01 January 2016

Sylvia Plath Visits the Wayside Inn

Listen, my children, or face my wrath
Of the midday meal of Sylvia Plath,
On the Thirtieth of August, in Forty-five...

Sylvia Plath kept a daily diary for several years starting in 1944. I recently worked with her diaries for the first time, delving deeply into them looking for contextual and other reference information to try to improve notes on the letters for that period. On 30 August 1945, Sylvia Plath wrote in her diary about a day spent she and Warren had, from the dentist in Boston and out for lunch in Sudbury, Massachusetts.

Plath's dentist was Howard C. Reith, a Winthrop, Massachusetts resident. According to the Boston city directory, his office was located at 370 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston (map), which is now the location of the Eliot Hotel at the corner of Commonwealth and Massachusetts Avenues.

The trip to Sudbury was made with Ralph Gaebler, his brother Max, and Max's wife Carolyn. Plath commented on Ralph's driving (fast). They at at the famous Wayside Inn (map). The inn began serving travelers in 1716. In 1862 the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow visited, later publishing a book of poems, Tales of a Wayside Inn, among those including "Paul Revere's Ride", spoofed above.

Plath gorged on crackers, sausages, pineapple, potatoes, squash, lettuce, carrots, rolls, and ice cream, among other things. After the meal, the group took a tour of the site. Plath comments on the old fashioned rooms and the name plates of the famous historical visitors. She also commented that she signed the register book.

Interested about this, I contacted the Wayside to see if they had in their archives the old guest books. I was both happy and surprised to receive back an email from their archivist Roberta with an attachment! It is with their permission that I reproduce the page featuring the signature of Plath, her brother Warren, and Ralph Gaebler below.

Plath and her brother gave their residence as "Wellesley 81, Mass.". The "81" is the old two digit zip code for their part of Wellesley (Wellesley Hills) which was implemented circa 1943.The zip was expanded to a five digit code, 02481, on 1 July 1963, just a few months after Plath's death.

All links accessed 21 December 2015 and 1 January 2016.


boston12855 said...

Great digging, as usual, Peter! Interestingly, when the Wellesley, 81, Mass was finally changed to Wellesley, MA 02181, Ma Bell also changed our combined letter and number phone system the same year. Everyone in Wellesley had one of two exchanges until 1963: CE(dar)-5 or CE(dar)-7 was changed to 235 or 237. Every resident of Wellesley also had a 617 area code from 1940-=1970. Thus, our telephone in 1964 was 617-235-5282. I never knew the Plath's phone number, but Ariel Plath kept her number in the Wellesley book until she moved to Needham in 1984.

Peter K Steinberg said...


Thank you. Happy New Year to you. Aurelia (not Ariel!) Plath's phone number was CE7-0458 It was changed to 237. This number (both CE7 and 237) appears on the first page of Plath's address book, held by Smith College.


Vertigo said...

This was pretty cool! I am a big fan of Plath and I have been to Wayside Inn as Sudbury is located next to my town.

BridgetAnna said...

Oh PKS, you do dig an awful lot of potatoes up.

Peter K Steinberg said...

I do like potatoes, and poems!


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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.
  • 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.