27 November 2014

Jeffrey Meyers on Sylvia Plath's Heritage

Jeffrey Meyers' "The German Plath" published in the November 2014 issue (volume 33, number 3, pages 77-80) of the New Criterion is his second publication on Sylvia Plath this year. The first "Plath's Rapist" was published by London Magazine in their June-July number. It was discussed at length on this blog here. It is clear that Meyers has a high regard and interest in Sylvia Plath, he is exploring topics that in some cases are under emphasized (some of his articles are listed in this 2010 blog post), but as with "Plath's Rapist", in "The German Plath" Meyers tips the scales, or, falls overboard, and has written largely a piece of drivel. The premise of the article is: "Sylvia Plath was born into German culture … Plath had all the quintessential German qualities: she was clean, orderly, punctual, meticulous, disciplined, industrious, conformist, and obedient ... Her father’s virtual suicide, which she referred to obsessively throughout her life and art, profoundly influenced her own suicide." Meyers contends that Plath's Germanic background informs why "[i]n Cambridge, England, she obsessively cut her breakfast eggs into neat squares and triangles."

Off the bat, Meyers gets Otto Plath's year of emigration wrong. Otto Plath came to America in 1900, not 1901. He claims that Otto Plath "refused to recognize his own diabetes" but I think this is a bit of an oversimplification of the circumstances. Otto Plath believe he had lung cancer, and after seeing this in a friend, refused to seek medical advice and treatment. So it was not so much a refusal to "recognize" to much as stubbornness to get help. If these are one in the same thing do let me know. It highlights the dangers of self-diagnosis; not to mention also the crassness of claiming Otto Plath committed "virtual suicide". And, how many f's are in daffodils? I get this is a typographical error by an editor, but FYI, New Criterion, there aren't three.

After the egg-cutting revelation, Meyers writes "(By contrast, when the critic Al Alvarez visited Plath at the very end of her life, her unwashed hair, an unmistakable sign of her depression, 'gave off a strong smell, sharp as an animal's.')" Now this is something remarkable! Unwashed hair is "an unmistakable sign of her depression". Really. Good thing I'm balding as I should be now exempt from that disease. Meyers show no familiarity with Plath's hygiene. Unwashed hair might be a sign of depression but it is far from 'unmistakable'. Especially considering that Plath washed her hair infrequently. Even from her college days, Plath washed her hair once a week, maybe twice. This is a practice she followed through 1962, as can be see in her calendars held by the Lilly Library for college and graduate school years, as well as in her 1962 Letts Diary Tablet held by Smith College. In 1962, Plath's Letts has 33 instances of the chore to "wash hair". In December, in particular, there are four instances: the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 24th. Alvarez visited Plath on Christmas Eve 1962 (aka the 24th); but we obviously do not know if Plath washed her hair before or after the visit. Maybe the shampoo scent was "Tigress"? Anyway, at this time, Plath was heavily involved with making 23 Fitzroy Road livable. Painting, purchasing things, preparing a script for the BBC, arranging for day care for Frieda Hughes, minding two small dependent children on her own, writing some letters, baking, cooking, taking the children out, setting up services like nappies, subscribing to the Radio Times and The Observer, making professional plans, seeing friends, hosting guests, trying to get a phone installed, seeing Ted Hughes, etc. Pardon the language and the tone: but when the [expletive] was she supposed to have time to wash her hair?

Let's see, what else. Meyers seems comfortable making blanket stereotype judgments "Plath’s orderly and repressive German traits, which helped control her mania...". It is this kind of insensitivity that calls into question his motivation in writing on Plath. How did Plath employ her Germanic background to control her mania (if she was even manic at all… Meyers gives no support to this assertion).

This is a gem: "She became a Unitarian and not, like Otto, a Lutheran; she learned French, not German, in high school and college (though she took German courses in England)." Ok, the decision to be Unitarian was not Plath's decision. It was her mother's (when the Plath's moved to Wellesley in 1942, Sylvia Plath was all of about 10 years old: hardly old enough to be making decisions of this kind). During Otto Plath's lifetime, also, the Plath's were Methodist. Remember, Meyers, Otto Plath turned his back on the family and the Lutheran ministry and was struck from the family bible. And Plath ultimately rejected formal, organized religion when she developed a mind of her own. And (I'm getting out of breath), lastly, Plath did take German courses in college, both at Smith College and in Harvard Summer School.

Meyers claims "In 'Little Fugue,' an allusion to a composition by J. S. Bach". Try again, it is a reference to Beethoven's Große Fugue (the title of Beethoven's composition is even in the poem). Plath was familiar with Bach, but preferred Beethoven.

This one is good, too, "'Electra on Azalea Path' suggests Electra on Aurelia Plath…" Well, kind of. The closeness of Azalea Path to Aurelia Plath is not arguable, but Otto Plath is buried on Azalea Path in Winthrop's town cemetery. Also, the myth of Electra doesn't really work if you connect Electra to the mother figure, so pun notwithstanding, Meyers' attempt at cleverness is abjectly a failure.

Then, Meyers writes, "In August 1962, when she wrote 'Lady Lazarus,' Plath had just survived a near-fatal car crash in England." -- nope. October 1962 is when "Lady Lazarus" was written and "near-fatal car crash" is hyperbolic. There is some doubt about the veracity of Plath's claims of this car incident, but if the story is true, Plath veered off the road in her Morris Traveller at a flat part of Winkleigh in Devon at the site of a on old airfield (map) where there was very little risk of severe injury.

Overall, like with "Plath's Rapist", I am unimpressed with Meyers' recent forays in Plath "scholarship". Hire a research assistant; or, I'm happy to send him a bill for the work I've done correcting his publications. He freely conflates and confuses Plath with her creative constructions: Plath is Esther Greenwood; Plath is "Lady Lazarus", etc. It is a tightrope, a tricky tightrope. It is safe to say and believe that Plath uses her experiences in her writing. Her life sometimes forms the origination of her creative writing but it was a launching off point. Plath's transformation of her experiences into art and into a universality of theme is far more complicated than Meyers gives Plath credit for. There is enough blatantly and factually wrong to question both his knowledge of Plath and his motivations. It is simply careless writing. And it is a little disturbing that venerable publications like London Magazine and New Criterion are publishing this stuff.

All links accessed 7 November 2014.

19 November 2014

Did you know... Sylvia Plath at Yaddo

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes were guests at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York, from 9 September-19 November 1959. They were recommended for invitation by Newton Arvin and Richard Eberhart. In the admission process, they were graded by their peers. Plath received grades of B (Richard Eberhart), A (J[ohn] C[heever]?), and a Strong B or B plus (Morton D Zabel). Hughes received grades of A (J[ohn] C[heever]?), B (Richard Eberhart), and Good B (Morton D Zabel).

Did you know who the other guests and residents were at Yaddo at the same time as Plath and Hughes were there?

There was a director's meeting from 25-27 September, which meant that the following people were there for a few short days under different conditions and expectations. In the list, following their names are their occupation, whether they were a director or a member, and which room(s) they were assigned:

Newton Arvin (writer; Director, Dew);
Robert Coates (writer; Member, Mt. View);
Malcolm Cowley (writer; Director, also there from 20-26 October, West House #4/West House #9);
Paul Creston (composer; Member, West House #6);
Richard Donovan (composer, Director; South Room);
Ulysses Kay (composer; Member, North West);
Louis Kronenberger (writer; Director, South West);
Quincy Porter (composer; Director; East Room); and
Charles Schucker (painter; Member, West House #3).

Richard Eberhart was scheduled to be there and stay in Lower West but his name was crossed out. Other directors present at the board meeting according to the minutes were Granville Hicks, Simon Moselsio, John A. Slade, Kathryn Starbuck, and Everett V. Stonequite. Other members listed as present in the minutes were Elizabeth Ames, Arthur K.D. Healy, Frederica Mitchell, Marion D. Pease, Frank Sullivan, and Eleanor Clark Warren. Not all the directors and members required Yaddo-based accommodations. Many lived nearby and may have just made several trips back and forth. There were 64 guests in total in 1959 (although another document seen lists 69); and there was a loss of 18 or 19 trees due to a small cyclone and repairs were discussed at this meeting.

Plath spent 24 September roaming around the mansion, writing and sketching. She wrote in her journal: "Spent an hour or so yesterday writing down notes about Yaddo library, for they will close the magnificent mansion this weekend after all the guests come. The famous Board. John Cheever, Robert Penn Warren. I have nothing to say to them" (507). According to the document I consulted, neither Cheever nor Warren were listed as a participant in the meeting. Cheever was listed as a Member that year, but not as a Director in the 1959 administrative files.

Plath wrote home the day after their arrival: "Usually in the summer there are about 30 people here, but now there are only about 10 or 12, mostly artists and composers (who seem very nice) and a couple of poets we have never heard of" (Letters Home 353). Including Plath and Hughes, the guests at Yaddo that coincided in some fashion with their stay (in alphabetical order, with their occupation, dates of stay, and assigned room(s) in parentheses) were:

Charles Bell (writer, 4-18 September, West House #7/West House #9);
Gordon Binkerd (composer, 30 September-6 December, West House #6);
Wen-chung Chou (composer, 29 July-23 September, North West/Woodland);
Robert Conover (painter, 28 August-1 October, Pine Tree);
Worden Day (painter, 29 July-19 September, Lower West/Stone Studio);
Arthur Deshaies (painter, 6 October-5 December, Pigeon #2/West House #4);
Lu Duble (sculptor, 4 August-21 September, West House #4/Dairy);
Martin Janto (painter, 2-13 September, West House #3/Pigeon #1);
Dwight Kirsch (painter and writer, 3 August-23 September, South West/Meadow);
Perrin Lowrey (writer 5 August-29 September, High);
Sonia Raiziss (writer 11 August-23 September; East Room);
Howard Rogovin (painter, 2 July-4 December, West House #5/Courtyard/Pigeon #1);
Hyde Solomon (painter, 1 April-12 September, Magazine Room/Pigeon #2);
May Swenson (writer, 2 November-3 December, West House #7/West House #9); and
Lester Trimble (composer, 2-28 September, Oratory/Stone Tower).

The "couple of poets we have never heard of" included Sonia Raiziss (her obit) and Charles G. Bell (his obit).


You might be wondering, then, which rooms Plath and Hughes had? Plath's studio was in West House, room number 8. Previously that year the only other occupant was John Cheever, in April. Hughes' studio, located in in the woods at the end of Pine Grove,  was "Outlook". "Outlook" house, circled red is just a short walk from West House (not circled above, but is the building in the top right of the Bing Map screen capture. Previously that year other occupants of "Outlook" included Charles Ogden and Gerald Sykes. Hughes seems to have been considered for "East House" for his studio, but this was crossed through. Plath and Hughes' bedroom, also in West House, is West House #1. Previously that year the room was occupied on separate occasions by Lore Groszmann and Isle Lind. Plath writes at one point that she and Hughes were moving to the Garage, but this does not appear to have happened (Journals 501).

On 23 September, Plath wrote home "I read some of my poems here the other night with a professor from the University of Chicago who read from a novel-in-progress. Several guests are leaving today, among them a very fine young Chinese composer of whom we are very fond, on his second Guggenheim this year (Letters Home 354). The Chinese composer, we know, was Wen-chung Chou. The professor from the University of Chicago was Perrin Lowrey (biographical sketch). It seems Lowrey, a William Faulkner scholar, never published a novel, but in 1964, the year before his death, he did publish The Great Speckled Bird and Other Stories. Charles Bell was also a professor at the University of Chicago, but he left his position there in 1956. The other guests that left that day in addition to Wen-chung Chou were Dwight Kirsch and Sonia Raiziss.

Only Newton Arvin, Wen-chung Chou and Sonia Raiziss (via her editorial position on the Chelsea Review appear in Plath's address book, held by Smith College.

According to "Portraits" in Ted Hughes' 1998 collection Birthday Letters, Plath had her portrait painted in the old greenhouse by "Howard". Howard is the artist Howard Rogovin, who was a guest at Yaddo from 2 July-4 December 1959. For background and memories of Howard Rogovin at Yaddo, please see Jeremy Treglown's excellent "Howard's Way - Painting Sylvia Plath" in the TLS (30 August 2013, page 13).

For additional reading on Yaddo, please consider reading Yaddo: Making American Culture, which serves as the exhibition book for a 2008-2009 show at the New York Public Library. To complement this exhibit, Karen V. Kukil curated an exhibit at Smith College called "Unconquered by Flames: The Literary Lights of Yaddo" (additional information).

The Yaddo records at the New York Public Library, where much of this information was obtained, is a great resource. Obviously Plath and Hughes are but two of their very famous guests. The housing information was obtained from "Housing Charts: 1959" in Box 332. What they have are photocopies of the originals. The 1959 chart is a huge format paper with grids listing down the left hand side all the housing rooms and work spaces: East House, Pine Tree, West House (#1 - #7), Mansion North Studio, Mt. [Mountain] View, East Room, South Room, Lower West, North West, South West, Oratory, Dew, High, Third South, Third West #1, Third West #2, Magazine Room, Stone Studio #1, #2, #3, Courtyard, Dairy, Pigeon #1, Pigeon #2, Stone Tower, Woodland, Hillside, Outlook, Meadow, Mansion Tower, Garden Studio, West House #8, and West House #9. Most guests had their names listed twice: one place for sleeping and one for work. However, I could not locate on the sheet two places for a couple of the guests. An absolutely indispensable resource.

My thanks to Lesley Leduc of Yaddo for her assistance with some of the information in this post. Additionally, to Tal Nadan and the staff at the New York Public Library, who were helpful when I worked with the records in their ambient reading room on 10 October.

All links accessed 28-29 September 2014.

14 November 2014

Major Sylvia Plath Archive Auction at Sotheby's on 2 December 2014

Sotheby's is auctioning a major archive of Sylvia Plath materials including stories, poems, a letter, photographs, lecture notes and other items in New York City on 2 December 2014. It's all I can do not to pass out.

Sylvia Plath: AN ARCHIVE OF PLATH'S EARLY POETRY AND SHORT STORIES (BOTH MANUSCRIPT AND TYPESCRIPT), COLLEGE LECTURE NOTES, A TYPED LETTER, AND TWO SELF-PORTRAITS IN INK AND CRAYON. WELLESLEY AND NORTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS, C. 1946–1954

The archive comprises:

Short stories.
Autograph manuscripts and typescripts, 1946–1953 where dated, as follows:
1) "On the Penthouse Roof," autograph manuscript in pencil, 3 1/2 pp., 18 May 1946.
2) "The Mummy's Tomb," autograph manuscript in pencil, 4 pp., 17 May 1946.
3) "Gramercy Park," typescript with a few corrections, 6 pp. [1948].
4) "The Green Rock," two typescripts, one corrected, 11 and 12 pp.
5) "The International Flavor," two typescripts, one corrected, 3 and 3 1/4 pp., Wellesley, summer 1950.
6) "Two Gods of Alice Denway," typescript with a few corrections, 6 pp., written for class "English 347a," with annotations by her teacher.
7) "Among the Bumblebees," typescript, 7 pp., Smith College [numers 6 and 7 are different versions of the same story].
8) "Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom," carbon typescript, 22 pp., Smith College [1953], with a letter of rejection from the editor of Mademoiselle.
9) "The Dark River," typescript, 6 1/2 pp.
10) "New England Summer," typescript with a few corrections, 3 1/2 pp., Wellesley
11) "First Date," typescript with a few corrections, 3 1/2 pp., Wellesley.
12) "The Day Mr. Prescott Died," corrected typescript, 1 p. synopsis and 12 pp., 4 p. with typed fragments of other prose works on verso.
13) Untitled story written in the first person by a character named Stanley Edwards, typescript 7 1/2 pp.
14) Incomplete autograph manuscript of a story concerning a 19-year-old college student named Angie, 6 pp. with 2 pp. of notes. 15) Autograph notes and passages from 3 other stories. 16 pp.

Poetry.
A collection of typescripts of 94 poems (plus 9 duplicates) written ca. 1947–55, 33 bearing substantive autograph corrections ranging from the alteration or deletion of a word to major changes.

Lecture notes.
1) Autograph lecture notes from class "Eng. 211, 221 Romanticism" at Smith College, 1951–52, 96 pp. written in ink with some passages underlined in red crayon, in a spiral notebook.
2) Autograph lecture notes from class "40b" at Smith College, 129 pp., written in ink, some passages underlines in ink or red pencil, in a stenographer's notebook.

Smith College.
1) Smith Review, Exam Blues Issue, January 1955, signed in pencil on front wrapper [contains Plath's poem "Dialogue en Route."
2) Smith Alumnae Quarterly, February 1951 [contains extract from letter from Plath to Mrs. Olive Higgins Prouty].
3) Typescript reading lists for two English classes (1951–2, 1954), both annotated and signed.
4) Typed passage from Lessing, in German, 1 1/2 pp., annotated and signed.
5) Autograph fragment in prose (5 lines) with 3 lines of notes, 1 p.
6) A contact sheet of photographs showing Plath interviewing Elizabeth Bowen, and 4 other photographs (including one of the teenage Plath in a bathing suit and another of her holding her infant daughter).
7) A folder of newspaper clippings and a carbon copy of Plath's thesis, "The Magic Mirror. A Study of the Double in Two of Dostoevsky's Novels," Smith College, 1955.

Typed letter.
Typed letter, [Smith College], 24 April [1953], to Aurelia Plath, typed on the inner fold (12 1/2 x 9 1/4 in.) of a birthday card with autograph inscription "much love to my favorite mummy! your sivvy."

Self-portraits.
1) Self-portrait, half-length, in a semi-abstract style, ink and gouache on paper, 12 x 11 in., stamp of Plath estate on verso.
2) Self-portrait, ink and colored pencil on paper, cut out and mounted on black paper, 8 1/2 x 7 1/2 in., stamp of Plath estate on verso.

All links accessed 14 November 2014.

08 November 2014

"We Shall Never Enter There": Sylvia Plath and The Burnt-out Spa

On Sunday 8 November 1959, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes were in the last days of their 11 week stay at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York. Plath's journal entry from a few days later says, "I wrote a good poem this week on our walk Sunday to the burnt-out spa. A second book poem. How it consoles me, the idea of a second book with these new poems: The Manor Garden, The Colossus, The Burnt-out Spa, the seven Birthday poems, and perhaps Medallion …" (526).

The burnt-out spa has for a while be something of an enigma to me. I visited Yaddo for a day in 2001, but did not think to seek out the "burnt-out spa" at the time. It has been on my mind for a while to revisit the town, and over the weekend of 20-21 September did just that, as part of a trip that included a rare tour of the buildings and grounds of so venerable a place. In preparation for the visit, I contacted the city's library to inquire if anyone knew anything about the place that inspired this Plath poem. I received fabulous assistance.

Poet Johnnie Roberts and city historian Mary Ann Fitzgerald each provided valuable information in this quest. The most likely location of the burnt-out spa was the former "Saratoga Sulphur and Mud Baths" at Eureka Park, which opened in 1928 and burnt to the ground on 28 October 1958.

Plath's visit to Yaddo coincided with the first anniversary of the conflagration, so it is possible that the fire might have been mentioned both on the property of Yaddo by its guests and employees, but also by the residents of Saratoga Springs. I also emailed with, and met in person, Teri Blasko, the Local History Librarian of the Saratoga Springs Public Library and her assistant Victoria Garlanda. Together they, along with Johnnie and Mary Ann, provided enough information via emails and attachments to allow for some in the field traipsing through history in this quest.

Arriving in Saratoga Springs, I met with Victoria first in the parking lot of Yaddo and drove the short mile and a half to the end of Eureka Avenue. Here they are building new houses. Makes me wish that in 2001 I had known about the site as it might have looked less spoiled. Victoria pointed out the general vicinity of where the Saratoga Sulphur and Mud Baths was located. We then drove around to the back-side of the area and parked near a hotel. We walked down a clearing path towards the spring with woods on both sides. Victoria warned me about ticks and Lyme disease and other creatures (snakes, etc.) and left me on my own to decide if I would navigate through the dense late summer growth in search of something.

A crude outline from satellite image of the spa location.
Entering the woods, I immediately came across some concrete foundation as well as very rusty metal objects and felt an immense relief. The property after the fire was never redeveloped. If details in the poem are based on observed objects, as is often the case in Sylvia Plath's poetry, then what I saw was the remains of the "wood and rusty teeth", the "rafters and struts", and "Iron entrails, enamel bowls, / The coils and pipes" (Collected Poems 137-138). I wandered around, making my way down to the spring itself. There was not much else to see, but like Plath wrote in her Journals about visiting her father's grave, "It is good to have the place in mind" (473).

Part of the concrete foundation of the old
Saratoga Sulphur and Mud Baths
Eureka Spring and mud
"Iron entrails ... / The coils and pipes that made him run."

Here is an article from The Saratogian from 28 October 1958 on the fire obtained from that wonderful Old Fulton NY Post cards website, which shows two images of the fire burning.

In the top-most image, you can what was the front, main entrance to the Baths. Clearly visible in front is a balustraded fence-like structure. Some of this remained a year after the fire, and was immortalized by Plath in her poem. Plath's speaker, wandering around the site as she herself undoubtedly did, notices the spring as it "Proceeds clear as it ever did / From the broken throat, the marshy lip" (138). She continues, "It flows off below the green and white / Balustrade of a sag-backed bridge" (138).

Two additional views of the Bath are in this black and white photograph, and a color picture postcard. Whilst undated, you can see clearly in the black and white photo the small bridge Plath would have seen; and though partially blocked by a car in the postcard, the bridge crossing the spring is visible in that as well.
1945 view of Saratoga Sulphur and Mud Baths
Postcard of the same
Here is an article about the man that owned the property: 'Mr. Saratoga' believed: Immigrant touted city's healing powers, owned Saratoga Sulphur & Mud Baths from 1928 to 1958. In researching for this post, I read and re-read "The Burnt-out Spa" several times, and as well I also did the same for the other Yaddo poems, especially in preparation for the tour. There were several similarities that I noticed between "The Colossus" and "The Burnt-out Spa" that previously escaped my purview. In the earlier written poem ("The Colossus"), the speaker is miniscule among the grand ruins, and crawls like "an ant in mourning / Over the weedy acres of your brow / To mend the immense skull-plates and clear / The bald, white tumuli of your eyes" (129). In "The Burnt-out Spa", a full-sized speaker is among the beast-like, personified ruins of the spa which is an "esplanade for crickets" (another insect). Diminished in stature against these more modern ruins, the speaker "pick[s] and [pries] like a doctor or / Archaeologist among / Iron entrails, enamel bowls, / The coils and pipes that made him run" (138).

Fifty-five years after Plath, I found myself feeling quite small in the dense overgrowth. The unchallenged weeds and trees have grown wild all around the site of the former spa. That spark and that chill which so often makes itself felt when tracking Plath's footsteps and actions as captured in her poetry and prose made itself known to me while I was at this location, as well as at Yaddo. Yes, Plath, "it is good to have the place in mind."

All links accessed 17 September and 14 October 2014.

01 November 2014

Collecting Sylvia Plath

In advance of the 38th Annual Boston Antiquarian Book Fair in two weeks, and inspired by David Trinidad's compelling and fascinating June blog post, Collecting Sylvia Plath, on the Poetry Foundation's website, I am left induced to share some of my own assembled ephemera relating to Sylvia Plath. It would be foolish to try to replicate the enthusiasm and sincerity in David's blog post; however, I can unequivocally state that in collecting these bits and pieces of Plathiana, I do feel sometimes to gain a better perspective on her biographically and bibliographically: for both those publications she saw during her lifetime, as well as the ones that appeared after she died.

Two of the most recent acquisitions came together from The Poetry Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye. When collecting anything, it is fun and informative to know the provenance of the item. This is not always possible, but in this instance, the items formerly belonged to long-time BBC producer Fred Hunter (obit; another one). While Hunter is not a name with which I was familiar in considering Plath and the BBC, it opens up Plath's influence on her contemporary employees at that venerable corporation. I have to say that I do wonder if they ever met?

The two items purchased were:

1. The Observer, "Weekend Review", 16 December 1962, which first published Plath's "Event". There is nothing like seeing a periodical publication of Plath's work that she herself would have seen. This particular issue was published the first weekend after she moved from Court Green to 23 Fitzroy Road in London and is a poem on one of those very private experiences. "Event", along with "The Rabbit Catcher", was written on 21 May 1962, just after Assia and David Wevill visited Plath and Hughes in North Tawton and some say the poem reflects some spark of recognition in Plath that the marriage was troubled (though it is arguable, too, that the strain in the marriage was already well established by the time the Wevill's visited). Plath submitted "Event" to Al Alvarez at The Observer on 30 June. Published next to "Event" was "The Habits" by Louis MacNeice.

2. New Statesman for 3 May 1963, which published "Child". "Child" is a stunningly beautiful late poem that Plath herself did not send to the periodical. Ted Hughes annotated Plath's submissions list, indicating he sent this poem along with "The Bald Madonnas" ("The Munich Mannequins"), "Paralytic" and "Totem" on 12 March 1963, or just over a month after Plath's death. Plath enjoyed some success with the New Statesman both as a reviewer and a poet. In addition to "Child" and five reviews, Plath's poems "Magi", "Wuthering Heights" and "Stillborn" all appeared in this periodical. You can see more periodical covers over on A celebration, this is.

Another item recently acquired, as a gift, was a first edition, second impression of Ted Hughes' second book Lupercal, Faber edition. This was not just a plain copy of a book. A previous owners' inscription reads "McMaster 1961", and loosely inserted into the poetry volume were three fascinating items:

1. Four typed poems by Ted Hughes with the heading "University of London Institute of Education - 'Art, Literature and Music'". The four poems are "Hawk Roosting"; "Thrushes"; "Fourth of July" and "Crag Jack's Apostasy".

2. An original clipping from The Observer dated 6 January 1963 of three poems by Ted Hughes: "Water"; "New Moon in January"; and "Dark Women" [later titled "The Green Wolf"]. Seeing the poems in their original, first appearance is like reading them for the first time, and I was struck stupid at how "Plathian" "Dark Women" was. Indeed, I could see a dozen Plath poems in them. Grief of influence, indeed!

3. An original clipping from The Observer dated 17 February 1963 of A. Alvarez's "A Poet's Epitaph" with four of Plath's poems published for the first time, along with a photograph of Plath with her daughter Frieda in front of her poster of Isis, taken in the first months of Frieda's life at 3 Chalcot Square in London. The poems printed are "Edge", "The Fearful", "Kindness", and "Contusion". This was the first obituary for Sylvia Plath. Truly stunning to see in the original. You can see larger images of the periodicals and clippings in the post on A celebration, this is, my website for Sylvia Plath.

Lastly, I also received recently as a gift two items from the July 1961 Poetry at the Mermaid Festival (map), which is where Plath read "Tulips" live as a commissioned poem of the festival. I was surprised to see that Plath's name was not listed in these items, but it was a heavily male event, as John Wain's comments reveal in his brief introduction to Plath's reading. The recording is available on The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath, a CD released by the British Library in 2010 for which I was privileged to write the introduction. These two contemporary programme pieces work in conjunction with the official booklet programme (cover image on this page). The session in which Plath read "Tulips" was held on Monday 17 July at 8 p.m.

If you are interested in collecting Sylvia Plath you should consider going to a book fair, searching ABEbooks, and maybe even trolling eBay. You are going to enjoy it, you are going to overpay for something at least once, and you are bound to get something hyper-described that is not really collectible. But it is fun, rewarding, educational.

All links accessed 2 & 8 July, 1 & 31 October, and 1 November 2014.

27 October 2014

Gail Crowther & Elizabeth Sigmund on Sylvia Plath in Devon: A New Book

What better way to remember Sylvia Plath's birthday today than by announcing the forthcoming publication of an exciting new book?

Sylvia Plath's friend, and dedicatee of The Bell Jar, Elizabeth Sigmund and Plath scholar Gail Crowther have joined forces in the forthcoming book Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning to be published in early 2015 by Fonthill. As of right now, the scheduled publication date is 14 February 2015. The book will be available from Fonthill, as well as via Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

From the Amazon blurb:
Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning is part memoir, part biography focusing on the fifteen months that Sylvia Plath lived in North Tawton, Devon from September 1961 to December 1962. This was an extraordinary time for Plath as she finished the proofs on her first novel The Bell Jar and in the autumn of 1962 produced most of her dazzling "Ariel" poems. Elizabeth Sigmund recalls the year of her friendship with Plath from their first meeting drinking tea to attending music concerts together. Gail Crowther considers the impact Plath's domestic life had on her creative work during this period drawing for the first time on unpublished letters, documents and previously unseen resources from a wide range of archives in the UK, US and Canada. What emerges is a unique and industrious picture of Plath as she settled into town life forging new friendships, giving birth to her second child, decorating her new home and producing some of the most memorable and powerful poetry of the 20th century.
The subtitle of the book is taken from Dylan Thomas' "Poem in October": "O may my heart’s truth / Still be sung / On this high hill in a year's turning", which Plath marked in her copy of Thomas' Collected Poems. (As a side note, in addition to it being Plath's birthday today, it is also Dylan Thomas', who was born 100 years ago.) Crowther & Sigmund's book features a fascinating amount of concise, soundly researched information about Plath's life and works during this period and many contextual photographs. Excellently written, Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning is certainly a must read for any scholar, fan, reader, or otherwise of Sylvia Plath. I would offer a "Satisfaction Guaranteed" guarantee but I am aware of certain people out there who are simply too hard to please.

Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning offers unique insight into the year that Sylvia Plath lived and worked in Devon. The book includes:

  • Previously unpublished memories by one of Sylvia Plath’s close friends.
  • Information from newly discovered letters and documents from the archives offering a unique portrayal of Sylvia Plath during her most productive year.
  • Previously unpublished images.
  • Offers a fuller and more in depth depiction of Plath during this final year of her life.

Congratulations to Gail and Elizabeth! Pre-order today!

All links accessed 16 October 2014.

17 October 2014

Articles about Sylvia Plath

It has been quite a while since this blog has had news of "academic" (used alternatingly seriously and sarcastically) articles on Sylvia Plath. So, let us play catch up with some recent(ish) writing that you might find interesting. Below each entry is an annotation or summary, that may or may not be helpful?

Currey, Mason. "Sylvia Plath." In Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013: 109.
          A brief page long entry on Plath's "near-constant struggle to find and stick to a productive writing schedule" (109). Currey cites a few instances in Plath's journals where she tries to dictate her self into routine. The entry mentions Plath's October 1962 routine of rising early and writing before her children woke up.

Garfield, Simon. "The Modern Master." In To the Letter: A Journey Through a Vanishing World. New York: Gotham Books, 2013: 360-384.
          Wonderful article primarily on the letter writing of Ted Hughes. On Hughes' art and dedication to this vanishing form of communication. Includes examples of letters to his his daughter Frieda Hughes, sister Olwyn, a teacher, friend Luke Myers, and Sylvia Plath. Includes a photograph of Sylvia Plath I believe was previously unpublished which is from the "Gerald Hughes collection" at Emory. The caption is weak: "Daffodils and smiles: Sylvia Plath with Frieda and Nick in the early 1960s" (378). Logically this can be only 1962. It is probably the same sitting as the "Perfect Light" photograph referred to by Hughes in Birthday Letters. The photograph in the book is from further away than the above linked image. Plath holds her baby Nicholas in her left arm with her right hand supporting his bum. She is smiling at the camera while Frieda stands off to Plath's right holding a small bouquet of daffodils.

Mack, Michael. "Vacating the Homogeneity of the Socio-Political: Sylvia Plath and the Disruption of 'Confessional Poetry'." In Ethics, Art, and the Representation of the Holocaust: Essays in Honor of Berel Lang. eds. Simone Gigliotti, Jacob Golomb, and Caroline Steinberg Gould. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014: 199-213.
          Mack's essay contends that "Plath strenuously and unceasingly strengthens her selfhood [and her] poetry creates and also preserves the life of subjectivity that refuses to meet conventional moral standards" (199).

Merkin, Daphne. "A Matched Pair (Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath)." In The Fame Lunches: On Wounded Icons, Money, Sex, the Brontës, and the Importance of Handbags. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013: 359-363.
          Any chapter that begins "Them again. Just when you thought there was no more to be said, the ransacked remains of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath float to the surface once more" needs to be ignored (359). One has to question the motivation and sincerity of Merkin to write about Plath (and Hughes). Largely inspired by Diane Middlebrooks' Her Husband, Merkin must have simply needed a chapter. Nothing to see here, carry on.

Poch, John. "The Family Voice: The Confessional Pronouns' Greatest Hits." American Poetry Review. September/October 2014: 33-35.
          Poch's piece looks at "I" in Theodore Roethke's "In a Dark Time"; the "You" in Plath's "Daddy"; and the "Our" in Robert Lowell's "Skunk Hour"; the "She" in Elizabeth Bishop's "The Moose"; and the "He" in John Berryman's "Dream Song 77". For Plath, Poch writes, "While the confessional poet's poems are all about the 'I,' the second person sometimes take the cake due to all the finger-pointing. Perhaps nobody has a better index of this than Sylvia Plath" (33). Thanks to Dr. Amanda Golden for alerting me about this one.

Redmond, John. "The Influence of Sylvia Plath on Seamus Heaney." In Poetry and Privacy: Questioning Public Interpretations of Contemporary British and Irish Poetry. Bridgend (Wales): Seren, 2013, 111-129.
          Redmond pays "special attention to the influence of The Colossus and Ariel on Wintering Out and North" (111). Some of the influences the author notes are merely word choices (they both used the word "neighbourly", for example, and in Redmond's argument this constitutes evidence of influence), but he is more convincing when discussing themes and tonality that Heaney may have picked up from Plath. He compares Plath's "Nick and the Candlestick" and "Berck-Plage" to Heaney's "Exposure" and "Funeral Rites".

Treglown, Jeremy. "Howard's Way." TLS. August 30, 2013: 13.
          Treglown discusses the passing reference to painter Howard Rogovin in Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters poem "Portraits", the only poem in the collection on his time at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York. A fascinating article that ends with Rogovin saying "'I'm not sure how good a poem ["Portraits"] is...but it's probably better than the painting.' And then, as if momentarily speaking in Plath's voice, 'I wonder, why would anyone be interested?'" This is modesty to the nth degree, but it would be a contemporary representation of Plath during her first pregnancy at a time she was writing the the majority of the poems that would start and fill and complete her first published volume of verse. Tons of people -- and not all just "peanut-crunchers" would be interested. The potrait remains missing so far as anyone knows. A wonderful article.

There are two reviews of books about Sylvia Plath to list here, as well:

Gill, Jo. Review of Representing Sylvia Plath edited by Sally Bayley and Tracy Brain. In Modern Philology 112:1, August 2014: 133-136.

Smith, Caroline J. Review of Sylvia Plath's Fiction: A Critical Study by Luke Ferretter. In Studies in the Novel 45:2. Summer 2013: 306-307.

All links accessed 8 October 2014.

08 October 2014

Sylvia Plath Collections: ICA Archives

In a letter to her mother dated 24 June 1960 and excerpted in Letters Home, Sylvia Plath wrote about attending a cocktail party for W.H. Auden "last night" at Faber and Faber's (then located at 24 Russell Square (map). On this occasion, Plath witnessed Hughes being photographed with T.S. Eliot, Stephen Spender, Louis MacNeice, and W. H. Auden. After the party, she said: "Then we went to the Institute of Contemporary Arts and read our poems to an audience of about 25-30 young people with another poet (or, rather, non-poet; very dull)" (386).

I was curious about this poetry reading, about who the "dull" "non-poet" was, and so searched to see if the Institute of Contemporary Arts had an archive anywhere. I started at the ICA website and then learned that the records for the period covering Plath's lifetime are held in the Tate Museum archives.

The ICA London is among the Tate's list of all archival collections (TGA 955) and it seemed to me that TGA 955/1/5/3, "Correspondence about the organisation of poetry events", 1960-1964 was the likely place to start. So I emailed to see if they had any letters to or from Plath and other information about the reading.

Allison Foster at the Tate archives wrote back and could not have been more helpful and accommodating to the request. I should dispense of this information right off the bat and come clean: there are no letters from Plath. Or, none were found. However, there is a letter to Plath dated 29 March 1960. In this letter, Dorothy Morland (obit), Director of the ICA, asks if she would like to give a reading with two other poets at 8:15 p.m. on 23 June 1960. Anyone with an inkling of Plath's biography knows that the date of Morland's letter is just a few days before her first child, Frieda Rebecca Hughes, was born. The other two invited poets, who also were sent letters on 29 March 1960, were Ted Hughes and Alan Brownjohn. Brownjohn wrote back on 3 April 1960 accepting and asking a number of questions. The correspondence rounds out with a reply from Morland to Brownjohn on 12 April 1960.

So close! But again no letter from Plath or Hughes. Obviously they accepted the invitation since Plath wrote to her mother about the reading. A note on Brownjohn's letter, presumably in Morland's hand, reads "PRI 9132" which was the telephone number for the poetic couple at their 3 Chalcot Square flat. So, we can deduce that their acceptance was likely done over the telephone.

In Morland's 12 April 1960 reply to Brownjohn, she wrote: "The poets usually read in two periods of roughly ten minutes each, there is an interval after which we have questions and possibly one or two poems read again." She closed saying the duration was usually about 90 minutes and mentioned that Karl Miller (who recently passed away) would act as chair.

How I would love to know which poems were read! To that point in 1960 according to Collected Poems, Plath had written just one poem, "You're" in January or February 1960. It is possible that Plath read this poem. Based on her submissions lists held by Smith College, it might be possible to guess at other poems Plath selected to read based on manuscripts she sent out to various magazines between January and May.  Those poems include: "The Beggars", "Blue Moles", "The Manor Garden", "Medallion", "Poem for a Birthday" (or any of its component parts), "The Burnt-out Spa", "A Winter Ship", "I Want, I Want", "The Colossus", "Maudlin", and "The Eye-Mote".

All links accessed 24 July and 1 October 2014.

01 October 2014

I know your estate so well: Sylvia Plath at Yaddo

The Grand Manor, Yaddo
On Sunday 21 September 2014, Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York, opened its doors to visitors for a day of tours. At $50 a ticket, it seemed a reasonable price to pay for infrequent public access into this retreat for artists. Naturally you will surmise I was interested in seeing the site as Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes were a guests for eleven weeks from 9 September to 19 November 1959. The tour consisted of 15 stops which included the first two floors of "The Grand Manor" as well as the ground floor of West House, and a swing by Pine Garde and the new Greenhouse Studios, built on the site of a couple of other previous greenhouses.

Sadly, there was not one mention of Plath on my tour! My particular tour, consisting of 25 people, started at the Greenhouse Studios, then proceeded to Pine Garde. Then on to West House before ending in the mansion itself. I could not have been happier at this as it got out of the way the things with which I was not as concerned. While it started off slightly late, we made up time temporarily and then by the point we were doing the mansion, there was such a backup that we ran over by more than 45 minutes. I felt terrible for the tour groups going after ours. I spent some parts of the downtime in-between stops re-reading Plath's journal entries and poems about the property on my phone.

The house and property were simply amazing. Artworks and fascinating objects were everywhere, and the materials that went into the houses construction, design, and decor appeared to be the of the finest quality.

              West House, Yaddo
On the way to West House, we passed the Garage, which Plath talked about she and Hughes moving into in her journals, but I am unclear at the moment if they did move or not. In West House I got a great vibe from the decor and layout, which must all be the same as it was back in 1959. As we entered the door, the tour guide pointed out the statue, which was formerly in the Rose Garden but moved to its present location after it was vandalized. You can see in the photograph below the hand has sustained damage. This recalled Plath's journal entry: "The white statues are all encased in little wooden huts, like outhouses, against the ravages of winter and vandals" (525). In the house, I looked for books by Roethke. Jung, Katherine Anne Porter, and Iris Murdoch, among others that she read while there, but could not suss out how they were organized on the many shelves and in various nooks. My wife did spy a copy of Dylan Thomas' Selected Poems.

Vandalized statue, West House
The upstairs, as with the third floor where Plath's study was, was not part of the tour. In West House we entered from a porch into the music room, then were shuttled into a sitting/living room, down the hallway (where Plath's bedroom was, but it was not pointed out), and into a darkish room on the eastern part of the house filled with a card catalog of stereopticon photographs, which recalled to me Plath's wonderful 1960 poem "Candles". In the hallway, there are a set of stairs that lead up to the second floor. On a landing, there is a stunning Tiffany window which was formerly in a chapel window in the main house.
Tiffany window, West House
Living room, West House
Sofa, Music Room, West House
The back of West House
The main house was were the tour got really mind-blowing. As the tours were quite log-jammed with people there was ample time to stand around and observe. The entry way into the house leads you to the big indoor fountain. This is in the west part of the house and faces east. A massive hall opens up from this. To the right is a small receiving room. The next room we were shown on the right is the main dining room. Opposite the dining room is the music room, which is set up with pews. Above the fireplace in the music room there is a frieze, with little columns and other miniature ruins of Romanesque columns and the like, which reminded me the line "You are pithy and historical as the Roman Forum" of Plath's Yaddo poem "The Colossus".

Fountain, Yaddo
Dining room, Yaddo
Dining room table, Yaddo
At the east end of the main hall on the first floor, directly opposite the fountain, is a sitting area, with the two massive portraits of Katrina and Spencer Trask. When walking back towards the fountain and the entry way, on the right is the stunning mosaic phoenix fireplace Plath wrote about in her poem "Yaddo: The Grand Manor": "Indoors, Tiffany's phoenix rises / Above the fireplace; / Two carved sleighs / Rest on orange plush near the newel post" (Collected Poems 123-124, link to image of sleighs). Then the grand staircase leading up to the second floor. On the landing of the stairs, Plath writes in her journals about the"large stained glass window of woman in blue gown, float in white draperies & fillet of pearls binding auburn hair holding hands to a sky of stone-shaped clouds - green lawn, blue & white sky" (503).
Phoenix fireplace, Yaddo
Grand stair case, Yaddo
Stained glass, Yaddo
As you go up the grand staircase, to the left is Spencer Trask's bedroom and a former chapel. On the landing, you turn right, go up another flight up stairs to the second floor. To the right is the bronze "Bust of Homere" to quote Plath (502). Beyond the bust is a "Glassed-in reading porch with three great-arched windows looking into thick green pinetrees" (503). Like the first floor, the entire space is an open hallway with rooms off to the side here and there.
Bust of "Homere", Yaddo
Reading Porch, Yaddo
At the far end of this floor, facing east, is the "Yaddo: Library: Second Floor" as Plath describes it in her journal (pages 502). This was the most important room for me to see as it matched up so well with what Plath captured in her journals both in text and in illustrations. In this room is the
The glass atlas
"Glass atlas of stars & constellations painted with birds, men horses in yellow & blue & green - equinoxes marked in red on wrought iron pedestal -

Centaurus, Lupus Scorpio, Cancer, Taurus Capricornus, Sagittarius Pegasus, Andromeda, Lynx, Leo" (503).





Also in this room are the engravings above the fireplace of which Plath transcribed the titles; and lots of books and things. I noticed a book on lichens and mosses, liking to think Plath looked at it (Full Text). The word lichen features in "Old Ladies' Home", written around this time, as well as in her her Yaddo poem "The Stones" and the later "Three Women". And moss features in "Dark Wood, Dark Water". The "view east" was different in Plath's time as all the present tall trees were not there, affording stunning views of the mountains in the far distance, but also to a view of "A superhighway" which "seals me off", as she wrote of the Northway (Route 87) in "Private Ground" (Collected Poems 130). Also in this room there are two small chairs on either side of the fireplace, one of which Plath partially drew in her journal, see page 506).

Engravings, Yaddo
Inlaid chair, Yaddo
Plath notes the "Wainscotted Stair coming down from above. On the newel, another elaborate lamp in form of a grecian vase with bas relief of naked nymphs" (503). In her journals, Plath also drew a sideboard, describing it as "Ornate sideboard - enclosing Bayreuth beersteins - gilded bow-legs, gilded wood set with innumerable round, oval & leaf-shaped mirrors" (503). Plath also drew the "Ornate gilt wall lamp fixture with petals of streaked pink & white glass for the bowl of it - exotic magnolia petals. All scrolls & filigree leaves" (502).
Wainscoted Stair, newel, and vase, Yaddo
Ornate Sideboard
Gilt wall lamp fixture, Yaddo
I was not successful in noticing all of the objects and furniture Plath drew as I reached the saturation, freak-out, and fatigue point. I tried to keep my composure and feel lucky I did not fall to the floor shaking, drooling, and soiling myself. Out in the gardens, in the fresh air, where a colossal "blue sky out of the Oresteia / Arches above us", in the "Private Ground", "the grasses / Unload their griefs on my shoes" and it was here, too, I noticed the gate mentioned in Plath's "Medallion": "By the gate with star and moon. / Worked into the peeled orange wood" (Collected Poems 129, 130, 124).
The grasses unload their griefs on my shoes...
"By the gate with star and moon" - "Medallion"

All links accessed 22-25 September 2014

20 September 2014

Sylvia Plath's Arrival in England, 20 September 1955

The first poem in Ted Hughes' 1998 collection Birthday Letters is "Fulbright Scholars" which begins:
Where was it, in the Strand? A display
Of news items, in photographs.
For some reason I noticed it.
A picture of that year’s intake
Of Fulbright Scholars. Just arriving -
Or arrived. Or some of them.
Were you among them? I studied it.

No doubt I scanned particularly
The girls. Maybe I noticed you…
Yet I remember
The picture: the Fulbright Scholars. (Faber, 3)
Sylvia Plath sailed from New York City on 14 September 1955, arriving in Southampton, England, 6 days later on the 20th. She was one of many on board the Queen Elizabeth travelling to universities spread across the United Kingdom to a destination in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, and maybe beyond.

The Queen Elizabeth made a brief stop in Cherbourg, France, before arriving early in the morning of the 20th. Plath's pocket diary, held by the Lilly Library at Indiana University, notes that she had breakfast at 7, and between disembarking from the ship and going through customs, Plath notes down that once in port her picture was taken by a photographer from the Evening Standard. Was she in a group? Alone? Plath boarded a train bound for London, and then took up temporary residence first at Bedford College (now Regent's University London) in Regent's Park, and then at the YWCA 57 Great Russell Street, London (map), across the street from the British Museum, before heading to Cambridge on 1 October. Between 20 September and 1 October, Plath took advantage of London, seeing movies (Shadow of a Doubt and Rififi); plays (Waiting for Godot, The Count of Clérambard, Separate Tables, The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker, and The King & I); going on dates; meeting people; and as you may imagine, sending letters home.

At first glance, it looks like this post might be about the discovery of a new, long-lost photograph of Sylvia Plath. One that lends credence and the potential of biographical authenticity to a reading of Ted Hughes' poem "Fulbright Scholars". Would that it were. Certainly Plath's notation does this, in the absence of the photograph. Hughes cannot (or does not) in the poem remember the name of the newspaper, but we have every reason to believe some of what he does write is true: sizing up the ladies, for example, as many might do.

Unlike my post from August, this post, as of now, does not have a happy ending. I have not found the picture. I searched two microfilm versions of Evening Standard for this time, September and -- to be thorough -- October 1955. Once at the British Library in March 2013 and once via interlibrary loan in May 2014. Here is what I did learn, though!

The microfilmed version of the Evening Standard was the "Final Night Extra" edition. This leads me to conclude that there were other, earlier editions throughout the day. I have been unable to confirm how many editions were printed daily, but if they are anything like the Boston daily papers from this time period, there could be three to five or more editions per day. In the research I did looking for newspaper articles on Sylvia Plath's disappearance during her first suicide attempt in August 1953, this was certainly the case (read my paper "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath"). In the articles on Plath's disappearance and discovery, her news story sometimes appeared on the same page for each edition, but sometimes her story was bumped or moved to another page, for space or due to other hot and urgent news items.

In the 20 September 1955 issue of the Evening Standard there are two provocative news stories regarding the docking of the Queen Elizabeth in port at Southampton. In the first story, passenger Archibald Campbell was found dead in his cabin on the night before docking at Southampton. The second story involved the arrest of a man from London on board the Queen Elizabeth at the time the ship docked. The man was arrested in his bed in his cabin under suspicion of having received £196 under false pretenses. There were no reported stories of female passengers biting male passengers on the face.

The strongest indication to me that the Evening Standard might have covered the arrival of Fulbright scholars at Southampton is a nearly full page story on the arrival, in Liverpool, of 13 Beaverbrook scholarship winners including teachers and scholars from Canada aboard the Empress of France. If this ship arrived later in the morning or day than the Queen Elizabeth, it is conceivable to me that the Fulbright scholars story simply was usurped, after possibly running in one or a few previous editions. This story about the Canadians includes a photograph of three females on the gangway. It does not take too much imagination to think of a similar situation in Southampton, Plath among them.

So close! If you, valued reader, have any knowledge of the number of editions of the Evening Standard in September 1955, please do let us know. Also, if anyone knows of the existence in particular of other editions (other than the "Final Night Extra") of the paper from 20 September 1955, please do also let us know.

Thanks to Petter Naess, Executive Director U.S.-Norway Fulbright Foundation, and Andrew Wilson, author of Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted, for their help with this post.

All links access 9 May 2014 and 26 August 2014.
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