20 October 2020

Sylvia Plath Collections: Poetry at the Lilly Library


The following post was drafted in 2018! As October is American Archives Month is seems rather appropriate to dust and thus polish this post off in the middle of it. 

The Poetry archive is split between the University of Chicago and the Lilly Library. At the same time, the journal's headquarters in Chicago maintains an archive itself of documents and books that are likely very valuable resources. This post is specifically about the holdings at the Lilly Library, which I received copies of as part of some of the last minute and tangential work I was doing on The Letters of Sylvia Plath. The post from 2013 about the holdings at the University of Chicago can be read here.

The Poetry materials at the Lilly Library can be broadly classed into three categories: correspondence, typescripts, and proofs. First up, the correspondence, with brief annotations about the content of each letter:

1. Henry Rago to Sylvia Plath, 27 December 1962: accepting three poems "Eavesdropper", "Fever 103°", and "Purdah".

2. Ted Hughes to Henry Rago, circa late January/early February 1963: Written at 110 Cleveland Street, sending corrections to "Heatwave" and "Era of Giant Lizards" and submitting additional poems. Published in December 1963 Poetry along with "Poem to Robert Graves Perhaps", "On Westminster Bridge", "After Lorca", and "Small Hours".

3. Henry Rago to Ted Hughes, 12 February 1963: Thanking TH for sending new poems and saying they'll publish them with some other poems already accepted.

4. Julie McLauchlin to J A McLaren, 23 April 1963: Providing biographical and bibliographical information about Sylvia Plath.

5. Waddell Austin to Elizabeth Wright, 6 May 1963: Asking permission to reprint poems in the Borestone annual volume, including SP's "Face Lift".

6. Elizabeth Wright to Waddell Austin, 8 May 1963: Granting permission.

7. Julie McLauchlin to Ted Hughes, 24 June 1963: Enclosing proofs of SP's three poems for the August 1963 issue of Poetry. Sent to 110 Cleveland Street.

8. Sherman Conrad to Henry Rago, 3 September 1963: Commenting favorably about SP's poems in the August issue of Poetry as well as The New Yorker.

9. Ted Hughes to Henry Rago, circa November 1963: Asking about payment for SP's poems from the August issue and sending in some corrected proofs. Sent from Court Green.

10. Henry Rago to Ted Hughes, 20 November 1963: Replying to TH's undated letter above confirming they had sent a check for SP's poems on 6 August 1963. Asking that TH check very carefully for this check, sent to Court Green.

11. Charles Cox to Henry Rago, 10 August 1964: Asking about permission to print Hughes' "After Lorca" in a Critical Quarterly shilling anthology.


The typescripts are Plath's original poem submissions with editorial markups throughout: "Face Lift", "Heavy Women", "Love Letter", "Stars Over the Dordogne", and "Widow" and then "Eavesdropper", "Fever 103°", and "Purdah".

The proofs take various forms and shapes and are for Plath's poems in the March 1962 and August 1963 issues, and for Hughes' December 1963 appearance. Included are Plath's author's proof corrections for the March 1962 issue with her corrections and signature.

All links accessed 4 and 21 May 2018 and 19 October 2020.

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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.

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