William Heinemann has acquired a “significant” collection of erotic letters from a young woman to her lover dating from the 1920s.
Selina Walker, publisher at Century and Arrow, bought UK and Commonwealth (excluding Australia New Zealand) rights to the collection, edited by Jean Yves Berthault (pictured with the letters) and titled The Passion of Mlle S. Walker acquired it less than 48 hours after it was submitted by Kerry Glencorse of Susanna Lea Associates.
The letters, which were lost for nearly a century, are written from a Mademoiselle Simone to her married lover Charles. They depict a passionate love affair that becomes increasingly erotic and explicit as their relationship develops.
They were discovered when diplomat Jean Yves Berthault was helping a friend clear out the cellar of an old apartment. There is no trace of how the letters came to be there, though they appeared to be deliberately hidden under several crates of empty jars.
Walker said: “We have no way of knowing who Simone or Charles were, or what became of them, only that their affair ended in heartbreak. What we have left is Simone’s voice that echoes down the years, her letters, and her sexual relationship with the man she clearly loved.”
She added: “This is a time capsule of a book, a truly extraordinary testament to a period of time and a relationship that was as physical as it was passionate. And the fact that it was such a deeply buried secret for all these years makes it particularly special. To be part of the team that brings it to light and to a wide audience is both exciting and a true privilege.”
William Heinemann will publish The Passion of Mlle S in hardback.
Rights to the letters have also been sold separately in North America to Spiegel and Grau and in Australia and New Zealand to Text. Other publishers around the world include: Gallimard in France; Bompiani in Italy; De Geus in Holland; and Companhia das Letras in Brazil.