05 December 2019

The Sylvia Plath Society is being formed

For more than a decade---and possibly longer---there has been interest in the formation of a Sylvia Plath Society.

For the past few months, I have been in contact with Kitty Shaw (Twitter) and Dorka Tamás (Twitter) and they have been really making astounding progress contacting people, institutions, and the like the get this thing off the ground. We have the support of many people, including the scholar Tim Kendall. In addition, we have reached out to both the Estate of Sylvia Plath and Faber and Faber.

Earlier this week, the Society got a Twitter handle which is one of the first steps. The Society looking to create a newsletter, a website, and eventually a journal, too.

If you have an interest in following the Society, please do so via Twitter. We are looking to start getting members, volunteers, and the like to fill other roles in the running of it. So please feel free to email (plathsoc AT gmail DOT com) if you have any interest at all in Sylvia Plath.

All links accessed 3 December 2019.

03 December 2019

New book of essays on Sylvia Plath published in Hungary

A new book of essays was recently published in Hungarian out of Budepast. A képzelet kockázata: Sylvia Plath életműve, élettörténete és betegsége---which translates to The risk of imagination: The oeuvre, life history and illness of Sylvia Plath---and it is edited by József Gerevich. The ISBN is 978-963-51-7050-0 and it is published by Kossuth Kiadó.

Here is the table of contents. I am grateful to Dóra Ocsovai for letting me know about the title and, as well, providing English translations of the titles.

József Gerevich: Psychiatric aspects of confessional poetry


Enikő Bollobás: Mask and Self—and the Illness: Injuries of the Soul in Sylvia Plath's Poetry

Antal Bókay: Failure in the construction of the ego in confessional poetry – Sylvia Plath and Attila József

Zsófia Demjén: "Drowning in negativism, self-hate, doubt, madness": Linguistic insights into Sylvia Plath's experience of depression

Júlia Lázár: What Is This Face So Murderous?

Dóra Ocsovai: From womb to 'wave-yard': The poetics of Water in Sylvia Plath's oeuvre

Life history

Balázs Matuszka: From the experience to anger: The elaboration of the feelings against the parents in the art of Sylvia Plath

Dóra Ocsovai: Devil and God – The double role of Ted Hughes in Sylvia Plath's life and death

Kinga Fabó: On Sylvia Plath's Personality

Krisztina Zsédel: The "price" of creativity? Predictive and protective factors in the suicide of Sylvia Plath


Attila Németh: Psychiatric disorder of Sylvia Plath

Magdolna Moretti: "The grasses unload their griefs on my feet": The psychiatric therapy of Sylvia Plath

József Gerevich: The Broken-necked Deer. Trying to reconstruct and understand the Sylvia Plath-phenomenon

All links accessed 3 December 2019.

01 December 2019

Sylvia Plath Collections: University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Whoever says that you cannot learn something on Twitter is wrong?

So, Chris Caldwell is a Sylvia Plath influencer.

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has a several precious Sylvia Plath items in its Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives.

The first two items mentioned here are a part of the Patricia Cornwell Collection. The first item they have is a manuscript copy of Plath's poem "King of the Ice" written on 10 January 1945. Plath wrote about the poem in her diary that day saying that once she got home from school and a music lesson, she set to work on a letter, story, or poem for the Phillipian, her junior high school newspaper. The assignment required writing about a "star" with a "right good will". "King of the Ice" was that poem. (Plath also started on writing another poem, "The Snowflake Star" the same day, which, according to her diary, she finalized on 21 February 1945. "The Snowflake Star" was published in February 1946.)

"King of the Ice" was first offered for sale at London Olympia's Antiquarian Book Fair in 2003 and made headline news in "Sylvia Plath's schoolgirl love poem goes on sale for £4,500" from The Telegraph and, as well, on the BBC. As you can see from the articles, two other Plath poems and a lock of her hair were also offered. The other two poems were "Hear the crickets chirping" and "I saw a little birdie" held by the Beinecke Library, Yale.

The other Plath-related item from the Cornwell collection is Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath by Jillian Becker. It is signed by the author.

I met Cornwell at one point when I was working at the hallowed Woodberry Poetry Room. She was at Harvard doing some research. While the subjects of conversation escape me now---I vaguely remember asking her not have have balding archivist murdered---we must have talked about Plath based on this inscription to me in this book she sent afterward.

But that is not all. The Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections has three limited editions from the 1970s: Child, Wreath for a Bridal, and Million Dollar Month. These are lovely books for any fan or collector of Sylvia Plath.


You can see all the known Sylvia Plath archival collections on my website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is.

All links accessed 13 November and 1 December 2019.

20 November 2019

Sylvia Plath's Excerpted Reviews

You might think that because The Letters of Sylvia Plath has more than 4,300 footnotes it would be hard to pick a favorite. But you would be wrong. One of my favorite footnotes falls in Volume 2, late in the book.

In her 20 November 1962 letter to Olive Higgins Prouty, Plath writes still not knowing if she would be getting the flat at 23 Fitzroy Road, London. The letter breathlessly recaps, among other things, her 5-7 November visit to London when she found the flat and talks about all its advantages: "right round the corner from my old panel of wonderful doctors & the park & minutes by bus from the BBC" (910).

But the part that had me most allured when I transcribed, proofed, edited, and annotated came somewhat towards the end of the letter when Plath talks about her reviews of children's books. She enclosed a clipping of one from the New Statesman which the periodical titled "Oregonian Original" (9 November 1962, p.660).

"Oregonian Original" discusses nine books in total: E. S. Bradburne, Opal Whiteley; Evan Hunter [Ed McBain], The Wonderful Button; Leo Lionni, Little Blue and Little Yellow; and Elizabeth Rose and Gerald Rose, Punch and Judy Carry On; Tomi Ungerer, The Mellops Go Flying; H. E. Bates, Achilles the Donkey; Dr Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg; Gaby Baldner, The Penguins of Penguin Town; and Reinhard Herrman, The Creation. Plath provided the stars at the top left and bottom right; Prouty annotated the clipping in pencil: "Would like to know more about the introduction". Prouty also underlined in pencil the words "splendid" and "curious" in the first paragraph. There is a pencil doodle beside the review of Punch and Judy Carry On and underlining, in pen, next to Horton Hatches the Egg.

This is nifty information, but still not what I want to highlight. No, it is just after this when in the letter Plath types, "My children's reviews are beginning to 'take'---Faber & Faber quoted one in an advertisement & I opened one book to find a former review of mine of an earlier one in the series on the back jacket" (912).

They were rewarding days when I found both the advertisement Plath mentioned seeing as well as landing on the book in which her review was blurbed.

I knew that Plath read The Observer and The Guardian but honestly who has the time to look through all those issues? I have free time. But not that much free time! Plath had been reviewing books for about a year at that point... 365 issues? No thanks.

This is where modern technology rocks. Some geniuses used Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software on digitized microfilm and it (the OCR) was cleaned up enough so that when I searched a database holding these two newspapers I got a hit for "Sylvia Plath" 17 June 1962, page 27.

I was familiar enough with Plath's periodical publications that I knew it was not a hit for a poem published. As well, based on the date it would not be for The Colossus. But it might very well have been that she or her work was mentioned in an article. In this case I hit the nail on the head, though, and it was the excerpt from her review of Elizabeth & Gerald Rose's The Big River which was quoted in The Observer: "A clear, poetic account of a river's genesis and progress to the sea, with superb illustrations—Sylvia Plath, New Statesman."

Here it is:

The other one proved to be trickier as Plath had reviewed a dozen or so children's books. So it meant making a list of all the books she reviewed as well as both those books that may have been reprinted as well as subsequent books by these authors and illustrators. As luck would have it, the way I approached this was the very long way around so that it was literally the last author and book I went after that was the one to which Plath referred: Plath's review of Wanda Gág's The Funny Thing (published on 18 May 1962 when the Wevills were visiting Court Green) quotes on the rear jacket flap of Plath's review of Gág's The ABC Bunny (London: Faber & Faber, 1962): "'An excellent read-aloud adventure for very young children . . . all the finality of a good fable.' New Statesman".

Frankly, I should have guessed it would be a Faber publication as the gesture may have been one of respect for the quality of Plath's review but also because of the publishing house's relationship with her husband.

17 November 2019

Books about Sylvia Plath for sale

I have extra copies of the following books about Sylvia Plath that I would like to see in new homes. Proceeds will go directly into my Sylvia Plath work (including renewing the domain for my A celebration, this is website for Plath www.sylviaplath.info).

Prices include shipping. 

The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath. 2 copies available. $15 each. (Retails for $28.99)

The Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath. 2 copies available. $15 each. (Retails for $37.99)

Critical Insights: Sylvia Plath. 1 copy available. $30. (Retails for $105)

Representing Sylvia Plath. 1 copy available. $35.  (Retails for $113)

Thank you!  US only.

15 November 2019

Elizabeth Sigmund's Copy of Sylvia Plath's Copy of Dylan Thomas

Back in late June, Bonhams had a small series Sylvia Plath lots in their auction.

Lot 238 was Plath's copy of the Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas. It sold for a handsome £11,312 (roughly US$ 14,519) including the buyer's premium.

That copy is now for sale through the awesome Peter Harrington Rare Books in London for the even more handsome £27,500 (roughly US$ 36,409.61).

Peter Harrington also has Elizabeth's copy of Last Encounters by Trevor Thomas. That is listed for £1,250. It is featured in their Christmas 2019 catalogue (image below).

All links accessed 12 and 13 November 2019. All images shamelessly pilfered from Peter Harrington's  ABE page and Christmas catalogue.

12 November 2019

Auction Results: Sylvia Plath's membership cards

On 14 May, via Heritage Auctions, Sylvia Plath's membership card to the Poetry Society of America sold for $1,875. This was originally part of Lot 330 in the massive Bonhams auction of the Property of Frieda Hughes, held in London on 21 March 2018.

More recently, on 26 October 2019, Heritage offered Plath's Massachusetts driver's license for sale and that went for $3,000. I learned of this auction from my friends at the great Fine Books & Collections magazine.

Some of the other cards from Plath's wallet are presently on eBay. (Well, presently on eBay being in August when I drafted this post)...

Mutual of Omaha

Social Security card

Plath's Boston Public Library card was also up, but that auction ended on 22 September 2019 and the card sold for $7,500.

All links accessed 13 August and 12 November 2019.

06 November 2019

Sylvia Plath's Mary Ventura in Other Languages

Sylvia Plath's Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom was published in October in a Catalan language edition. Mary Ventura i el Novè Regne is the title and was brought out by Edicions del Periscopi. The book was tranlated by Marta Pera Cucurell.

Germany is getting onto the Mary Ventura train, too, and will publish Mary Ventura und das neunte Königreich on 8 March 2020 (Surkampf Insel Verlag). The book was translated by Eike Schönfeld.

Oh, that Catalan cover is righteous.

All links accessed 6 November 2019.

01 November 2019

Footnoting the Letters of Sylvia Plath

One of the things I loved most about my work on The Letters of Sylvia Plath was the footnotes. A friend wrote to me in an email and said that she could "hear" me in them, which was the highest compliment. Periodically, I intend on showing some of the materials I acquired in the research process of annotating Sylvia Plath's experiences. For me, it adds so much contextual information about how Plath lived. What she read and saw and what made an impression on her life.

Today I am showing the article Plath read on Sunday, 23 September 1962, which she wrote about in the letter to her mother the next day. She typed, "I would love to go on a skiing holiday in the Tyrol with them someday. I just read about it in the paper" (836).

The article Plath referred to must have been, I think, published in The Observer, her Sunday paper of choice. The article appeared on page 37 of the Travel section. The quality below is wanting, please accept my apologies.

Full Page

The article on Austria
I cannot think of this letter, or the article, without then thinking about "Daddy" written a couple of weeks later with the lines: "The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna / Are not very pure or true."

What do you think? Is this something you would like to see more of?

27 October 2019

The Site of Sylvia Plath's "Ariel"

This is a blog post I started several years ago (in 2013!!!) but never posted for a variety of reasons. Today seems like a good day to publish it…

In the morning before a Sylvia Plath archives talk Gail Crowther and I gave at Plymouth University in England---please see the March 2013 Blog archive for a bit about that presentation.---Gail and I did a bit of Plathing in the villages of Belstone and Corscombe in Devon. Belstone is were Susan O'Neil-Roe lived at "Pear Trees" cottage. (For more on Belstone and "Pear Trees" please click here.) It took two trips to the village to find the house, but thanks to the marvel that is Google we were able to locate the house.

From there, we went onto to nearby Corscombe, where was Plath took horse riding lessons on an older, docile horse called Ariel. Being there, the poems "Ariel" and "Sheep in Fog" take on a whole new meaning, as does her December 1962 introductions that she wrote about the poems. (The broadcast was never-realized her then new work.) These introductions are reprinted in Ariel: The Restored Edition (both) and in The Collected Poems (just "Sheep in Fog"). Tellingly, the order in which Plath introduced the poems had "Sheep in Fog" first, followed by "Ariel". For "Sheep in Fog" Plath wrote: "In this poem, the speaker's horse is proceeding at a slow, cold walk down a hill of macadam to the stable at the bottom. It is December. It is foggy. In the fog there are sheep." For "Ariel", she said, "Another horseback riding poem, this one called 'Ariel', after a horse I'm especially fond of."

Plath's visited Miss Redwood, her riding "mistress", regularly in the autumn of 1962. Miss Redwood lived at a farm called Lower Corscombe (top left). From Lower Corscombe one can go up that hill of macadam (top right -- the camera's point of view looks downhill towards Lower Corscombe) where the road makes a sharp right turn and then goes higher still before plateauing and continuing further on with one or so turns, directly to North Tawton. From the plateau here you can see several Dartmoor tors including Cawsand Beacon and Yes Tor (lower left), as well as the valley below. The Dartmoor rail line runs quite close to these farms though when we were there, there were no trains running (lower right).

In the map above the red line is the train line, the white arrow points approximately to Lower Corscombe farm; and the yellow arrow is the hill of macadam. That is the train line that rain through North Tawton.

Among other things on her 30th birthday, 27 October 1962, Sylvia Plath had her charwoman Nancy Axworthy over from 10:15 to 12:15. From 11 to 12 that morning, Plath was at Miss Redwood's for her horse riding lesson. That morning, also, Plath wrote "Poppies in October" and "Ariel". Later on she picked apples, baked bread. She also ironed and washed a sweater.

As you should know by now, I find being in or at a place Plath wrote about enhances the experience of reading the poem. This is a different form of interpretation than a biographical reading which is a sound approach, but which has come under intense scrutiny and criticism over the years. Plath was influenced by a place or a thing almost as much as she was by the events of her life and both undergo a beautiful transformations from the lived-experience to the art of the creative work. This is, in part, the living archive, a concept Gail and I developed in our papers and subsequent book, These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath.

All links accessed 21 March 2013, 19 June 2019, and 26 October 2019.

19 October 2019

Recap: Letters of Sylvia Plath Book Talk and More

Thanks go to Gregory Stall at the Grand Central branch of the New York Public Library for asking me to come and give a talk about my work on The Letters of Sylvia Plath. I did so Thursday and had a good time talking to the crowd. And it was terrific to see some familiar faces such as Eva S. and Richard L. I appreciate the rapport of the Q & A afterwards, and am grateful to Liz for lugging copies of the Letters from Staten Island.

After the talk I retired to my room at the nearby Roosevelt Hotel. I chose it for its Plathian association. On 2 June 1953, her second day as Guest Editor at Mademoiselle magazine, Plath wrote in a letter home: "Yesterday a.m. we saw our first (my first) fashion show at the Roosevelt Hotel" (p631). The hotel is located at 45 E. 45th Street.

Her calendar for the day calls it a "College Clinic" that started at 10:15. In a document from Plath's Mademoiselle papers held by the Lilly Library, we can learn a little more:

The Grand Ballroom is located on the Mezzanine Level, is 5,696 square feet and features twenty-seven feet high ceilings. I could not access it as there was a private event going on and I was asked politely to leave. Felt it was better to admit defeat than be escort outed.

After the Fashion Show, Plath had lunch at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station and then went to Richard Hudnut for hair and make-up consultations. Since it was effectively next door, I visited Grand Central and the awfully smelling Oyster Bar.

Before the long journey home yesterday morning I spent some time in the Berg Collection at the main branch of the NYPL. I had visited this archive once years ago and decided it was worth a trip to look again at the following Plath materials:

Cartoon of a koala bear (Juvenilia)
Alphabet and birthday quatrain (Juvenilia)
"Trixie and the balloon" (Story, Juvenilia)
Camping list (Juvenilia)
Pencil drawing of campsite (Juvenilia)
"Winter and magic" (Story, Juvenilia)
9 pencil tracings and drawings (Juvenilia); and
Notebook of copied poetry (With "Activities and Awards" sheet)

The Berg also has some drafts of "Brasilia" and "Insomniac" with other Plath works on the versos but I already have copies of those. In addition, they have a letter from Plath to her grandmother but that's in the Letters (Volume 1).

I wrote about the Berg Collection in this previous blog post. Some of the Berg's holdings were highlighted in this Gothamist piece. Which leads to another document I worked with: a letter from Plath to Alfred Kazin from 26 April 1961. In 2011 when I first visited the Berg I was told this letter was "lost". In 2013 I followed up and it was still "lost". In 2015, when that video was aired, they had the letter. Perhaps I should have followed up again? It is disappointing it is not in Volume II of the Letters, but at least we know it has been found.

One of the main things I wanted to see again was Plath's copy of T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets. I did work with it ages ago but once was not enough and I have long dreamed of seeing it again. The book was given to her by Richard Norton. I love the fact that the first Quartet is "Burnt Norton", and using modern parlance for insulting someone... she burned Norton, alright, in The Bell Jar.

I also spent heaps of time with Plath's sporadically heavily annotated copy of Louis Untermeyer's Modern American and British Poetry (1955 edition). I have not yet really worked with the photographs I took but there are probably annotations to north of 180 pages.

I find it so useful and important to visit and revisit (and revisit again) archives. Don't you?

Before leaving I looked in at the JD Salinger exhibit which opened that morning. Lots of great stuff in there but my time was running out before I had to go. I felt goddamn phony, if you want to know the truth.

All links accessed 16 and 19 October 2019.

09 October 2019

Published today: Reclaiming Assia Wevill by Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick

The LSU Press publishes today Reclaiming Assia Wevill: Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and the Literary Imagination by Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick.

From the description:
Reclaiming Assia Wevill: Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and the Literary Imagination reconsiders cultural representations of Assia Wevill (1927–1969), according her a more significant position than a femme fatale or scapegoat for marital discord and suicide in the lives and works of two major twentieth-century poets.

Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick’s innovative study combines feminist recovery work with discussions of the power and gendered dynamics that shape literary history. She focuses on how Wevill figures into poems by Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, showing that they often portrayed her in harsh, conflicted, even demeaning terms. Their representations of Wevill established condemnatory narratives that were perpetuated by subsequent critics and biographers and in works of popular culture. In Plath’s literary treatments, Goodspeed-Chadwick locates depictions of both desirable and undesirable femininity, conveyed in images of female bodies as beautiful but barren or as vehicles for dangerous, destructive acts. By contrast, Hughes’s portrayals illustrate the role Wevill occupied in his life as muse and abject object. His late work Capriccio constitutes a sustained meditation on trauma, in which Hughes confronts Wevill’s suicide and her killing of their daughter, Shura.

Goodspeed-Chadwick also analyzes Wevill’s self-representations by examining artifacts that she authored or on which she collaborated. Finally, she discusses portrayals of Wevill in recent works of literature, film, and television. In the end, Goodspeed-Chadwick shows that Wevill remains an object of both fascination and anger, as she was for Plath, and a figure of attraction and repulsion, as she was for Hughes.

Reclaiming Assia Wevill reconsiders its subject’s tragic life and lasting impact in regard to perceived gender roles and notions of femininity, power dynamics in heterosexual relationships, and the ways in which psychological traumas impact life, art, and literary imagination.
I have read the book. I love the book. I encourage you to buy the book. In addition to the publisher, Reclaiming Assia Wevill is available on Amazon.

All links accessed 5 October 2019.

03 October 2019

Letters of Sylvia Plath Event at NYPL

On Thursday, 17 October 2019, I will be giving a talk on my editorial work on The Letters of Sylvia Plath at the Grand Central Branch of the New York Public Library.

The library's address is: 135 East 46th Street New York, NY, 10017.

The talk will start at 6 PM. It is free, however, you must RSVP.

If you have time, please read an interview between me and Gregory Stall of the NYPL Grand Central location.

Author photograph by Kathrine Smart, taken inside 3 Chalcot Square, London. Sorry I cropped you out of the photograph, Nick.

All links accessed 7 and 14 August, and 10 September 2019.

01 October 2019

Bees: thinking of Sylvia Plath

Over the summer I was observing some bumblebees and decided to try a slow motion camera video on my mobile. These are my rather pathetic attempts, but I felt it was appropriate to share them at this time of year because who doesn't think of Sylvia Plath and bees in October?

The funny thing about the second one, "A bee", is that the bugger missed the flower!

All links accessed 4 August 2019.

25 September 2019

Corrections to The Letters of Sylvia Plath

Below is a list of the corrections that were made for the paperback editions of The Letters of Sylvia Plath. A few tweaks were made to the front matter and the Acknowledgements and they were made the same in both editions. But I have not listed them here. My thanks to those readers who sent in corrections.

Volume I:

p. 106, Footnote 2 – Revise to: Mary Ventura (1932-1973), high school classmate of SP.

p. 202, Footnote 1 – Revise to: According to Plath's housemate Olive Milne Glaser, Marie was the head cook at Haven House. See SP's 'Marie'; held by Lilly Library.

p. 279, line 21: add footnote at: dodie
Priscilla Dole Peters (1930- ), B.A. 1952, Government, Smith College, SP's housemate at Haven House.

p. 327, line 24: add footnote at Rosie
Rosemary Jaicks Flinn (1929- ) B.A. 1951, American Studies, Smith College, SP's housemate at Haven House.

p. 409, Footnote 2 – Revise to: Ezra Pound, The Pisan Cantos (New York: New Directions, 1948). SP's copy held by Lilly Library.

p. 493, Footnote 1 & Footnote 2
for: 'Riverside Reveries'
read: 'Riverside Reverie'

p. 499, Footnote 2
for: Attila A. Kassay
read: Attila A. Kassay (1928-1973), Hungarian; B.A. 1955, business administration, Northeastern University; graduated Harvard Business School, 1957; dated SP in 1952.

p. 505, Footnote 2: Revise dates:(1907-72).

p. 551, Footnote 1:
for: Shirley Baldwin Norton
read: Shirley Baldwin Waring

p. 599, Footnote 5
for: 'The Perfect Set-Up' (December 1952)
read: 'The Perfect Set-Up' (October 1952)

p. 599, Footnote 5
for: 'Twelfth Night' (October 1952)
read: 'Twelfth Night' (December 1952)

p. 599, Footnote 6
for: 'Riverside Reveries'
read: 'Riverside Reverie'

p. 642, footnote 3, line 6
for: Jose A de Lavelle
read: Jose A de Lavalle

On the following pages: p. 647, Footnote 2; p. 762, footnote 3; p. 763, footnote 1 and 2; p. 768, footnote 1; and p. 780, footnote 1 for: Finnegan's
read: Finnegans

ditto in Index under following entries:
p. 1336, Campbell, Joseph;
p. 1343, Finnegan's Wake: Meeting...; and
p. 1350, Joyce, James

p. 671, line 23
for: buckling
read: bucking

p. 732, Footnote 1
for: Richard Laurence Sassoon (1934– );
read: Richard Laurence Sassoon (1934–2017)

p. 748, line 12
for: you rhythmic
read: your rhythmic

p. 1280, Footnote 1
for: Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
read: Geoffrey Chaucer, The Book of the Duchess

p. 1333, index – revise Baldwin, Shirley
for: Baldwin, Shirley, see Norton, Shirley
read: Baldwin, Shirley, see Waring, Shirley Baldwin

p. 1333, index – insert: Benion, Katherine, SP's correspondence with,

p. 1333, index – separate Bennett, Joan into:
Bennett, Joan (actress), 553
Bennett, Joan (scholar), 1047

p. 1334, index – insert:
Bible, 31, 374, 378, 492, 500, 879, 1030, 1275, 1283, 1309, 1315

p. 1335, index – insert: Bucknell University,

p. 1336, index – remove entry ‘Callender, Marie’

p. 1338, index – under Chaucer, Geoffrey:
for: The Canterbury Tales, 1279–80, (quotation from) 1280
read: The Book of the Duchess, 1279-80, (quotation from) 1280

p. 1343, index – insert: Flinn, Rosemary Jaicks (‘Rosie’), 327

p. 1346, index – insert: Grand Forks, North Dakota,

p. 1347, index – insert: Harry Marchard’s orchestra,

p. 1347, index – insert:
Helle, Anita Plath,
Helle, June Johnson, SP's correspondence with,

p. 1350, index – insert: Johnson, Martha Plath,

p. 1351, index
for: Koestker
read: Koestler

p. 1355, index – insert: Marie, 202

p. 1356, index – insert: Milton, Pennsylvania,

p. 1359, index – insert subheading under Norton, Charles Perry:
SP's correspondence with,

p. 1359, index, revise and MOVE to W's
for: Norton, Shirley Baldwin ('Shirl')
read: Waring, Shirley Baldwin ('Shirl'),

Add subentry: SP's correspondence with

p. 1361, index – insert: Peters, Priscilla Dole (‘Dodie’), 279

p. 1370, index – insert: under Plath, Sylvia, WORKS: 'Marie', 202n

p. 1371, index – under Plath, Sylvia, WORKS:
for: 'Riverside Reveries'
read: 'Riverside Reverie'

p. 1380, index – append new subentry under Smith College,
student life: Vocational Office, 307, 318, 893,
SP's correspondence with,

p. 1382, index – insert: Susquehanna University,

p. 1382, index – insert: Swaim, Rosamund Pugh, SP's correspondence with,

p. 1385, index – insert: Wagner-Martin, Linda,

p. 1386, index – insert subentry in Wellesley College:
Alumnae Hall, ;

p. 1388, index – insert: Woodthorpe, Peter, 1013, 1025

Volume II:

p. 25, line 21
for: bill & the £ 46 tailor's
read: bill & the £46 tailor's

p. 33, line 6
for: still at Newnham,& living
read: still at Newnham, & living

p. 41, Footnote 2
for: Harvey Street
read: Harvey Road

p. 46, line 23
for: pen, socks,& ourselves
read: pen, socks, & ourselves

p. 73, line 7
for: vampires, martyrdom--- and
read: vampires, martyrdom---and

p. 76, line
for: and published poet).
read: & published poet.)

p. 113, line 27
for: All the Aldriches, Dot & Joe Benottis,(Miss
read: All the Aldriches, Dot & Joe Benottis, (Miss

p. 139, line 24
for: sharinghis
read: sharing his

p. 142, Footnote 1 for: 17 May 1959
read: 17 May 1957

p. 158, line 27
for: readbooks
read: read books

p. 166, Footnote 3
for: Howard's End
read: Howards End

p. 239, Footnote 1
for: 'The Fugue and the Fig Tree'
read: 'The Fugue of the Fig Tree'

p. 248, line 20
for: Our park if full
read Our park is full

p. 407, line 24
for: them ( my favorite
read: them (my favorite

p. 424, Footnote 5 for: Critical Quarterly 5
read: Critical Quarterly 2

p. 451, line 17
for: Boston Lying-in - the mother
read: Boston Lying-in ‒ the mother [en dash]

p. 451, line 20
for: her child-is completely
read: her child ‒ is completely [en dash]

p. 480, Footnote 4
for: (1922- )
read: (1922-2016)

p. 530-1, Footnote 2
Revise end of note to read '…, Dublin); Lucas Myers, and Hilda Farrar and Vicky Watling.' [remove ‘(offered for sale in 2017)’ in order that this new copy to Hilda & Vicky might fit.]

p. 552, line 16
for: hermits,(if not saints
read: hermits, (if not saints

p. 559, line 11
for: criticizing poets I!like
read: criticizing poets I! like

p. 563, line 3
for: all the years I’ve know her
read: all the years I’ve known her

p. 570, line 18
for: the light on
read: the lights on

p. 718
for: TO Mary Louise Vincent Black
read: TO Mary Louise Vincent Back

p. 848, line 9
for: seethat
read: see that

p. 904, Footnote 2
for: Since writing to Olive Higgins Prouty on 2 November,
read: Since writing to ASP on 7 November,

p. 941, line 6
for: has yellow,& white
read: has yellow, & white


p. 983, index – 2nd column, line 9
for: Howard's End
read: Howards End

Naturally each error hurts but with nearly one million words between the two volumes we did not do too badly!

Please note: The spacing "corrections" that you see largely in Volume II remove the claim of exactness in the Preface that "The transcriptions of the letters are as faithful to the author’s originals as possible" (p. xx). So when considering these, please know that in the original letters, for example, "sharinghis" on page 139 and "seethat" on page 848, appear just like that, with no space between the words. I transcribed these as they appeared because Plath herself did not mark them for separation (often her letters included some corrections in pen but ignored other mistakes which is why we stated "Plath’s final revisions are preserved" in the Preface (p. xx).

Please also keep in mind that there are nine new letters between both volumes too. I cannot, however, post those due to copyright.

All links accessed 24 September 2019.

19 September 2019

Paperback editions of The Letters of Sylvia Plath Published Today

Today, Faber issues in the United Kingdom the first paperback edition of both volumes of The Letters of Sylvia Plath. They each carry forward the original cover photographs but do not judge these books by their covers. We had the opportunity to make corrections and updates to some of the text and to footnotes based both on reader inquires as well as our own review of the hardbacks. Naturally we apologize that transcription errors that were not caught. Additionally, we have added an Appendix to each book with new letters. Here is a breakdown of them.

Volume I: 7 Letters
To June Johnson Helle, circa 21 March 1943
To June Johnson Helle, 14 June 1950
To Katherine Benion, 3 March 1951
To Perry Norton, 11 October 1952
To Perry Norton, 5 December 1952
To Shirley Baldwin Waring and Perry Norton, 8 June 1953
To Rosamund Pugh Swaim, circa 11 January 1956

Volume II: 2 Letters
To Smith Vocational Office, circa 26 August 1957
To Smith Vocational Office, circa 8 September 1958

Particularly in Volume I's Appendix, we see a small chorus of new recipients of letters.

At my begging, Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick went to the Lilly Library to look through the Wagner-Martin mss there and it was she who located the Norton/Waring letters. Thanks to Julie for that, and to David Trinidad who found the letters to Daniel and Helga Huws in that collection previously. The Benion was sold at auction. I located the rest. There was an additional letter that I had hoped could be put into Volume II, from Plath (co-written by Ted Hughes) to Elizabeth and David Sigmund from June 1962, that was part of the Harriet Rosenstein collection. However, since not all of the letter was readable from a brief appearance of it online, as well because inquiry letters to Rosenstein were ignored, the decision was made to exclude it. So perhaps it is something to look forward to reading in full in the future. Hope!

I have be contemplating posting on the blog a full list of the corrections. Would that be of interest?

A polite reminder: The Letters of Sylvia Plath will not, at the present time, be issued in paperback in the US by HarperCollins. Therefore, if you are interested in the corrected texts and the new letters, you will need to acquire the Faber paperbacks.

All links accessed 15 August and 19 September 2019.

11 September 2019

Sylvia Plath Collections: Philip Hobsbaum papers

Gail Crowther and I recently teamed up for a These Ghostly Archives-inspired archival research trip and thought we would share it with you.

PKS: The University of Glasgow has some Sylvia Plath archival material. In October 2018, a blog post entitled Philip Hobsbaum (1932-2005): Ghosts in the archive – Sylvia Plath was published about the Philip Hobsbaum papers that are in the process of being catalogued.

GC: Philip Hobsbaum (1932 - 2005) was a teacher, poet, and critic, and a contemporary of Ted Hughes’ at Cambridge where they were both interested in the oral power of poetry. It was here that Hobsbaum worked as the editor of delta, a small poetry magazine published by the University of Cambridge throughout the 1950s and 60s. After moving to London in 1955, Hobsbaum was instrumental in setting up The Group which was a regular meeting for poets and writers to share ideas and work. In the 1950s and 60s much of literary London would attend The Group, including Ted Hughes, David Wevill, Assia Wevill, and Peter Redgrove. When PKS contacted me with the news that there were some Plath related papers in Hobsbaum’s archive in Glasgow, we felt it was worth exploring to see what was contained there.

PKS: The extent of the collection is three boxes, but it seems filled with plenty of Plath-related materials. The most interesting for us are the Plath typescripts of four poems: "Vanity Fair", "Black Rook in Rainy Weather", "The Snowman on the Moor", and "The Lady and the Earthenware Head". The poems were written between 28 October 1956 February 1957. The first poem has Plath's Whitstead address typed at the top right and the other three her Eltisley Avenue address. delta published Ted Hughes in 1955, and "Winter Words" by Plath in their Summer 1956 issue.

GC: Organising a trip to the University of Glasgow Library was fairly easy, mainly because the librarians and archivists were so friendly, helpful, and efficient. I arrived at the archive under a blackening Glasgow sky and took a lift to the twelfth floor. Entering the Reading Room I was immediately struck by the view from the floor to ceiling windows which looked out across the city and the campus. After a brief introductory talk about archive rules and data protection, I was settled at a desk and given three brown boxes to examine one at a time. Inside each box were several white thinner cardboard folders, each thematically organised, such as press cuttings, typescripts, letters etc. It became clear almost immediately that Hobsbaum had been impressed with Plath’s work during her lifetime and continued to take a serious interest after the publication of Ariel. He followed the subsequent biography controversies over the years, and Ted Hughes’ dealings with the press. He was also an enthusiastic teacher of Plath’s work and enjoyed discussing Plath with his students in Glasgow who he said every year ‘insisted’ he covered Plath in lectures and seminars. He had students who lived as far away as India coming to study Plath at Glasgow.

PKS: Hobsbaum appears to have been genuinely fond of Plath's work. While they are copies, the precious typescripts have been added to the Sylvia Plath Archival Documents Hub and it is worth noting that it was the first instance of a typescript of "Vanity Fair".* It is always interesting to me to see just what Plath's friends and acquaintances collected in the years and decades after her death. What we do not know is whether Plath posted these poems to Hobsbaum for considering in delta or if she perhaps met with Hobsbaum in Cambridge or in London. But given the addresses and dates of composition we can deduce that they were given to Hobsbaum in late winter or early Spring of 1957. Plath was in London just a couple of times that spring, most memorable for me in April when they were in the capital to accomplish business related to Ted Hughes traveling to the US in June (medical exams and Visa).

GC: One of the most interesting documents in the archive was a letter Hobsbaum wrote to Trevor Thomas thanking him for a copy of his memoir Last Encounters. Although this correspondence is one-sided, Hobsbaum shares his memories of meeting Plath and his love of teaching her work. He recalls knowing Ted Hughes at Cambridge who he describes as very rough-looking with a bad case of dandruff and greasy hair (though a fine poet ‘at that time’). He also remembers meeting Assia Wevill for the first time who he describes as the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He ends his letter by describing Plath as a ‘legend’.

PKS: To read an acquaintance of Plath's refer to her with genuinely affection is a good thing; especially considering that some from the Cambridge period did not take to Plath (the person) very well. The Plath-related papers in Hobsbaum collection is small; however, the collection on the whole is massive and is undoubtedly is a valuable resource.

All links accessed 20 June and 4 September 2019.
*I suspect a copy of the typescript is held by Smith College in the working papers for Plath's Collected Poems.

P.S. Interested in These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath? Please buy a copy!

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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.
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2, 1956-1963. London: Faber, 2018.
  • 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.