Gore Vidal papers
Contains papers of American author Gore Vidal (1925-2012), including literary manuscripts, correspondence, political papers, legal and business records, photographs, family papers and mementors, and other material. Also includes papers of his companion, Howard Austen (1929-2003).
- Majority of material found within 1936-2008
Language of Materials
Collection materials primarily in English. Also includes materials in French, German, Italian, and Spanish.
Extent is approximate.
Conditions Governing Access
Most of this collection is open for research.
A portion of this collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.
A portion of this collection is restricted for legal or university policy reasons. Item 3357: available 2032 January 1. Item 3373: available 2034 January 1. Some items were formerly restricted, see below for details.
Extent422.3 linear feet (479 boxes, cartons, and film reels)
332.713 Gigabytes (9 floppy disks, 26 CDs, and 37 DVDs)
The Gore Vidal papers include a variety of materials reflecting his personal, literary, political, and business life. This collection includes: materials documenting his early life, correspondence, literary and screen writing compositions, speeches, interviews, political papers and ephemera for campaigns, legal and business records, biographical materials, fan mail, films and video tapes, photographs and drawings, clippings on his life and subject files he compiled, papers of his companion Howard Austen, a small amount of family papers, and compositions written by others sent to him, among other materials.
Series I: Compositions. Drafts of Vidal's novels, theatrical plays, television scripts, screenplays, essays, poetry, short stories, and speeches. The drafts include the following genres: autograph manuscripts, typescripts, proofs, and print often annotated by Vidal and occasionally annotated by an editor, a director, or stage manager of a play, television program, or film. Also includes additional items that are related to individual titles such as book jackets, notes, and letters, as well as some interspersed and related correspondence.
Major works included in this series are The Best Man , The City and the Pillar, Myra Breckinridge, Visit to a Small Planet (including both versions for the theatrical and television plays), essays including The Whole Sordid History (reprinted as The House Un-American Activities Committee), as well as essays he wrote for Esquire, Nation, New York Review of Books, New York Times Book Review, and the Partisan review among others. Drafts of most of Vidal's poetry, short stories, and speeches are also included.
Series II. Correspondence. Letters between Vidal and authors, accountants, lawyers, literary agents, motion picture and television producers, politicians, political organizations, publishers, relatives, scholars, small presses, university libraries, book dealers, and his personal friends. Prominent correspondents include Louis Auchincloss, Paul Bowles, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Paddy Chayefsky, Curtis Brown Ltd., Tom Driberg, Elaine Dundy, Christopher Hitchens, Fred Kaplan, John F. (John Fitzgerald) Kennedy, Little, Brown and Company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Nation, New York review of books, Anaïs Nin, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, George Plimpton, Random House (Firm), Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan Sarandon, Arthur Meier Schlesinger, William Morris Agency, and Joanne Woodward, among many others.
Files may include letters about or relating to the main correspondent or about Vidal's family members, personal friends, business associates, or scholars. Also included in this series are invitations for professional engagements, greeting cards, fan mail, notes and memoranda, ephemera and clippings about the correspondent, and a few photographs. Letters from Vidal's companion Howard Austen are included in this main series of Vidal correspondence, since Austen assisted Vidal with business matters as well as sharing many personal friends. However, Austen’s correspondence also has its own sub-series where the majority of his correspondence can be found.
Series III. Political campaigns and organizations. Papers related to the two U. S. political campaigns of Vidal's career. In 1960, he ran for Congress in the 29th Congressional District of New York. In 1982, he ran in the California primary race for U.S. Senate and lost to Governor Jerry Brown by coming in second of nine candidates in the election. Also includes papers concerning Vidal's involvement with the New Party (U.S.), as well as his research on the United States House of Representative's Committee on Un-American Activities. Materials include: correspondence, speeches, publicity and research materials, financial records, and other related papers. Series also includes miscellaneous political papers such as clippings, pamphlets, fliers, and other political ephemera that Vidal collected himself or were sent to him by others.
Series IV. Legal cases. Papers related to four legal cases involving Vidal, including two major libel actions against William F. (William Frank) Buckley and Truman Capote, and two minor civil actions regarding authorship rights for his involvement with the screenplays for Caligula and The Sicilian. Includes clippings, essays, legal documents, transcripts, and materials relating to the Democratic National Convention (1968: Chicago, Ill.), where the Buckley v. Vidal altercation began.
Series V. Interviews of Gore Vidal. Drafts of interviews of Vidal and interviews he and Howard Austen did on others. Related materials also in this series include letters, notes, transcripts, and the final printed version of the interview.
Series VI. Biographical and family papers. Materials relating to Vidal's family members' lives. Prominent family members in this series include Howard Austen, Eugene Luther Vidal, Vidal's father; Nina Olds, Vidal's mother; and Thomas Pryor Gore, Vidal's maternal grandfather.
Series VII. Business and financial records. Records related to Vidal's business dealings including correspondence, contracts, royalty statements, account books, financial statements, as well as insurance, property and tax records.
Series VIII. Compositions by others. Essays, novels, poetry, screenplays and other writings by authors, colleagues, friends and fans of Vidal. Most of these were sent to Vidal. A few items include letters sent with the composition. Authors include Ben Affleck, Louis Auchincloss, W. H. (Wystan Hugh) Auden, Louise Brooks, John Horne Burns, Jimmy Carter, Raymond Carver, Noam Chomsky, Matt Damon, Joan Didion, Tom Driberg, Elaine Dundy, Andrea Dworkin, Umberto Eco, Blake Edwards, Nora Ephron, Barbara Epstein, Buck Henry, Patricia Highsmith, Christopher Hitchens, Christopher Isherwood, Fred Kaplan, Norman Lear, Shirley MacLaine, Norman Mailer, Armistead Maupin, Arthur Miller, Anthony Minghella, Anaïs Nin, Joyce Carol Oates, Harold Pinter, George Plimpton, Dawn Powell, Frederic Prokosch, Tim Robbins, John Updike, Tennessee Williams, and others.
Series IX. Clippings. Clippings collected by Vidal, HA, or sent to them either by friends or fans.
Series X. Images. Images of Vidal, his friends, family, fans and colleagues. Formats are mainly photographs but also include drawings. The vast majority of these images are formal photographic portraits or images of Vidal alone or with other individuals or groups. There are also images of other individuals and groups without Vidal as well as images of his homes. Photographers include Antonia Cesareo, Nancy Crampton, Otto Fenn, Enrico Ferorelli, Jill Krementz, Stathis Orphanos, and Carl Van Vechten. Many of the images have not been identified.
Series XI. Audiovisual materials. The Audiovisual materials series includes films, video, and sound recordings of works written by or about Vidal. The series also includes video and sound recordings of television and radio appearances of Vidal, as well as video recordings of personal or family events. The series is arranged by format and then alphabetically by title. Unidentified items listed at the end of each subseries.
Series XII. Other papers. Series includes miscellaneous collected materials of Vidal and Howard Austen. Arranged alphabetically by genre. Some of these materials include research files by subject kept by Vidal.
Series XIII. Additions to collection. Series includes material added to the collection after processing of Series I-XII. This material is arranged by accession number (begins with the year of acquisition and is followed by a sequential number).
Biographical / Historical
Gore Vidal (1925-2012) was an American author of novels, theatrical plays, television scripts, screenplays, and essays whose career began in the years immediately following World War II and continued into the twenty-first century, until his death in 2012. He was a public figure in American politics and cultural discourse. In addition to a sequence of seven novels about American history as well as other fiction (such as Myra Breckinridge and Duluth), Vidal also wrote three mystery novels under the pseudonym, Edgar Box. Vidal was an essayist as well composing well over a hundred essays gathered in several volumes published between 1962 and 2001.
In 1925, Gore Vidal was born Eugene Luther Gore Vidal in West Point (N.Y.), the only child of Eugene Luther Vidal (1901-1969) and Nina Gore (1903-1978), later known as Nina Olds. His birth took place at the Cadet Hospital of the United States Military Academy where his father was the school's first aeronautics instructor.
In 1935, his parents divorced. Nina Gore married Hugh D. Auchincloss, and then divorced him in 1941. Nina Gore had two children from that marriage, Nina Auchincloss (later known as Nina Auchincloss Steers Straight) and Thomas G. Auchincloss. After the divorce, Hugh Auchincloss married Jacqueline Kennedy's mother, Janet Lee Auchincloss, which established a relationship between the Vidal and Kennedy families. In 1936, Gore Vidal attended St. Albans School in Washington (D.C.). He lived with his maternal grandfather, Thomas Pryor Gore (1870-1949), in his home in Rock Creek Park (Washington, D.C.). T.P. Gore was the Democratic senator from Oklahoma. Since Senator Gore was blind, the young Gore Vidal read aloud to him and became his guide in the Senate corridors.
Gore Vidal attended Los Alamos Ranch School in Los Alamos County (N.M.) in 1939. Eugene Luther Vidal (Gore Vidal's father) married Katherine Roberts in that year, and had two children from that marriage, Gene Vance Vidal and Valerie Vidal. In 1940, Gore Vidal attended Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter (N.H.).
In 1941, Gore Vidal dropped the names "Eugene Luther" to become Gore Vidal. Nina Auchincloss married Robert Olds, director of Wright Air Force Base in 1942, and in 1943, Gore Vidal enlisted in the United States Army and attended the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington (Va.) Gore Vidal wrote his first novel,Williwaw, in 1945, during the time he was in service in the Aleutian Islands (Alaska) and while recovering from a combination of frostbite and arthritis in an army hospital. In 1946, Gore Vidal moved to Antigua (Guatemala). His friend Anaïs Nin visits. Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal traveled in Europe in 1948. That same year, The city and the pillar was published.
In 1950, Gore Vidal moved to Barrytown (N.Y.) and bought a house named Edgewater on the Hudson River. Gore Vidal met his life companion, Howard Austen (former name: Howard Auster), who worked for an advertising agency in New York (N.Y.). Austen moved to Edgewater. In 1955, Gore Vidal's A visit to a small planet was broadcast live on television. He moved to the Chateau Marmont (Los Angeles, Calif.) where he became friends with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. In 1959, as a contract writer for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Vidal agreed to work with the director William Wyler on the screenplay for the film Ben-Hur. Vidal agreed to rework the script on the condition that MGM would let him out of the last two years of his contract.
Vidal's play The best man opened on Broadway in 1960. Vidal ran for Congress in New York's 29th Congressional District, losing the election by a small margin. In 1963, Vidal and Howard Austen moved to Rome (Italy). Julian was published in 1964, and in 1966, Washington D.C. was published; the first novel in what Gore Vidal called his "narratives of empire" series. In 1968, Myra Breckinridge was published. ABC News hired Vidal and William F. (William Frank) Buckley as political analysts of the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions. A heated exchange between Buckley and Vidal occurs during a televised debate on ABC on 1968 August 22 during the Democratic National Convention (1968: Chicago, Ill.). This later produces a civil action.
Vidal served as chairman of the New Party (U.S.) for two years (1970-1972). In 1971, he purchased a home, La Rondinaia, in Ravello (Italy). Burr was published in 1972 and 1876 was published in 1976. In 1982, Gore Vidal ran in the California primary race for Senate; he was second after Jerry Brown.
In 1984 Lincoln was published; Empire followed. In1993, United States: Essays, 1952-1992 was published and won the National Book Award. His memoir, Palimpsest, was published in 1995, and in 2000, The Golden Age, the last novel in Gore Vidal's "Narratives of Empire" series, was published.
In 2003, Vidal and partner Austen move from their house in Ravello to California. Howard Austen died this same year, and in 2006, Gore Vidal sells the house in Ravello. Gore Vidal died at his home in Hollywood Hills, California, on July 31, 2012, of complications from pneumonia at eighty-six years of age.
- GV is born Eugene Luther Gore Vidal born in West Point (N.Y.), the only child of Eugene Luther Vidal (1901-1969) and Nina Gore (1903-1978), later known as Nina Olds. His birth takes place at the Cadet Hospital of the United States Military Academy where his father was the school's first aeronautics instructor.
- Parents divorce. Nina Gore marries Hugh D. Auchincloss (who divorces NG in 1941). Nina Gore has two children from that marriage, Nina Auchincloss (later known as Nina Auchincloss Steers Straight) and Thomas G. Auchincloss. After the divorce, Hugh Auchincloss marries Jacqueline Kennedy's mother, Janet Lee Auchincloss, which establishes a relationship between the Vidal and Kennedy clans.
- GV attends St. Albans School in Washington (D.C.). He lives with his maternal grandfather, Thomas Pryor Gore (1870-1949), in T.P. Gore's home in Rock Creek Park (Washington, D.C.). T.P. Gore was the Democratic senator from Oklahoma. Since Senator Gore was blind, the young GV reads aloud to him and becomes his guide in the Senate corridors.
- GV attends Los Alamos Ranch School in Los Alamos County (N.M.). Eugene Luther Vidal (GV's father) marries Katherine Roberts. E.L. Vidal has two children from that marriage, Gene Vance Vidal and Valerie Vidal.
- GV attends Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter (N.H.).
- GV drops the names "Eugene Luther" to become Gore Vidal.
- Nina Auchincloss marries Robert Olds, director of Wright Air Force Base.
- GV enlists in the United States Army and attends the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington (Va.)
- GV writes his first novel,Williwaw, during the time he is in service in the Aleutian Islands (Alaska) and while recovering from a combination of frostbite and arthritis in an army hospital.
- GV moves to Antigua (Guatemala). His friend Anaïs Nin visits.
- Tennessee Williams and GV travel in Europe. The city and the pillar is published.
- GV moves to Barrytown (N.Y.) and buys a home named Edgewater on the Hudson River. GV meets his life companion, Howard Austen (former name: Howard Auster), who works for an advertising agency in New York (N.Y.). Austen moves to Edgewater.
- GV's A visit to a small planet is broadcast live on television. He moves to the Chateau Marmont (Los Angeles, Calif.) where he becomes friends with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.
- As a contract writer for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, GV agrees to work with the director William Wyler on the screenplay for the film, Ben-Hur. Vidal agrees to rework the script on condition that MGM will let him out of the last two years of his contract.
- GV's play The best man opens on Broadway. GV is a candidate for Congress in New York's 29th Congressional District losing the election by a small margin.
- GV and Howard Austen (HA) move to Rome (Italy).
- Julian is published.
- Washington D.C. is published; the first novel in what GV calls his "narratives of empire" series.
- Myra Breckinridge is published. ABC News hires GV and William F. (William Frank) Buckley as political analysts of the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions. A heated exchange between Buckley and GV occurrs during a televised debate on ABC on 22 August 1968 during the Democratic National Convention (1968: Chicago, Ill.). This later produces a civil action.
- GV becomes chairman of the New Party (U.S.) for two years.
- GV purchases a home, La Rondinaia, in Ravello (Italy).
- Burr is published.
- 1876 is published.
- GV runs in the California primary race for Senate. He comes in second after Jerry Brown.
- Lincoln is published.
- Empire is published.
- United States: Essays, 1952-1992 is published and wins the National Book Award.
- GV's memoir, Palimpsest, is published.
- The Golden Age, the last novel in GV's "Narratives of Empire" series, is published.
- GV and HA move from their home in Ravello (Italy) to their home in California. Howard Austen passes away.
- GV sells his home in Ravello (Italy).
- GV died at his home in Hollywood Hills, California, on July 31, 2012, of complications from pneumonia. He was 86.
Organized into the following series:
- I. Compositions
- ___A. Novels
- ___B. Theatrical plays
- ___C. Television scripts
- ___D. Screenplays
- ___E. Essays
- ___F. Poetry
- ___G. Short stories
- ___H. Speeches
- ______1. Written at Phillips Exeter Academy
- ______2. On literature and writing
- ______3. Political
- II. Correspondence
- ___A. Correspondence of Gore Vidal
- ______1. General correspondence
- ______2. Fan mail
- ______3. Greeting cards and invitations
- ___B. Correspondence of Howard Austen
- ______1. General correspondence
- ______2. Greeting cards and invitations
- III. Political campaigns and organizations
- ___A. Campaign of 1960
- ______1. Correspondence
- ______2. Speeches
- ______3. Publicity
- ______4. Research
- ______5. Related papers
- ___B. Campaign of 1982
- ______1. Correspondence
- ______2. Speeches
- ______3. Finance
- ______4. Publicity
- ______5. Related papers
- IV. Legal cases
- ___A. William F. Buckley v. Gore Vidal
- ___B. Gore Vidal v. Truman Capote, Richard Zoerink and Playgirl, Inc.
- ___C. Gore Vidal v. Tinto Brass, Felix Cinematograpfice Ltd, Penthouse Film International Ltd., Tommaso Masolino D'Amico, Fiorenzo Carpi, and other defendants.
- ___D. Gore Vidal v. Writer's Guild of America and Steven Shagan.
- V. Interviews of Gore Vidal
- VI. Biographical and family papers
- ___A. Biographical materials of Gore Vidal
- ___B. Family genealogies and related material
- ___C. Papers of Howard Austen
- ___D. Papers of Thomas Pryor Gore
- VII. Business and Financial Papers
- ___A. Business and financial correspondence
- ______1. By company or subject
- ______2. By date
- ___B. Agreements and contracts
- ______1. By title
- ______2. By company or individual
- ______3. Other contracts
- ___C. Royalty statements
- ______1. By title
- ______2. By company or individual
- ______3. Other contracts
- ___D. Account books and financial statements
- ___E. Insurance records
- ___F. Property records
- ___G. Tax records
- ___H. Other financial records
- VIII. Compositions by others
- IX. Clippings
- ___A. By title of publication
- ___B. By date
- X. Images
- ___A. Images of Gore Vidal
- ___B. Images of Gore Vidal with other individuals and groups
- ___C. Images of individuals and groups other than Gore Vidal
- ___D. Images of places
- ___E. Images of art
- XI. Audiovisual materials
- ___A. Video recordings
- ___B. Sound recordings
- ___C. Film
- XII. Other papers
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Harvard Depository, b, f, pf, PF Cabinet
In the 1960s, Gore Vidal donated his papers to the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. The papers were housed and partially cataloged at the Center until 2002, when they were transferred to Houghton Library at Vidal's request. Further materials were given by Vidal as well as his estate after his death, and additional materials were purchased and donated to Houghton Library and added to this collection.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
2001M-34, 2001M-52, 2002M-24, 2003M-12. Gift of Gore Vidal, received: 2001 December 7-2003 August 29.
2002M-41 (4413). Gift of Matt Kapp Productions, 82 Powers, Brooklyn, NY 11211; received: 2002 December 4.
2002-54 (2154) and (4384). Gift of James Edward Walsh, Cadbury Commons, 66 Sherman Street, apt. 304, Cambridge, MA 02140; received: 2003 February 24.
2003M-22 (225). Gift of Robert S. Cohen, Claire Trevor Professor of Drama, Drama Department, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA 9269; received: 2003 October 17.
2004M-96 (826). Gift of Professor Dennis Altman, School of Sociology, Politics and Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, 3083 Australia; received: 2005 February 4.
2005M-53 (2600) and (2640). Gift of Robert E. Davis, 138 Teaticket Highway, apt. 317, East Falmouth, MA 02536; received: 2006 May 26.
2010M-37. Gift of Gore Vidal, 2010 October.
2010M-61 (1359). Gift of Hugh Guilbeau; received: 2011 January 27. 2012M-77. Gift of Richard Morris, 2012 October 10 (items 7251-7252). 2012M-79. Gift of Gore Vidal Estate, 2012 October 19 (item 7253).
2013M-36. Additions to items (858) and (1060) Purchased with funds from the DeCuevas, Deknatel, Loring, Nordell, Rheault and Vershbow fund; received: 2013 August 20.
2013M-56. Additions to items (1349) and (2560) purchased with funds from the Amy Lowell Trust; received: 2013 November 12. 2013M-58. Gift of Gore Vidal (transferred from Wisconsin) 2014 January 14.
2015M-11. Additions to items (1367-1370) purchased with funds from the Edward Hyde Cox Fund; received: 2015 July 28.
Additions to item (910), gift of Andrew S. Auchincloss, Blake L. Auchincloss, and John W. Auchincloss; received: 2016 October 4.
Additions to item (2908), gift of the estate of Gore Vidal via Andrew Auchincloss; received: 2016 October 7. 2014M-49. Purchase with funds from Edward Hyde Cox Fund and Theodore Sedgwick Library Fund (item 7250), 2014 September 12.
2015M-80. Gift of Estate of Gore Vidal, 2015 November.
2015M-81. Gift of Estate of Gore Vidal, 2015. November.
2016M-77, 2016-82, 2016-85. Purchased with funds from the Frank Brewer Bemis bequest; received: 2017 February 19-2017 February 17.
2018M-019. Gift of Steve Soborof, 2017.
2018M-26. Gift of Julianne Phillips, 2017 September. 2019M-25. Additions to item (3040), gift of Stephen Katten; received 2018 September 29.
2019M-72. Bequest of the Honorable Eunice Latshaw Ross, 2019 February (addition to item (1917)).
2021M-24. Purchased from Clouds Hill Books with the Gore Vidal Endowment Fund for Arts and Letters, 2021 January 12.
2022M-7. Purchased from Clouds Hill Books with the Gore Vidal Endowment Fund for Arts and Letters, 2021 July 13.
2022M-80. Gift of Fred Kaplan, 2021 (item (910)).
Daily financial records and duplicates were weeded from these papers and returned or destroyed as requested. The books and other printed materials have been cataloged separately.
- Altman, Dennis. Gore Vidal's America (Cambridge ; Malden, MA: Polity, 2005)
- Kaplan, Fred, 1937-. Gore Vidal : a biography (New York: Doubleday, 1999)
- Parini, Jay, ed. Gore Vidal : writer against the grain (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992)
- Stanton, Robert J. Gore Vidal : A primary and secondary bibliography (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1978)
- Vidal, Gore, 1925-2012. Palimpsest : a memoir (New York : Random House, 1995)
- Vidal, Gore, 1925-2012. Point to point navigation : a memoir, 1964 to 2006 (New York: Doubleday, 2006)
Processed by: Jennifer Lyons, Ashley Nary, and Betts Coup with the assistance of Sarah Chiappetta, Christine Oliveira de Chaves, Vicki Denby, Michele Doucette, Christine Efta, Kathryn Farley, Stacey Farnum, Ed Haynes, Heidi Kim, Laura Kim, Elena Lisitskaya, Melissa Lo, Jonathan Pava, Nova M. Seals, Olympia Sosangelis, Richard D. Stattler, and Carly Wiskoff.
This finding aid was revised in 2022 to address racist descriptive language. During that revision, description was changed in the description of two works by others. The derogatory term appears in the formal title of each work and thus was not removed, but a contextual historical note as well as a processing information note explaining the term's presence were added to the items' descriptions. If you have questions or comments about these revisions, please contact Houghton Library. For more information on reparative archival description at Harvard, see Harvard Library’s Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Description.
- Authors, American--20th century
- Business records
- Fan Mail
- Fiction -- 20th century
- Film (material by form)
- Gay men--United States
- Historical fiction, American
- Popular culture--United States
- Short stories
- Sound recordings
- Television scripts
- United States -Politics and government.
- United States--Intellectual life--20th century.
- Video recordings
- World War, 1939-1945
- Vidal, Gore, 1925-2012. Gore Vidal papers, 1850-2010 (bulk 1936-2008) (MS Am 2350): Guide.
- Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
- Description rules
- Language of description
- EAD ID
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