MS Am 2350

Vidal, Gore, 1925-2012. Gore Vidal papers, 1875-2008: Guide.

Houghton Library


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Harvard Depository, b, f, pf
Call No.: MS Am 2350
Repository: Houghton Library
Title: Gore Vidal papers
Date(s): 1875-2008 (inclusive)
Date(s): 1936-2000 (bulk)
Quantity: 367 linear feet (394 boxes, cartons, and film reels)
Quantity: Extent is approximate.
Language of materials: Collection materials primarily in English. Also includes materials in French, German, Italian, and Spanish.
Abstract: Papers of American author, Gore Vidal (1925-2012), including literary manuscripts, photographs, political papers, legal and business records, and other material. Also includes papers of his companion, Howard Austen (1929-2003).

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

2001M-34,2001M-52, 2002M-24, 2003M-12. Gift of Gore Vidal, received: 2001 December 7-2003 August 29. [NOTE: Materials donated by GV after the creation of this finding aid in March 2007 will be cataloged separately].
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-61 (1359). Gift of Hugh Guilbeau; received: 2011 January 27.
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.
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.


In the 1960s, GV 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 the request of GV.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Jennifer Lyons 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.

Conditions Governing Access:

Most of this collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but 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.
Most of this collection is open for research use. Access to series XI. Audiovisual materials is temporarily restricted until reformatted and use copies are produced. Contact Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts for more information.
Restricted: for legal or university policy reasons; item 3357 closed until January 1, 2032; item 3373 closed until January 1, 2034; and item 2914 closed until death of creator; consult curatorial staff. Some items were formerly restricted, see below for details.

Special Equipment Required for Access:

This collection includes videotape and film materials that require special equipment, special arrangements and permission for viewing. Contact Houghton Public Services staff for further information.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Gore Vidal Papers, 1875-2008 (MS Am 2350). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Related Materials

Additional Vidal family papers are housed elsewhere. Papers of GV's father, Eugene Luther Vidal, are at the University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center. The papers of GV's grandfather, Thomas Pryor Gore, are at the University of Oklahoma.

Separated Materials

Daily financial records and duplicates were weeded from these papers and the books and other printed materials have been cataloged separately.

Biographical / Historical

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) (referred to as GV in this finding aid) 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 continues into the twenty-first century. He has also been a public, sometimes controversial, figure in American politics. In addition to a sequence of seven novels about American history, and novels he refers to as "inventions" such as Myra Breckinridge and Duluth, he has also written three mystery novels under the pseudonym, Edgar Box. GV is also well-known as an essayist as he has composed well over a hundred essays, gathered in several volumes published between 1962 and 2001.
1925, 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. 1935, 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. 1936, 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. 1939, 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. 1940, GV attends Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter (N.H.). 1941, GV drops the names "Eugene Luther" to become Gore Vidal. 1942, Nina Auchincloss marries Robert Olds, director of Wright Air Force Base. 1943, GV enlists in the United States Army and attends the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington (Va.) 1945, 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. 1946, GV moves to Antigua (Guatemala). His friend Anaïs Nin visits. 1948, Tennessee Williams and GV travel in Europe. The city and the pillar is published. 1950, 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. 1955, 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. 1959, 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. 1960, 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. 1963, GV and Howard Austen (HA) move to Rome (Italy). 1964, Julian is published. 1966, Washington D.C. is published; the first novel in what GV calls his "narratives of empire" series. 1968, 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. 1970, GV becomes chairman of the New Party (U.S.) for two years. 1971, GV purchases a home, La Rondinaia, in Ravello (Italy). 1972, Burr is published. 1976, 1876 is published. 1982, GV runs in the California primary race for Senate. He comes in second after Jerry Brown. 1984, Lincoln is published. 1987, Empire is published. 1993, United States: Essays, 1952-1992 is published and wins the National Book Award. 1995, GV's memoir, Palimpsest, is published. 2000, The Golden Age, the last novel in GV's "Narratives of Empire" series, is published. 2003, GV and HA move from their home in Ravello (Italy) to their home in California. Howard Austen passes away. 2006, GV sells his home in Ravello (Italy). 2012, GV died at his home in Hollywood Hills, California, on July 31, 2012, of complications from pneumonia. He was 86.



Major books on Gore Vidal include: 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)


Organized into the following series:

Scope and Contents

The Gore Vidal papers include a variety of materials reflecting his personal, literary, political, and business life. This diverse and exhaustive collection includes: materials documenting his early life, correspondence, autograph manuscript 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, compositions written by others sent to him, and much more.
Series I: Compositions. Drafts of GV'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 GV 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.
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 GV's poetry, short stories and speeches are also included.
Readers should note that drafts of all of Vidal's literary work are included in the Compositions series, but manuscripts published after 1968 are on deposit at Houghton Library and are not cataloged.
Series II. Correspondence. Letters between GV 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 corespondents 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 GV's family members, personal friends, business associates or scholars. Also included in this series are greeting cards, fan mail, notes and memoranda, ephemera and clippings about the correspondent, and a few photographs. Letters from GV's companion Howard Austen (HA) are included in this main series of GV correspondence, since Austen assisted GV with business matters as well as sharing many personal friends. However, HA'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 GV's career. In 1960, GV ran for Congress in the 29th Congressional District of New York. In 1982, GV 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. Types of materials included are 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 GV collected himself or were sent to him by others.
Series IV. Legal cases. Papers related to four legal cases involving GV, 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 GV and interviews GV and HA 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 GV's and his family members' lives. Prominent family members in this series include Howard Austen, Eugene Luther Vidal, GV's father; Nina Olds, GV's mother; and Thomas Pryor Gore, GV's maternal grandfather.
Series VII. Business and financial records. Records related to GV'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 GV. Most of these were sent to GV. 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 GV, HA, or sent to them either by friends or fans.
Series X. Images. Images of GV, 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 GV alone or with other individuals or groups. There are also images of other individuals and groups without GV 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.
Series XI. Audiovisual materials. The Audiovisual materials series includes films, video, and sound recordings of works written by or about GV. The series also includes video and sound recordings of television and radio appearances of GV, 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 GV and Howard Austen. Arranged alphabetically by genre.


The majority of this collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

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