The Everett Report: The Very First Review of GWTW

Editors' Note: At some point on the blog, we featured a guest post by Shaninalux called Margaret Mitchell, Her Biographers and the Conclusion to Gone with the Wind that addressed issues of (mis)representation by MM's biographers surrounding Mitchell's preference for an open-ended conclusion to GWTW. Featured prominently in that post was a reference to the Everett Report--the critique of the rough draft of GWTW that Professor Charles W. Everett of Columbia University submitted to Harold Latham of Macmillan Publishers at the latter's request.  

While the full Everett Report has been lost to the sands of time, there was interest in the comments about cobbling together what could be found of it from various sources, and Shaninalux kindly offered to compile it for us here, at How We Do Run On.  Her compilation is below. Many thanks again to Shaninalux for her help!  --iso and Bugsie

The Everett Report

From “Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta” by Finis Farr (1965):

There really are surprisingly few loose ends, and the number of times the emotions are stirred one way or the other is surprising.  I am sure that it is not only a good book, but a best seller.  It’s much better than Stark Young.  And the literary device of using an unsympathetic character to arouse sympathetic emotions seems to me admirable.

This is the story of the formation of a woman's character.  In the peace and quiet of plantation life before the war, in the crisis of the Civil War, and in the privation of the reconstruction period.  Pansy O'Hara inherits an aristocratic tradition and charm from the mother, Eleanor D'Antignac of Charleston.  From her father, Gerald O'Hara, who has left Ireland as the result of a shooting, she inherits most of her qualities--aggressiveness, courage, unscrupulousness, obstinacy, and charm.  By the time she is born, O'Hara has won a stake in the new world of Georgia and he's accepted by his neighbors for his courage and generosity.  Pansy has lived her seventeen years in luxury without even knowing that it was luxury.  Her greatest problems have been those having to do with clothes and flirtation.

Then the war comes, to her annoyance, for she is both self-centered and realistic, and it seems like the sort of foolish thing men are always doing.  Piqued by the marriage of Ashley Wilkes, the charming and cultivated son of a neighboring planter, Pansy marries Charles Hamilton, one of her beaux and the brother of Ashley's bride, Melanie.  Charles going off to war after a week and in five weeks is dead of pneumonia, leaving her with a child coming.  She is furious at her predicament and at the way a bereaved widow is supposed to act.  After the birth of little Wade Hamilton she goes to Atlanta on a visit, and causes talk by her appearance in public, even though she is helping the Cause.  Atlanta is humming with activity as the Confederates try to establish their own foundries and factories.  She meets again Rhett Butler, black sheep of a good family, now a blockade runner, and his attentions cause more talk.  Rhett has always flouted public opinion, and he alienates Atlanta by insisting, when the ladies treat him as a hero, that all he is interested in is the money he makes, and by saying that the Yankees are bound to win by sheer weight.  In spite of her interest in gay parties Pansy is still in love with Ashley, off in Virginia with the army, and she hates his wife, Melanie.  The sweet and gentle Melanie defends Pansy from criticism, however.  After Gettysburg, Ashley is captured and no news arrives from him for the rest of the war.

The Confederates under Johnston fall back before Sherman's army, much to the disgust of the residents of Atlanta.  Johnston is replaced by Hood, but the Yankees continue to advance.  Pansy helps in the hospitals and cares for Melanie, who is about to have a baby, but she hates the smells and the suffering in the hospitals and is upset by the shortage of food and clothes.  Rhett brings her presents and teases her by saying all sorts of improper things to her.  He knows her feelings about Ashley and is half in love with her himself.  He understands her, sees through her, and still likes her.

After a forty day siege Atlanta falls.  On the last day of the siege Melanie has her baby, assisted only by Pansy and a little Negro girl.  That night Pansy escapes to Tara, the O'Hara estate, in a decrepit rig secured by Rhett.  He leaves her at the edge of town, and joins in the retreating Confederate army, making fun of himself for his absurdity in joining a lost cause.

The twenty miles to Tara take a night and a day to cover, for Pansy goes by back roads to avoid army stragglers.  In the jolting wagon she carries Melanie and her day old baby, four year old Wade, and Prissy, the little Negro girl.  Almost every place they pass is a heap of smoking ruins, and they have nothing to eat but some early apples they find.  Pansy is in terror of what she will find at home.  She knows her mother has been ill, but nothing more.  At last they reach Tara and find the house still standing.  But Ellen is dead of typhoid, Gerald broken in mind and body, and Pansy's two sisters ill with typhoid.  Mammy, the old negro nurse, is still there, as are Gerald's valet, Pork, and his wife Dilcey.  The author sums up the situation as one in which Pansy finds “Her father old and stunned, her sisters ill, the children helpless, and the negroes looking up at her with childlike faith, clinging to her skirts, knowing that Ellen's daughter would be the refuge Ellen always had been."  There is nothing to do but take up the load, and Pansy takes it up.  She shoots and buries a marauding Yankee straggler and keeps his horse.  She finds a few vegetables and yams in the deserted negro truck patches, at the Wilkes place.  Prostrated by heat and lack of food in a negro cabin, she vows “As God is my witness, when this is over, I'll never be hungry again.”  Sherman's army comes through again, and she saves the house from fire and hides her money in the baby's diaper.  Against incredible odds, she keeps nine of them alive in spite of the Yankees and the Confederate commissariat.  She finds a few neighbors, all in worse shape than she is, bullies the house negroes and her sisters into doing field work and survives. 

After Appomattox, things are a little better.  The returning Confederate soldiers are nearly starved, and she begrudges them every hard-won bite they eat.  One of them, Will Benteen, a cracker, stays on and helps her run the place.  Then comes reconstruction.  Tara is assessed for $300 in taxes.  A carpetbagging former overseer hopes to buy it at a sheriff’s sale.  Pansy knows Rhett has money, and with a new dress made from velvet portieres, she goes to Atlanta to see him.  He is in jail, and makes her offer to become his mistress before telling her that his money is in England.  She meets elderly Frank Kennedy, engaged to her sister Suellen, and learns that he had begun to make money running a store.  Using a full battery of lies and wiles, she marries him in two weeks and pays the taxes with his savings.  

Then comes the turning point in her life.  She likes making money and running people.  She takes Frank's business out of his hands, and makes it pay.  No credit to old friends who think they have to have things they will never be able to pay for.  She borrows money from Rhett to buy a sawmill, and as Atlanta rebuilds, she makes money.  She gives Ashley a job, and is still hopelessly in love with him.  To her annoyance, she finds she is going to have another baby.  The Ku Klux arises and strikes back at negro rule.  Kennedy dies (one version) or is killed in a Klan raid (alternative).

After the birth of Ella, Pansy marries Rhett, who really is mad about her, but knows better than to let her get the upper hand by knowing it.  With Rhett’s money, a quarter of a million, Pansy builds a new mansion, atrocious, but fashionable.  Her unwomanly behavior calls down on her the contempt of all of her old friends until Melanie, who has never forgotten what Pansy did for her, puts up a fight for her.

She has a third child, Bonnie, by Rhett, and then refuses to have further relations with him.  Separate rooms.  She forces from Ashley an admission that he loves her, and the scene is overheard by hostile ears.  This last scandal would have been too much, but Rhett forces her to receive at a reception with Ashley and Melanie, and thanks to Melanie, whose standing is unassailable, the town is forced to continue paying Pansy outward respect.  Rhett has done this for the sake of the beloved Bonnie, who is now killed in an accident, and he slumps into hard drinking and low life.  Melanie dies, and Pansy has a last scene with Ashley, who says Melanie was the only dream he ever had that lived.  Pansy sees him as a middle-aged tired man with no particular glamor.  At last she realizes that she loves Rhett and goes to tell him the glad news.  But he is tired.  He won’t put himself in jeopardy a third time, after losing to Ashley for years (spiritually) and then losing Bonnie.  No one can wait forever.  He doesn’t care what she does, and he means it.

She decides to go back to Tara.  Tomorrow she can think what to do, how to win Rhett back.  Tomorrow will be another day.

This book really is magnificent.  Its human qualities would make it good against any background, and when they are shown on the stage of the Civil War and Reconstruction the effect is breath-taking.  Furthermore, it has a high degree of literary finish.  Take for instance, in the evacuation of Atlanta, the ridiculous appearance made by the aristocratic Mrs. Elsing in the morning as she drives furiously out of town with her carriage bulging with flour and beans and bacon.  Then see Pansy leaving that night—with a worn-out horse and broken down wagon, and those literally beyond price so that only a strong man like Rhett could have secured them.  And at Tara Pansy faces starvation.  Yet here is no reference made by the author to the previous scene; it simply marks an increase in the tempo.  It is perhaps in this control of tempo that the book is most impressive.  When the writer wants things to seem slow, timeless, eternal, that is the way they move.  But her prestissimo is prestissimo and her fortissimo is FFF.  For like King Lear, Pansy learns, “There is no worst, as long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.’”

By all means take the book.  It can’t possibly turn out badly.  With a clean copy made of what we have, a dozen lines could bridge the existing gaps . . . The end is slightly disappointing, as there may be a bit too much finality in Rhett’s refusal to go on . . . Incidentally, how about Another Day for a title?  Take the book at once.  Tell the author not to do anything to it but to bridge the few obvious gaps and strengthen the last page.

Suggestions by Everett as noted by Margaret Mitchell in her July 27, 1935 letter to Harold Latham:

"the author should keep out her own feelings in one or two places where she talks about negro rule."

"And to refer to Mammy's 'ape face" and her 'black paws' seems unnecessary."

"As it is there may be a bit too much finality in Rhett's refusal to go on.......I think she gets him in the end.....And it might not hurt to hint as much a little more strongly than the last lines."

"I prefer the version where Kennedy dies of illness to the Ku Klux one, exciting though that is, because the K.K.K. material has been worked pretty hard by others."

Questions raised by Everett as noted by Margaret Mitchell in her July 27, 1935 letter to Harold Latham:

"When is Ella born?"

"Where does Archie come into the story?"

Note: In response to these questions, Mitchell answered “I thought I had sent those chapters off but I didn’t.”  She further indicated that although she could not locate them in her files, she was including earlier draft versions of those chapters along with her July 27th letter.  She then added, “The best way I can place them is to say that they come after the chapter on Gerald’s death.”

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