When a person of note has reached their autumn years they are often taken to compose their Memoirs, a record of their life for the perusal and study of those who would wish to emulate it.
In fiction such a document is often something that others would wish was not written. It often contains details that others wish lay forgotten, such as past scandals or a dodgy deal that no one found out about. As such there is often a plot revolving around stopping/protecting the Memoirs.
This covers Memoirs as a plot device, not a framing device. However there can be overlap. For example one of the Sherlock Holmes
short stories starts with a note to the effect that, while he has no interest in publishing a specific case due to the scandal it will cause he WILL if people keep trying to steal his notes, meaning that someone in universe considers his writings to be an example.
- The reactions to Nite Owl I's "Under the Hood" in Watchmen were like this.
- In Atonement, Briony states that she would have to wait until after her cousin Lola died before she could publish her memoirs, specifically, the truth about who really raped Lola and the fates of Cecilia and Robbie.
- A subversion of this trope is the basis for the Idiot Plot in Burn After Reading. A self-important disgruntled CIA agent plans to release his memoirs, which are nothing like as scandalous to the agency as he believes. But then a bunch of other people mistake the memoirs for valuable "spy shit".
- The pornographic film The Sign of the Lion is based around a pair of old women writing a Roman à Clef that amounts to their memoirs of serving under an extremely randy count. Like most good roman a clefs, it's very easy to tell who they're talking about, and the count's heir will stop at nothing to either keep said novel from being published or suing its author (they published it under one's nephew's name) for everything he's got.
Live Action Television
- In Jeeves and Wooster, Bertie's uncle Willoughby (in the TV adaptation, Sir Watkin Bassett) writes his Memoirs and SEVERAL parties take offense at the depiction of the now respectable pillars of society as the kind of roaring youths that would not have gone out of place in the Drones Club. Oddly enough, this does not include most of the people so depicted, who seem to like the idea that the youth may recall that they too were young once.
- Another example from Wodehouse are the memoirs of the Hon. Galahad Threepwood, younger brother of the Earl of Emsworth, which contains many salacious details from the youth of several pillars of society, some of whom were members of the notorious Pelican Club. Threatening to publish said memoirs is sometimes used in an attempt to blackmail one of the Threepwood sisters who is opposed to one of her children marrying beneath his or her station, until the manuscript is finally eaten by the Empress (Lord Emsworth prize-winning pig)
- As mentioned above, the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger" begins with Watson saying that if the person who tried to get at his case-notes does it again, he will reveal the whole story of "the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant" to the public. Several other stories have mention in the foreword that Watson deliberately delayed publishing them until after the death of the principals of the case so that they could not be harmed by any possible scandal. One other story featured a woman trying to get a hold of a deceased ex-lover's memoirs so that she could destroy anything that referenced her.
- Ciaphas Cain's unofficial memoirs are classified and available only to inquisitors. His official ones are apparently propaganda and nonsense.
- In Yes, Prime Minister, the former Prime Minister writes his memoirs and Hacker tries to bar the parts that make him look bad from publication.
- The crisis is resolved the next episode by the sudden death by heart attack of the former PM; this turns a disaster (the former PM's memoirs) into an opportunity (Hacker has an excuse to hold a big funeral and get some diplomatic business done). It also pleases Hacker immensely; for a moment after receiving the news, Hacker breaks out into one of the sincerest, happiest grins you'll ever see.
- Make what you will of the fact that at least one tie-in book takes the form of a sort of Scrapbook Novelisation of the first two seasons, in which Hacker's own journal features heavily.
- The Spooks episodes "The Rose Bed Memoirs" (Series One) and "The Book" (Series Four) both involve these.
- An episode of The Persuaders! was about a memoirs book from an ex-spy.
- In "Mr. Monk and the Astronaut", Monk at first thinks the motive for the murder is that the astronaut had an affair with the victim, an actress, but it turns out his wife knows all about the affair and has forgiven him. Then Monk finds out that when they were seeing each other, the astronaut once beat the actress so badly she ended up in the hospital, and she was going to reveal it in her memoirs.
- In the It Takes a Thief (1968) episode "Lay of the Land", Al Mundy is assigned to steal the memoirs of a duchess who really got around in her day, just in case one of her prominent lovers let slip any state secrets. Subverted when it turns out that her memoirs are actually rather tame; she was going to have them published posthumously, and in the meantime spreading rumors about their scandalous contents helped drum up publicity (and increase her advance). Discovering this, foreign agents hold her niece hostage and force her to write in a few new chapters to make Western powers look bad.
- Very briefly used on The West Wing. As President Bartlett is just about to leave office, there's a train crash and two state governors squabble about who has to deal with it. Bartlett calls one of them and threatens that he's about to earn a paragraph in his soon to be written memoirs. The governor immediately backs down.
- In Saturday Night Live former baseball star Chico Escuela wrote a tell-all called Bad Stuff 'Bout the Mets ("Tom Seaver - he once borrow Chico's soap and no give it back"). This comes back to bite him when he decides to tries a comeback.
- The compromising memoirs Colonel Nivin is planning to publish provide the motive for his murder in the Ellery Queen episode "The Adventure of Colonel Nivin's Memoirs".