By H.M. Cauley
The first thing Atlanta History Center vice president Michael Rose did when he received the package of original “Gone With the Wind” pages was read the last page.
No spoiler alert here: The ending of Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel hasn’t changed.
“The ‘Frankly, I don’t give a damn’ is still there,” Rose said with a laugh.
Beginning June 4 and continuing through Sept. 5, readers can see for themselves. The history center is displaying a final draft of Mitchell’s classic Atlanta tale to mark the 75th anniversary of the book’s publication.
“We’re mounting the pages of the final chapter in sequence on the wall so you can see first-hand the changes [Mitchell] made,” Rose said.
Just how the center came in possession of a rare, hand-notated manuscript of the book is as interesting as the relic itself, said Rose, who was stunned to receive a call from the director of the Pequot Library in Southport, Conn., offering a loan of the precious papers.
“It was quite a surprise, since Margaret Mitchell herself had gone to some lengths to destroy most of her own papers,” said Rose. “She even left directions for her husband that when she died, he should do the same with her papers, which he did.”
“Atlanta’s Book: The Lost ‘Gone With the Wind’ Manuscript.” At the Atlanta History Center, 130 W. Paces Ferry Road, June 4-Sept. 5. Admission is included in the price of a ticket to the center, which cost $16.50 for adults, $13 for seniors and students, and $11 for visitors aged 4 to 12.
But, it turns out, at least this one copy of the “GWTW” manuscript survived. It was donated to the Pequot in the 1950s by George Brett, Jr., the former chairman of Macmillan Publishing, which had published the novel.
At the time, Brett was president of the Pequot board, but there is no clear indication of how he happened to own the manuscript. It was largely forgotten until author Ellen Brown asked about it while doing research for her new book, “Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood.”
“When the executive director realized the manuscript was in the collection, he realized what a key ingredient it is,” said Rose. “It’s only been on display twice before, but he called us and asked if we’d like to show it, and we said we’d love to.”
Along with the final chapter, the exhibit will showcase about 50 pages from the book’s final four chapters, rare foreign editions, original reviews, photos and the writing desk where Mitchell sat to compose the work.
“We’ve actually had the typing table in our collection since 1956, but it’s never been on display before,” said Rose. “I think people will enjoy seeing all these things that pertain to her life, her fame and how it affected her.”
For a complete list of the History Center programs marking the 75th anniversary, visit MargaretMitchellHouse.com/GWTW75, or call 404-814-4000.