Before Scarlett

Overview

Discovered one sultry summer in an Atlanta basement full of sixty years' worth of accumulated debris, the writings of a young Margaret Mitchell reveal a prodigious and inspirational talent for such a young girl. The writer, who would later pen the best-selling book of all time after the Bible (and one that still sells more than 200,000 copies annually), was a precocious, imaginative, headstrong rebel and yet as distracted by everyday concerns about parental approval and social insecurities as any child. ...

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Overview

Discovered one sultry summer in an Atlanta basement full of sixty years' worth of accumulated debris, the writings of a young Margaret Mitchell reveal a prodigious and inspirational talent for such a young girl. The writer, who would later pen the best-selling book of all time after the Bible (and one that still sells more than 200,000 copies annually), was a precocious, imaginative, headstrong rebel and yet as distracted by everyday concerns about parental approval and social insecurities as any child. Nevertheless, as shown in the pages of Before Scarlett, Mitchell displayed an amazing talent through her writing of letters, journals, short stories, and one-act plays (later staged in her midtown Atlanta home). From westerns and shipwreck tales to stories of scalawags and musings on her best friends and boys, Mitchell demonstrated a finesse for challenging authority and striking out on her own--personality traits not surprising for the society debutante who was later rejected by the Junior League of Atlanta because of a racy dance she performed at one of their balls and the author who would later cope with the pressures of international fame measured against her personal philanthropic efforts for African American causes in racially divided Atlanta. Mitchell's is a story of youthful independence and talent. Fully illustrated with twenty-eight recently discovered writings, this collection is perfect for any young writer, or anyone interested in the early writings of one of America's most popular authors.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Like discovering the secret diary of Scarlett O'Hara.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Great insight into her natural talent.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

It is amazing to think that a girl at such a tender age wrote these stories.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Provides a comprehensive portrait of the celebrated author's early life.
Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781570039386
  • Publisher: University of South Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2011
  • Pages: 242
  • Sales rank: 752,070
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author


Jane Eskridge teaches social sciences in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Biography

"If the novel has a theme it is that of survival. What makes some people able to come through catastrophes and others, apparently just as able, strong and brave, go under? It happens in every upheaval. Some people survive; others don't. What qualities are in those who fight their way through triumphantly that are lacking in those who go under...? I only know that the survivors used to call that quality 'gumption.' So I wrote about the people who had gumption and the people who didn't."
-- Margaret Mitchell, 1936

Author of the bestselling novel of all time, Margaret Mitchell was born Nov. 8, 1900 in Atlanta to a family with ancestry not unlike the O'Hara's in Gone With the Wind. Her mother, Mary Isabelle "Maybelle" Stephens, was of Irish-Catholic ancestry. Her father, Eugene Muse Mitchell, an Atlanta attorney, descended from Scotch-Irish and French Huguenots. The family included many soldiers -- members of the family had fought in the American Revolution, Irish uprisings and rebellions and the Civil War.

The imaginative child was fascinated with stories of the Civil War that she heard first from her parents and great aunts, who lived at the family's Jonesboro rural home, and later, from grizzled (and sometimes profane) Confederate veterans who regaled the girl with battlefield stories as Margaret, astride her pony, rode through the countryside around Atlanta with the men.

"She was a great friend of my cousin," recalled Atlanta resident Mrs. Colquitt Carter. "My cousin always said that when Peggy would spend the night, she would get up in the middle of the night and write things. She was always obsessed with expressing herself."

The family lived in a series of homes, including a stately home on Peachtree Street beginning in 1912. Young Margaret attended private school, but was not an exceptional student. When, on one memorable day, she announced to her mother that she could not understand mathematics and would not return to school, Maybelle dragged her daughter to a rural road where plantation houses had fallen into ruin.

"It's happened before and it will happen again," Maybelle sternly lectured the girl. "And when it does happen, everyone loses everything and everyone is equal. They all start again with nothing at all except the cunning of their brain and the strength of their hands."

Chastened, Margaret Mitchell returned to school, eventually entering Smith College in the fall of 1918, not long after the United States entered World War I. Her fiancé, Clifford Henry, was killed in action in France. In January 1919, Maybelle Mitchell died during a flu epidemic and Margaret Mitchell left college to take charge of the Atlanta household of her father and her older brother, Stephens.

Although she made her society debut in 1920, Margaret was far too free-spirited and intellectual to be content with the life of a debutante. She quarreled with her fellow debs over the proper distribution of the money they had raised for charity, and she scandalized Atlanta society with a provocative dance that she performed at the debutante ball with a male student from Georgia Tech.

By 1922, Margaret Mitchell was a headstrong "flapper" pursued by two men, an ex-football player and bootlegger, Berrien "Red" Upshaw, and a lanky newspaperman, John R. Marsh. She chose Upshaw, and the two were married in September. Upshaw's irregular income led her to seek a job, at a salary of $25 per week, as a writer for The Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine where Marsh was an editor and her mentor.

"There was an excitement in newspapering in the 1920's, famed editor Ralph McGill recalled. Margaret Mitchell, he said, "was a vibrant, vital person -– excited, always, and seeking excitement. And this excitement, I think, was a sort of a hallmark of the 20's."

The Upshaw marriage was stormy and short lived. They divorced in October 1924, and less than a year later, she married Marsh. The two held their wedding reception at their new ground-floor apartment at 979 Crescent Avenue -– a house which Margaret affectionately nicknamed "The Dump."

Only months after their marriage, Margaret left her job at the Journal to convalesce from a series of injuries. It was during this period that she began writing the book that would make her world famous.

Gone With The Wind was published in June 1936. Margaret Mitchell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her sweeping novel in May 1937. The novel was made into an equally famous motion picture starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. The movie had its world premiere at the Loew's Grand Theater in Atlanta Dec. 15, 1939 with Margaret Mitchell and all of the stars in attendance.

On Aug. 11, 1949, while crossing the intersection of Peachtree and 13th -– only three blocks from "The Dump", Margaret Mitchell was struck by a speeding taxi. She died five days later and is buried in Atlanta's Oakland Cemetery with other members of her family.

Author biography courtesy of The Margaret Mitchell House and Museum.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      July 8, 1900
    2. Place of Birth:
      Atlanta, Georgia
    1. Date of Death:
      August 16, 1949
    2. Place of Death:
      Atlanta, Georgia
    1. Education:
      Smith College
    2. Website:

Table of Contents

Foreword Mary Rose Taylor ix

Preface xiii

Introduction xvii

Part 1 Beginnings 1

Letter to Eugene Muse Mitchell, Atlanta, Ga. 1910 4

Letter to Eugene Muse Mitchell, Atlanta, Ga. June 20, 1910 5

"Two Little Folk" 6

Part 2 Fairy Tales 7

"The Knight and the Lady" 9

"The Green Snake" 10

Part 3 Kinfolk and Playmates 13

"The Little Pioneers" 16

"When We Were Shipwrecked" 19

"Forest and Foothills" 34

Part 4 Civil War Tales 45

"Hugh Warren, A Spy for the Union" 49

"Dan Morrison, A Spy for the Confederacy" 69

Part 5 Copybooks 87

"Big Bob of the Sierras" 90

"The Arrow Brave and the Deer Maiden" 106

"The Silver Match Box" 113

"Old Brindle" 125

Part 6 Plays 127

Journal January 1, 1916 131

The Birthday Celebration of Hann Sann 134

Part 7 Seminary 137

Journal January 7, 1915 141

Journal March 26, 1915 143

Journal April 27, 1915 146

Journal February 2, 1916 148

Part 8 Boys 149

Journal January 23, 1915 153

Journal December 17, 1915 155

Journal June 30, 1916 157

Part 9 Mexico 161

"Steve of the X-B" 164

"The Greaser" 185

"If Roosevelt Had Been President" 200

"Little Sister" 202

Part 10 World War One 205

"Sergeant Terry" 208

Sources 213

Acknowledgments 215

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2000

    A treasure trove discovered!

    Its incredibly sad to think that the wonderful, funny, and witty girlhood writings of Margaret Mitchell might have moldered away, undiscovered, in a distant relations basement--and never seen the light of day. How fun and clever little Peg must have been. There is a little bit of Scarlett O'Hara on every page!

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