06 September 2007

Sylvia Plath collections: Letters to Ben Sonnenberg, 1961-2000

The letters to Ben Sonnenberg, a subseries of the Ted Hughes papers held at Emory University features some interesting correspondence. As one would expect, Sylvia Plath is a named person.

Letters to Ben Sonnenberg, 1961-2000

This collection contains 38 letters written to Ben Sonnenberg, including 30 written by Ted Hughes (the other letters are from Olwyn Hughes and Carol Hughes.) The earliest letter is from 1961, shortly after Hughes and Sylvia Plath had purchased their home, Court Green. The 12 letters from the 1960s combine news of family life (particularly of the Hughes children, Frieda and Nicholas) with information about writing and publishing. Hughes comments in detail about Sonnenberg's writing, which Sonnenberg sent to him for input. Also in these letters, Hughes solicits and receives funding from Sonnenberg for the magazine Modern Poetry in Translation, which he began with Daniel Weissbort in 1965. The letters from the later 1960s comment obliquely on the personal upheavels in Hughes's personal life, and he also provides some detailed personal insight into the composition of the poems later published in Crow.

The three letters from the early 1970s continue Hughes's commentary about Crow, and they also describe some of his other writing projects from that time. The 1972 letter also mentions news of his marriage to Carol Orchard in 1970. The five letters from the 1980s have a more businesslike tone. The letters from 1988-89 include a detailed explication of what Hughes calls "Sylvia's Myth" - his understanding of her poetry - including a photocopy of an early draft of "Sheep in Fog" published as an essay in Winter Pollen (1994.) The 10 letters from the 1990s include Hughes's personal reminiscences of the beginnings of his friendship with Sonnenberg, prompted by the publication of Sonnenberg's autobiography in 1991. Hughes also comments extensively on the ideas expressed in - and the critical reaction to Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being. In the letters from the mid-to-late 1990s, Hughes again offers commentary on Sonnenberg's writing, and he also expresses his own current interest in drama. The three final letters from Ted Hughes, all written in 1998, appear to be in response to Sonnenberg's concern about Hughes's illness, and they also indicate that Hughes was sending Sonnenberg various volumes of his poetry.

Two of the five letters from Olwyn Hughes are business correspondence written to Sonnenberg in 1965. Two of the three later letters express her grief over Hughes's death, and her reaction to his memorial service. The three letters from Carol Hughes are from 1999-2000. They express her thanks for Sonnenberg's expression of sympathy, and they also describe several photographs (not included) of Hughes which she sent to Sonnenberg. The final letter, from April 2000, mentions the opening of the Hughes archive at Emory.

1 box. The full finding aid to this collection is online here.

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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.