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A possible source for Sylvia Plath's Fifteen Dollar Eagle

Earlier this spring at the Lilly Library I spent some time with Sylvia Plath's short story "The Fifteen Dollar Eagle" which is held in the Plath mss collection. This is the collection of papers Plath herself selected for selling to the bookseller Ifan Kyrle Fletcher who was buying manuscripts for the Lilly. 

I do not know much about religion. Any of them. But I was struck curious by the following description early on in the story:

And then I forgot about it until recently reading Helena by Evelyn Waugh, which in part is set in Jerusalem and in the environs specifically of Mount Cavalry. Plath's description is so real, in a sense, I got to wondering if this was actually something she saw in a Scollay Square tattoo shop, of which there were many.

In conducting some Google searches last Friday evening, I found an image from 1897 of a man called Frank de Burgh, whose entire back is covered in tattoos and the image depicted rings pretty close to true to Plath's description in the short story.

Image Source

de Burgh's chest is fully tattooed, too, as is his wife, Emma.  More on the couple from this 2018 Inked magazine article.

The story was first published in The Sewanee Review's Autumn 1960 issue.


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