11 March 2010

Sylvia Plath: Did you know...

Within six weeks of Sylvia Plath's death, Ted Hughes gave Heinemann permission to disclose Plath's identity as the author of The Bell Jar. Naturally Plath's identity as the author wasn't completely anonymous: in certain circles, it was quite known that she was the author of the novel.

When the Heinemann Contemporary Fiction edition was published in September 1964, the author, however, was still listed as Victoria Lucas. The back of the dustwrapper states that the author's name is a pseudonym and that they weren't at liberty to disclose the identity.

Now, this contradicts my first sentence, but this is just the way it goes sometimes...

Plath's name was not on the title page of The Bell Jar for another two years, when Faber brought out their first edition of the novel on 1 September 1966. The Heinemann, Contemporary Fiction and Faber editions of The Bell Jar can be seen here; they are the first three in the first row.

Did you know... On March 11, 1965, 45 years ago today, it was officially published that Plath was the author of The Bell Jar? It was on this day that Faber published Ariel.

In the front matter, on verso of the half-title page where Plath's previous books are listed, two books are present (see image to the left). The first, a poetry collection, The Colossus. The title under the Fiction heading is The Bell Jar with the author given "(as Victoria Lucas)". This is the first time the novel appeared in print with the author's true identity stated and came a year and a half before Faber's publication of The Bell Jar.

For those curious, the first edition of Ariel published in the United States by Harper & Row in 1966 does not similarly list The Bell Jar. Odd? Probably not given Plath's own wish that the novel not be published in America (a sentiment she and her mother shared). However, it is odd when one considers the following:

Plath's award of the Saxton Grant for a novel appeared in The New York Times on November 21, 1961. While the title and subject weren't mentioned, those interested in Plath might have made a mental note to keep on the lookout.

Plath & Heinemann did actively market the novel to her American publisher Alfred Knopf. After a lot of discussion and consideration Knopf passed on it. These letters are held with the Knopf papers at the University of Texas at Austin.

And, Plath's authoring the novel was discussed in "Poetry of Bay Stater Disturbs London Critics", an article about Ariel by Brenda Maddox which ran on June 5, 1965, in the Worcester Telegram. It is likely this article was syndicated in other newspapers around this time. Yet, it may just be the first to publicly tie the novel and the author together in her home state and country.


Anonymous said...

your post about 'the bell jar' got me thinking...

I own what I think is one of the first Faber editions of the novel. On the second page it reads:

First published by Faber and Faber 1966, then attributes copyright to Sylvia Plath 1963.

Does this mean that my particular copy was published in 1966? It doesn't have any other date on it, and unfortunately only retains the spiral design of the original dust-jacket, selotaped into the back.

The other books listed as 'by the same author' read:

Ariel (faber and faber)
The Colossus (heinemann)

Any help would be appreciated!

hummingbird x

Peter K Steinberg said...

Hummingbird x,

Thanks for your comment.

Based on your description, this sounds like a first edition.

Does your edition have the dedication "To Elizabeth and David" in the front matter or right before chapter 1. The first printing of Faber's Bell Jar lacks this dedication.

If you have access to Stephen Tabor's Sylvia Plath: An Analytical Bibliography, he has very detailed descriptions of the first editions.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

no it doesn't have that dedication, but I have access to the Tabor.

many thanks x

Peter K Steinberg said...

No worries. It's a shame about the selotaped dustwrapper.


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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.