Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gone with the Wind—Letters of the Civil War

One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1939 classic Gone with the Wind. Within the movie, two handwritten letters are shown. The first is the letter to Scarlett to inform her of her first husband Charles's death. Lovers of trivia, note the letter is signed by Wade Hampton, a name that sounds like Wade Hamilton, the son Scarlett had with Charles in the book, but never mentioned in the movie.

It's beautifully written, and it reminds me of the logo that would appear twenty years later for The Fantasticks designed by Tom Jones (the one who wrote for Broadway, not the one who sang "What's New Pussycat?"). I have read in The Fantasticks: The Complete Illustrated Text Plus the Official Fantasticks Scrapbook and History of the Musical that it was taken from his everyday handwriting.

The next letter was to Melaine and has the lovely copperplate, otherwise known as engrosser's script, that was more popular in the period.

Below, I have added a photograph of an actual letter from The Civil War.

The letters in the movie are a little more stylized than what you would have actually seen during the time period, but it's a movie, and I'm sure they were aiming for legibility. Nevertheless, they move the story along with the decorum and elegance associated with the antebellum South.

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