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Collection Overview

Leduc, Violette, 1907-1972 and Beauvoir, Simone de, 1908-1986
Violette Leduc Manuscripts and Correspondence with Simone de Beauvoir
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1.6 linear feet and 4 boxes
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scahsvm): Box 1-4


Consists of nearly 300 letters from Simone de Beauvoir to Violette Leduc documenting their literary friendship spanning four decades, along with 23 notebooks containing manuscript drafts of Leduc's autobiography, La Bâtarde (1964).

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Consists of nearly 300 letters from Simone de Beauvoir to Violette Leduc documenting their literary friendship spanning four decades, along with 23 notebooks containing manuscript drafts of Leduc's autobiography, La Bâtarde (1964), which recounts her life from birth until the end of World War II. Beauvoir was a literary mentor to Leduc since their meeting in 1945, and she encouraged Leduc's writing by serving as a first reader and editor, helping her find a publisher, and assisting her both artistically and financially throughout her life. Beauvoir also wrote the preface for La Bâtarde, and two of Leduc's notebooks in this collection are inscribed to her. The notebooks contain over 2,000 pages of writing composed between 1958 and 1964, which include corrections, added paragraphs, erasures, and unpublished passages, and document the evolution of the text over time.

The letters span Beauvoir and Leduc's entire friendship from their meeting in 1945 until Leduc's death in 1972. In an early 1945 letter, Beauvoir gently but firmly states that she does not reciprocate Leduc's romantic feelings towards her, and establishes their relationship as a friendship and literary mentorship. Beauvoir writes from various places in her travels, including the United States, Cuba, England, Italy, Greece, the USSR, and Norway, which she visited with partners Jean-Paul Sartre and Claude Lanzmann. Beauvoir discusses in detail her own readings, travels, and the progress of her work as well as the literary, artistic, and political life of the time. Her letters also provide deep insight into her mentorship role with Leduc, guiding her and urging her to write, providing feedback on Leduc's drafts, and regularly reassuring her of their friendship. The letters also discuss how Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre arranged for Leduc to receive a regular allowance from the publisher Éditions Gallimard, and Beauvoir's outrage over Gallimard's censorship of the first section of Ravages (1955), which recounted Leduc's lesbian relationship with a fellow classmate, Isabelle P. and was later published as Thérèse et Isabelle in 1966. Letters from the late 1950s and early 1960s discuss Leduc's progress and Beauvoir's editorial work on La Bâtarde, and following the book's publication in 1964, Leduc's popular success and media attention due to her work's erotic and culturally taboo content. Subsequent letters discuss later books and writing assignments. The letters also allude to Leduc's struggles with her mental health and stays in various psychiatric clinics, and her deteriorating health beginning with her breast cancer diagnosis in 1965 until her death in 1972.


Arranged into two groupings by material type.

Collection Creator Biography:


Violette Leduc was a French author known for her contributions to feminist and lesbian literature during the post-World War II era. She was born in 1907 in Arras, Pas de Calais, France. Her mother, Berthe Leduc, was employed as a servant by the wealthy Protestant family of her father, André Debaralle, who refused to acknowledge Violette as his daughter. Following her mother's marriage to another man, Leduc attended boarding school but was expelled after facing discrimination based on her romantic relationships with other women. She moved to Paris in 1925 and attended the Lycée Racine briefly before dropping out to work for Plon publishing company. During this period, she had long-term overlapping relationships with Denise Hertgès, her partner of nine years and former teacher, and Jacques Mercier, whom she briefly married. Leduc's influential friendship with writer Maurice Sachs began in 1938, and she moved with him in 1942 to Normandy, where she worked as a black market trader and began to write seriously during World War II. In 1945, she met Simone de Beauvoir, who became an important literary mentor and friend who supported Leduc's writing by editing her work, helping her find a publisher, and introducing her to others in her literary circle, including Jean Genet. Éditions Gallimard published Leduc's first novel, L'Asphyxie, in 1946, though they censored part of her novel Ravages (1955), which was later published as Thérèse et Isabelle (1966). She remains best known for La Bâtarde (1964), a formally inventive autobiography that became a bestseller and object of fascination in the press based on its erotic content and discussion of topics that were then seen as culturally taboo, such as lesbian relationships, abortion, and children born outside of marriage. Leduc continued to publish fiction and autobiographical works until shortly before her death from cancer in 1972.


Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) was a French writer, philosopher, and feminist theorist known for her contributions to feminist existentialism and ethics, as well as for her novels and memoirs. She was born in Paris to Georges Bertrand de Beauvoir and Françoise de Beauvoir (née Brasseur). Her family of origin was Catholic and middle class, though they lost much of their wealth shortly after World War I. Beauvoir and her younger sister, Hélène (Henriette) de Beauvoir, were educated at a convent school, after which Simone completed a degree in philosophy at the Sorbonne and sat in on classes at the École Normale Supérieure. From 1929 to 1943, Beauvoir worked as a teacher at lycées in Marseilles, Rouen, and Paris, while traveling extensively. She participated in the French Resistance during World War II and became active in France's women's liberation movement in the 1970s. Her book Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex, 1949) is a canonical work of feminist literature. Beauvoir spent most of her adult life in a long-term open relationship with French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, and she had non-monogamous relationships with other men and women throughout her life. She wrote about her relationships and family structure frequently in her novels and memoirs, including L'Invitée (She Came to Stay, 1943) and Les Mandarins (The Mandarins, 1954). Beauvoir died in Paris 1986 and was survived by her companion, adopted daughter, and literary executor Sylvie Le Bon-de Beauvoir.

Collection History


Purchased from Librairie Benoît Forgeot in 2021 (AM 2021-077).


No materials were separated from the collection during 2021 processing.


Processing of this collection was sponsored by the Delafield fund.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in May 2021. At this time, materials were maintained in the organization in which they were received from the dealer. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in May 2021, incorporating some description provided by the dealer. In August 2022, additional description of the formerly undated letters in Box 2 Folder 1-2 was provided by Mireille Brioude and added to the finding aid by Kelly Bolding.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Violette Leduc Manuscripts and Correspondence with Simone de Beauvoir; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scahsvm): Box 1-4