15 October 2013

Sylvia Plath Collections: Wagner–Martin mss.

The Wagner–Martin mss., ca. 1962–1991 at the Lilly Library of Indiana University, consist of the correspondence and papers of poet, biographer and English professor Linda Wagner–Martin. Included in the papers are research notes and materials, correspondence, interview notes, drafts of chapters, etc., relating to her biography of Sylvia Plath (Sylvia Plath: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987). Other significant files include correspondence with Denise Levertov relative to a book Wagner edited for New Directions Paperbacks, but which was later withdrawn from distribution (Denise Levertov: In Her Own Province. New York: New Directions, 1979). Also present are correspondence files with Robert Creeley, James Laughlin, Joyce Carol Oates, Diane Wakoski, and Florence Williams (Mrs. William Carlos Williams).

Wagner-Martin's papers include photocopies of three letters from Sylvia Plath to Daniel and Helga Huws from 30 October 1961 (4 pages), March 1962 (late winter, between 12 March and 31 March) (1 pages), and 26 December 1962 (4 pages). These are all long, good newsy letters - much too long to sufficiently paraphrase, but in short they detail the layout of Court Green, their life settling-in in North Tawton (which she found to be an ugly town), the birth of Nicholas, and her move to Fitzroy Road and dealing with the fallout and realities of life after Ted Hughes. They show Plath communicating with friends and exhibit her dry and sarcastic wit, her eye for detail, and to a degree, being a casual, living human, mother, person. Sometimes when reading Plath's poems and prose, I forget that there are other facets to her life other than the things for which she is primarily known. It is refreshing to see her being social, witty and humorous.

Disclaimer: Aside from reading these great letters from Plath to the Huws', I have not worked with the Wagner-Martin collection. If someone reading this has, please leave a comment about it! I imagine there would be material in there, especially the research and interview notes, that might not have made it into the printed edition of the biography. In this way, the working papers of a biographer and critic are much like the working papers of a poet's poetry in draft. We pour over the worksheets of Plath's Ariel poems and those originated by Ted Hughes (and, naturally, other writers): to look for lost and deleted lines and imagery; to see how one poem relates to or was influenced by another; to see if a spark removed from one poem could often flare up into a poem of its own. These papers therefore might offer the raw reactions of the biographer, the subject, and acquaintances of the subject and yield nuggets of insight into Plath's life, times, and character.

You can see more libraries that hold Plath materials on the Archival Materials page of my website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is.

All links accessed 25 September 2013.


suki said...

It's fantastic having these summaries of the archives! I'd like to read through this one, because I think Wagner Martin had a really positive view of Plath and we knew so little about Plath and there was so much secrecy around Assia and a number of topics.....

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thanks Suki! I'm glad that you are enjoying them. There's plenty more to come and I hope that your enthusiasm doesn't wane at all!


Anonymous said...

Good evening Peter please one question..is it true the voce of the opening in 2023 of a safe/trunk full of new/secret material(maybe the last journals?)of Sylvia Plath? Or is it just gossip we read on the internet? Thank you, Nina.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Nina - Thank you for your comment. There is a trunk in Emory that will not be opened until 2023. But the contents are unknown. Roy Davids, Hughes' agent who assisted in the selling of Hughes' papers to Emory, is on record saying that the missing journals are not in the trunk. There are some caveats, too, to the trunk being opened. For example, I believe if Carol Hughes is still living that the trunk will not be opened.


s. Langland said...

Sigh...how could Carol Hughes still being alive in a decade (and there is no reason to believe that she won't be, she is only in her mid-60's now, she was almost 20 years younger than Ted Hughes) possibly be effected by the materials in the trunk? Especially pertaining to incidents that happened long before she met Hughes? In the focus on Plath's mental illness, we often overlook what an odd bird Ted Hughes himself really was, and how often he transferred his own feelings about the Plath issue onto other people: his children, his second wife, etc. Hughes' frequently odd attitude, he recognized his wife's genius and felt moved to promote it, and at the same time not truly own his own culpability in her suicide continues to frustrate Plath scholars and fans from the grave. The unknown whereabouts of the "lost" diary, which documents her pregnancies and motherhood (of special interest to many of us,) is especially frustrating to this long time fan...

Peter K Steinberg said...

S. Langland - Thank you for your comment. I agree with you and I am simply at a loss as per the restriction on opening the trunk. And I am not even sure any explanation can be made for it...unless whatever is in there explains it. No doubt not everyone will like it, understand it, and what have you.


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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." 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.