Sylvia Plath

Collection of Sylvia Plath’s Possessions to Be Sold at Auction

A collection of Sylvia Plath’s possessions is being auctioned off by her daughter, Frieda Hughes, including clothes, jewelry, furniture, books with heartfelt inscriptions from husband Ted Hughes, a heavily annotated cook book, and the Hermes typewriter on which the author wrote The Bell Jar


Among the collection are numerous pieces inscribed with love notes from Plath and Hughes to one another, many of which include the date 1956, the year the pair met, fell in love, and married. The auction will take place at Bonham auctioneers in March. One piece, a sketch Plath drew of Hughes on their honeymoon is estimated to draw upwards of £30,000.


A 1957 first edition of Ted Hughes’ book The Hawk in the Rain is inscribed “to Sylvia, because the book belongs to you just as surely as all my love does.” 


There’s also an extremely worn copy of the Shorter Oxford dictionary, which Plath and Hughes bought as a Christmas present to themselves in 1956, and it is inscribed with their names, the date of their marriage, and the birth dates and times of their children, Frieda and Nicholas. 


Plath’s proof copy of The Bell Jar is estimated to fetch £60,000 and is inscribed with the address of the home she shared with Hughes. The pre-publication author’s copy, estimated up to £80,000, is inscribed with Fitzroy Road, the flat she and her children moved to after the end of her marriage. 


The work in this collection doesn’t stop with Plath’s suicide, a month after The Bell Jar was published. Instead, it continues, thanks to Hughes’ preservation of Plath’s work, including the publication of Ariel which earned Plath a posthumous Pulitzer Prize. Frieda Hughes noted, “Without Ariel, my mother’s literary genius might have gone unremarked forever.”


Also included in the collection, and potentially the most used book of them all, is Plath’s copy of Joy of Cooking, which was given to her by her mother. 


“Some of it is hard to read, knowing what happened,” said Luke Batterham, a senior books specialist at Bonhams. “You would have said this was a very happy and enduring relationship, with both of them giving the highest respect and support to each other’s work.”


The collection will be sold at the books and manuscripts auction at Bonhams in London on March 21, 2018.


Featured Image Via the Poetry Foundation.