Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Influences #7 Margaret Mitchell

The first book ever I read, Gone With The Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. Well, the first real book, anyway. It belonged to my mother. I saw it sitting there in the middle of her bed in her bedroom when she asked me to go in there and fetch her purse on the nightstand. I not only brought her purse to her, but the book as well. I asked her, “Is this any good?” And she looked at me and smiled. “Read it.” She instructed.

And so I did.

I have never looked back. Reading became my big new thing up until I was about 17. Even on the bus to the military base when I joined the Army, headed to Fort Dix, I brought a book to read. Unbeknownst to me, by the time of my 18th birthday, I would write my first song. Then hundreds more the ensuing few years until finally, I would write my first manuscript. Over 200 pages. A science fiction / fantasy story.

credit that book for my underlining desire to write books. It was the first and started a trend for me for the next 8 years of my life. Other books like, “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”, “To Kill A Mocking Bird” and “Scarlet Letter” would soon follow. Each one opening more my young imagination. Tapping that hidden writer that I never knew lived within me.

Certainly, music was always, and probably always will be, my first love, but writing stories soon became a huge part of expressing myself artistically as well. But who was Margaret Mitchell? Who was this woman who spawned my writing demon? Let’s face it, had I never read that book, or worse yet, had I never liked that book, perhaps the other books would have never been read either.

Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell (November 8, 1900 – August 16, 1949) was an American author and journalist. One novel by Mitchell was published during her lifetime, the American Civil War-era novel, Gone With The Wind. For it she won the National Book Award for Most Distinguished Novel of 1936, and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1937. In more recent years, a collection of Mitchell's girlhood writings and a novella she wrote as a teenager, Lost Laysen, have been published. A collection of articles written by Mitchell for The Atlanta Journal was republished in book form. These additional works have enabled scholars and the public to more fully comprehend the richness and depth of Margaret Mitchell's writing.

Margaret Mitchell was a Southerner and a lifelong resident and native of Atlanta, Georgia, (Where I lived briefly for about six months as a youth) who was born in 1900 into a wealthy and politically prominent family. Her father, Eugene Muse Mitchell, was an attorney, and her mother, Mary Isabel "May Belle" (or "Maybelle") Stephens, was a suffragist. She had two brothers, Russell Stephens Mitchell, who died in infancy in 1894, and Alexander Stephens Mitchell, born in 1896.

Mitchell's family on her father's side were descendants of Thomas Mitchell, originally of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, who settled in Wilkes County, Georgia in 1777, and served in the American Revolutionary War. Her grandfather, Russell Crawford Mitchell, of Atlanta, enlisted in the Confederates States Army in July 1861, and was later severely wounded at the Battle Of Sharpsburg. After the Civil War, he made a large fortune supplying lumber to rapidly building Atlanta. Russell Mitchell had twelve children from two wives; the eldest was Eugene, who graduated from the University of Georgia Law School.

Mitchell's maternal great-grandfather, Philip Fitzgerald, emigrated from Ireland, and eventually settled on a slaveholding plantation near Jonesboro, Georgia where he had one son and seven daughters with his wife, Elenor. Mitchell's grandparents, married in 1863, were Annie Fitzgerald and John Stephens, who had also emigrated from Ireland and was a Captain in the Confederate States Army. John Stephens was a prosperous real estate developer after the Civil War and one of the founders of the Gate City Street Railroad (1881), a mule-drawn Atlanta Trolley System. John and Annie Stephens had twelve children together; the seventh child was May Belle Stephens, who married Eugene Mitchell. May Belle Stephens had studied at the Bellevue Convent in Quebec and completed her education at the Atlanta Female Institute.

The Atlanta Constitution reported that May Belle Stephens and Eugene Mitchell were married at her father's mansion on November 8, 1892:

Margaret Mitchell was a storyteller from a very young age. The first stories she wrote were about her animals and then she progressed to fairy tales and adventure stories. She created book covers for her stories, bound the tablet paper pages together and added her own artwork. At age eleven she gave a name to her publishing company: "Urchin Publishing Co." Later her stories were written in notebooks.

May Belle Mitchell kept her daughter's stories in white enamel bread boxes and there were several boxes of her stories stored in the Mitchell home by the time she went off to college.

Margaret Mitchell was struck by a speeding automobile as she crossed Peachtree Street at 13th Street in Atlanta with her husband, John Marsh, while on her way to see a movie on the evening of August 11, 1949. She died at Grady Hospital five days later without regaining consciousness. The driver, Hugh Gravitt, was an off-duty taxi driver who was driving his personal vehicle when he struck Mitchell. After the accident, Gravitt was arrested for drunken driving and released on a $5,450 bond until Mitchell's death. It was discovered that he had been cited 23 times previously for traffic violations. The Governor of Georgia, Herman Talmadge, later announced that the state would tighten regulations for licensing taxi drivers. Gravitt was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served four months in jail.
One can only wonder what great masterpiece she might have come up with next had she lived longer. It’s still hard to believe that Gone With The Wind was the only book of hers that was published while she was still alive.

Source: Wikipedia -

This work is released under CC 3.0 BY-SA -

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