Paul Claudel: Letters to Audrey Parr

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Letters to Audrey Parr, with literary writings and related material, mainly in French, but with a few items in English:

Letters and cards from Paul Claudel to Audrey Parr, 1919-1939, 133 items.

Poems by Paul Claudel, apparently given or sent to Audrey Parr, 1917-1934 and undated, 21 items.

Le vieillard sur le Mont Omi (Paris, Le Livre, 1927), printed proofs and related documents concerning Paul Claudel, 1927 and undated, 34 items.

'Jeanne au Bucher', a play by Paul Claudel [1934], 1 item.

Prose writings by Paul Claudel, 1935 and undated, 4 items.

Miscellaneous manuscript, typescript and printed material, 1935 and undated, 11 items.

Photocopies of poems and drawings by and of Paul Claudel and Audrey Parr, the originals dating from 1918-1939 or undated, 16 items.

Administrative / Biographical History

Paul Louis Charles Claudel (1868-1955), diplomat, poet and dramatist, was born in Villeneuve-sur-Fve, Aisne, on 6 August 1868. After holding consular posts in the United States, China, Europe and Brazil, he was appointed French Ambassador in Tokyo, 1922, Washington, 1927, and Brussels, 1933. From the 1890s onwards he published a large body of poetry and drama, including Cinq grandes odes and Le soulier de satin. He received an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University in 1939, and died in Paris on 23 February 1955.

Audrey Manuella Enriqueta Bapst (1892-1940) was born on 3 November 1892, the daughter of a French Alsatian father and a British mother of Polish and Brazilian parentage. She was raised in England, and in 1913 married Raymond Cecil Parr (1884-1965), a diplomat then acting as Third Secretary in the British Embassy in Rome. It was there that she met Claudel, during a mission he undertook in 1915-1916, and their friendship developed when both Raymond Parr and Claudel were appointed to posts in Rio de Janeiro, in 1916 and 1917 respectively. While in Brazil, Audrey Parr collaborated with Claudel and his secretary Darius Milhaud in a ballet, L'homme et son dsir, for which she provided set designs. She and Claudel met intermittently in the 1920s, during which he and Raymond Parr pursued their careers in various countries. In 1930 Audrey Parr separated from her husband, and settled in London, where she moved in aristocratic and artistic circles, established a lingerie shop, and undertook interior design work. She married Captain Norman Robert Colville, M.C. (1893-1974) in 1938, and subsequently spent much time in Cornwall. On the outbreak of the Second World War, she enlisted as a nursing officer in the Red Cross. She was killed in a road accident between Launceston and Egloskerry on 7 May 1940.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Presented by Mrs Laetitia Mary Jack, granddaughter of Audrey Parr, January 2001, who inherited the papers from her father, Anthony James Parr.

Note

Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives.

Other Finding Aids

There is a detailed description of the collection in the Additional Manuscripts Catalogue, available in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Bibliography

Most of the letters and several of the verses were edited and annotated by Michel Lioure, and published in Lettres de Paul Claudel à Élisabeth Sainte-Marie Perrin et à Audrey Parr (Cahiers Paul Claudel, 13, 1990).

Subjects