18 February 2009

Sylvia Plath collections: University of Edinburgh

The Location Register of English Literary Manuscripts and Letters at the University of Reading (U.K.) indicates that the University of Edinburgh owns typescripts and/or photocopies of the following poems by Sylvia Plath: "Daddy", "Morning Song", and "Lady Lazarus". These Plath materials are held in the Norman MacCaig papers (MS.3208.10-11). All three poems are typescripts, possibly carbons. They are typed, but it is unclear by whom.

Both "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus" merge two stanzas together, and someone in an unidentified hand wrote "space" in the margins. Here and there words are crossed out. These typecripts do not necessarily match typescripts of the those poems held at the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College. The typescript of "Morning Song" is unmarked.

Handwritten on each typescript is "Sylvia Plath" in the top right corner. The handwriting is the same as handwriting on "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus". It is possible that the handwriting is MacCaig's. "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus" appeared in print together several times through 1963 in various periodicals such as The New Yorker, The Review, and Encounter. In 1966 they were printed in an issue TriQuarterly which focused on Plath.

The University of Edinburgh also has poems by Plath that are unbound and possibly galley proofs. These poems include: "Daddy", "Morning Song", "Lady Lazarus", "Poppies in October", "The Moon and the Yew Tree", and "You're".

I would like to thank Edward Mendelson of Columbia University for directing me towards the Location Register of English Literary Manuscripts and Letters at the University of Reading (U.K.), which enabled me to locate these item.


Anonymous said...

For anyone who is not familiar with the name Norman MacCaig...he was a prominent Scottish poet (1910-1996)who published 16 collections of poetry and taught creative writing at the University of Edinburgh after 1967. The Wikipedia article on him contains a quote about him from Ted Hughes. But how he came to have these manuscripts of Plath's poems is anyone's guess. I have not been able to find that he was connected with any poetry journal that she may have submitted work to. --Jim Long

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thank you for your comment Jim. I too have been searching for some connection between Norman MacCaig and Plath and just turned up empty handed. This posting was ready to go up in October and I finally gave up!!

That he had these typescripts and that they are not the same as though held at Smith adds some complexity and confusion to their existence in Edinburgh.

The quote on Wikipedia does indicate that Hughes and MacCaig were acquaintances. In fact, Plath may have met MacCaig during the Poetry at the Mermaid festival in 1961. But, that still doesn't solve anything.

If anyone out there knows of any publications MacCaig acted as editor or some other capacity for please let us know.


Peter K Steinberg said...

As a follow up, I'd like to post this link to an article, which Jim Long found, on MacCaig: http://erea.revues.org/index446.html

Thanks, Jim!

Anonymous said...

I am getting a tattoo of some of the lines of Lady Lazarus in memory of my Mother who committed suicide. I have been looking for the typescript or handwritten version to see how it would fare on skin. Are these accessible to the average person online? Thank you.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Dear Anonymous,

The Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College holds the manuscripts of this poem and they do supply photocopies. If you look them up online you can find their contact information. The copy held at Uni of Edinburgh is just a typescript - and the handwritten version is so much more lovely and revealing.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your help, I would love to get my hands on them.

I am very happy to have discovered your blog and you can be sure I will follow from now on. Thanks a million.

In case you were curious, I hope to get:
I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

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