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Peter Thornton, a psychiatrist. Later that month, Lameyer visited the Plath family for the weekend, but still did not notice anything different about his girlfriend, though she was clearly depressed and sleepless by this time. Plath did not discuss her state with anyone but her immediate family and doctors.
Thornton advised that Plath be given electroshock therapy ECT and then be sent home, without hospitalization. After several sessions, Plath was worse than ever; the sleeping pills her doctor had prescribed in July were no longer working, and the treatments, actually near-electrocutions, were only making her more withdrawn and depressed. Her loneliness increased, which led to her determination to take her life. On the morning of Monday, August 24, after having pondered ways to commit suicide and having failed an attempt to drown that weekend , Plath broke the lock on the box where her mother stored the sleeping pills.
She took them and a blanket down to the basement, got a glass of water and put them all in a crawl space usually blocked by firewood. She entered the small space, which was directly underneath the front porch, and blocked the entry with the firewood. She wrapped the blanket around herself; she swallowed forty-two sleeping pills and then lost consciousness. Will be home tomorrow. Plath was frantic; she had found the note after returning home and immediately phoned the police. The Boston Globe ran daily articles about the search for Sylvia Plath.
He rushed to the noise and called to his mother to telephone an ambulance. Letters Home, His sister was very ill, but alive. I so wanted to be a Smith woman. Plath had been taken to her local hospital, Newton-Wellesley, for immediate treatment after she was found; she was then given a private room there under a twenty-four-hour watch. Plath and Warren both took turns in looking after her.
In early September she was transferred to the psychiatric ward at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, but she did not improve there amongst the more depressed patients. During her time in the crawl space, Plath had vomited many of the pills she swallowed. Her body had also convulsed and, in doing so, she had cut and bruised her right cheek just below her eye. The swelling covered her right eye; when she first regained consciousness she could not see out of the affected eye. By the time that Mrs. She was angry with her mother. She had too much plain living and high thinking—her words.
She had been raised with this intense focus on the thinking function She had many visitors to help her, including Mr. Crockett, her favorite English teacher, who came and retaught her these skills. Prouty came to see her progress; she did not feel as if Plath had enough scheduled activities. As a result, Dr. Beuscher had prepared Plath for shock treatments during her recovery at McLean; these commenced in the middle of the month. This angered Prouty, especially as Plath was to have no special care upon leaving.
Prouty was so upset with McLean that she had stopped paying for Plath to be treated there, but the doctors at McLean found Plath so interesting a case that they took her on for free in January. Plath rested at McLean for most of January until the semester began, since her doctors would not consent to her living at home.
She prepared herself mentally to return to the rigors of the academic world. When Plath returned to Smith in late January, she was welcomed back warmly. She returned to Lawrence House where she was given her own room, a rarity at the College. Her only duty was to bring the housemother her breakfast tray each morning. She saw the college psychiatrist, Dr.
Since Plath had no scholarship, Aurelia paid for her term so that she would not have to worry about money. Plath had some adjusting to do; she would not be graduating with her class and she had new housemates and fellow students to meet. She also had to get used to going out on dates again. She was still interested in Lameyer, but she concealed the fact that she was dating other boys from him.
Her first act of sexual intimacy was with Philip McCurdy during a visit away from McLean on a weekend pass. Beuscher had encouraged her to explore and express her sexuality as a way to relieve the mental pressures and tensions in her life. She told her mother she intended to date in a more casual, indulgent way, but first she had to reestablish her life at Smith.
I was crying because it was like a purge, the building of unbelievable tension, then the release of the soul of Joan at the stake. Sometimes she chose words with disquieting connotations for their shock value She continued to write to Lameyer, however, and planned to see him that summer, when his tour of duty was over. Plath considered classmate Nancy Hunter to be her own double and they decided to be roommates for their senior year. Plath also did the shopping and cooking for her housemates with Hunter, and explored Boston with her in her spare time.
Neither Plath nor Hunter worked too hard on their courses. However, in late July, this changed. He went to a diner with them and talked, clearly impressing them with his intelligence; soon he asked both Hunter and Plath out for dinner. Hunter escaped, and Irwin took Plath out next; at first their relationship was merely friendly, but eventually turned darker. Eventually, however, Hunter calmed Plath down and found a doctor who would help her, and called Irwin to drive them to the hospital; Hunter told the doctor to bill Irwin for the operation.
Remarkably, Plath continued to see Irwin after this episode. It should be noted that while Plath was at Harvard, she saw Dr. Beuscher on a regular basis, and that for a time Irwin drove her to her appointments. Plath may have seen Irwin as a combination of these needs, just as he was later depicted in The Bell Jar. It is probable she told Dr. Her other courses for the fall term were Shakespeare and German. Her courses left her with no time to see Lameyer that fall, except when she went home at Thanksgiving. Kazin was teaching creative writing and modern literature at Smith and invited Plath to join his course, which she did soon after.
In December, Plath was offered a special course in poetics with Alfred Young Fisher, for which she had to write poetry. She was thrilled to be writing creatively in prose and poetry for these professors, as she admired them both for their high standards and intelligence. These professors also admired her and wrote letters of recommendation for her. I really think that if I keep working, I shall be a good minor writer some day. Plath went to New York City in December to see Sassoon; their affair was now official, and it was an added inspiration for her writing. That she found Sassoon inspiring may have been one of the reasons why she gravitated towards him and away from Lameyer, whom she was fond of writing to but did not provoke any outpourings of poetry.
Letters Home, She was once again sending stories and poems out to magazines and was up early in the morning noisily typing these and new works for Fisher and Kazin. She spent the second to last weekend in New York City with Sassoon, and it was during this visit that she saw the play, The Dybbuk by S.
Letters Home, In March she heard that Oxford had accepted her as a foreign student as well; it was obvious that her successful recovery at McLean and her return to Smith outweighed her breakdown and suicide attempt. Still, she had no news about her Fulbright scholarship.
Besides the work she was doing at Smith, Plath had little time to socialize. She did manage to see Sassoon in February when her suitcase was stolen from his car. She also continued to work on the Prix de Paris. He was older than Plath, was literary and traveled; his father, a poet, taught at Hunter College, and he was well-connected. Plath went to one local bookstore with him, deciding she liked him well enough to consider him as a literary contact and a possible romantic interest. At the host college, Mt. Holyoke, she read her poems for a jury, including Marianne Moore and John Ciardi, and an audience of two hundred.
At the end of the competition, Plath and the other poets all recorded poems at a local radio station, making the event the first time she had read her work for an audience and radio broadcast. For Plath, though, what mattered was hearing the other poets, and meeting Moore and Ciardi. Over the course of the weekend she got along well with her roommate, Lynne Lawner of Wellesley College. Plath was judged a co-winner, something she did not expect, as she felt one of the men was bound to win.
She dropped her German course in order to have more time to devote to her creative work and studies, as she did not need the credit to graduate; she may have also wanted to improve her average. While she was busy that spring, Plath had been putting off seeing Lameyer for some time; she and Sassoon had fallen in love, and while she was still fond of Lameyer, she knew their relationship had to end. Butscher, ed. On May 20, Plath received the most important news—she had won a Fulbright scholarship to attend Cambridge University in England.
She phoned her mother, who was being treated in the hospital for a chronic stomach ulcer, with the news. Of all the achievements she had worked for, this was the greatest; congratulations poured in from past and present teachers and mentors. Plath graduated from Smith College on June 6, The commencement speaker was Adlai Stevenson, who encouraged the well educated, even brilliant, class of six hundred to marry and use their hard-won education to create and run households where they could influence the thinking of their families, particularly their husbands.
Plath was in definite agreement; she was to interpret his message as meaning that a creative marriage was the highest achievement a woman could have. Plath spent the rest of the summer writing and socializing. She remained friendly with Lameyer, and in July started to date Peter Davison, who was now an associate poetry editor at The Atlantic Monthly; she also managed to see Sassoon, who had been writing her almost daily from New Haven. Plath dated Davison intensely for a month; she was both emotionally and physically intimate with him, but dropped him bluntly one evening.
Richard [Sassoon] knows that joy, that tragic joy.
She returned to Wellesley with Lameyer, who was in the area and was kind enough to drive her back. Back in Wellesley, she formally ended her relationship with him, though they remained friendly for another year through letter writing. On September 14, from Pier 91, Warren saw her off as the Queen Elizabeth set sail with all the other Fulbright scholars. Aurelia had given Plath dance lessons as a going-away present and, while crossing the Atlantic, she was likely able to put the lessons to good use. Everything is very small and beautiful and individual.
What a joy to be away from eight-lane highways and mass markets Plath believed that now her destiny would be met and played out. Journals, —8 She arrived in England, stayed in London for a few days in late September and got to know the city—theaters, movies, pubs, and the Underground.
She attended a special party for the Fulbright scholars where they could meet the important literary figures from Cambridge and elsewhere. Plath met a future lecturer, David Daiches, but complained to her mother about the poor service at the event. Eliot had been invited, but was unable to attend at the last minute. This casual way of dealing with the reception upset Plath, and it was perhaps her first taste of English life and attitudes. Plath had to adjust to the academic system in England. At Cambridge, she had to choose her lecturers; these would lead to the subjects of her exams. Plath was reading in English and had two regular courses, Tragedy and Practical Criticism.
For these she had to write papers and attend small classes every week; otherwise she was free to attend lectures and read the immense amount of books required for the final exams at the end of her two years there. She had already begun to buy the books by her lecturers, including the influential F. In her Tragedy course she would read the history of tragedy, from Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides to Shakespeare, Webster, and Racine, and on to more modern dramatists, such as August Strindberg and Luigi Pirandello.
Her room was so cold that in the morning Sylvia could see her breath in the air; butter and milk could be kept in her room without the use of a refrigerator. This amused her at first, but the legendary cold weather of Cambridge was yet to come. As she got used to daily life, Plath noticed that women were in the distinct minority at Cambridge.
The list of local, social options was mind-boggling; she eventually decided to try out for the Amateur Dramatic Club A.
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Due to stress and homesickness Plath quickly suffered from a cold. At the A. While she was enjoying working in the theater and making new friends Plath was eager to make some progress in her writing. Unlike Smith, she had no courses in creative writing, no professor to help her in poetry or prose.
In October , she was too busy to even think about it, as she was still getting used to the academic and social life she had chosen. She continued to see various men, but her favorite was Wober. He was tall, good-looking, and Jewish, all qualities she admired. She was still attached romantically to Sassoon, however, and did not find anyone to replace him at Cambridge in At Whitstead, she knew only a few other residents and got to be friendly with one, an American, Jane Baltzell, who was also reading English.
During the first year I knew her she variously pursued horseback riding, sketching, and amateur dramatics, as well as, always, poetry. Every one of these things she did hard, not so much giving herself pleasure as somehow trying so it seemed to satisfy someone very difficult to please. Whoever she was, how often she was published Sylvia cool and unruffled, somehow pleased What do you do with your eggs?
As she adjusted to English mannerisms she socialized almost exclusively with men, finding English girls to be awkward; while she considered the girls intelligent, she also thought them to be socially inferior. Letters Home, Plath felt that Baltzell was her closest friend, but that this friendship was tainted by rivalry. By December , Plath had decided to quit the A. Her two goals now were having her Fulbright scholarship renewed and seeing Sassoon in Paris during the Christmas break.
They went horseback riding to see the town. Plath had never ridden a horse before.
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She lost her own handle on the horse and hugged its neck for dear life. The event ended peacefully though, with Plath being shaken up and suffering only bruises. Soon after she went on to meet Sassoon and took a night train with him to Nice, in the south of France. Her account of this trip in her journal is more than reminiscent of her later Ariel writing with its motion and color: France runs past. Secret, hidden, giving only the moon, rocky hills now, with clotted patches of whiteness, perhaps snow Then, lifting my head sleepily once, suddenly the moon shining incredibly on water.
The Mediterranean Red earth A new country, a new year Journals, While in the south of France, she and Sassoon took a day trip and visited the Chapelle du Rosaire nearby in Vence. The chapel was closed, but this did not deter her. She walked around the chapel, looking for a view to sketch. Finished, she walked around to the front and stood in front of the locked gate.
A peasant told her a story of how rich people sought admittance everyday, but the church was opened only two days a week. The colors of the stained glass windows and those of southern France mixed so beautifully that she began to cry. A nun saw her and begged her not to cry, offering her entry in the chapel. Inside, she sat and thanked the nun for her kindness. Letters Home, Having enjoyed seeing many different landscapes in France with Sassoon, Plath returned to Cambridge by January 10, She returned unsure of her standing with Sassoon, and later in the month he asked her not to write him until he contacted her.
She also realized that her sensibility was more French than English; she was already studying French while at Cambridge, but vowed to work on it more. She was determined to write about her experiences in France, in Vence in particular, for publication. Letters Home, Though it appeared she was no closer to marrying Sassoon than anyone else, Plath decided to oppose a solely academic future based on her observations of the women dons at Cambridge.
Instead, she believed she was destined to be a wife, mother, and writer. Plath wanted a rich, complete life as a woman, and saw all these elements as necessary for her fulfillment. Her joy at Cambridge was short-lived. In January, she learned that her grandmother was terminally ill; the weather was snowy and cold, causing her spirits and self-confidence to become shaky.
Her two poems in Chequer got badly reviewed. She felt the reviewer was showing off his own smug intelligence so it did not affect her too deeply. Letters Home, What did depress her besides the weather was lack of companionship. With Sassoon gone, she felt lonely. She had rejected everyone in favor of Sassoon, whose love she doubted. By late February, she had sold a piece on Cambridge to the Christian Science Monitor, but otherwise she was unsure of her writing, as well. On February 25, however, things began to change. The weather was bitter cold. A week before, her doctor suggested she go to the college psychiatrist, Dr.
Davy, which she did, telling him about her breakdown and her feelings about life at Cambridge, including those of social isolation. I must admit I feel a certain sense inferiority, because what I have done so far seems so small, smug and little. She was getting over a case of sinusitis and was slightly drunk when they arrived at the party. The room was full of people, some dancing to a live jazz band.
It was loud and raucous, but Plath was determined to stay and meet Ted Hughes. His writing impressed her most of all. While she waited to meet him, she danced for a bit with another poet she admired, Lucas Myers, an American from Tennessee. Accounts of the first meeting of Plath and Hughes differ slightly. I was stamping and then he was stamping on the floor, and then he kissed me bang smash on the mouth and ripped my hairband off, my lovely red hairband scarf And when he kissed my neck I bit him long and hard on the cheek, and when we came out of the room, blood was running down his face.
Journals, —2 After her encounter with Hughes, she left the party with Hamish, climbing the black, spike-tipped gate surrounding Queens College, returning to his room to make love and arrived back at Whitstead late that night. That afternoon she wrote in her journal about Hughes, impatient to see him again. She was hungover from the night before and wanted speak to him when she was sober. It is not bad. It is dedicated to Ted Hughes. He was born at 1 Aspinall Street in Mytholmroyd, a small town close to the moors in West Yorkshire on August 17, He was the youngest son in a family of three children—he had an older brother, Gerald and sister, Olwyn.
His father, William fought in the First World War in Gallipoli, and worked as a carpenter for some time afterwards. While in Mytholmroyd, Ted Hughes spent time on the moors with Gerald, who had taught him how to identify animals and birds. Gerald liked to go out hunting and fishing. At first Hughes would retrieve what his brother caught; later he would learn how to shoot a gun himself.
They never went far out on to the trackless moors, but the time they spent out hunting would make a deep impression on him. The hunting they did was not all for sport; growing up in an economically depressed area, thriftiness a virtue his mother had taught him meant that any game caught—a partridge or rabbit—could feed a family. In World War Two, the ability to fish or hunt was a useful skill, as food was rationed; Hughes learned to pluck and draw what he and his brother caught.
In Mexborough, Hughes excelled in English. By , he had started to write poems about his experiences hunting and trapping. By the end of the year, he decided he wanted to be a poet and began to seek out other writers to imitate and memorize. Ted, however, took no interest, although he did excel at throwing the discus, in which he competed in inter-school sports, barefooted like the Greeks. His size and craggy good looks, alongside a mischievous lack of shyness with girls ruled out any danger of his being thought effeminate.
This did not happen very often in a place like Mexborough; only recently had students from modest backgrounds won the right to apply to elite universities like Oxford and Cambridge. He switched his major to Social Anthropology in his third year, after having a dream. In the dream he was writing another hated essay, when a fox entered the room: I saw that its body and limbs had just stepped out of a furnace. Every inch was roasted, smouldering, black-charred, split and bleeding. Its eyes, which were level with mine where I sat, dazzled with the intensity of the pain. It came up and stood beside me.
Then it spread its hand—a human hand as I now saw, but burned and bleeding like the rest of him—flat palm down on the blank space of my page. He had grown up in a Methodist household, but also one interested in the occult. After Hughes graduated from Cambridge, he did various odd jobs, including working as a gardener, night watchman, and dishwasher. He lived for a while with Lucas Myers behind the St.
He missed his friends and would go back to Cambridge whenever he could, usually on the weekends. This group knew of Plath, and her poems in Chequer and background in American magazines did not impress them. Her ambition shined through them, or so we thought, and we thought it was not legitimate to write poetry, which should come down on the poet from somewhere, out of sheer will. Despite her intense, immediate reaction to Hughes, Plath was still in love with Sassoon.
Even though Sassoon had tried to discourage her feelings for him after their Christmas holiday, Plath continued to care for him. On March 6, she received a letter from Sassoon stating he was joining the United States Army for two years and only after would then be able to start a family. Plath felt burdened by the love she had for him and in March, after having learned that her Fulbright was renewed, she went to Paris, but not before stopping in London to see Hughes.
She found a pile of unopened letters she had sent him instead, and sat and wrote him another one. In early April, she met up with Gordon Lameyer and they went through Germany together; but, by the time they reached Rome, they had been fighting so much that Plath left, returning to London, and to Hughes, on April Immediately she started to write poetry and read what Hughes read, some of which she already knew: Hopkins, Yeats, Blake, Thomas, Donne, and Shakespeare.
She reveled in her ability to write, to study Plato with her favorite woman professor, Dr. Between April and May, Plath appeared as a journalist in the Cambridge newspaper Varsity three times. I am learning and mastering new words each day Ted reads in his strong voice; is my best critic, as I am his. Plath wrote letter after letter to her mother lauding Hughes, and urged her to come visit her and meet him. Plath and Hughes were married secretly on June 16, , at St. Sylvia wanted it to remain a secret, as she was worried she would lose her Fulbright if she were married.
Each had a life-altering impact on the other. Hughes planned to go to Spain or Australia. He appointed her as his agent and typist, two jobs she was more than happy to do. The couple honeymooned in Benidorm and Alicante, Spain, visiting Paris and stopping by Madrid on the way. Once set up in Benidorm, they had a regular schedule of writing, reading, and shopping. Later Plath wrote up her experiences of Spain in her journals, from the open markets to bullfights to their simple kitchen, for a future article in the Christian Science Monitor.
Apart from Sylvia having a bad fever and the couple having a fight, the honeymoon went well and they returned to England in late August. By October 2, Plath returned to Cambridge and found she had sold six poems to Poetry magazine, all new ones that she had written after meeting Hughes.
Plath was happy, but found being by herself difficult, especially writing and studying. It is really agony. Auden—all poets Plath had met. Hughes got a job teaching teenagers at a day school, and Plath continued with lectures and reading, in preparation for her exams in June. She began writing to various colleges in the States for possible teaching jobs; it was something that she felt she had to do and had found no openings so far. With this new goal in mind, Plath also hoped to see Hughes teaching as well.
Letters Home, Often enough Plath took the advice of her peers, which helped keep her focused.
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She had many alternatives racing through her head at any given time, and the guidance seemed to be always in her best interest. All my pat theories against marrying a writer dissolve with Ted: his rejections more than double my sorrow and his acceptances rejoice me more than mine. In May, she was in the midst of studying for her exams, called tripos, from morning to night. She was already plotting out her novel, which would be about an American girl in England discovering her true self.
She knew she had to write something based on her own experiences, and also that she had to detach herself enough to be truthful, at the expense of people she knew. Letters Home, In addition to her exams, Plath also submitted a manuscript titled Two Lovers and a Beachcomber, containing twenty-two poems. Before leaving the university she neglected to collect her manuscript, resulting in its lying unknown for over a decade.
Both of us are delighted to leave the mean, mealy-mouthed literary world of England. A few days later, they sailed to America. We dreamed a lot of shared or complementary dreams. Our telepathy was intrusive. Although Hughes lived and worked in London for a time, Plath hoped he would feel comfortable in the United States; they did not stay in New York City for very long. The wedding present Aurelia gave to her daughter and son-in-law included a seven-week stay at a cottage in Eastham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
They stayed at Elmwood Road for a couple of weeks before being driven in mid-July to Eastham by Warren Plath, himself the recent recipient of a Fulbright. They would entertain the occasional visitor, but they enjoyed the quiet, peaceful beach life. Plath immediately began writing in her journal, setting down story ideas and motivating herself to be industrious. With the Smith school year only two months away, Plath also intended to read many novels in order to prepare for her courses; she had the freedom to decide which ones she would teach.
Make her enigmatic: who is that blond girl: she is a bitch: she is the white goddess. Make her a statement of the generation. Which is you. Perhaps their most memorable experience came late in their vacation on August 20, when they visited Rock Harbor, a calm, low-watered cove five miles from their summer cottage, on the bay side of Cape Cod. An image: weird, of another world, with its own queer habits, of mud, lumped, under-peopled with quiet crabs. She had a difficult time getting back into writing that summer; Plath was starting to sense what she wanted to write, but could not figure out how to do it.
Journals, When her poetry manuscript, Two Lovers and a Beachcomber lost the Yale Younger Poets prize, she hit her nadir, aware that she had not worked nearly hard enough. And Ted will be proud of me, which is what I want. Which will see me through. It was not large, but after their grisly living conditions in Cambridge, it was passable. The apartment was mostly furnished, so they only needed to add a desk and shelves for their books.
As the semester drew closer, Plath became insecure about her qualifications for teaching. Her teaching schedule included classes on most days, including Saturday, and three hours in her office where students could drop by for scheduled appointments. As an instructor of freshman English, Plath would lead discussions, rather than hold lectures. In addition to her course load, she helped Newton Arvin, formerly one of her professors, grade papers for money, which necessitated rereading her favorite authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, and Herman Melville.
She was most worried that she was letting down people like Mary Ellen Chase and Alfred Young Fisher, two of the Smith faculty members who had encouraged her to apply for the position. By writing down the details of her paranoia in the form of a letter, something she first did in the summer of , she was able to be objective regarding her situation.
The demon she addresses is that part of her which caused the suicide attempt four years earlier. Plath tried hard to control her demon, and, because she knew she was unhappy, she worked to bring her spirits back up. One way of changing her mood was to construct a schedule for writing. Teaching at Smith took up all her energy: preparing for her classes, attending staff meetings, holding office hours, and faculty socializing during the fall took its toll on Plath.
She often found herself unable to write. She decided to set goals each week, no matter how small, in order to improve her confidence. The pressure she imposed on herself to write poems, stories, and a novel was excessively demanding. In early November, Plath wrote a letter to her brother describing many of the issues she had with teaching. One of her fiercest concerns was being seen as a successful Smith student, who returned as a mediocre or even bad teacher. She had sixty-five students, and it took much dedication to maintain the appropriate mindset for teaching.
Plath was asked back unofficially to teach another year by the end of the month, so her fears of inadequacy were temporarily laid to rest. Letters Home, Regardless of being asked back to teach, it was clear that Plath could not stay; Hughes was also finding it difficult to write. They made tentative plans to leave Northampton in favor of Boston at the end of the spring semester.
In order to reach this goal, they needed more income. The solution was clear: Hughes needed to find employment. He began to look for a job in December, with no luck at first, and then searched beyond Northampton. After classes ended for the semester, Plath came down with viral pneumonia, which was complicated by physical exhaustion. They spent the Christmas holiday at the family home in Wellesley. Though she was tired, Plath could look back on as a successful year: she had published more than 20 poems in England and the United States.
Once back in Northampton, Plath was determined to make the most of her job. She started by trying to get along better with her students; yet, she could not help feeling ostracized by the faculty members and was tired of hosting them as guests. Her classes were better; she particularly enjoyed her middle class, taught at eleven in the morning. They also began to consider moving to Boston in the spring, planning to apartment hunt in March or April.
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Boston would provide more material for their writing; Plath was anxious to know Boston, its streets, and people. Every room a world. But to be one person, one woman—to live She immediately thought of Gauguin and Rousseau, artists whose work she had admired for years. Journals, Plath started to work on her poem for Art News immediately. The right poem was slow to form and it took her until mid-March to finally hit on the right concept. Plath admitted in her journal that she and Hughes had very few friends in Northampton, but she felt comfortable enough with the few they had.
Although Plath and Hughes both found Northampton lacked the right social atmosphere, they were successful in making lifelong friends that year. Anther important friendship they made during that year was with Esther and Leonard Baskin. As Plath contemplated the art poems, she was still working on putting a book together from her Cambridge poems. Over the Smith spring break in March, Plath wrote eight poems in eight days, taking full advantage of her free time.
She found inspiration not only in Gauguin and Rousseau, but also in the surreal works of the Italian painter, Giorgio de Chirico. She wrote intensely and, though none of the poems are known to have appeared in Art News, her reward was proof that she could still write poetry. Her main concern about leaving Smith was that she had let down her supporters. She was also paranoid that her colleagues were talking about her behind her back. Her classes still needed preparation, and she planned to teach W.
Eliot, John Crowe Ransom, E. Cummings, and W. Auden— all poets she admired as an undergraduate. Plath was trying to write poems as well, but she was temporarily stalled because she was waiting to hear if The New Yorker would accept any of the poems she sent to them. By early April, she was again sick with a sinus infection, which left her exhausted and practically bedridden. Plath went back to Wellesley in mid-April so she could visit a city doctor and also because Hughes was giving a reading at Harvard. Prior to that, on April 18, Plath recorded a dozen poems, including several of her art poems, in Springfield, Massachusetts with Lee Anderson.
A copy was also deposited at the Library of Congress in Washington, D. The art poems Plath had written excited her and she was eager to keep writing. Tensions began to mount in early May. Perhaps this was due to some uncertainty in their future regarding their imminent departure from the academic life and beginning to write full-time. One incident involved Hughes accusing Plath of discarding some of his belongings and Plath denying the accusation.
Plath left the apartment and returned shortly only to find Hughes had left the apartment. Plath had been in school since she was a child in Winthrop and, after more than twenty years in various educational systems, she was calling it quits in order to write. On May 6, Plath attended a poetry reading by Robert Lowell. Hughes had agreed to participate in a reading of Oedipus the King with Paul Roche and several other Smith faculty members held at Sage Hall.
He explicitly requested that Plath not attend. Journals, But, she defied this request and raced to the hall, trying to sneak into the performance without his noticing from the stage. Her attempt to remain invisible failed, though. He was ashamed of something. They drove to the campus together and agreed to meet at their car after her final class released. The day went well; Plath received applause from all her students.
Plath ran to the parking lot after her last class expecting to see her husband in their car; but he was not there. She then drove to the library, but he was nowhere to be seen. Later that week a physical fight ensued; scars branded the couple for the second time. Her inspiration from local atmosphere would be magnified in Boston, where rich history and culture would be at their doorstep.
By now, Plath was writing most of her poems using a syllabic form. When she was unable to produce on the page, she turned to her journal. Plath was ecstatic at seeing her poem, and name, on the famous New Yorker font. In fact, her eye for detail infused all her work. As their year in Northampton came to a close, Boston brought the promise of a new beginning.
Beacon Hill has always been a place for poets.
About The Forum
Plath began to worry about money and took a part-time job working at Massachusetts General Hospital typing patient records in the psychiatric department. She compiled her own set of notes from the hospital. Many of the names or symptoms appeared in later stories. Ruth Beuscher. From the outset, Beuscher took the risk of giving Plath permission to hate her mother. Few letters were exchanged between Plath and her mother during the Boston year because they lived close enough to speak on the phone regularly.
The first of these are on pink Smith College memo paper. Plath also started to draft poems and other writings on this paper, which she had pilfered from the supply cabinets at Smith during the spring. Beuscher talked at length with her client about her father, husband, and life, and used Freudian psychoanalysis to help her patient.
Plath exhibited symptoms of an Electra complex, which is in part defined by hostility toward the mother. These interviews lasted into the spring and drew out some deep-seated emotions from Plath and often left her in tears. The quality and quantity of her work increased remarkably compared to the previous few years. Previously, Plath showed signs of being inhibited about poetic subjects, struggling always to write about anything other than the present. The sessions with Dr. Beuscher encouraged Plath to look back. In , Lowell published a pioneering collection of poetry, Life Studies, with subjects ranging from his own stay at McLean Hospital to his family history, and poems that were also deeply personal.
It was an influential book for many younger poets, including Plath, George Starbuck, W. Snodgrass, and Anne Sexton. The seminar was important to Plath; since she was only auditing the classes, there was less compulsion for perfection.
Her previous poems were constrained by form and syllables. She also spent time outside of class with Sexton; they frequented the bar at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel after class to drink and discuss poetry and suicide.
Sylvia Plath: Killing the Angel in the House
Sexton was a rival poet, but Plath did not treat her as one. Plath was very competitive with Adrienne Rich, but gradually that animosity would disappear. She began to use location and personal narrative together, making true, sound poems. The stories Plath was writing were also gaining depth. Plath wanted to write a novel, so several stories had consistent ideas running through them. Plath was getting acceptance through the winter and spring, as well, which only encouraged her more.
Mademoiselle featured Plath, Hughes, and two other poets in their January issue. In March, Plath had even more inspiration to write when she and Hughes visited Winthrop. About a decade had passed since Plath had been in Winthrop. Much of it may have remained the same, but Plath had changed. Serious discussion of her dead father was established in her interviews with Dr. Beuscher, and it may have been her suggestion that Plath visit his grave, perhaps for the first time. Plath wrote several poems in the following weeks, many on the subject of her father.
Plath had an irregular menstrual cycle, leading often to confusion and false hopes. In June, Plath went to see a doctor, who decreed that Plath was not ovulating properly. This was a serious blow to her ego; Plath felt if a woman was barren, then she was flawed in a great way. I have come Around the same time, they started having serious discussions of returning to England, where Hughes was hoping Plath would give birth to a child; Hughes had won a Guggenheim award, so they were free to live and travel where they wanted.
With this in mind, Plath wanted to make a cross-country trip to California, so they could both see America before returning to England. The experience of traveling cross-country and camping was new to Plath. At the outset of their vacation, Plath was pregnant but she did not know it. The journey was a success; the only trouble they had was a bear breaking their car window one night at Yellowstone.
The poem is calm, like the water, sky, and quiet she enjoyed while there. In her journal, Plath expressed displeasure about the story in mid-September, , but she still sent it out. With less than two weeks before they were expected at Yaddo in September, they finalized plans to return to England before Christmas, packed up 9 Willow Street and brought their belongings to Wellesley. Plath found many magazines and journals interested in her poems, including the London Magazine, which became a faithful publisher, and The New Yorker, which also began accepting her more frequently.
In the two and a half years spent in the United States, teaching, writing, and traveling had all been successful. Plath was noticeably pregnant by the time she returned to Boston in early November. So many of us! Our kind multiplies: We shall by morning Inherit the earth. In she began to confront the iconic figure of her father and to write about her own feelings and experiences, and, as she and Hughes once again traveled across the Atlantic, she had high hopes for her work and her new life in London.
Become a vehicle of the world, a tongue, a voice, Abandon my ego. Journals, Plath believed she was not ready for a baby, at least she did not want a baby until she established herself as a writer; she feared the energies involved in childrearing might lessen her compulsion to write. As her pregnancy developed and she sailed away from home for good, the significance of the recent poems Plath wrote at Yaddo was unknown. She was sure they were her best poems and began a new manuscript based on them.
They spent Christmas in Yorkshire before traveling back to London in January to look for a flat. Unfortunately, there are very few existing journal entries for Plath after she returned to England. In London, W. Merwin and his wife, Dido, lived at 11 St. Establishing themselves in a home was crucial as Plath was now within three months of her due date. After signing the lease they traveled back to Heptonstall.
They spent the last two weeks of January at the Beacon packing their belongings. Those feelings soon evaporated, however, as she only needed time to settle in London. Many of the poems she had been writing were the result of exercises Hughes had given her. Habitually, Plath marked a poem idea with a star or a dot, and also wrote down the title of her poem. Plath reordered her manuscript to include the recent poems in a new volume. She continually rearranged her poems, attempting to find the right pattern for them, and removed anything she considered too old or weak; all the poems included were written after she married Hughes.
It was a laborious process, but by early February , she had settled on the final order of the poems, and a title, The Colossus and Other Poems. The flat was almost too small to live in, but it responded gracefully to their personal tastes and improvements. One of their first purchases was a new bed. They also accepted offers for furniture and carpets from the Merwins. Because it lacked the space for a study, Hughes set up a foldaway table in the hallway by the door for his space to write.
His second collection of poems, Lupercal, was scheduled to be published in March. The promise his first collection showed was matched and bettered in Lupercal. Farrar was a Hughes family name, which dated back to Feinstein, 5 Dido Merwin introduced Plath to her doctor, Dr. She immediately liked him, and he introduced her to an obstetrician. Letters Home, The Merwins not only introduced them to the right people, they were also very selfless.
Sympathetic to his lack of space, the Merwins offered their study to Hughes to work in, since they would spend much of the spring and summer at their second home in France. With her typed manuscript ready to send to English publishers, Plath was full of hope. The first publisher she sent her poems to was William Heinemann Ltd.
Journals, Heinemann replied to Plath within a week, accepting the manuscript. Letters Home, Plath achieved her goal of getting a book accepted for publication before she had a child. The book was slated for publication in late ; Plath requested it be published as close to her birthday as possible. In total, the book contained fifty poems, of which the Yaddo poems comprised onethird. The Wellesley Townsman ran an article on April 14, , announcing the publication for the fall.
Plath decided to have her maiden name appear as the author, rather than her married name, because she almost always published under her maiden name. As the due date for her baby approached, Plath was advised by her doctors and midwives to get more rest. In late February and early March, a string of visitors disrupted the preparations for the baby. Around mid-March, she endured a two-week sinus infection, which only frustrated her.
Plath and Hughes discussed spending time in places such as Greece, the south of France, or Italy. As a result of the publication, and an all-praising review by the preeminent literary critic, A. On April 1, , Frieda Rebecca Hughes was born at a. Plath commented that Frieda had her nose and she felt that it looked better on the baby than it did her own face. As Plath was ever eager to gain more experience in life, she was open to natural childbirth. Her doctors required that she stay in the house for ten days, requesting she do as little as possible. After this, she and Hughes adjusted to waking at night, changing diapers, and other new responsibilities.
She sat just in front of the National Gallery with other mothers. Throughout the spring there were periods of high tension with the family. From the transatlantic crossing, traveling across England, getting settled in their new home, and expecting the baby, the couple were only starting to settle down. With these events, especially the arrival of Frieda, their relationship began to change. On May 4, before attending a dinner at the home of T. Eliot, Plath received her proof copy for The Colossus.
The poems are so beautifully final. Plath was full of nerves. However, the evening passed cordially, and Plath was seated at dinner between Eliot and Stephen Spender. They met again in June at another Faber cocktail party, this time to celebrate W. A photograph of all the different Faber poets—including Eliot, Auden, Spender, Hughes and Louis MacNeice—was taken, marking the official acceptance of Hughes as a major poet.
Alvarez visited their flat to interview Hughes for the Observer and visited with Plath. This caused some minor embarrassment but all was forgiven. Alvarez, Savage God, 23—24 To have Alvarez as a contact and friend meant much in terms of professional opportunities; thus, this meeting proved to be their most important in At the cocktail party in April, Plath met the young American novelist, Janet Burroway, who had also won a Guest Editorship at Mademoiselle and was currently at Cambridge on a scholarship.
The two got along well, and Plath invited her and a friend to supper on May 7. Burroway recalls a moment from her visit: I stood in the doorway of the narrow kitchen talking with Sylvia, who held Frieda in the crook of her left arm while she rattled pots with her right Sylvia was increasingly brittle, taut. Finally she took the baby into the living room and with some emphasis handed her to Ted—I want to say shoved her at.
Although it was almost impossible for Plath to find time to write poetry while caring for her new baby, she did enjoy seeing her work published throughout the year. Hughes sold the manuscripts to his two collections of poems to a rare book dealer in London who was acting on behalf of the Lilly Library at Indiana University. They were trying to save all the money they could at this point. The flat was much too small for the family with the addition of Frieda. Plath was behind Hughes in terms of poetic assuredness, always supporting his endeavor for writing full time.
They made very few plans during the summer, only to nurse Frieda and get into their own routines for housekeeping and shopping. Plath was not impressed by the English coast, and in particular with seaside resorts, including Whitby. Another major event occurred in October, when Heinemann published The Colossus.
Plath mailed her mother and brother copies on October 26, just a day before her birthday. Reviews were slow to appear, but when they did surface, they were mostly positive. Alvarez, Observer, 12 Plath was somewhat disheartened by the lack of press, but she continued to practice her craft and hone her skills. At the same time her book was published, the obscenity trial of D. Lawrence died in , and his novel was published secretly in It was banned in England and the United States for a time. In the novel, Lady Chatterley has an affair because her husband is not capable of having sexual intercourse.
Plath recorded the proceedings in a notebook, copying down the questions and answers posed by the judge and the witnesses. She also received a press pass for the last day of the trial, courtesy of Spender. Plath had long admired Lawrence and was excited at the verdict of not guilty: it meant the book could be published in its original edition, uncensored. Frieda began teething during the autumn, which again kept her parents up during the night, leaving them feeling exhausted much of the time. As new parents, they would be better prepared to cope with their next child. Plath was looking forward to spending her third Christmas at the Beacon, and they arrived in the middle of December.
In November, Plath wrote her mother with news that she was writing short stories. Heath and Co. Plath sent the stories she wrote that autumn to Hassell for consideration. The tone of the stories, including the general voice of the protagonists, loosely resembles that of Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar. Summer Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Oxford: Fonthill, New York: Poets.
September Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. Photograph used Gill, Jo. Photograph used Helle, Anita Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, Photographs used, acknowledged in Helle, Anita. Feminist Studies Fall Acknowledged in Holden, Constance. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline Mass. Photograph used Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, New York: Anchor Books, Acknowledged in Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil eds. The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, London: Faber, Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K.
The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2, Plath, Sylvia. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, Photograph used on cover Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, Images provided Steinberg, Peter K. Steinberg, Peter K. Spring London: British Library, Autumn Steinberg, Peter K.
Stroud, Eng. Sylvia Plath Great Writers.