Margaret Mitchell, Typed Letter Signed


The Mystery of “God’s Nightgown”

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Margaret Mitchell responds to an “appreciative letter” about the classic novel of the antebellum. South, Gone with the Wind. Mitchell is “glad that the characters seemed real to you.  Such words as yours are comforting indeed to an author…”

The novelist goes on to answer a question about the expression “God’s nightgown.” To quote Gone with the Wind:

“God’s nightgown!” said Scarlett to herself in indignation, using Gerald’s favorite oath. “He looks as if—as if he knew what I looked like without my shimmy,” and, tossing her head, she went up the steps…. (Gerald is Scarlett’s Dad).

Mitchell comments “I can’t tell you exactly what its origin is.  I have a vague memory from my reading that it is at least Elizabethan.  As a small child, spending my summers in the country, I heard this expression used by very old men.  It has been many years since I have heard it.”

Mitchell won the National Book Award for Fiction for Most Distinguished Novel of 1936 and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937.

The expression “God’s nightgown” doesn’t appear in text earlier than Gone with the Wind, as far as I can tell (using Google Books). It’s possible that it just wasn’t written down, though. The similar expression “God’s gown”, however, does predate the book. OED lists examples of it in use as early as 1535.

Excellent with a firm, clear blue ink signature; usual folds.

Typed Letter, signed “Margaret Mitchell”.   Letterhead, Atlanta:  22 August 1936.  4to.; 1p.; to Mrs. Margaret W. Boutelle, U. of Florida.  With original envelope and a photogravure of Mitchell; ready for framing.

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