Did you know... Assia Wevill reading Sylvia Plath's works

Assia Wevill read Sylvia Plath's writings in the weeks and months and years after Plath's death on 11 February 1963. Wevill's recently published Collected Writings reveals as much, as well as her comments to Nathaniel Tarn which he faithfully recorded and are held by Stanford University.

On 12 March 1963, Wevill met Tarn who noted the following: "T.H. wants to get her poems out as quickly as possible. There is also a question of a novel. Under the name of Victoria Lucas she had brought out an autobiographical novel “The Bell Jar”. The 2nd novel includes the Wevills, under the name of the Goof-Hoppers; and shocked Assia by its portrait of David who is presented as detestable & contemptible. A. is of course the icy barren woman. In the novel, apart from SP who is full of poems, kicks & kids, there are only saints and miserable sinners. She hopes TH will destroy this." Around this time, Ted Hughes gave David Machin, Plath's new editor at Heinemann, permission to reveal the true identity of the authorship of The Bell Jar. Eight days after she met with Tarn, Wevill had an abortion.

Two months later, on 20 May 1963, in Fitzroy Road, Wevill comments in a diary entry she started at 8 p.m. that night, "Ted's Hercules' candlestick (is this the candlestick of "Nick u the Candlestick?") the tulips fainting into the lilac corpses" (166). Yes, yes it was. Where is the candlestick now?!

A few years later, on "Nov. 31st" 1966 (probably 1 December 1966), in her own diary, Wevill writes about reading Plath's "notebooks": "Still wallowing in S.’s notebooks. Once again a strong sensation of her repugnant live presence. '. . . work at femininity' in a list of resolutions and things to buy, including a bathrobe, slippers and nightgown. Were the elbows really sharp? the hands enormous and knuckled? or is this my imaginary shape-giving to the muscular brain, my envy of her splendid brilliance" (188).

What I did not realize until after the Collected Writings were published was, did you know... that Wevill was reading what is now a published journal entry? I wrongly thought, now it is clear, she was reading from a later journal, from the time after summer 1962 when the affair was revealed. But, no, it is something Plath wrote on Wednesday, 28 January 1959, in Boston: "Came home & happily made a quick hamburg supper. Lowells coming tomorrow and all the cleaning and planning for that I put off till tonight. Must get my hair cut next week. Symbolic: get over instinct to be dowdy lip-biting little girl. Get bathrobe and slippers and nightgown & work on femininity" (467). 

So, maybe had a pencil notation to page 188 in Collected Writings of Assia Wevill referencing page 467 in Plath's Journals.


Comments

  1. I'm really looking forward to reading Wevill over Christmas break - just received a notice that the book has shipped. It's listed on my online bookshop as having been written by Negev and Koren, which I found a bit strange. Are they in there, too? https://www.adlibris.com/se/bok/the-collected-writings-of-assia-wevill-9780807171356

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    1. Hope you get the book soon and enjoy it as much as is possible. Koren and Negev did kindly write the Foreword. I should consider Assia Wevill the "author", myself!

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