Uncovered Sylvia Plath Letters Allege Abuse

Warning: Some may find the content of this article disturbing. 

Letters from Sylvia Plath, thought to have been hidden by husband Ted Hughes, delve into the horrible aspects of their turbulent marriage. In 1963, at age 30, Sylvia Plath was found dead from an apparent suicide. A year before her death, Plath had found out that her poet husband was cheating on her. Their relationship and its effect on Plath was made public due to her confessional poetry, diary entries, and personal letters. Newfound letters, allegedly kept secret by Hughes, report he was emotionally and physically abusive towards her. 

Many knew of Plath’s pain in discovering her husband’s infidelity, but not much has been revealed about the novelist and poet. These letters expose something more about her life. “The most shocking passages,” writes The Guardian, “reveal Plath’s accusation of physical abuse shortly before miscarrying their second child in 1961.”

The letters, written between 1960 and February 4, 1963, a week before her death, were sent to Plath’s doctor, Dr. Ruth Barnhouse. Following Plath’s suicide, Hughes destroyed a previous collection of letters and journal entries, claiming to do so in order to protect his children. 

For decades, people believed that the last of her journals had been burned by Hughes, however, Dr. Barnhouse apparently gave some to Harriet Rosenstein, a feminist scholar, to help her write a biography. Plath fans have vilified Hughes for causing his wife’s death and these new letters will only add fuel to their fire. It should be noted, however, that many do not blame Hughes for his wife’s suicide.

The latest set of Plath’s letters were uncovered after Rosenstein “attempted to sell them at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair via a Massachusetts bookseller, Ken Lopez. According to Lopez, who read the letters, noted that the first portion of the letters “is not especially dramatic”, but, “after her marriage breaks down and she discovers Ted Hughes’ infidelity they become very dramatic and very personal.” 

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Unfortunately, these letters will most likely not be in print anytime soon because of a lawsuit filed by Smith College “claiming the letters were bequeathed to it by Dr. Barnhouse after her death.” Lopez, along with numerous scholars and the general public, hope the lawsuit ends in a timely fashion.


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