23 March 2016

Sylvia Plath Collections: Letters to Marion Freeman

In December 2015, Ruth Geissler (nee Freeman) donated twelve letters from Sylvia Plath to her mother Marion Freeman to Smith College in honor of her daughter Susan, Smith class of 1978. In my 2015: Year in Review post,  I wrote a little bit about befriending Ruth as part of the forthcoming Letters of Sylvia Plath book. There, I mention that I Karen V. Kukil and I visited Ruth in November but what was absent from the post was our purpose... Which was to collect the letters from Ruth, meeting at the time two of her daughters, Susan and Joan.

The cache of twelve letters complements the Mortimer Rare Book Room's holdings of other Plath correspondence, joining letters to the late Marcia Brown Stern, Ann Davidow-Goodman, Philip McCurdy, Elinor Friedman Klein, Hans-Joachim Neupert, and Clarissa Roche.

The dates of the twelve letters are as follows:

16 April 1946
4 November 1946
17 November 1951
1 January 1952
1 August 1952
16 January 1954
28 April 1955
circa 12 December 1956
28 March 1961
26 October 1961
31 January 1962
28 March 1962

But how did the letters get to Smith? I emailed Ruth in December 2014 to see if she had any letters for the book. She wrote back that she did and set about making scans of them for me. I could never have fathomed that the simple query would lead within the year to the letters finding their way to the Mortimer Rare Book Room. I was and am really happy to have played a contributing role to seeing these letters placed in such a respected archive. Recently, Smith College published an article about this gift, "Letters to a 'Second Mother': New Items in Smith Collection Show Another Side of Sylvia Plath '55". As Ruth says in the article, when she found the letters she knew immediately they "belong" at Smith College.

The letters are available for reading in the Mortimer Rare Book Room and add valuable perspective to Plath's relationship to the Freeman family.

A list of archival collections of Sylvia Plath materials is on my website, A celebration, this is.

Update: A subsequent piece entitled "In Letters At Smith, A Glimpse at Lesser-Known Side of Sylvia Plath" appeared on New England Public Radio about the letters on 16 May 2016. Unfortunately absent is any mention of the Letters of Sylvia Plath.

All links accessed 3 February and 18 March 2016 and 19 May 2016; post revised slightly on 19 May 2016.

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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.