Rumour has it that 007 is a married man in the new James Bond film. If his creator’s own life is anything to go by, don’t expect him to be a faithful husband.
A trove of letters between the author Ian Fleming and his wife, Ann, reveals how their passionate relationship fizzled out after they wed.
“You mention ‘bad old bachelor days’ - the only person you stopped sleeping with when they ceased was me!” Ann complained.
The letters demonstrate that Fleming used the Bond novels as “an outlet for his libido”, according to Sotheby’s, which is selling the collection with an estimate of £200,000-300,000.
They also reveal his frustrations over producing the 007 stories, at one point saying he was "desperately tired of that ass Bond".
The relationship between Fleming and Ann was tempestuous and complicated. They met in 1934 when Ann was married to Shane, 3rd Baron O’Neill. She began affairs with Fleming and with Esmond, Viscount Rothermere, marrying the latter in 1945 and Fleming in 1952.
The early letters are full of references to sadomasochism. “I love whipping you & squeezing you & pulling your black hair, and then we are happy together & stick pins into each other & like each other & don’t behave too grownup,” Fleming wrote.
In later correspondence, Ann said: “I wish a fairy would arrive with a wand and make everything alright, give Esmond a perfect wife and put me in your bed with a raw cowhide whip in my hand so as I can keep you well behaved for forty years…”
Fleming showed his tender side in a 1948 letter after Ann gave birth to his child prematurely, a girl who lived for only eight hours.
“I have nothing to say to comfort you. After all this travail and pain it is bitter. I can only send you my arms and my love and all my prayers,” he told her. The letter was written on Gleneagles stationery; Fleming was there playing golf with Ann’s cuckolded husband.
But after they married in 1952, the same year that their son, Caspar, was born, and that Fleming wrote his first Bond adventure, Casino Royale, the relationship turned sour. Ann complained that Fleming was sleeping with other women and not her, although she was also conducting an affair with Hugh Gaitskell; Fleming wrote: “In the present twilight, we are hurting each other to an extent that makes life hardly bearable.”
Shortly after Fleming’s death in 1964, however, Ann reflected: “Now that the unbelievable has happened ‘there is nothing more remarkable than the visiting Moon’. I never got it straight between love and physical love, but I have now. Thank God, our last months were specially happy…”
Many of the author’s later letters are written from Goldeneye, Jamaica, where he went each year to work on his novels.
He told Ann of proposals for a Bond television series - “interesting but no gold mine at this stage” and a potential Hollywood film: “It’s as usual a question of crossing fingers & waiting for someone to pry them apart & force some dollars between them.”
There are also mentions of the celebrities who came to visit GoldenEye, including Truman Capote arriving fresh from Moscow, “hustling and twittering along with his tiny face crushed under a Russian Commissars uniform hat”.
The 160 letters, spanning 500 pages, are being offered by Fionn Morgan, Ann’s daughter by Lord O’Neill, in a Sotheby’s online sale from December 3-10.
Dr Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s specialist in books and manuscripts, said: “James Bond was very much a product of Ian and Ann’s relationship. It is no coincidence that Ian wrote his first Bond novel in the same year they married, both as an outlet for his libido and imagination, and also in an attempt to make money for a woman who was used to being unthinkingly rich.
“Much more than love letters, this correspondence charts the meteoric rise of Bond and paints a vivid picture of high society living in the post-war world.”