16 September 2018

Sylvia Plath Finding Aid at Smith College


Smith College has recently published online finding aids to two collections.

Sylvia Plath collection, ca.approximately 1930-1998
Collection number: MRBC.MS.00045

Abstract: The Sylvia Plath collection contains writings by and about the American poet, novelist, and Smith College graduate, including poems, journals, articles, and correspondence to and from Plath. The bulk of the collection is manuscript, printed, or published materials but also includes realia, and audio/visual materials.

The collection is held by the Mortimer Rare Collection in the Neilson Library. Currently the library is under construction so the collection is accessible in the Young Library, 4 Tyler Drive.

The second collection is the papers of Plath's psychiatrist, Ruth Barnhouse (a.k.a. Ruth Beuscher).

Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse papers, 1915-1999, 2008
Collection number: SSC.MS.00202

Abstract: Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse was a psychiatrist, theologian, and ordained Episcopal priest known for being poet Sylvia Plath's psychiatrist, and for her theological publications related to homosexuality, sex, and women in the Christian church. This collection contains materials reflecting both her personal and professional lives, most of it from about 1970 and later. The collection contains a small amount of materials related to Sylvia Plath, which have been put in separate series for ease of access and reference.

The Barnhouse papers are held by the Sophia Smith Collection which is also temporary located in the Tyler Library.

It's simply fantastic that this resource is now available online.

The Special Collections website should have all the information you need if planning to visit. These finding aids are now listed on the Archival Materials page of A celebration, this is.

All links accessed 12 September 2018.

12 September 2018

Sylvia Plath Collections: Letters to Ruth Beuscher

The court case Smith College brought against Harriet Rosenstein concerning the fourteen letters from Sylvia Plath to Dr. Ruth Beuscher was settled on 27 December 2017. The court case docket number is/was 1784CV00769-BLS; the case was dismissed with prejudice, the outcome of which was negotiated between the two sides. Anyone can visit the courthouse and review the records generated in the case. In the settlement, Rosenstein surrendered the letters she had been a custodian of since the early 1970s to Smith College. I have known about the fate of these letters since early January 2018 and that they would be allowed in the second volume of Plath's letters shortly thereafter.

I must, at this point, apologize to anyone and everyone who has asked me about them for I have lied my face off. But you have to understand, please, that I was expressly forbidden to discuss this matter.

However, as of 6 September 2018, when the second volume of The Letters of Sylvia Plath was published in England, these fourteen letters from Sylvia Plath to Dr. Ruth Beuscher will be open for research at Plath's alma mater, Smith College.

The Rosenstein archive, which I believe is still for sale though possibly not with the original bookseller and now without the letters, is a rich resource for the Plath scholar. It includes materials--including letters that Rosenstein denied us access to for inclusion in our volumes--that no one has ever had access to and we can only hope end up in a public archive. During the lawsuit, I was regularly going to the courthouse in Boston to review the documents that were being filed. To be honest I was hopeful that copies of the letters would be submitted as evidence. Perhaps that makes me a fool. I photographed a lot of the files in the docket and as the records are public documents, if anyone wants to see my photographs please let me know. The contents of the Rosenstein archive, though quite badly & sloppily cataloged by the original bookseller who tried to sell them, were briefly listed online. The lawsuit meant this inventory had to be removed from his website and the sale paused. Before this happened, though, I took a copy of it which will be the subject of a future blog post.


But this post is about the fourteen letters which were written between 18 February 1960 and 4 February 1963. Excerpts of them were serialized along with a hodgepodge of other letters on 27, 28, and 29 August 2018 in London's Daily Mail newspaper. The  letters are dated 18 February 1960, 2 April 1960, 7 November 1960, 4 January 1961, 27 March 1962, 11 July 1962, 20 July 1962, 30 July 1962, 4 September 1962, 22 September 1962, 29 September 1962, 9 October 1962, 21 October 1962, and 4 February 1963. They are initially rather social in nature but then naturally shift to concern over the upset in the marriage. Normally I would like to provide brief annotations on each letter but I think the wiser way to go about it in this instance is to encourage anyone interested to read the letters for themselves. And, if you can exhibit the patience of a saint, to read them as they come up in the chronological run of letters in the book. They form an integral part of Plath's epistolary life. Of course they can be made sense of on their own, but I found, having read them both ways, that reading them in the ordered narrative of the book provides much more of an understanding of the information they contain.

I am very happy that Frieda Hughes allowed the letters to be included and fully support her decision to do so. When you think about it, Plath's full journals, published in 2000, included her typed-up notes after therapy sessions, so there is a precedence for this kind of material to be made available to the public in print and at via the archive.

All links access 4 May 2018 and 29 August 2018.

06 September 2018

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2: 1956-1963 Published Today

Today, The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume II: 1956-1963 is published by Faber and Faber in England. The book, edited by myself and Karen V. Kukil, concludes a very long journey that was years and years in the making. Before I forget---a reminder: the HarperCollins edition is scheduled for publication on Tuesday, 30 October. If you cannot wait until then, the Faber edition ships internationally via Amazon.co.uk and Book Depository, to name two sellers.

The Full Faber Cover
Volume II picks up on 28 October 1956, the day after Plath's 24th birthday, with the following exclamation: "What a lovely birthday I had!" (3). She's living still at Whitstead at Newnham College, University of Cambridge, and shortly into the volume she is moving in with her husband Ted Hughes to 55 Eltisley Avenue. The epistolary journey covers the conclusion of Plath's Fulbright; a teaching year at Smith College in Northampton; a writing year in Boston; a cross country journey and residence at Yaddo; moving back to England, the birth of two children and a miscarriage; the publication of two books and a lot of other writings; and the breakdown of her marriage and death.

There are 575 letters in Volume II to 108 correspondents. A breakdown of some of the letters:
  • 18 letters to her parents-in-laws Edith and William Hughes (held by Frieda Hughes and previously unpublished and unknown to SP scholars); plus 8 other letters to Edith and William Hughes (also unpublished, but held in archives so possibly known);
  • 11 letters to Olwyn Hughes; 12 letters to Gerald Hughes;
  • 230 letters to Aurelia Schober Plath;
  • First publication of Plath's professional correspondence with publishers and editors, sometimes revealing authorial intention of her works: 
    • 18 letters to the BBC;
    • 19 letters to The New Yorker
    • 11 letters to the Critical Quarterly, primarily re: American Poetry Now, a pamphlet of poems edited by SP (1961) 
    • 5 letters to Heinemann 
    • And more! 
  • 14 letters to Dr. Ruth Beuscher, her psychiatrist from 1953 onwards; and 
  • 4 letters to Dido and W. S. Merwin.
There are five line drawings and many previously unpublished photographs. The images include some of the supporting documentation that was invaluable as I wrote the footnotes such as one of Plath's pocket calendars, a page of her submissions list, two pages from her Letts Diary Tablet for 1962.

The best part about having two different publishers in two different countries is there are twice as many reasons to celebrate. On 30 October 2018, when HarperCollins publishes their edition, featuring Plath's 1959 passport photo as the cover image, we can do this all over again!

All links accessed 31 July 2018.

01 September 2018

This is Number Three: The Sylvia Plath Auction

The Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes Bonhams auction in March is the gift that keeps on giving, it seems. Because nearly one-quarter of all the lots were purchased jointly between two booksellers, dozens of items are appearing now individually for sale. This is how I procured two additional possessions of Frieda Hughes' in addition to Plath's fishing rod. In July I posted about the presentation copy of Alan C. Jenkins's White Horse, Black Bull, acquired from Modern First Editions. This blog post is about the third, and perhaps final, item from the auction which I have purchased.

I have always had an interest in uncorrected proofs of Plath's books. They represent a pre-first edition state, were printed in extremely limited quantities, and often serve as a bridge state between manuscript and first edition. Peter Harrington Books of London acquired Lot 377 which was comprised of thirteen total books. Eleven of them were lightly described in the Bonhams catalog leaving two out.

From the catalog:
1). The Bell Jar, small piece cut away from upper fore-corner of front free endpaper [Tabor A4a.3], 1966; 2.) idem, paperback edition, 1966, each signed by Frieda Hughes; 3.) idem, [Tabor A4b], New York, 1971; 4.) Crossing the Water, [Tabor A11a], 1971; 5.) idem, light marks at gutter margins of endpapers [Tabor A11b], New York, 1971; 6.) Winter Trees, [Tabor A15a], 1971; 7.) idem, [Tabor A15b], New York, 1972; 8.) Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, introduction by Ted Hughes [Tabor A21a], 1977; 9.) idem, [Tabor A21b], New York, 1979-- 10.) Sylvia Plath: Drawings. Introduced by Frieda Hughes, signed by Frieda Hughes, 2013, unless otherwise stated publisher’s cloth with dust-jackets, 8vo; and 11.) 3 others, including copy 121 (of 400) of Lyonnesse, Rainbow Press, 1971 (13)
So two books were not described. One of them appeared in a small catalogue Harrington produced and it had all the hallmarks of being something that would tempt me:
PLATH, Sylvia.
Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and Other Prose Writings.
London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1977

Octavo. Unbound and untrimmed sheets. Some light soiling, else in good condition.

Uncorrected proof copy, from the library of Ted Hughes, who collected the writings and contributed the introduction. Signature P is duplicated, with one signature having manuscript corrections by Hughes, corrections which were transferred into the final text. The sheets, without being marked with Hughes’s ownership, passed by descent to his daughter Frieda Hughes, and were auctioned at Bonhams among other Hughes family items in 2018.
The book was delivered to me in June and in July I sent it out to have a custom box made for it. I really adore having this, especially with the few hand-corrected typesetting mistakes.







And now for the box!





I needed a box for this as the signatures were unbound. This one I wanted in orange to kind of match the first Faber edition. It is a different color orange, but I'm ok with that. This box is stunning and it is not temporary.

All links accessed: 23 July 2018.

28 August 2018

Letters of Sylvia Plath Serialized

The Daily Mail of London bought the rights to serialize The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume II: 1956-1963 (Faber, published 6 September 2018).

On Saturday, 25 August 2018, they ran the first of the serials which was an edited down version of Frieda Hughes' long, considerate, and moving Foreword to the book: "Sylvia Plath's letters from the brink".

Excerpts from many letters were selected to be printed over three days. These paint their own small narrative but naturally are not completely representative of the content(s) of the full letters from which they were taken or the general tone of the book itself.

The first excerpt appeared online on Sunday the 26th and in print on 27 August 2018. The online headline: "'I want to kill this bloody girl to whom my misery is just sauce': Newly uncovered letters from SYLVIA PLATH reveal the moment her husband Ted Hughes’s mistress called her – bringing their marriage to a shattering end."

The second excerpt appeared online on Monday the 27th and in print on 28 August 2018. The online headline: "'I still love Ted — the knowledge I am ugly to him now just kills me': Newly discovered letters by Sylvia Plath reveal her heartbreak at the monstrous betrayal by Ted Hughes."

The third excerpt appeared online on Tuesday the 28th and in print on 29 August 2018. The online headline: "'Having been so very happy makes this harder than if I'd never known love at all': Sylvia Plath's joy and torment laid bare in the last letters she ever wrote."

HarperCollins will publish The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2: 1956-1963 on 30 October 2018.

All links accessed 25 August 2018.

24 August 2018

One New Article on Sylvia Plath's First Suicide Attempt

With August on us I continue the search for Sylvia Plath. Recently I found just one new article on Sylvia Plath's first suicide attempt which brings our total now to 264 articles that appeared. And of course we know the number is far greater and perhaps in time more will be found. They all say just about the same thing, but it never ceases to astonish me how far and wide the story spread.

The new article was in the Muscatine Journal and News Tribune out of Muscatine, Iowa. It ran on 26 August 1953, page 8, under the title "College Girl Missing—". The standard photograph ran with the article. The article image and transcription have been added to the bibliography on A celebration, this is.



All links accessed 16 August 2018.

20 August 2018

Book Annoucement: The Selected Writings of Assia Wevill

Dr. Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and I are happy to announce that we have signed a contract with the Louisiana State University Press to co-edit The Selected Writings of Assia Wevill.



I am exceedingly thrilled to work on this project with Julie who brings her tireless, inquisitive, and passionate excitement to this project, as do I.

More details should be forthcoming as we work on and submit the manuscript by the end of 2019.

In the meantime, I recommend we all look forward to reading Julie's forthcoming book, Reclaiming Assia Wevill: Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and the Literary Imagination, when it is published next year.

All links accessed: 19 August 2018.

13 August 2018

Sylvia Plath: Inside The Bell Jar


Fifty-five years after its first publication, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar has received a serious, respectful, and authoritative consideration in the form of Sylvia Plath: Inside The Bell Jar which features the first video interview by Frieda Hughes on her mother. And my, was she and it insightful, humble, humorous: just spectacular. The on camera reminiscences by Plath's friends: Janet Salter Rosenberg, Elinor Friedman Klein, Betsy Powley Wallingford, Laurie Glaser, Neva Nelson Sachar, Phil McCurdy, Perry Norton, and Melvin Woody were superb. Some of these friends appeared on camera, as well, for the first time ever. They offer authentic, personable, and emotional memories of their friend Sylvia Plath and what life was like in the 1950s and early 1960s. These were connected with commentary by Heather Clark, Karen V. Kukil, and Tristine Skyler.

Inside The Bell Jar was sensitivity produced. It has left me in tears (particularly Phil McCurdy and Betsy Wallingford at the end) both times I have seen it in the last 24 hours. There is very little criticize; however, there is one thing worthy mentioning in case it can be corrected. The excerpts of the letters read in the program were inconsistently identified. The one to Ann Davidow-Goodman was fully dated; the one to Aurelia Schober Plath, incompletely dated; and the letter to Eddie Cohen not dated at all.

Letter to Ann Davidow-Goodman, 18 February 1952

Letter to Aurelia Schober Plath, 13 June 1953

Letter to Eddie Cohen, 28 December 1953
It was nice they showed Neva Sachar's telegram from Mademoiselle, but I wonder why they did not show Plath's?

Telegram from Marybeth Little, Mademoiselle to Neva Nelson, 
6 May 1953

Telegram from Marybeth Little, Mademoiselle to Sylvia Plath,
6 May 1953

Plath's pseudonym, Victoria Lucas, was not mentioned at all; neither was an image of the first edition shown. These could have been mentioned during the segment when the reviews of the novel were discussed. Quite minor quibbles in an otherwise fine production.

The Bell Jarby Victoria Lucas,
Heinemann, 1963

Highest accolades to Yeti Media for the work done for this BBC Two documentary. The director, Teresa Griffiths and her crew of executive producers (Siân Price and Angus McQueen) and producers (Tim Kendall and Clive Flowers), consultant (Heather Clark), and all others deserve our praise for their work. Declan Smith provided archival research and he worked with me and a number of others in obtaining video, photograph and other material in the program. It was an honor to participate behind the scenes and particularly neat to recognize the pieces that either I supplied directly or with which I provided assistance in obtaining and am sincerely thankful to be listed in the credits.

The plaque at Wellesley High School installed  in November 2000
for the 50th anniversary of the class of 1950.
All links accessed 13 August 2018.

07 August 2018

Letters of Sylvia Plath Event in London



With the impending publication on 4 September in England of The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume II: 1956-1963 I was hopeful that events would pop up similar to those that took place for Volume I last year. Happily, an event is in the works for Tuesday, 23 October 2018 at the British Library featuring the book's co-editors (that's me, Peter K. Steinberg, and Karen V. Kukil) along with Heather Clark and Mark Ford.

More details should be available shortly as we are still finalizing things. But I just wanted to do a little blog post to put the information out there.

A reminder that the volume will be published in the US by HarperCollins on 30 October.

The book can be purchased in hardback or Kindle via Amazon UK, Amazon US, direct from the respective publisher, and other fine booksellers.

All links accessed 25 July 2018.

01 August 2018

David's Sylvia Plath Table

Two days ago, a piece written by poet, editor, and writer David Trinidad was published on the Poetry Foundation website. Entitled "Sylvia's Table", it recounts his rather exciting and unique experience with the Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes auction held by Bonhams in March. The story of how he came to acquire it is wonderful and I hope you all read it.

The table in the auction room.
Photograph ©Gail Crowther
The timing worked out brilliantly in the end as he received it just a few days prior to my arrival in Chicago for a talk at Columbia College, where David teaches. After checking into my hotel, walking around for a while and going over the final pages of the proof for the second volume of The Letters of Sylvia Plath I met David outside his building on S. Michigan Avenue and we drove to his place so I could see the table first hand.

Table with Plath books.
Photograph ©Peter K. Steinberg
He had it set up with Plath's Collected Poems and Ariel on top, along with the January 1963 issue of London Magazine, which published Plath's poems "The Applicant" and "Stopped Dead". We both like to imagine, I'm sure, that Plath's own copy of London Magazine rested on this very table in her living room in Fitzroy Road.

The base of the table.
Photograph ©Peter K. Steinberg
Seeing the table in person was a wonderful experience and set the few days I was in Chicago going on a strong Plathian note like a fat smartwatch.

Photograph of table from the auction house ©Gail Crowther and used with her permission. All other photographs ©Peter K. Steinberg.

All links accessed: 1 August 2018
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Publications & Acknowledgements

  • BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
  • Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
  • Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017.
  • Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
  • Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
  • Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, 1940-1956. London: Faber, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'A Fetish: Somehow': A Sylvia Plath Bookmark." Court Green 13. 2017.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "The Persistence of Plath." Fine Books & Collections. Autumn 2017: 24-29
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.

Interviews