18 February 2020

Sylvia Plath's Funeral

Sylvia Plath was buried in Heptonstall on this day, 18 February 1963. Very little has been published about the funeral. It was touched upon in Jillian Becker’s Giving Up, as well as in some biographies.

Warren Plath wrote a letter to his mother, Aurelia Schober Plath, two days after it, from 23 Fitzroy Road, where he and his wife were staying with Frieda and Nicholas. It is impossible to comprehend how staying there must have felt, knowing it was where his sister died just 9 days previous.

In the letter, Warren wrote that Plath’s funeral was “much better as an experience than we had dared to hope, and I think even Sylvia would have found it simple and beautiful.” He mentions there was a brief service in the chapel at a funeral home in Hebden Bridge. He described the chapel as “grey with soot on the outside, but light and cheerful inside”.

Present in addition to Warren and Margaret Plath and Ted Hughes were William Hughes, Walter and Alice Farrar, cousin Vicky and her husband David, and a “dear couple from London, the Beckers”. There was another small service in the church in Heptonstall followed by the burial and high tea in Hebden Bridge. The small turn out may have been a result of Plath's death receiving little to no notice in the London papers. Just a day previous, in fact, Al Alvarez published his his article "A Poet's Epitaph" in The Observer which printed a photo of Plath holding Frieda and four of her most recent poems.

Warren Plath's letter is held by the Lilly Library, Indiana University at Bloomington.

6 comments :

MariaM said...

Why wasn't Ted's mother at the funeral? That does seem strange.

Peter K Steinberg said...

MariaM: Nice observation and thank you for your comment. Warren doesn't mention why Mrs. Hughes wasn't present. My suspicion would be emotional distress? ~pks

miss.physics said...

Do we actually know what caused the mental problems for Sylvia and if her brother also had suffered from some of them?

Lisa said...

Will Warren Plath come out with a memoir or speak about Sylvia? Does he feel that he could have come to his sisters' aid before it was too late? I've thought that his voice is so missing from the record on his sister. But understandably so.

Jsharp said...

It makes me so sad to see old photographs of her gravesite, the Hughes surname is barely visible now, I have reported this, but nothing is ever done. Many people do not like Hughes, but it is not their place to vandalise her headstone. I do not understand how the people who do this, knowing she has living relatives, do not understand it is acts such as these, that make her seem she does not belong to her own family. The peanut crunchers have claimed her. Poor Frieda.

Unknown said...

I agree...she obviously loved her husband so very much! No one has a right to damage her stone, to try and take away something I'm sure she was so proud of.

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