"A very large charge": Sylvia Plath Year in Review 2021

The back-to-back auctions in June and July hosted by, respectively, Bonhams and Sotheby's, of items belonging to Frieda Hughes, and formerly belonging to either her mother Sylvia Plath, or father, Ted Hughes, were the focal points of this year in Sylvia Plath. The auctions featured very different items for each sale. The first was largely books published after Plath's death, both commercial books as well as remaining stock of limited editions. However there were some exceptions to that as there were items definitely owned by Plath in her lifetime. The ability to watch the auction live---and to bid---was something that is a truly magical experience. Nerve-wracking, too. The results of the Bonhams auction can be revisited here. From my point of view, the 24 total copies split between three lots of A Winter Ship, published by the Tragara Press in 1960, were the highlight here. (A 25th copy sold earlier this month via Bonhams, which was inadvertently left out of the June auction.)

I wrote an article about the Winter Ship limited edition which has been accepted! I will provide more details about it when I learn of them as it concerns the publication date. 

But the bigger auction with the Sotheby's one on 21 July (results). All the items were those belonging variously to Sylvia Plath and Hughes, as well, possibly, as to Olwyn Hughes. There were 34 for letters from Plath to, respectively, Hughes and his parents. Initially I thought that they would bring in the most money. But it was bizarrely the Tarot cards (Lot 22) that blew everything out of proportion and they, of all the items, had the most tenuous and iffy provenance: "this is likely to be the pack" that Plath received as a gift from Hughes on her 26th birthday. "Likely"! The winner, I am afraid to say---and yet also not afraid to say---spent stupid money. In addition to those items, the auction featured photographs, rings, recipe cards, books, realia, and more. It was astonishing. 

The highlights of this auction, for me, were seeing the letters in their full and glorious color from the images Sotheby's put online. But also, the Hughes family photograph album was a stunning document. In some ways it pictorially represented Ted Hughes Birthday Letters, at least I can imagine him flipping through the pages as inspiration and for the nostalgia of the lost life and wife he recalled in those poems.  

The rest of the year just kind of happened as it happened. Things continued to be strange what with the pandemic continuing, but this blog has tried, successfully I hope, to maintain its consistency and focus, to bring you interesting news of and views on Sylvia Plath. This is my year in review, pointing out hopefully one post per month that maybe you would like to revisit, or that you even might have missed.

In January, the first post was about how Plath may have accidentally (or intentionally!) stolen some of Ted Hughes' thunder. February was a fairly busy month. I did a brief essay on "Snow Blitz", a truly lovely piece by Plath late in her life, as well as on a college essay "Character is Fate", a post on  Plath's signatures, and her thesaurus and kissing

March saw a guest blog post of photographs inside the flat at 55 Eltisley Road, Cambridge, from Michael McGraw. There was a sad post in March, too, to acknowledge the passing of Sylvia Plath's brother, Warren. Additionally, there was a post on the episode in The Bell Jar where Esther meets Marco, and  a post on Plath's Amherst College men

In April, Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and I were able to do a cover reveal for our book, The Collected Writings of Assia Wevill, published on 10 November by the LSU Press. In May, there was a post on a reversed photograph of Sylvia Plath I identified from a 1956 Varsity newspaper.

In June there was a post on finding a very difficult to find, in fact seemingly lost, Plath work called "Class Poem", published in June 1947.  Then in July I posted on Plath's typewriters, which was something that festered in draft form for nine years. After the Sotheby's auction, my wife and I made the famous tomato soup spice cake, with happy results.  

Natalie Hurt's guest post on an archival research trip started August off on the right note. Following that, was an item by item, page by page description of the Hughes Family photograph album sold in July.

I hardly remember September at all due to coming down with breakthrough Covid. But there were six blog posts that month on a variety of topics including me trying to sell some unwanted books to keep Sylvia Plath Info running. Some of the books are still for sale. There were blog posts, too, on a Plath postcard, her Uncle Frank's house in Villanova, a scene from her Cambridge journals, and Christie's selling a Victoria Lucas edition of The Bell Jar for Big Money. One of the things that came out of the illness was a fun project involving Plath's journals, which I was reading as a dealt with it. I hope to provide some more information on this in the new year. Covid-brain is responsible for this; have to give credit where credit is due. 

In October, there was a post on the continued disrespectful desecration of Plath's grave. Shame on those people. Jonkers Rare Books published a catalog, like fury, for some of their Sotheby's and Bonhams winnings. It is beautiful. For Plath's birthday, I wrote a post trying to contextual some of Plath's most famous quotes from The Journals. The following day, there was a post on two poems I found that Plath published in 1952 but that had never been acknowledged before.

November saw the LSU Press publish of the much-anticipated book The Collected Writings of Assia Wevill co-edited by Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and myself. Plath related, there was a post showing images of the young men Plath knew who attended Yale.

December started off with an auction of another copy of Sylvia Plath's A Winter Ship (Tragara Press, 1960) by Bonhams. It sold for £2,167. A pretty penny, for sure. The rest of the month was spent on trying to wrap-up this year in review post. I always feel selfish writing it as it is all from my perspective which might be boring. But I hope somehow it is useful. There were a number of articles written this year on Plath and you can search for them on the Articles about SP on  my website for Sylvia Plath.

Speaking of A celebration, this is, for the year running 1 December 2020 to 30 November 2021, the most popular pages were, as usual, the Biography, the Johnny Panic story synopsis page, Articles About, The Bell Jar, Thumbnails 1932-1942, and Archival Collections. Head on over and check it out. Between the blog and the website there was almost 72,000 hits. That is awesome. Thank you!

Books in 2022 to look forward to are Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and Writing Between Them: Turning the Table by Jennifer Ryan-Bryant (Lexington Books, January), Breaking Down Plath by Patricia Grisafi (Wiley, February), The Bloomsbury Handbook to Sylvia Plath (Bloomsbury, April) and a re-issue of Sylvia Plath: Drawings. (Faber, September). Before either of those, look for the first paper back issue of Three-Martini Afternoons (January) and Heather Clark's Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath in the UK (February). So, 2022 will be a great year!

Unless something major happens that warrants a blog post, this will be the final Sylvia Plath Info Blog post of the year. Be safe. Be happy. Be well. Be healthy.

Thank you sincerely for visiting the blog, my website, and Twitter and for interacting with me about Plath throughout this year and previous years. If you benefited from this post or any content on the Sylvia Plath Info Blog, my website for Sylvia Plath (A celebration, this is), and @sylviaplathinfo on Twitter, then please consider sending me a tip via PayPal. Thank you for at least considering! All funds will be put towards my Sylvia Plath research.

All links accessed 24 October, 6 and 15 November, and 9 December  2021.

Comments

  1. Thank you for keeping this blog running. I've been a regular reader for many years now. Happy holidays!

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    1. Thank you for being a reader, Katie! Happy holidays to you, too.

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  2. Thank you for another Plath year, Peter. Happy holidays to you and yours.

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    1. Happy holidays to you, as well, Eva. Thank you for your comment and for being a reader of this blog!!

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