The letters of Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath

Book - 2017

In The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume 1, 1940-1956, we discover the art of Plath's correspondence. Most of these materials have never before been published, and are presented here unabridged and without revision--so that she can speak directly in her own words. Refreshingly candid and offering intimate details of her personal life, Plath's letters entertain a wide ranges of addressees, including family, friends, and professional contacts, with inimitable wit and verve. This selection o...f early correspondence marks the key moments of Plath's adolescence, including her childhood hobbies and high school boyfriends; her successful but turbulent undergraduate years at Smith College; her move to England and Cambridge University; and her meeting and marrying Ted Hughes, including previously unseen post-honeymoon letters that reveal the beginnings of their extraordinary creative partnership. The letters document Plath's literary development and show the genesis of many poems, short and long fiction, and works of journalism. While her endeavors to publish in a variety of genres received mixed reception, she was never dissuaded. Well-read and curious, Plath simultaneously offers a fascinating commentary on contemporary culture as well as a rare look at her writing ambitions through her correspondence. Peter K. Steinberg, leading Plath scholar, and Karen V. Kukil, editor of The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962, provide comprehensive footnotes and an extensive index informed by their meticulous research that masterfully contextualize what these pages disclose. The letters are adorned by a selection of never-before-published photographs and Plath's own elegant line drawings. This remarkable collection, a work of immense scholarship and care, presents an exclusive look at the interior life of one of the most talented and fascinating poets of the modern age. -- Inside jacket flap.

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Personal correspondence
New York : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers 2017-2018.
First U.S. edition
Item Description
"Originally published in the United Kingdom in 2017 by Faber & Faber."--Title page verso.
Physical Description
2 volumes : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Sylvia Plath (author)
  • Volume 1. 1940-1956
  • volume 2. 1956-1963.
Review by Booklist Review

Letter writing was a serious art form for revered poet Plath, note the editors of this monumental collection, the first of two volumes containing Plath's complete and unabridged letters, most never before published. Plath was a vibrant and captivating correspondent, entertaining and confiding as well as spectacularly descriptive, analytical, intimate, and witty. Intensely ambitious, she pushed herself relentlessly, even recklessly, to succeed and reported tirelessly on both her struggles and escapades in long, newsy letters from summer camp, Smith College, New York City, Cambridge (thanks to a Fulbright), and Europe. Writing was another form of breathing for Plath, and her letters were veritable lifelines. Plath's hunger for experience and artistic expression was depthless, and though depression stalked her, she lived a dizzyingly full, demanding, and creative life. Then she collided with her own personal supernova, the English poet Ted Hughes. This scintillating and poignant autobiography in letters ends with their exultant marriage. For all of Plath's published works and myriad inquiries into her relationship with Hughes and suicide at age 30, her letters blaze with fresh and stunning revelations, with more to come.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2017 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Editors Steinberg (These Ghostly Archives) and Kukil (The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath) present the first of two volumes collecting the entire available oeuvre of Plath's letters, many published here for the first time. As they note, more than 700 letters have been lost, destroyed, or kept in private hands. The collection, which includes 838 letters, provides both a fascinating window into Plath's life and a social history of the 1940s and '50s as seen through white middle-class eyes. Most letters are to Plath's mother, Aurelia, written from various summer camps, Smith College, and Cambridge, where Plath studied on a Fulbright scholarship. Almost always ecstatically upbeat, they document the extent to which Plath performed a happy role for her mother, whether she is praising an "amazing telegram" from Aurelia or exulting in the "glorious country-clubby life" she is leading at Smith. The few letters to her friend Ann Davidow-Goodman, her brother Warren, and her boyfriends offer glimpses of a different, gloomier side. Only a handful allude to her attempted suicide at age 20; most revealing is a December 28, 1953 letter to correspondent Eddie Cohen. Worshipful letters to Ted Hughes, whom Plath married in 1958, reveal her increasing abjection and dependence-"you must scold me, beat me, help me." Because they provide a largely distorted look at her troubled life, the letters deserve fuller annotation. Nevertheless, this is a valuable, significant addition to the body of Plath scholarship. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by Kirkus Book Review

A monumental gathering, in the first of two volumes, of the scattered correspondence of the now iconicand canonicalpoet and novelist.Although her name is a byword for tragedy, Plath (1932-1963) was a talented writer whose life merits more currency than as the depressed wife of British poet Ted Hughes. Much of Plath's promise is revealed in this collection of letters from 1940 until her marriage to Hughes in 1956. These letters alone serve to solidify her reputation as a skilled, thoughtful observer of the world and her own psyche. As Plath scholars Steinberg and Kukil note, an early collection of Plath's correspondence, published in 1975, was incomplete and marked by editorial omissions and alterations; their aim in this project is "to present a complete and historically accurate text of all the known, existing letters to a full range of her correspondents." In this, they have been remarkably successful. If some of the letters, especially the early ones, are of the mundane sort ("my complexion is showing signs of improvement daily," writes the self-conscious teenager), this inaugural volume makes for a multifaceted portrait of a thoughtful young woman who might have gone on to even greater accomplishments than she didand these, we learn here, extended to art and philately as well as literature. Knowing how the story ends prompts readers, of course, to seek signs of Plath's later difficulties in these early pieces, many of which are of a confessional nature and written as if with an audience in mind. Indeed, such signs are to be found, as when the collegiate Plath writes to her mother, in a time commemorated by her novel The Bell Jar, "the crux of the matter is my attitude toward lifehinging on my science course. I have practically considered committing suicide to get out of it.I have become really frantic: small choices and events seem insurmountable obstacles, the core of life has fallen apart." A literary milestone: essential to any student of Plath's work and, by extension, of modern literature. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.