07 January 2019

Dating Sylvia Plath's Journals: Part II

Back on 15 April 2014, I did a blog post on "Dating Sylvia Plath's Journals". The point of it was to show how the Letters of Sylvia Plath, in conjunction with additional archival resources--Plath's and otherwise--could be used to date undated entries in Plath's journals. Now that both volumes are published and I had a bit more time on my hands, I revisited Plath's published Journals to see how many more entries could be dated exactly, approximately, or just not at all.

There is not much to criticize about the published Journals, but I have always wished there were supplied dates for undated entries. Using a variety of resources, including Plath's letters, wall and pocket calendars, and other archival resources, I have gone through the book and assigned exact and circa dates for the undated entries. I hope that you find this useful. And, please let me know if I am incorrect with any of these, or if you have information which can help more accurately date an entry or date one I did not.

The structure below is the journal entry number, the page number from the 2000 Faber/Anchor edition on which the entry begins, and then the supplied dates. Journal entries where no date could be established are not included here; but they will be added in the event information can lead to doing so.

1950-1953 Journal

Entry Number        Page Number        Date(s)
4 8 ca. 11-15 July 1950
6 9 1 August 1950
10 12 19 or 26 August 1950
11 13 ca. 20 August-4 September 1950
13 16 ca. 26 August
15 16 ca 27 August 1950
20 19 ca. 11 September 1950
28 21 ca. 21 September 1950
31 23 ca 4 November 1950
34 27 ca. 4 October 1950
35 28 20 November 1950
36 29 26 November 1950
37 31 ca. 15 December 1950
38 33 ca, January 1951
39 34 ca. January 1951
40 34 ca. 21 January 1951
44 39 ca. 21-24 January 1950
45 40 ca. 3 December 1950
49 44 after 11 January 1951
51 46 ca. 29 January 1951
56 50 ca. 10 March 1951
57 51 ca. 10 March 1951
58 51 ca. 10 March 1951
59 52 23 March 1951
62 54 29 March 1951
63 54 ca. 29-30 March 1951
63 54 ca. 30-31 March 1951
64 56 9 April 1951
65 57 ca. 18 April 1951
71 59 ca. 4 May 1951
82 66 15 June 1951
83 67 ca. 8-10 July 1951
85 70 ca. 12 July 1951
86 70 ca. 12 July
87 71 ca. 14 July 1951
90 74 ca. 14 July 1951
91 75 ca. 17 July 1951
93 77 ca. 17-18 July 1951
94 77 19 July 1951
95 78 19 July 1951
96 78 ca. 19 July 1951
97 80 ca. 20 July 1951
98 80 ca. 25 July 1951
99 81 ca. 30 July 1951
100 82 ca. 30 July 1951
101 82 1 August 1951
102 83 1 August 1951
103 83 ca. 1 August 1951
104 84 ca. 4-5 August 1951
106 85 ca. 3 August 1951
107 86 19 August 1951
115 89 ca. 24 August 1951
117 90 30 August 1951
118 93 ca. 31 August 1951

In the above section, one of the more fun finds was in entry 107, which reads in part:
In the newspaper, the dead lock over a Korean armistice is still going on; a widow Tabor's letter about saving face and squeezing out more than a stalemate of the Chinese forces is getting a big play; Anglo-Iranian crisis is still rampant; senate voting a cut in foreign aid . . (bad sign?) and on page 14 Mrs. MacGonigle, age 103, tells how to live to a ripe maturity: "Eat lots of fish and keep away from busses and trains."
As Plath was in Swampscott, I figured she was reading The Boston Globe. So I went to their online archive and found the story on Mrs. McGonigle which was published on 19 August 1951. Back when the Journals were being prepared this would have been required using microfilm, but still the information was then available.

The article  was on page 41, not page 14 as Plath wrote. Some of the other articles mentioned are:

There were a couple of articles on the Korean situation. As Plath was in the C-Section of the paper, a possible article mentioning the armistice is "Reds Threaten Air Attacks If Truce Talks Fail" on C1. This may also be the second article Plath refers to about the stalemate and saving face... I found nothing in the paper by or about a 'widow Tabor'.

"Counter Offer by Iran Keeps Oil Talks Alive" (page C65).

"More Foreign Aid Cuts by Senate Units Seen" (page C1).

Beginning with journal entry number 122, still in the 1950-1953 journal, and continuing through the end of her available journals, Plath more regularly, more religiously, dated her journal entries. So there are fewer in the below table that were undated by Plath.

Entry Number         Page Number        Date(s)
131 122 6 August 1952
132 122 ca. 6 August 1952
139 131 ca. 18-19 August 1952
144 138 ca. 25 August 1952
150 143 after 1 September 1952
152 147 20 September 1952
153 148 20 September 1952
170 174 ca. 18 February 1953


The following are for the Appendices. I flit between half-wishing and full-on wishing that they would have been inserted into the main body of the text so that there would not be the need to flip back and forth. In fact, the necessity of doing that for the endnotes, alone, in the Journals encouraged me to press for footnotes rather than endnotes in the Letters so that all relevant information would be on the immediate page(s).

Appendix 2

Entry Number        Page Number        Date(s)  
Appendix 2 538 ca. 7 January 1953

Appendix 5

Entry Number        Page Number        Date(s)
Appendix 5 543 ca. 4 July 1953

Appendix 10

Entry Number        Page Number        Date(s)
Drawing: Shoes 572 26 June 1956
Drawing: Kiosk 573 ca. 26 June 1956
14[b] 574 26 June 1956
17 [b] 574 3 July 1956
19[b] 575 ca. 6 July 1956
31[a] 579 ca. 19-20 September 1956
31[b] 580 24 September 1956
32[a] 581 24 September 1956
32[b] 581 24 September 1956
40[a] 586 ca. 1 September 1957-31 August 1958
42[b] 588 ca. Spring 1959 (before 20 May)
44[a-b]-46[a] 589 ca. 30 December 1958
47[a]-[b] 594 ca. 16 January 1959
52[a]-55[a] 595 ca. 27 October 1960

Appendix 11

Entry Number        Page Number        Date(s)
4[a] 609 ca. 19-20 June 1957
5[a]-7[b] 609 ca. 20-25 June 1957
12[a-b] 612 ca July-August 1957
26[b]-27[a] 612 ca. July-August 1957
41[a] 615 ca. August 1957-ca. 19 July 1958
41[b or c] 615 cac. 16-17 January 1959
97 [a-c] 616 ca. June 1957-ca. June 1960

Appendix 15

This appendix is largely dated. However the initial entries for many of the dossier-like impressions on Plath's North Tawton acquaintances are not. Plath's 1962 Royal Letts calendar has 'NT Notebook' listed on two days: 12 and 14 February 1962. The entry for 14 February also indicates Plath wrote in her 'DIARY'. O! To have that diary... So it is clear from the Letts and from her journal entries on the Tyrers, Winifred Davies, Mrs. Hamilton, the Webbs, and the Keys that she was getting into the swing of her surveillance at this time. Several North Tawtonians and other Devonians then came onto the scene such as the entries for the Watkins', Nancy Axworthy, Mr Ellis, Charlie Pollard, and the Billyealds are all fully dated. Mr Ellis, from 4 July, is the last dated entry in the 'journal' as clearly the disruption in the marriage several days later likely prevented Plath from maintaining her pace and contacts with her neighbors. A lot of episodes recorded in this Appendix can be dated using a variety of sources. I wish Plath had written up her visits with Elizabeth Sigmund and David Compton.

All links accessed 30 September 2018.

5 comments :

Anonymous said...

Thanks, that's quite helpful even for the non Plath scholar.

Annika J Lindskog said...

Thank you for this, Peter - I agree, a very useful post. Do I sense I wish for a new edition of the journals...?

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thank you Anonymous and Annika for your comments. I am really glad that you're finding it helpful. Ha ha. No, not necessarily. I can work with the published journals just fine as they are. ~pks

BusyBourdon said...

Have you seen that Plath's childhood home has just sold? It's awesome being able to see inside from the estate agent photos.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Hi! Yes, I have seen that. The house being on the market mentioned in my 2018 Year in Review post; and I did tweet about the house selling last week. But thank you very much for checking in to see that I/we knew about it. ~pks

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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.

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