17 September 2007

Sylvia Plath collections: Letters to Assia Wevill, 1955-1970

Emory University made news in 1998 when it purchased the papers of Ted Hughes. Since that time, only one accretion made the headlines. On 8 January 2007, Emory announced the acquisition of letters from Ted Hughes to Assia Wevill in this press release.

Many archives acquire important letters and those letters go straight to the back of the queue. However, the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Library processed this collection quickly. Lucky for us! One of the letters from Ted to Assia's sister Cecilia Chaikin, deals with the return of some stolen Plath manuscripts. I wonder if these are listed and which archive they reside in now?

Letters to Assia Wevill, 1955-1970

The collection contains letters, manuscripts, poems, drawings, photographs, and miscellaneous documents relating to Ted Hughes and Assia Wevill. Included are 61 letters from Hughes to Wevill; included with the letters are drafts for a series of poems on playing cards and a "Draft Constitution," which appears to be an agreement between Ted and Assia concerning her responsibilities towards his children, her household duties, and general behavior. The collection also includes six letters from Assia Wevill to Ted Hughes; one early (1955) letter from Wevill to her sister, Cecilia Chaikin; and three letters from Ted Hughes to Chaikin written after Assia's death. The first two deal with his response to Assia's suicide, while the third responds to Celia's offer to return a number of Plath's manuscripts, which had been sent to her by Assia. Finally, the correspondence contains two letters from David Wevill to Assia, and one letter from Assia to him.

The remainder of the collection consists of a number of manuscript and typescript drafts of Hughes's poems; eight miscellaneous pieces of notes and letters by Assia, addressed obliquely to Hughes; and a number of photographs of Assia Wevill, both alone and with Hughes, Shura, Frieda, and Nicholas. One of the typescripts, which bears the title "For Aya," represents a preliminary version, in four parts, of the longer sequence of poems published as "The New World", while another poem, "Little Blood," contains an extra stanza omitted in publication. Other typescripts include variant titles, and one bears additional manuscript material on its reverse side. Two of the poems, "Crow Outlawed" and "Carrion Tiresias Examines the Sacrifice," appear to be unpublished.

The collection is held in one box. The full finding aid to this collection is online here.

If anyone out there has worked with these letters, we'd all be curious to know your impressions.
New information about Assia Wevill, Ted Hughes, and Plath, please see Eilat Negev and Yehuda Koren's remarkable biography, A lover of unreason: Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath's rival and Ted Hughes' doomed love, available at fine book stores worldwide, online, and through libraries.

Photograph of Assia Wevill above from Emory's web site.

1 comment :

Catty said...

I spent a week with the letters earlier this month. They are heartbreaking. The first in the collection is TH's letter to Ceila Chaikin about the death of AW and Shura... it sets the tone.
I'm keen to see the letters to Gerald Hughes, which are still restricted.

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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." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • 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 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: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • 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.
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (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. 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. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.
  • 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. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • 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. "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. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.