suitor, various places (Atlanta, Birmingham, etc.), various dates (Spring 1920 to 20 September 1922, some dated by postmarks).
Together 38 pages, small folio, 4to and 8vo, written in pencil and ink, one letter on Mitchell's personal stationery with art-deco "MMM" monogram, another on printed letterhead of The Birmingham News, another on lined notebook paper, with 9 original envelopes. [With:] Two printed invitations, each with unused reply cards and return envelopes, inviting Angel to the weddings of Courtenay Ross and Helen Turman (both members of Mitchell's and Angel's circle of friends).
NEWLY DISCOVERED LETTERS FROM THE AUTHOR OF Gone With the Wind TO HENRY LOVE ANGEL, AN UNSUCCESSFUL SUITOR
In her childhood, Margaret M. Mitchell, the author of Gone With the Wind, formed a close bond with two young Atlanta neighbors, Courtenay Ross (whose name Mitchell used for the heroine in her 1916 novel, Lost Laysen) and Henry Love Angel. The trio of friends, who christened themselved "The Dirty Three," often acted out plays written by Mitchell, whose literary talents became evident at an early age. Angel, an amateur photographer, took a series of photographs documenting this circle of friends as they matured from adolescence to adulthood (several are reproduced here, courtesy of The Return to Tara Museum of Atlanta). Mitchell's later biographers said very little of Angel; only that he had been among Mitchell's suitors before her marriage to Red Upshaw in 1922. Almost nothing, therefore, was known of the relationship between Mitchell and Angel until the discovery in 1995 of the present cache of letters. Mitchell had given Angel the manuscript of her 1916 novel Lost Laysen, today the only other surviving piece of fiction by the author. (The novel and letters were edited with commentary by Debra Freer in 1996.)
These new letters are not precisely love letters, but rather express the profound changes in Mitchell's and Angel's feelings for one another as they moved beyond their childhood affection for each other into mature relationships outside their old circle. Throughout this correspondence it becomes increasingly apparent that Mitchell had no intention of ever marrying Angel, in spite of his repeated proposals, though she obviously cared very deeply for him.
Letter 1, Summer 1920: Mitchell cajoles Angel into making apologies for her at a dance she cannot attend: "...Make it plain to them how I hate not to be able to come and dance but honestly, old dear, as I'm feeling a little better it would be foolish for me to jeopardize my chance of recovery...You lay it on thick for me -- won't you?...I've read up everything in the house and sewed up everything too...This is just to tell you I'm thinking of you.." Letter 2, [24 August 1920]. Mitchell is leaving for North Carolina: "Well, Angel, I'm off at last. Two groaning suitcases, one million golf clubs (not mine...a raincoat, a bushel of magazines and my own unimportant little self...I've been sitting here thinking...and just wondering too, exactly why you went to all that trouble to extract that information from him [a mutual friend] when you could have asked me and I'd have told you whatever you wanted to know...I'm not saying anybody fibbed, but...Either you didn't tell me all he said -- or he didn't tell you the whole truth...Either he's stinging me -- or you -- or you're holding out on me..."
Letter 3, n.d., 11:30 p.m.. A striking letter, written in a train, strongly suggesting a scene in Gone With the Wind: "I can't sleep, seems as if I'll go crazy lying here in the dark, listening to the click of the wheels...A while back, we stopped for a long time at a station, I don't know where. As I rolled over to look out the window, I spied something on the platform that made me sit up. It was an 'overseas' coffin with an American flag draped over it. The station was very still, there was only one light on the platform -- directly over the box -- no one was near. I sat there in the dark, hugging my knees, thinking of that boy, wondering if he had a sister or a mother or a sweetheart -- wondering too, rather foolishly, if he wasn't just a little lonesome and hurt, that there was no one to meet him or care -- after he had come all that long way and given everything. I felt that I knew him somehow, and something in me began to ache. The train wouldn't go on. I lay on my face and tried to shut out everything -- but the picture was just as vivid -- that chap coming home and no one there. Oh well, the train's gone on now, as we pulled out, the wind flapped a corner of the flag by way of farewell, I guess, and I wanted -- oh, so desperately to cry -- but somehow I couldn't because, after all, I guess that the dead ones are the lucky ones -- n'est-ce-pas?...[T]hings like that will rip the lid off memories I thought I had bottled up forever..." Letter 4, [27 August 1920]. Mitchell pens a little ditty. "Tune 'Alice Blue gown': In my sweet little red bathing suit when I first slid down the chute-the-chute. I love both land and sky for I caught every eye and shocked all the people who were passing by..."
Letter 5, [5 February 1921]. Mitchell begs Angel to find a chaperone so that she and a friend may visit him. "...Helen just called up rarring to go up with me but wanting to know about chaperones...I can't get up till we get 'chapped.' I never wanted to go any where so much in my life...Tell Skeet not to flirt too hard with any buxom country lasses but to save his flirts till we get there and maybe we'll kiss him if he's a good boy. Don't get too lonesome, dear boy...Remember that every solid brick you put into a foundation of good health is a brick laid for me and that I appreciate it..." Letter 6, [1 March 1921]. Margaret and a friend, A.S. Weil, had been practicing a wild apache dance routine, copied from the movie Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Their suggestive dance, which ended with a passionate kiss, was performed at a debutante-sponsored charity ball the day this letter was mailed: "...I have been inhumanely busy since you left... We had so short a time to practice this dance that we have been at it every afternoon and night...I was so proud of you, last time I saw you -- proud of your love, your courage and resignation and most of all your self-confidence. Don't let it drop, my dear...If ever you begin to get discouraged and lose confidence in yourself -- draw on my supply, for I believe in you..." Letter 7, n.d. "Listen old dear...I plain lied, and I can't keep a lie on my conscience. No, it's nothing very big, but I'm rather proud of our record for veracity...So I'm a hot liar. Please forgive me...I've felt you thinking of me lots since I've been home, particularly that night, and I do miss you! Don't be blue, my dear..."
Letter 8, n.d. "...I called and called you tonight and then made Dr. Morris take me up to North Avenue...in hopes of seeing you. But you weren't there. I'm terribly sorry for I wanted to see you before I left. It is after midnight now...I have to get up at 5...If you see Ed Cooper I wish you [would] ask him to stop telling folks that Red and I are figuring an early marriage. It isn't so..." Letter 9, n.d. Mitchell declines one of Angel's marriage proposals. "...It's your happiness I want, dear, and if money and the old life of likker [sic], gambling and women will give you a measure of happiness, then I'm for you. I want to see you happy, and Henry, for God's sake if I...say I care about you -- and feel just the same toward you except that I can't marry you, please take my word for it...I do love you, old-timer, and feel you are my boy as long as you want to be my boy..." Letter 10, [23 February 1923]. Margaret has been ill: "...I haven't been so bad off in years and I am still weak...[A]nyway, the blinding headaches stopped as suddenly as they began, leaving only the dull, stupid sensation...You are very sweet to me and it makes me very happy that there is some body in the world like you that I can always depend on -- for the little things of life and the Big things too..."
Letter 11, [1 March 1922]. "I think I will be home Thursday... B[irming]ham has been lovely but I've missed the old town [Atlanta] more than I thought I could..." Letter 12, 26 June 1922. Margaret is visiting another suitor in Greensboro, Alabama: "I wondered before I left if you were sore at me and why. I wondered why you didn't call me up...I phoned you...I wanted to see you, that day. But you talked rather strangely -- a bit embarrassed as 'twere, and didn't seem a bit desirous of seeing me. So I said nothing, my dear. It hurt me to think that you believed I didn't care or wasn't interested...The day I left town, I saw you with some girl -- (I did not see her face but she looked quite attractive). I yelled at you but you didn't see me, I guess. Are you sore at me? Or has Grace or some other girl so filled your mind that you've fogotten me? Or do you think my love for Red has changed me...I hate to think of there being a barrier between us..." Letter 13, [20 September 1922]. Written a scant three weeks after Margaret's marriage to the bootlegger, Red Upshaw: "I got home [from my honeymoon] yesterday and tried to call you up -- but...I have something wrong with my tonsils...so I can jusr whisper...Henry I'm quite shameless in asking you to take me out to lunch sometime this week! I not only want to see you, but I have something of yours to give you..."
Letter 14, n.d. A cryptic note: "Henry -- come back tonight..."