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Anna de Noailles Collection

Identifier: MSE/MD 2819

Scope and Contents

This collection includes items in a variety of formats both from and about Noailles, including personal autograph signed letters from her to others; letters from others about Noailles; reviews and criticism of Noailles and her work from both during her lifetime and after her death; images and photographs of Noailles, some of which are inscribed; and various ephemera pieces. Particular strengths of the collection include over forty manuscript letters, most of them from Anna de Noailles and in her distinctive handwriting, spanning the entirety of her public life. This correspondence gives an inside glimpse into the private and social lives of the Parisian elite in the early decades of the twentieth century. Of special note are the items relating to the rift between Noailles and the author René Benjamin in 1928-1929 brought on by Benjamin's unflattering portrayal of Noailles in his 1928 novel, Au soleil de la poésie. Sous l'œil en fleur de Madame de Noailles. Noailles cut him off as a result, though after several months and through the efforts of the author Jean Tenant and others, the two were reconciled. This collection includes a copy of the published book that prompted the affair, as well as correspondence and other materials related to the rift and subsequent reconciliation. The collection also includes several letters to other correspondents from Maurice Barrès (1862-1923), the French novelist with whom Noailles had a decades-long, intimate friendship. Finally, the collection contains critical reviews of Noailles' work spanning the twentieth century, both from during her lifetime and posthumously, nearly all of which appear in their original publications. From these materials we can see the rise of Noailles as a leading French literary persona, her public life at the height of her fame, and the quickly fading critical response to her work after her death despite her huge popularity while she was alive. Anna de Noailles is now largely forgotten among literary critics of French language and literature, despite her broad successes during her lifetime.


  • Creation: 1901 - 2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1904 - 1933


Language of Materials

Collection material in French.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

Anna de Noailles was an early 20th century French poet. Noailles was born Princess Anna Elisabeth Bibesco-Bassaraba de Brancovan in Paris on 15 November 1876. Her Romanian father was Prince Grégoire Bibesco-Bassaraba, son of the Wallachian Prince Gheorghe Bibesco and Zoe Mavrocordato-Bassaraba de Brancovan (the Danubian Principality of Wallachia united with Moldavia in 1862 to form Romania). Her mother, Ralouka (Rachel) Mussurus, was Greek but had been raised in London, and was an accomplished pianist. Noailles later credited her mother with giving the young Anna her love of poetry. Noailles was the middle of three children, with an older brother, Constantin, and a younger sister, Hélène. She was educated at home and spoke English and German as well as French, spending winters in Paris and the rest of the year at the family estate on the south shore of Lake Geneva. At the age of twenty, on 18 August 1897, she married the Count Mathieu Fernand Frédéric Pascal de Noailles (1873-1942), the fourth son of the 7th Duke de Noailles, thereby becoming the Countess de Noailles. Their only child was a son, the Count Anne-Jules de Noailles (1900-1979). Due to health problems, Noailles spent much of her time in her bedroom after 1911, writing and receiving visitors there. Her social circle included some of the most prominent names in Parisian art and society. Noailles' first publication was a collection of poems entitled Le Coeur innombrable (The Innumerable Heart), which appeared in 1901 to great acclaim. Over the next three decades she would publish several more collections as well as three novels and an autobiography of her early years. In 1921, the Académie Française awarded her its Grand Prix de Littérature (Grand Prize for Literature). In 1922 she became the first woman in the Belgian Royal Academy of French Language and Literature. And on 11 January 1931, she became the first woman to receive the high rank of "Commander" in The Legion of Honor. Anna de Noailles died on 30 April 1933 in Paris, at the age of 56.

Biographical / Historical

Catherine Perry was born in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1952, to parents originally from Boston, Massachusetts. After completing both a Bachelor of Arts (1987) and a Master of Arts (1989) in French at Indiana University, Bloomington, she pursued her Ph.D. in French at Princeton University, which she was awarded in 1995. Perry worked as an instructor of French and Francophone literatures and cultures at the University of Notre Dame during the final two years of her doctorate (1993-1995), becoming an assistant professor in 1995 and an associate professor in 2002. Her teaching and research specialties included intellectual history, gender studies, representations of North Africa in European literature and painting, Francophone literatures from the Maghreb, and French and Francophone cinema. Perry retired from Notre Dame in 2016. Perry published her first monograph, based on her doctoral dissertation, in 2003. Persephone Unbound: Dionysian Aesthetics in the Works of Anna de Noailles (Bucknell University Press) studies Anna de Noailles as a celebrated poet and novelist of the Belle Époque (1871-1914) in relation to the philosophical and aesthetic currents of early 20th-century Europe. Perry has also published on other important poets and writers of this period, such as Marcel Proust, Maurice Barrès, and Ranier Maria Rilke, as well as writers from other periods and continents. She has also written introductions to translated works of French women poets. Having lived in Morocco for over ten years, Perry's interests include work on Moroccan witness literature. Her most recent publication is an edited collection of essays on Muslim women in Francophone literature, film, and the visual arts, Femmes d'islam dans la littérature, le film et l'art (L'Harmattan, 2018).

Perry has received a number of honors and awards for her work in French and Francophone studies. Most notably, she is a Chevalier in the French national order, the Ordre des palmes académiques (March 2006), a former President of the Conseil International d'Études Francophones, and a former Editor in Chief of the Conseil's scholarly journal, Nouvelles Études Francophones.

Gregory Vandenbroucke was born in 1948 in Paris, France to American parents. A broker by profession, Vandenbroucke married Catherine Perry in 1999. The couple live in Niles, Michigan.

Perry and Vandenbroucke built their collection of Anna de Noailles materials over two decades. Their initial interest in collecting material related to Noailles stemmed from Perry's experiences researching the poet in Paris, where she read manuscripts and first editions of Noailles' books that had been published in the early 20th century. Perry and Vandenbroucke found letters and books by Noailles for sale throughout France and began building their collection. They realized that these documents needed a home to protect them from being further dispersed and ultimately lost, ideally one where researchers could benefit from them. Perry and Vandenbroucke donated their collection of Anna de Noailles materials to Notre Dame's Hesburgh Libraries in 2016.


5.5 Cubic Feet : 113 folders; 5 containers


Collection of various items by and about the early twentieth century French poet Anna de Noailles, consisting largely of autograph letters from Noailles to various correspondents, and reviews and criticism of Noailles' work in various early twentieth century publications. A number of images and photographs of Noailles are also included, some of which carry inscriptions in her hand.


The collection is arranged in five series: 1. Correspondence; 2. Other Manuscript Material; 3. Printed Bound Items; 4. Printed Ephemera; 5. Images and Photographs; 6. Audio Recordings. Typically, there is one item per folder, with groups of items arranged by format.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Anna de Noailles Collection collection was assembled and donated to the Hesburgh Libraries by Catherine Perry and Gregory Vandenbroucke in December 2016.

Separated Materials

The Noailles manuscript collection complements the printed book portion of the collection (inscribed and not inscribed), also held at Notre Dame's Hesburgh Libraries. The printed materials bear the descriptor "The Catherine Perry and Greg Vandenbroucke Collection of Anna de Noailles" in their record details within Hesburgh Libraries' catalog.

Anna de Noailles Collection
Kathryn Rose Sawyer; Second Accession Lauren Jean
2017; 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556