Sylvia Plath's Thesaurus and Kissing

On 19 February 1956, 65 years ago today, Sylvia Plath was in Whitstead at Cambridge writing in her journal. It was a Sunday night. That day she had walked to Grantchester with Christopher Levenson, the skies were gray and the landscape white but visible were browns and greens of the earth. She met John Lythgoe for tea and she read in Macbeth. These details are from her pocket calendar. Her simultaneously kept desk calendar, which tracked her academic doings, indicated she was with Chris from 10 to 1 and John from 2 to 7. It details that she finished reading O'Neill and read Ronsard, Webster, and Euripides in addition to Macbeth. She wrote one letter that day, to Jon Rosenthal. 

Her journal, written that night, details quite a bit more. It started out almost as a letter: "To whom it may concern: Every now and then there comes a time when the neutral and impersonal forces of the world turn and come together in a thunder-crack of judgment." And she went on to say:

Today my thesaurus, which I would rather live with on a desert isle than a bible, as I have so often boasted cleverly, lay open after I'd written the rough draft of a bad, sick poem, at 545: Deception; 546: Untruth, 547: Dupe, 548: Deceiver. The clever reviewer and writer who is an ally of the generous creative opposing forces, cries with deadly precision: "Fraud, fraud." Which has been cried solidly for six months during that dark year of hell.
Plath's thesaurus sold back in 2018 as part of the big Frieda Hughes auction of Plath and Hughes items that she inherited.


The "clever reviewer" was Daniel Huws' review of her poems "Epitaph in Three Parts" and "'Three Caryatids Without a Portico' by Hugh Robus. A Study in Sculptural Dimensions" which were printed in Chequer.  


The review appeared in  Broadsheet. (I am grateful to Heather Clark for sharing a copy of Broadsheet with me.)





Huws' review would take on a new, massive significance at the end of the week at the famous (infamous) Saint Botolph's Review party she attended at Falcon Yard. Plath's journal entry may have spelled out exactly what would happen at the party:
But everybody has exactly the same smiling frightened face, with the look that says: "I'm important. If you only get to know me, you will see how important I am. Look into my eyes. Kiss me, and you will see how important I am."
This was written regarding possibly making a play for John Lythgoe. But it was Ted Hughes who kissed her that next Saturday night and found out just how important Sylvia Plath was.

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