07 October 2010

Smith College announces newly donated Sylvia Plath letters

The News Office at Smith College has announced that four letters written by Sylvia Plath from 1962 have recently been donated to the Sylvia Plath Collection housed in the Mortimer Rare Book Room. The letters are to Plath's friends Paul and Clarissa Roche, and were recently donated by their daughter Pandora Roche Smith.

I read these letters recently on a day-trip to Northampton and they are from March 12, July 11, October 19, and October 25, 1962. This period coincides with Plath's writing "Three Women" up through her famous October poetic outburst.

Roche visited Plath after the break-up of her marriaged in November 1962 and then once again in London early in January 1963. Plath and Hughes met the Roche's in Northampton, Mass. in 1957 when Plath was an instructor in English at Smith College.

You can see a list of more libraries and archives and rare book rooms that hold Sylvia Plath's papers or related materials on the Archival Materials page of my website, A celebration, this is.


Peter K Steinberg said...

When it rains...it pours Plath!

Anna said...

Hahahah! That's what I thought! :)

Btw, can everybody go and take a look at the Sylvia Plath collections at Smith or Emory University? Not that I could swing by, since I live in Germany, but I always have been curious!

AND - someone on tumblr typed up the poem and posted it, and now people are reblogging like crazy!!! ;))
I think it's a beautiful one.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Anna- each archive has its own policies but most are fully open to the public and most will make photocopies of certain materials--within reason as to the number of pages of copies--upon request. But check with the respective archivists first.

It was only a matter of time before the poem "Last Letter" found its way into the Internet!


Julia said...

Wowza. It's a real testament to her greatness that almost fifty years after her death, she's as hot as ever in the news.

Is there anything in the letters that hasn't been said in your (or another's) biography?

Peter K Steinberg said...

Julia! I suspect there is a lot still to be revealed that is in private hands.

Of course I think the letters -- inherently in and of themselves -- say somethings that no biographer or scholar has previously noted.

The letters Plath writes to friends often includes details she wrote to her family; but they are a little more chatty and natural. These letters to Clarissa (mostly, Paul is addressed in only one) ask about possible visits to North Tawton, their life in NT, etc. But they are funny, too, particularly when Plath describes an assault of slugs in their garden. In certain instances she exaggerates, but I think we all do that. The two letters from October are harder to read given the circumstances. However even if the information isn't "new" or "revealing" or whatever they do contribute. Know what I mean?

Plath had some good friendships and her letters are an important and probably overlooked aspect.


Kristina Zimbakova said...

Peter, you are terribly fortunate by having seen all that, not fair :-). Just joking, of course. Keep us in the loop. THANK YOU.

Julia said...

I'm guessing the letters are like other archived papers, and we could pay for copies? Here's hoping...

Peter K Steinberg said...

Yes, that is the case.

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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.