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 Probably not given Plath's own wish that the novel not be published in America (a sentiment she and her mother shared).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.
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.
- "Banking on his passion for Plath" by Melissa Davis Haller. UMW Today. Spring 2005.
- "Sylvia Plath's Three Women to be staged in London" by Alison Flood. The Guardian. 3 December 2008.
- "FBI files on Sylvia Plath's father shed new light on poet" by Dalya Alberge. The Guardian. 17 August 2012.
- "There Are Almost No Obituaries for Sylvia Plath" by Ashley Fetters. The Atlantic. 11 February 2013.