26 June 2019

Sylvia Plath lots at Bonhams: Sales Results

Today at Bonhams in Knightsbridge, three Sylvia Plath lots were offered at auction. Each of these lots originated from the Estate of Elizabeth Sigmund.

Lot 238, Sylvia Plath's annotated copy of The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas.

The estimated price for the Thomas was £3,000 - 5,000/US$ 3,800 - 6,300. The book sold for: £9,000 (£11,312 including buyer's premium). Don't need to be a mathematician to see this sold for well above the high estimate. Bravo!

Lot 239, the only known typescript of Sylvia Plath's "Landscape of Childhood" which later became "Ocean 1212-w".

The estimated price for "Landscape of Childhood" was £1,500 - 2,000/US$ 1,900 - 2,500. The typescript sold for: £2,000 (£2,550 including buyer's premium). Which was at the high estimate.

Lot 240, Elizabeth Sigmund's copy of Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar (Heinemann, 1963 edition with Victoria Lucas as author) given to her in the weeks after Plath's death by Ted Hughes. Together with a letter from Ted Hughes.

The estimated price for the The Bell Jar and letter was £2,000 - 3,000/ US$ 2,500 - 3,800. The book and letter sold for: £3,200 (£4,062 including buyer's premium). Just above high estimate.

Congratulations to the winners!

All links accessed 20 and 26 June 2019. £ 2,000 - 3,000 US$ 2,500 - 3,800

17 June 2019

ABC Radio's The Book Show: The Letters of Sylvia Plath

Back in April I had the privilege of speaking with Claire Nichols of "The Book Show" about Volume II of The Letters of Sylvia Plath on the ABC radio network. It recently aired.

Other than saying "um" quite a bit, I think, um, it is ok. I cringe a bit listening to myself, but maybe that is normal? Perhaps some of you might do a drinking game from it?

A little summary of the program was also published online.

All links accessed 14 June 2019.

10 June 2019

New Works by and on Sylvia Plath

Fun Fact: Did you know that Sylvia Plath uses the word "perched" seven times in The Bell Jar?


There is some new work to promote that has come out in the last week by and on Sylvia Plath.

The Hudson Review has published, in full, the text of Sylvia Plath's short story "Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom" in their Spring issue.

It was the intention all along that the story appear in the Hudson before the decision was made by the Estate of Sylvia Plath and Faber to publish it in book form. I was asked by the Hudson to cheer lead their effort, which I was happy to do, to have the story appear first in their pages. I guess I did too good of a job? There is an essay by Karen V. Kukil on the story, too.

Next, Marsha Bryant has recently published "Queen bees: Edith Sitwell, Sylvia Plath & cross-Atlantic affiliations" in Feminist Modernist Studies. The abstract reads,

Drawing on the convergence of Edith Sitwell and Sylvia Plath in the April 1963 issue of The Atlantic, this essay recovers a mostly forgotten affiliation between iconic poets of the twentieth century. Sitwell was modernism’s midcentury Queen of Letters, crossing over from the literary magazines to popular American periodicals. She rose to prominence as a poet-critic during the heyday of the New Criticism and its male purveyors, yet fell to marginal status in the women’s poetry anthologies of the 1970s and 1980s. Plath admired Sitwell and considered her a formidable modernist foremother. The younger poet owned a copy of The Canticle of the Rose, and assessed Sitwell’s work in two college papers. Adorned in accolades and brocades, Dame Sitwell was modern poetry’s ultimate Queen Bee. Focusing on Plath’s initial reactions to her predecessor’s poetics, this essay also considers her Atlantic bee poems in light of Sitwell’s earlier “The Bee Oracles.” In addition, the essay discusses American women poets’ reception of Sitwell – and vice versa. Reconnecting these iconic women poets prompts new understandings of female literary influence that prove more technical than experiential. The understudied lines of affiliation between Sitwell and Plath can reveal new plotlines in modernist literary history.
Marsha Bryant is Professor of English & Distinguished Teaching Scholar and Director of Graduate Student Teaching at University of Florida.

All links accessed 6 June 2019.

01 June 2019

Did you know... Sylvia Plath's Diaries at the Lilly Library

The Journals of Sylvia Plath (aka The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath in the USA) was and is a major publication; one that appreciates in value and importance on a daily basis. Sometimes it is hard to believe that they have been published for 19 years! And sometimes I struggle to fathom existing in a world where only the abridged version was available. I remember living in London in 1996-1997 and finding a copy of the abridged journals in a book stall at a bookstall in the Camden Market. The abridged version of the book, published in 1982, was never published in the UK, so seeing a copy was weird, but also kind of awesome. In my head, I had a vision that many copies were smuggled into the country and through a vast network of black market underground Plath scholars.

I know...I know...I need help.

The Journals should see renewed interest and importance with the publication of the two-volume Letters of Sylvia Plath. As we worked on the Letters, the Journals were a constant source of contextual information.

Anyway, The Journals of Sylvia Plath publishes all of those documents classified as journals that are held by Smith College from 1950 to 1962. But… Did you know… that the Lilly Library holds not one, but two 1951 journal fragments in their massive Plath mss II collection?

The first journal fragment (in the finding aid linked above, see Box 7, Folder 4: "Diary, Aug.-Dec. 1949-Mar. 1951") is dated by Plath simply March 1951. No day is given. It comprises the last four pages of a handwritten journal began famously on 13 November 1949. It was this diary where Plath states that she should like to called "the girl who wanted to be God" and later one of the first instances of her famous mantra, "I am I" (pg. 4). This "March 1951" journal entry sort of summarizes and closes off the narrative of some of the guys she dated that are mentioned throughout that particular journal (John Hall and Bob Riedeman; then Ilo and Emile). It is likely this was written during her spring vacation in the second semester of her first year (that year her spring break was from 21 March to 5 April 1951).

This journal (or, "diary") is thirty-five pages long. Here is a breakdown of the entries:

13 November 1949: pages 1-16
24 November 1949: pages 16-21
27 November 1949: pages 22-25
26 November 1949: pages 25-26
[27 November 1949]: page 26
22 December 1949: pages 26-28
19 December 1949: pages 28-31
20 December 1949: page 31
21 December 1949: pages 31-32
23 December 1949: page 32
March 1951: pages 32-35

Did you notice, as I did, that the dates are all over the place? Can't really think of how or why some of these dates appear this way. Can you? Possibly something was misdated? So the bulk of this journal is from Plath's senior year of high school, but there are those four pages at the end from her first year at Smith. If they were to be placed in the published Journals, they would go somewhere between entries numbered 59 to 62 on pages 52-54 of the printed book. Or, in the way the published volume was structured, they would have been tucked back as an Appendix.

Now for the second…

The second 1951 journal fragment is held in a non-diary series of the Lilly's Plath mss II. Researchers will find this one in Box 11, Folder 4, in a notebook Plath used for many things. (There are other notebooks in this folder for her courses in Art, Creative Writing, and Government.) In addition to the journal entry in said notebook, there are drawings, there are miscellaneous kinds of notes, and there are notes for press board assignments. But the focus here is not on those other writings, which are wonderful and useful and full of information the way any archival document is.

These journal fragments date to the summer of 1951 when Plath was living at 144 Beach Bluff Avenue taking care of the Mayo children: Frederic ('Freddie'), Joanne, and Esther ('Pinny'). Some of the entries are unique; but curiously some are re-written from her primary journals. Such as entries 105, 106, and some of entry 83.

In working on this post and reading through Plath's journals I was rather baffled to find some familiar text that was not actually in the journals the way that I remembered it. I knew the text, but could not place it. Then I searched the Letters (the light bulb which is my brain is dim, but it does burn at a low wattage) and found that the entry in this notebook fragment is a variation of Plath's 4 August 1951 letter to her mother. I cannot (or should not) quote the notebook entry; but the letter begins "Today is what would be termed, in the materialistic jargon peculiar to Americans -- a "million-dollar day." (Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, p. 360). Her "journal" entry varies from the letter, and also carries on quite a while.

Plath also mined her journal for the sake of poetry. Entry 110, written August 1951, was converted into a poem entitled "august night" which begins "and the wind has blown / a warm yellow moon..." The typescript of the poem has Plath's name and "Haven House / 1954" handwritten in the top right corner; and there are some different words and punctuation throughout the ten-lined poem (two stanzas of three lines; two stanzas of two lines).

All links accessed 15 December 2017 and 16 May 2019.
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