31 January 2020

Sylvia Plath Collections: In the Grip of Archives Fever

Archives fever has set in which has led to some very terrible sleeps recently; mind aflame with the information it is taking in. Restlessness, wandering unfocused around home and work. And driving my car. Stay off the roads! Hell, and the sidewalks, too. I think I am broken. Heather Clark sent me a bottle of port and I am cracking that bottle open tonight.

The files received in recent days run the length of Sylvia Plath's life from Winthrop (David Freeman) to Wellesley (Wilbury Crockett) to Northampton (Sally Rosenthal Brody) to Cambridge (Kay Burton et. al.) to London and North Tawton and London (Beckers, Frankfort, Secker-Walkers). There are a slew of still unread files and thank goodness the weekend is nearly upon us.

Reading Jillian Becker's correspondence and memories has been eye-opening. She's often very funny. She is incredibly opinionated (negatively) about the Hughes clan. Reading this material shames her Giving Up, though it I am sure I am unfairly critical of, whilst being grateful for, that book. There are some details in the Becker file that, alone, provide an explanation as to why the Hughes' fought so hard to squash her endeavors to write a critical biography of Plath.

The Becker file includes a copy of the Coroner's Inquest report to Plath's suicide. Some of the information is included in another book that was never published authored by Elizabeth Hinchliffe (copies are in Alvarez papers at British Library and the McCullough papers at University of Maryland). But it was interesting--if distressing--to read it in full, and all the other details that Rosenstein, with great assistance by Becker, acquired. However, what those details are---and this really applies to other obvious silences on my part from these papers---I do not want to get into now as some of it might be being incorporated into Heather Clark's forthcoming Plath biography Red Comet. Thank you in advance for your understanding. If I catch wind of some material that is not being used, I will blab.

One thing that I learned that I truly most grateful for was in the Patric Dickinson file. Plath first met him on 30 October 1962 in regards to a poetry festival scheduled for July 1963; she would host an American Poetry night. She mentions being "produced" in several letters.  It turns out that she met Dickinson on Friday the 8th of February at a pub called the Running Horse, around the corner from his men-only club. She had some lager. But this fills in a gap... we know that day she returned to Fitzroy Road from the Beckers and posted that letter to Dr. Ruth Beuscher. And we know that evening she had dinner over at the Goodalls in Sussex Gardens, near Paddington (as revealed in These Ghostly Archives). We also know she posted a letter, now presumably burned, to Ted Hughes, and saw him that afternoon---probably after meeting Dickinson---at Fitzroy Road and was the subject of Hughes' "Last Letter". So she was in an out and all around central and northern London that entire day.

I was truly jazzed to read the file for Catherine Frankfort as you get a wonderful impression of her and her family from Plath's letters. And she comes of really nice in the interview notes and letter contained in the folder. I corresponded with her son Nicholas during the Letters project and found him really gracious. Just good people.

This January has been memorable, certainly. It did not go as quietly as one might either want or expect for the middle of winter. From Seattle with Julie, Heather, and Janet to this Rosenstein stuff to meeting Gail and Emily and Suzanne in New York City... A big, full month, logging a stupendous number of miles and files.

For all of these posts I should express my being thankful, with more regularity than I have been, to Emily Banks for her meticulous, steady-handed photographs. And for her patience in dealing with me and my complete persnicketiness. Thank you, Emily!!

All links accessed 31 January 2020.

1 comment :

A Piece of Plathery said...

Thank you for all you share Peter

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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.