Poetry News

Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes's Personal Effects on the Auction Block This Week

By Harriet Staff

On March 21st in London, items belonging to the poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes will go to auction. According to Rebecca Rego Barry, who writes about it at Literary Hub, "It’s a very personal collection, deriving from their daughter, Frieda Hughes, who shares her concern in the auction catalog’s introduction that treasured pieces of family furniture or jewelry might be lost to history if she doesn’t ensure their future in some tangible way." From there: 

An auction, she writes, will “enable others to take on the preservation and enjoyment” of these literary relics. “In identifying which items to sell, I realised that much of what I owned, redolent of my parents’ joint history, told a story; one item made sense of other items—the books and the pamphlets and the poems, signed by my mother or father, represented important aspects of their literary lives and were evidence of their powerful partnership.”

Sylvia Plath’s heavily corrected proof of her pseudonymously published novel, The Bell Jar, is as close to Plath as an admirer can get 55 years after her death. Not only is this proof copy inscribed “Sylvia Plath Court Green North Tawton Devonshire” on the first page, it contains 70 of her revisions in blue ink throughout, e.g. she changed “Plato” to “Socrates” on page 53, and “Prams” to “Carriages” on page 122).

Of course, the first edition is prettier, and perhaps even more coveted, as it was Plath’s own copy, which she signed and dated “Christmas 1962” just prior to publication and six weeks shy of her suicide. She also included her new address, 23 Fitzroy Road, a London flat that had once been the home of W. B. Yeats, and where Plath, at that point separated from Hughes, claimed to be “happy … as a clam.”

Retro typewriters are super collectible, and Plath’s vintage mint green Hermes 3000—with which she wrote The Bell Jar (!)—is likely to be one of the auction’s top lots, estimated to reach as high as $84,000. Of this machine, she wrote to her mother in 1959, “My typewriter is marvelous. I love it.”

Learn more at Literary Hub.

Originally Published: March 19th, 2018