Rare Books & Manuscripts

Personal Correspondence of Ian Fleming


A fine correspondence revealing the typically tempestuous relationship, with hints of sadomasochism, between the young Fleming and his Austrian girlfriend, Edith Maria Thonet (née von Morpurgo) (1904-1988). Her father was the aristocratic Viennese architect, Robert Guido Elio Freiherr von Morpurgo (1872-1941); her mother was the actress Lucie Laval Nikolovsky. Fleming's nickname for her in these letters, "Oberstadtdeppin" ("High class ninny"), lightly mocks that aristocratic background.

In 1924 Edith married Rico Thonet, of the Viennese furniture dynasty. The marriage ended in divorce; thereafter she generally used her married name, though sometimes also used her maiden name Morpurgo. During the 1930s she was often in Kitzbühel in the Tyrol, where in 1934 she met Ian Fleming and fell in love with him. The photograph dates from their first meeting and was presumably taken by Edith herself.

By 1934 Fleming was already a seasoned visitor to Kitzbühel. He had been to finishing school there, and he regularly visited afterwards to improve his German, or to ski or hike in the mountains. At the time of his affair with Edith, he was working for a small merchant bank in London, Cull & Co., which had strong German connections and where his language skills were useful. After their meeting in Kitzbühel, Edith visited London and their affair was carried on in a love-nest in Marylebone Lane. The letters show a passionate sexual relationship between the two over several months, intensifying around April 1935, before the relationship broke down and Edith returned to Vienna.

The teasing, occasionally sadistic tone of the letters will be familiar to any reader of Fleming's Bond stories: "Wenn ich 'Lieb' sage wirst Du mit mir streiten, und dann werde ich Dich peitschen müssen und du würdest winen und das will ich nicht. Ich will nur dass du glücklich wirst. Aber ich möchte Dir auch weh tun, weil Du es verdienst hast und um Dich zu zähmen (?) wie ein kleines wildes Tier. Also gib acht, Du." ("If I were to say 'love' you would only argue, and then I would have to whip you and you would cry and I don't want that. I only want you to be happy. But I would also like to hurt you because you have earned it and in order to tame you like a little wild animal. So be careful, you.")

The other letters range from short notes arranging dates or simply sending kisses ("Ich küsse Dich XX"), sometimes with illustrations showing exactly where he would like to kiss her. Others urge reconciliation after argumentsa repeated theme is that Edith has caught Fleming lying to herand make pledges of continued love to her, even after she has decided to return to Vienna. One or two remarks in the letters suggest that Fleming had not previously realised that Edith had been married before. One letter has been torn into shreds, but taped back together again.

According to Edith's family, she and Fleming seriously discussed marriage. In later life she considered that Fleming had been the only man she ever truly loved and regretted having sent his letters back to him.


Together 11 items: three 4-page autograph letters in ink signed Ian, one 2-page typed letter with autograph postscript in ink signed Ian, two 4-page autograph letters in pencil signed Ian, two pencilled notes in Fleming's autograph, one pencil telegraph form with letter in pencil from "Ian", all in German, one photograph of Ian Fleming seated in Austrian mountain scenery in climbing boots and shorts, retrospectively captioned in Edith's hand "Der Vater von James Bond 007, ein Freund 1934 in Osterr[eich]".


One letter evidently angrily torn into pieces by the recipient, later restored with cellophane tape.

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