These writers and their partners had a flair for memorable gift-giving, from presents that pulled at the heartstrings to gifts that stirred up drama on and off the page.
Scarlett Fever: Margaret Mitchell
Margaret Mitchell received a life-altering gift from her husband while she was housebound recovering from a car accident. He presented her with a secondhand typewriter, a sheaf of paper, and the declaration, “Madam, I greet you on the beginning of a great new career.” That typewriter, which Mitchell used to craft her masterpiece, Gone with the Wind, is on view at the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library.
Pay It Forward: O. Henry
When struggling scribe O. Henry saved up money for his wife to attend the Chicago World’s Fair, she instead used the funds to spruce up their sparse home with muslin curtains and a pair of wicker chairs. This selfless act helped inspire his most famous short story, “The Gift of the Magi.” The chairs are on display at the Queen Anne-style cottage the couple shared, now the O. Henry Museum in Austin.
Poetry in Motion: John Keats
“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days—three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain,” proclaimed romantic poet John Keats to his fiancée, Fanny Brawne. The two met while living in adjoining abodes in London, but before they exchanged vows Keats died of tuberculosis. On display at the Keats House museum is the garnet engagement ring the poet gave to Fanny. Brokenhearted, she never married and wore the ring for the next four decades until her own passing.
When the Bard passed away, he ignited a four-hundred-year controversy by leaving his “second-best” bed to his wife, Anne. Contrary to appearances, the bequest was probably a romantic gesture rather than a slight. Tudor custom dictated the best bed be reserved for guests while the second-best would have been the one on which their children were conceived. What is believed to be the second-best bed is on display at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The Gambler: Ernest Hemingway
While living in Paris, struggling writer Hemingway hit up friends for cash to buy his wife, Hadley, a colorful gift: Joan Miró’s oil painting The Farm. A roll of the dice between Hemingway and an acquaintance decided who had dibs on buying the coveted canvas, which he victoriously toted home to Hadley in a taxi. Today The Farm is on view in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
[Photos: Mitchell Typewriter, O. Henry Museum and Hathaway Cottage © NovelDestinations; Keats House © Keats House/City of London; The Farm © National Gallery of Art]