10 December 2018

Sylvia Plath Collections: University of Kansas

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas holds a portion of the Critical Quarterly Archive (summary of contents). It was purchased in 1968 from Argosy Books in New York and contains: "584 Letters (including 9 retained copies of letters from CQ), Manuscript fair copies of poems, reviews, essays, and proofs." The abstract to the collections says:
Archives (letters received; some texts and proofs): of literary magazine. Submissions of material to Critical Quarterly; friendly personal news; literary gossip; academic life. Some polite notes from famous names. Some material concerning Cox or Dyson rather than the Critical Quarterly.
As you might imagine, they contain Sylvia Plath archival materials... There are ten letters from Plath to the journal's editors A. E. Dyson and C. B. Cox from 1960 to 1961. I learned of the collection first through Linda Wagner-Martin's wonderful Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life (1999, 2nd ed. 2003).

I have withheld posting on this Sylvia Plath collection for many years as the ten letters formed an integral part of an essay I selfishly wanted to write on the poetry supplement Plath edited for the CQ in 1961 entitled American Poetry Now. I was able to write the essay, "'What's been happening in a lot of American poetry': Sylvia Plath as editor and reviewer", for the book I co-wrote with Gail Crowther, These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath (Fonthill), where it appears as Chapter 7. Another reason for not posting this was that the letters were to be printed in The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2.

This is one of those intricate archival stories where pieces are scattered and where sense can only be made once all those pieces are discovered, assembled, and studied. Papers relating to Plath's work on the American Poetry Now pamphlet are spread between at least five repositories: University of Kansas, Indiana University, Smith College, Emory University, and the University of Manchester. It is possible other materials are held elsewhere, too!

The correspondence at the University of Kansas is just part of the story. The letters are dated 16 January 1960; 22 February 1960; 1 January 1960 [1961]; 3 May 1961; 17 June 1961; 25 June 1961; 24 August 1961; 17 October 1961; 14 November 1961; and 12 December 1961. While it is evident that Plath received letters, it does not appear that she kept them (and the journal did not apparently retain carbons).

The initial letters from 1960 deal with publication of Plath's poetry. Namely her verse "Medallion" which was awarded a best poem prize as well as submissions. The eight 1961 letters all relate to American Poetry Now.

If you are interested in the other holdings outside of Kansas, you will find them in the following:

Emory University: Sylvia Plath: Subseries Prose
Indiana University: Plath mss
Smith College: Sylvia Plath Collection, Series XVI: Writings of Others Collected & Edited by SP
University of Manchester: Critical Quarterly Archive

All links accessed 20 April 2017 and 6 December 2018.

05 December 2018

1951 Sylvia Plath Letter at Bonhams

A six-page handwritten letter that Sylvia Plath wrote to Katherine Benion on 3 March 1951 appeared at auction today at Bonhams, New York. Lot number 212 was estimated to sell for $7,000-$10,000 dollars, which averages to a minimum of $1,166.6666666667 per page!

The lot sold for $10,000 which includes the buyers premium. Hammer price was $8,000.

Images from Bonhams

From the catalog description:
Autograph Letter Signed ("Sylvia Plath"), to Miss Katherine Benion, concerning how she got started in writing, 6 pp (on 2 pairs of conjoining leaves), 8vo, [Northampton, MA], March 3, 1951, in ink on blue-bordered patterned stationery, folded, light handling smudges.
Provenance: Family of the recipient, by descent.

A remarkable early Plath letter discussing her budding career as a writer, written when she was just 18 years old and attending Smith College. "... that's the total of my 'published' record — two poems, a story, an article and a story to appear in May." The recipient was a teacher and freelance writer, who was a young mother at the time. Responding to an inquiry about her writing, Plath seems unsure about whether it is her true calling: "I read one choice little article about me titled 'Born to Write.' That, I think, was rather too bad, because I just happened to get a few little things published, and I was born for reasons other than writing, I'm sure." She seems a little surprised to have anyone ask about her, saying "... I don't consider myself anything unusual...." and "When I am asked to talk about myself, I always stop with a start and wonder — Who am I anyway? I am afraid sometimes that I am writing about a fictional character that exists only in my mind." On the last page she talks about her development as a writer, saying "As I grew older, I found that I could sustain a story mood for more and more pages. I could assimilate more experiences with a greater depth of feeling, and so here I am, now eighteen, hoping that I have something worthwhile to say...."
Sylvia Plath received a letter from Benion on 17 February 1951. Plath replied in this 3 March letter and received a second letter from Benion on 24 March 1951. Both letters from Benion are stored in Plath's High School Scrapbook held by the Lilly Library. (See a catalog of the scrapbooks contents.) Benion sought information about Plath for a proposed article on a young writer but it is not clear whether said article was ever written or printed.

All links accessed 26 November and 5 December 2018.

01 December 2018

Articles about Sylvia Plath: A Bibliography

One cannot deny that reading Sylvia Plath's works fills each of us with immense pleasure. It is also a thought-provoking activity which often leads to writing about Plath. Many of us have done it and will continue to do it. Articles about Plath show how she was viewed at the time of their publication as well as reflect the education and (potential) biases of the writer. They are a rich history of perspectives and form the foundation upon which our current interpretation(s) and understanding(s) of Plath's works and life are built. And they potentially forecast how Plath scholarship will develop in the future, too. Or, at least, in some instances, show us how far we have come.

I have been at work for about fifteen years or so on an updated bibliography of articles about Sylvia Plath that is built from Stephen Tabor's Sylvia Plath: An Analytical Bibliography (1987). Additional bibliographies by Meyering (1990), Lane and Stevens (1978), and Northouse and Walsh (1974) are other books the assembled lists of articles. I have limited my scope largely to articles in English as that is the only language I can read, and it is also the predominant language in which Plath is discussed. I am particularly excited to publish this list now as 2018 is the 20th anniversary of my website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is.

The Articles about Sylvia Plath link is now active on the bibliography page of my website. It joins other lists of articles such as reviews of Plath's books and articles on her first suicide attempt. Before I converted the document to HTML, the list of articles stretched to more than 160 pages.

The document is imperfect in many ways. For example, there are citations lacking some information. Dates and titles may even be "incorrect". The internet has in some ways wreaked havoc on the art of bibliography because not only do articles appear online both before, concurrently to, and after they are printed, but oftentimes the title in one format is different from the other. So what can you do? The best you can! I prefer the information refer to printed sources, but in some instances it was impossible for me to ascertain the preferred details. I have not numbered the entries either. This may disappoint some, but it is far easier not to do this. My apologies.

For online articles, there are no url's/links and this is because at the beginning of this project url's were finicky, often broken, and sometimes just simply gone a short time later.

The document will be updated periodically throughout the year. If I have omitted an article, please do not take it personally! But, please do email me the citation in the format that matches those on the page.

All links accessed 16 and 26 November and 1 December 2018.

27 November 2018

HarperCollins to Publish Sylvia Plath's Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom

A recent listing on HarperCollins website (and Amazon.com) confirms that they will publish Sylvia Plath's short story Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom, first written in December 1952 and revised in January 1953, under the Harper Perennial imprint.

HarperCollins is offering a paperback (ISBN: 978-0062940834) on sale on 15 January) and hardback (ISBN: 978-0062940858) on 5 February. Visit HarperCollins' Sylvia Plath page for books and deals.

In addition to paperback and hardback, it appears the HarperCollins edition of the book will be published in Kindle, too:

1) Kindle for $6.99 on 15 January;
2) Paperback for $9.99 on 15 January (Amazon); and
3) Hardback for $15.99 on 5 February (Amazon).

Faber paperback cover

Faber, in England, will publish a paperback edition for £3.50 on 3 January 2019 (ISBN: 978-0571351732). News of the story's publication was first made in The Guardian. It is the first new Plath fictional prose (that is not a work for children) to be published commercially since Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams was released in 1977. For those as mathematically challenged as I am that's 2019-1977=42 years. This is major.

All links accessed 25 November 2018.

24 November 2018

Sylvia Plath Archival Documents Hub

Sylvia Plath archives are rather dispersed and so it can make locating documents tricky. So, in an effort to aid in locating typescripts and manuscripts of Plath's creative works, I have collated a spreadsheet called the Sylvia Plath Archival Documents Hub. There are four worksheets: Poetry, Prose, Correspondence, and Photographs.

In the first two, Poetry and Prose, I am tracking only the manuscripts and typescripts.

The largest worksheet consists of correspondence. This was developed as part of my tracking spreadsheet of Plath's letters for The Letters of Sylvia Plath project but I've included letters she received that survive, as well as letters that may relate to her in some fashion. There is a clear division at 11 February 1963 to indicate to you this is after Plath's life. It is not by any means complete in the latter category (post-11 February 1963). Now that Letters project is over, I felt the information was worth sharing.

The fourth worksheet compiles all the known photographs of Plath held in archives and published in books. I have done what I think is my best to describe the photograph in hopes of helping you picture each respective one.

The spreadsheet is a Google document and will be View only access. The creative works are sorted alphabetically by title. I can do nothing about how slow it loads, so please be patient with this cloud-shared document.

If you notice errors or omissions, please do let me know. Over on my website, A celebration, this is, is a list of all the known, public-accessible Plath archives. In addition to this blog post and that Archival Materials page, the document will be linked on the Bibliography page, and of course it can be bookmarked.

I truly hope you are able to make use of it.

All links accessed 16 and 24 November 2018.

21 November 2018

Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2: BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week

Novelist and biographer Andrew Wilson reports, in the 24-30 November 2018 Radio Times, that The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2: 1956-1963 has been selected, like it's predecessor Volume 1, as Radio 4's Book of the Week.
The letters, which many of you have now read, will be serialized on Radio 4 twice a day next week from Monday to Friday at 9:45 am and 12:30 pm. This is a thrill and honor, and is wonderful exposure both for Plath and for the book.

All links accessed: 20 November 2018.

19 November 2018

Sylvia Plath at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair

What a weekend in Boston! It was the annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fiar and as usual I browsed through booksellers stock looking specifically for Sylvia Plath books. But this fair had particular targets in view... I was particularly keen to see some of the volumes for sale that were part of the big Sylvia Plath/Ted Hughes auction at Bonhams of the property of Frieda Hughes. As such, I spent some time at a few booths. Apologies in advance for all the super dodgy cell phone photographs.

But before I get to those, the primary reason for my attendance this year was to promote, sell, and sign (if wanted) some copies of both volumes of The Letters of Sylvia Plath. I was in Jett Whitehead's book for a good few hours promoting this book, talking to Jett and to many customers that stopped by. To my happiness some books sold and even some of the book dealers were buying copies. Sometimes it is hard to really consider just how many people are interested in these books. I just feel so genuinely happy to see copies walking away. I was really happy, too, to meet Rebecca Rego Barry, the editor of the excellent magazine Fine Books & Collections. It is always lovely to meet the real person behind the emails.

Jett is the current owner of a unique manuscript version of Sylvia Plath's poem "The Snowflake Star" and so to be near it for so many hours was a righteous privilege.

After my time in Jett's booth on Saturday I went to Peter Harrington's booth and also Jonker's, to see their wonderful items. In Peter Harrington's, I got to see the copies of RS Thomas that Hughes gave to Plath for her birthday in October 1961, her first in Devon. Some of books were copies that Hughes signed and inscribed to his sister, Olwyn, too. And these were also excellent and interesting to see as the inscriptions were in some ways more original and personal than those he signed to his wife.

According to the books' catalog/sale slip, the copy of Tares includes to scraps of Ted Hughes handwriting. It appears to be for some prose, possibly a draft of a review or a broadcast?

Jonker's was a particular delight because in addition to purchasing Plath's proof copy of The Bell Jar and displaying it at the Book Fair, they had some exceedingly recent acquisitions on show, too. So I was fairly taken aback whilst talking to Tom about these new books. The first is a signed and inscribed copy of The Colossus (Heinemann, 1960) to Hilda and Vicky Farrar. Dated 1 January 1961, it is an additional copy of the book that we now know about (and, yes, I've already amended the footnote about known signed copies of The Colossus on pages 530-1 in The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2, so look for this update in the paperback!). Plath's Colossus was reviewed on the BBC on 18 December 1960 when Plath and Hughes were in Yorkshire. It is possible the whole extended family heard the broadcast. And it could be that Hilda and Vicky requested a copy.  Plath and Hughes returned to London from Yorkshire on 31 December 1960, so it seems the first thing she did in London on New Year's Day 1961 was sign this book. Currently priced fairly at $40,000, I am quite grateful to whomever purchases it for me.

And then there is the following, which found me suddenly cotton-mouthed, weak-kneed, and with a fuzzy, stumbling brain. A copy of the anthology Light Blue, Dark Blue, inscribed to Hilda and Vicky and signed by BOTH SYLVIA PLATH AND TED HUGHES. At just $10,000, this is priced to sell and would be considered, by me, to be an absolute steal.

In addition to the above, from Vicky Farrar Watling, Jonkers has lovely copies of Ariel (1965), Three Women (1968), and some Ted Hughes books. Amazing.

Lucius Books of York was on hand and they have some rather extraordinary books including a Victoria Lucas edition of The Bell Jar which I saw in their case. They also have the copy of the Knopf edition of The Colossus that Plath signed to Winifred and Garnett Davies, too.

In general, it's an excellent time to be a reader and fan and collector of Sylvia Plath. The variety of books available, if one has the means (I do not, which is mean), makes for exciting times.

Sunday was the Big Day! I got to the fair early and was permitted the opportunity by Jonkers to go through the proof of The Bell Jar page by page comparing my paper from a few years ago on the "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications". This was awesome because it proved my earlier paper crap. I joke, I got a lot of them right, but learned that I missed a few for which I am grateful. But what I was really surprised by was learning that some corrections from the proof to the first edition were the publishers, Heinemann, and not, evidently, by Plath. I am exceedingly grateful and like an idiot did not take pictures of the book. But it is, however, indelibly stained in my mind. At any rate, I need to revise that paper but do not plan to re-publish it until after Jonkers' copy sells. So, someone buy it!

But time was ticking on to my talk at 3 on "Sylvia Plath's Letters & Traces" which is the same title as previous talks but did contain very different content. I do not like to give the same talk twice and generally find revision keeps it fresh. It was a nice group of people who came to the talk, and there was a good batch of questions afterwards. I really cherish the opportunity to talk Plath and talk about the process of editing the Letters and other Plathian things. And even more, I covet meeting like-minded, passionate people such as L, E, and H; and even ran into an old co-worker from my previous life which was really cool. It was all quite special.

This was my favorite Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair yet and I did not even walk away with a book (or books) wrapped in brown paper bag with an orange SOLD sticker on it.

All links accessed 17 November 2018.

16 November 2018

Reviews of The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2

The immediacy of Twitter has often inadvertently led to the absence of some information on Sylvia Plath appearing on this blog. For example, the reviews of the Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2 have been tweeted and recorded on my bibliography of reviews of Plath's work on my website, but not here. So I thought I might do a little blog post to post the reviews and include links to however many that I can which appear online. Linking to reviews is presently a feature on my website that I do not take the time to do. Perhaps I should? Probably not, I still fear the breaking of links as it what so often happened earlier in this century.

Here are the reviews, including some pieces which are more coverage of the book, of Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2 that have been published to date (or will be shortly--Rollyson and Schoerke). Some are behind paywalls and one just is not online. Some were printed in the newspaper on a date different to when it appeared online and often with a different title...which makes bibliography in the 21st-century really difficult. For some, like the Financial Times, I have not see the printed version so page numbers are missing. Lastly, some reviews, like Paul Alexander's, appeared in several subsequent newspapers but I have only listed the first appearance.

Adams, Alexander. "The poetry and the pain." Spiked. November 13, 2018.

Alexander, Paul, "Plath's Joy and Desolation." The Washington Post. November 4, 2018: E10.

Bate, Jonathan. "I now see the man I loved is dead." The Times. September 8, 2018: 13.

Bayley, Sally. "Plath's Passions." Literary Review. October 2018: 22-23.

Carey, John. "Dispatches from a heart in agony." Sunday Times. September 9, 2018: 36.

Chiasson, Dan. "'The Girl That Things Happen To'." The New Yorker. November 5, 2018: 62-7.

Clark, Alex. "Who was the real Sylvia Plath?" Financial Times. October 5, 2018.

Cooke, Rachael. "Sylvia's Plath and other torments." The Observer. September 9, 2018: 44-5.

Ferri, Jessica. "Revealed: Sylvia Plath's Last Desperate Letters." The Daily Beast. November 9, 2018.

Haas, Lidija. "New Books." Harper's. October 2018: 83-6.

Lowry, Elizabeth. "Marriage as religion...Plath's correspondence captures life with Ted Hughes in all its joys and agonies." The Guardian. September 19, 2018: 16-17.

Meyers, Jeffrey. "Plath has the last wounding word." Standpoint. November 2018: 50-2.

Raine, Craig. "'Ted is liar. Ted beats me up. Ted wishes me dead': Sylvia Plath descends into madness and misery." The Spectator. September 15, 2018: 31-2.

Roiphe, Katie, "Mad Girl's Love Song." The New York Times Book Review. November 10, 2018: 39.

Rollyson, Carl. "Sylvia out in the cold." The New Criterion. December 2018: 78-82.

Schoerke, Meg. "'I know the bottom, she says': Sylvia Plath's Correspondence 2." The Hudson Review. Autumn 2018: 629-39.

Seaman, Donna. "The Letters of Sylvia Plath." Booklist. October 1, 2018.

Sehgal, Parul. "A Marriage Falters and Masks Fall Away." The New York Times. October 24, 2018: C4.

Solly, Meilan. "Sylvia Plath's Last Letters Paint Visceral Portrait of Her Marriage, Final Years." Smithsonian.com. October 31, 2018.

Sullivan, Hannah. "Revealing Sylvia Plath." TLS. November 2, 2018: 3-4.

"The Letters of Sylvia Plath." [Starred Review] Kirkus Reviews. August 1, 2018.

"The Letters of Sylvia Plath." [Starred Review] Publishers Weekly. August 6, 2018.

Wagner, Erica. "In sorrow and in anger." New Statesman. September 19, 2017: 67.

"A well-worn Plath." Private Eye. September 21-October 4, 2018: 34.

Wilson, Andrew. "The darkness that claimed Sylvia Plath." Evening Standard. September 20, 2018: 40.

Wood, Gaby. "'Now, I shall grow out of his shadow...' — Sylvia Plath's last letter." The Telegraph. September 15, 2018: 8-9.

Yandava, Ramya. "The Last Letters of Sylvia Plath." Cornell Daily Sun. November 13, 2018.

The Hudson Review and New Criterion pieces, by Meg Schoerke and Carl Rollyson, respectively, should be out shortly. And I have heard that The Atlantic will publish a review in their January/February 2018 issue, so look for that in mid-December.

All links accessed 15 and 16 November 2018.

13 November 2018

Sylvia Plath and the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair

This next weekend, 16-18 November, the Hynes Convention Center on Boylston Street, Boston, will host the 42nd annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair. This one will be a capital-D Delight. I say this because Jonkers Rare Books of Henley on Thames, England, will be showing off the most expensive Sylvia Plath proof book ever: her own proof copy of The Bell Jar at their booth, 525. As we learned recently in the publication of The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2, Plath received the proof shortly after she found out about Ted Hughes' affair with Assia Wevill. So her edits to the book date from after circa 10-11 July 1962. Incredible to think she was reviewing this at the same time as dealing with the marital issues as well as playing host to her mother, visiting Court Green, Devon, from Massachusetts.

Anyway, I am truly excited to see this book and hope to review it carefully. Several years back I did a study of the "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications" and I would like to see how it compares; I am certain though I tried to be careful that I missed some.

In addition to that, I am sure other fine, rare books by Plath will be on hand. The Book Fair is amazing because it is like a petting zoo: you can touch just about anything you want.

On Saturday, 17 November, I will be in Jett W. Whitehead Rare Books' booth from 1-3 p.m. with copies of both volumes of Plath's letters for sale. I would be honored to sign them, and discuss any aspect of the books and the project. Jett will be at Booth 406.

On Sunday, 18 November, I will again be at Jett's book from about 2 or so for an hour. Then at 3, in the Exhibit Hall Theater, I will be giving a talk entitled "Sylvia Plath's Letters & Traces". I am really thrilled to be giving this talk. It should take around 30 minutes and then there will be time for discussion.

Admission to the Fair on Saturday and Sunday is FREE! So, there is almost no excuse not to come, fondle some books, and talk Plath.

All links accessed 1 November 2018.

06 November 2018

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2: 1956-1963 Published Today

The full HarperCollins cover
Today, HarperCollins publishes The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2: 1956-1963 in the United States in both hardback book and Kindle edition. The book is available, as you might imagine, from Amazon as well as from the more traditional of bookstores (remember those?).

Please visit the Faber edition publication blog post for some details you may find interesting. Perhaps the best aspect of having the book published on very separated dates is the fact that two celebrations are called for! If you need me, please look inside of a pint glass.

In the days leading up to publication of the HarperCollins edition a number of reviews have appeared including:

Alexander, Paul, "Sylvia Plath narrates her own decline." The Washington Post. November 4, 2018.

Chiasson, Dan. "'The Girl That Things Happen To'." The New Yorker. November 5, 2018.

Haas, Lidija. "New Books." Harper's. October 2018: 83-6.

Sehgal, Parul. "A Marriage Falters and Masks Fall Away." The New York Times. October 24, 2018: C4.

Solly, Meilan. "Sylvia Plath’s Last Letters Paint Visceral Portrait of Her Marriage, Final Years." Smithsonian.com. October 31, 2018.

There are more to come in the New York Times Book Review, Hudson Review, The AtlanticHarvard Review, New Criterion, and others. A full bibliography of reviews is on my Reviews of Works by Sylvia Plath page on A celebration, this is.

Thank you all for your interest in these two volumes and for your patience and your support as we prepared them.

All links accessed 10 October and 1 November 2018.

01 November 2018

All Sylvia Plath Most of The Time

Upon my last flight home from England I wrote a long blog post so felt like it was an appropriate us of time, when not partaking of quantities of free alcohol to neutralize the turbulence of flying against the wind, to do so again. From 21-28 October I was in England, as you might know. The purpose of the visit was a talk at the British Library on the 23rd October with The Letters or Sylvia Plath co-editor Karen V. Kukil, as well as scholar and biographer Heather Clark and poet Mark Ford. I am a terrible judge of my own performance, but I hope the event was conducted and performed, by each of us, successfully. It was terrific to see familiar faces and friends, and, as well, to meet so many new people. I did not get to meet as many people as I had hoped.

I have recently learned that the event was recorded! And once it is made available online I will add a link here, as well as sent out a notice on Twitter.

An informal pub meet-up at the Lamb on Lamb's Conduit Street, near Rugby Street and the Church of St. George-the-Martyr where Plath and Hughes were married, before the British Library was a lot of fun. Thank you to Peter F, Lydia W, Emily Van Duyne, Elizabeth Lowry, Sarah Fletcher, Sam, Di Beddow, Heather Clark, Suzanne D, Diane D, and Gail Crowther for coming! I had meant to take photos but just did not get the chance.

The same day as the event, Faber published a blog post I wrote on their website about the Letters. It was a follow-up piece to the one they published after Volume I came out. It was really nice to be able to sort of conclude the project this way. I hope that you enjoy it.

As part of this visit, of course, I dragged my wife, I mean, we visited a number of Sylvia Plath related sites in London. So this blog post is primarily to show some of the photographs I took in London. After the event, my wife and I invaded Gail Crowther's home for a few nights and we enjoyed some rest, beautiful drives, clear air, hikes, terrifically narrow and windy roads, and scenery as well as fantastic food and conversation.

On the first day we conveniently found ourselves in Primrose Hill to photograph 3 Chalcot Square and 23 Fitzroy Road.

I took two 360 Theta photographs, too: 3 Chalcot Square | 3 Chalcot Square |  23 Fitzroy Road | Primrose Hill.

As luck would have it, we were lodging just down the road from the BBC where Plath regularly visited the Broadcasting House on Portland Place.

Plath never visited the Lakes District, and neither had I before this visit to England. The following is from a hike about halfway up Black Combe where visible were Blackpool, Wales, Yorkshire, the Isle of Man, and even Scotland. On a really clear day you can see Ireland, but we were not so lucky.

Looking out to see from Black Combe
On our return to London, we stayed in Mayfair and as such were wandering the streets and came across Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly which was a favorite of Plath's and Hughes's for birthday presents. We also passed the Connaught Hotel, where Plath and Hughes stayed for a night in August 1962 after seeing The Mousetrap.  Then also passed by the nearby Claridge's Hotel, where Plath visited in 24 April 1956 to cover the Bulganin and Kruschev event for Varsity. (Her prose piece "B. & K. at the Claridge" was published in the Smith Alumnae Quarterly in Fall 1956.)

We wandered all over and found ourselves strolling through Trafalgar Square one last night and then I remembered Plath's journals... printed in Appendix 11 is a drawing of one of the fountains, she writes of having her back to the National Gallery and looking at the back of Nelson's Column and across the square to the "red & white checked flag flapping in blue sky over Canadian Pacific clock".

Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingom!

Backtracking a bit... On the day of the Plath event I visited Faber for the first time which was awesome. It was so exciting to visit the offices of the publishers of the Letters of Sylvia Plath and to meet some of the people before and at the event. It was really special, to put faces and voices with names. During that visit, coincidentally, I had an email from another member of Faber's staff asking to review the final text of a press release that had been in progress for weeks about the forthcoming publication of a short story by Sylvia Plath entitled Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom (Amazon). It was an exciting yet stressful few days polishing off the text, revising commentary, and then answering a slew of queries from Richard Lea of The Guardian for their article announcing the publication which was published in their print edition on Plath's birthday. The announcement seems to have been greeted on social media with a lot of enthusiasm which is terrific.

All links accessed 29-30 October 2018.

27 October 2018

Sylvia Plath Collections: Middlebury College

Back in June of 2008, Bloomsbury Auctions offered for sale an illustrated short story by Sylvia Plath entitled "Aunt Rennie and the Elves." Off and on since then I have made half-hearted attempts at finding it. Well, the other day I put a little more effort into it and found its hiding place. (In the end was not very hard to locate.)

The Special Collections department of Middlebury College in Vermont is now the proud owner of the typed short story which is signed at the end in pencil "By Sylvia."

The catalog entry at Middlebury summarizes the story thus: "The story follows a young boy who comes to live with Aunt Rennie and the elves after being sent into the forest by his cruel stepfather".

The story features two clipped illustrations from a product called Junket Rennet Powder by Vernon Grant. The advert, entered into US copyright on 29 January 1943, reads, "I go all over the world turning tears into happy smiles"... says Aunt Rennie. The full advert, right, shows a recipe for their rennet-custard desserts, was found on Pintrest from an eBay auction.

I am really happy to find where this early short story, from circa 1943, is held now. It is now listed on the Archival Materials page of A celebration, this is.

But wait, there's more. The Special Collections has a rich and healthy number of Sylvia Plath books, too. Included among them are a first Heinemann edition of The Colossus (1960)A Winter Ship (1960) , a Victoria Lucas edition of The Bell Jar (purchased in 1987 for $500!) as well as other first and limited editions.

My most sincere thanks to Nellie Pierce for her help.

This blog was posted from Gail Crowther's house, which is very special for me as it was my first ever visit here and it is Sylvia Plath's birthday.

All links accessed 14 September 2018.

22 October 2018

Sylvia Plath Event in London Tomorrow 10/23

Tomorrow at 19.00, the British Library will host the event "Triple-threat woman: The Letters of Sylvia Plath". I will be speaking with the co-editor Karen V. Kukil; and we are joined by Heather Clark and Mark Ford.

We have, each, fifteen minutes each to discuss various aspects of Plath's letters selected from those included in Volume II. It was difficult to find a few examples from the 575 letters in the book. I have titled my piece "The Reception of Sylvia Plath". Here's my title slide.

I am looking forward to the event; to see old friends and make new ones.

All links accessed 18 October 2018.

15 October 2018

Sylvia Plath: Film Buff

One cannot read and work with Sylvia Plath's letters, diaries, scrapbooks, or pocket calendars without noticing a trend. She loved movies, plays, and late in her life, the opera. She took in a film whenever and wherever she could in Wellesley, Boston, the Cape, Northampton, Cambridge (US and UK), London, and New York, to name several cities she cultivated in her quest for culture.

When I was working on the Letters of Sylvia Plath, I included the cinema or theater name for the films, plays, etc. that she attended. I did this for a couple of reasons, one of which was this kind of information interested me and so I felt compelled to record it in case there are other like minded Plath readers out there. I wrote a little about this recently on Gail Crowther's website in a piece called "The Archival Stretch".

After a while of repeatedly seeing reference to these events, I decided to compile a list of all the films, plays, and what not that Plath took in using all the resources that I had available to me. I kept a list of them (and other noteworthy notes) on a folder and the worked on transcribing that into a Word document.

This is not a fully comprehensive list because, for example, there are no pocket (or personal) calendars for 1957-1961 that we know of. Plath did see a film with Susan O'Neill-Roe and her then boyfriend, Corin Stanton-Hughes in January 1963. She wrote on 16 January 1963, "Sue & her sweet boyfriend Corin took me out to a movie the other night" (Letters Vol 2, 958). However, the film is not named. One can see what films were on at the time but one can at the moment only guess which it was.

After this long pre-amble, this blog post is to simply announce that the bibliography of films, plays, etc. that Plath saw is now available as a PDF on A celebration, this is, my website for Sylvia Plath. I had to wait to post this until both volumes of Plath's letters were published as the information in them was under strict embargo by the publisher.

Here are some of the listings for events Plath took in: Janie Gets Married; a concert on the Esplanade in Boston; The Cabinet of Dr Caligari; Galileo; and Through a Glass Darkly!

If I ever learn of new things to add I will do so; and of course if you spot any errors please do let me know.

All links accessed: 27 August 2018.

08 October 2018

Sylvia Plath Collections: Treasures at the Pierpont Morgan Library

October is American Archives Month in the US, so let us look at the first of a few Sylvia Plath Collections I have been sitting on for years!

As with much else at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City, their Sylvia Plath holdings are remarkable. As of 14 March 2017, the catalog returns more than 100 records when searching all collections. Certain collections are not applicable, such as Medieval Images Only and Music Manuscripts and Books. But, of those  records there are treasures lurking any reasonable way you sort it.

The items discussed in this post were worked with one day in January 2017 and the excessive delay in posting about it was due to the embargo on anything to the with Plath's letters. My reason for the trip was to work with the letters from Plath to the Merwins and to William and Edith Hughes.

If you want limited editions and rare books, the Morgan Library has something for you to look at. They have several copies of the rare printing of A Winter Ship, including some proofs, an original letter from Ted Hughes to the Tragara Press owner Alan Anderson which includes a typescript copy of "A Winter Ship", and two original letters by Sylvia Plath to Anderson. It was good to find these as Smith College has photocopies but lacked the envelope on which Plath added a postscript. The postscript is fascinating as it was intended for Plath's mother and concerned her childhood friend Betsy Powley Wallingford. Plath sent a letter the same day to her mother and simply wrote the PS on the wrong envelope...  Other limited editions include Above the Oxbow, Fiesta Melons, and The Surgeon at 2 a.m. & other poems to list just a few.

The Morgan also has numerous publications in which Plath's works first appeared including several of The Phillipian from the mid-1940s. Additionally some late publications like London Magazine and The New Statesman, and much, much, more, of course.

Some of these holdings are in the general special collections and were purchased through normal collecting and via auction. This blog has featured a couple of their early poetry manuscripts (4 July 2007, 17 August 2007, and 23 September 2009) that were purchased in the 1982 Sotheby's auction (Lot 96). A great many form part of the Carter Burden Collection of American Literature.

Additionally, I worked with several of the holdings in the Burden Collection and thought it would be good to finally blog about them, to bring them into greater awareness, perhaps?

The first item is a first edition of The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1962), signed and inscribed by Lessing to Plath and Ted Hughes. Lessing's inscription reads simply,
To Ted and Sylvia
with love from
Doris (Lessing)
14th June 1962
This was a Thursday. Plath's mother was due to arrive for a visit the following week. There is no indication in Plath's 1962 Royal Letts Diary Tablet to indicate if Lessing visited them that day, which according to Plath's notes was a very busy day for errands and things. So it is a mystery to me… I can only think that Lessing posted it, she visited them, or someone brought it to them. Lessing was friendly with the Macedo's and knew Assia Wevill, so perhaps introductions were made through those contacts? The book shows evidence of being read and is mostly free of any reader marginalia. There are faint pencil marking on pages 20, 44, and 46.

While that is undeniably awesome. The main reason for my visit were the Plath items concerning Dido and W. S. Merwin which include five letters from Plath to the Merwins (one also contributed to by Ted Hughes), what I believe is a letter fragment from Ted Hughes, and Merwin's copy of Plath's The Colossus

First up, the book. I've worked with several other copies of The Colossus that Plath signed and inscribed to people such as Marcia Brown, so learning of a new copy and working with it was quite special. Plath signed and inscribed her copy of her first book to the Merwin's as follows:
For Dido and Bill
with love—
from Sylvia
October 27, 1960
The image here is not Merwin's copy.

Merwin signed his last name beneath Plath's inscription on the front free endpaper and made pencil markings on poems/pages:
"Departure" p. 19
"The Colossus" p. 20
"Lorelei" p. 22
"Black Rook in Rainy Weather" p. 42
"The Disquieting Muses" p. 58
"Moonrise" p. 66
"Frog Autumn" p. 70
"The Beekeeper's Daughter" p. 75
"The Burnt-out Spa" p. 78
"Who" p. 81
"Flute Notes from a Reedy Pond" p. 84-85
"The Stones" p. 86

The letters to the Merwins were ones I had been looking for for some time; and according to the catalog record the Morgan received them from Burden's heirs in 2013. I am unsure if that means they were visible in the catalog at that time but I guess what matters is that they were found. Each letter below has a link to the catalog record which provides some summary information.

The first letter they have is misdated and at the time of writing my long email with evidence of the correct date has not yet encouraged them to revise the catalog record. They have it dated 28 February 1960. However, since there is a mention of a sleeping Frieda, that is an impossibility! The letter was actually written on 24 June 1960.

The second letter, 7 March 1961, is toward the end of Plath's hospitalization for her appendicitis.

The third letter, circa 30 July 1961, is after their visit to France and Yorkshire.

The fourth letter, 8 November 1962, discusses the breakdown of their friendship after the breakdown of Plath's marriage, among other topics.

There are two other letters. The first is a partial letter from Hughes to Merwin that they have as being part of the circa 30 July 1961 letter mentioned above. There are clearly two different letters. The earlier one is from just after their return to London after visiting Yorkshire with Plath and Plath's mother and is before they agreed to buy Court Green. The second letter is from after their move to Court Green as it mentions sub-letting their flat to the Wevill's and some other business such as Plath's editing of American Poetry Now. As with the first, misdated letter mentioned above, my recommendations to modified the catalog record have not seen any action yet.

The other letter is a carbon of a letter from Merwin to Plath dated 5 November 1962.It was to this letter that Plath responded in her 8 November letter mentioned above.

There is also a stray letter from Plath to her in-laws William and Edith Hughes dated 9 October 1961, a month or so after her move to Court Green.

So a wealth of Plath related archival materials in the form of poems, manuscripts, typescripts, books, periodicals, and more. It was brilliant to get to work with these papers, to visit the reading room again, and spend a day in New York City. If you are ever in or near New York City, please do drop by the Morgan: but write well in advance, admission to the reading room is by appointment/approval only.

All links accessed 14 March 2017
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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.