The below is a guest post by Gail Crowther and discusse some of the wonders she found in the Plath Collection at Smith College during her visit to America in July and August...
Did You Know....
For those of you who have read "These Ghostly Archives 1, 2 & 3", you will know that Peter and I are very interested in the minutiae of papers, pictures, scraps of paper relating to Plath....
see here, for example).
Classed as a department store, Bowman's sold curtains, furniture, carpets and bedding. Plath's cheque book reveals that on the 14 Dec 1962, she bought a bureau from this shop costing £7:3:6. On the same day, but a different cheque, she also purchased three carpets at the cost of £26:15:0. On the 20 Dec, she bought a rug for £16:16:0 and the following day on the 21 Dec, two more bureaus at the cost of £14:7:0. Her final purchase from Bowman’s was just a few weeks before her death on 18 Jan 1963 when her cheque book lists "curtaining cushions" for £4:1:0. I was curious to put these purchases into context. A modern currency converter reveals that Plath was spending money on quite fine items here. Using the retail price index converter from 1962 we can see that by today’s standards Plath was spending approximately £114 on a bureau, £426 on carpets, £268 on a rug, £228 on two more bureaus and £64 on curtains and cushions. These were not budget, disposable items but perhaps fitting pieces for Plath's stated long-view five year plan.
For me, seeing these cheques really places Plath in her historical and social context. Over the years, Bowman's shrank in size, until just before closure it took up only one small shop out of the entire block it used to occupy. But during Plath's time, the store was thriving offering modern, designed furniture aimed at those with smaller flats. Its catalogues were stylish and creative and used renowned artists to design their covers.
Catalogues from Bowman's can be viewed here and here.
And view an advert from December 1962 when Plath was making most of her purchases can be seen here.
Perhaps more than this, these cheques serve as a poignant reminder of how busy Plath was in the winter of 1962-63, decorating her new flat and making plans. Other cheque stubs show she was buying chairs, bar stools, tables, glasses, cabinets, beds and shelving. This level of busyness is also supported by her Letts 1962 calendar which shows the sheer scale of her move – painting floors and furniture on a daily basis as well as writing and broadcasting for the BBC, being a full time mother and forging a new life for herself. So, a simple document whose original purpose is to record financial comings and goings, provides for us, almost 50 years, later a privileged insight into Plath's day to day life, her sense of style, the furniture she chose....and where she chose to buy it from.....
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.
- 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. 2000. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books. (Acknowledged in)
- 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. "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.