20 July 2014

Sylvia Plath's Writing Dates

This is a second post on the metadata of Sylvia Plath's letters, the first of which can be read here on "Sylvia Plath's Writing Days". At the same time as I was working on that post, I thought it might be interesting to plot all of Plath's letters on a generic calendar to see, over the course of the calendar year, on how many dates Plath never wrote a letter. And, also to see on which date Plath wrote the most letters. This is nerding out to the nth degree, but I see no reason to feel shamed by it.

My initial hope was that in going through all the letters it would be determined that Plath wrote a letter one every single day of the year. I cheated though and searched to see if she ever wrote a letter on a 29 February, or Leap Year day. She did not, so I knew there was at least one day on which Plath did not write anyone. Again, these results are only considering those letters we (I) know about and with which I have worked.

Based on all the available letters and current information, Sylvia Plath never wrote a letter on these 19 dates:

17 and 29 February;
30 March;
17 and 25 May;
2 and 4 June;
27 July;
14, 26, and 29 August;
6, 14, 17, 19, and 22 September;
27 November; and
22 and 31 December.

Ergo, Plath wrote and dated a letter for every day in January, April, and October. It is entirely possible Plath wrote letters -- and many of them -- on some or all of these 19 dates. After all, not every one of Plath's letters were saved by the recipients. As well, we have little or no correspondence for major figures such as Richard Norton, Richard Sassoon, Eddie Cohen, and many other boyfriends, friends, and girl friends, acquaintances, etc., and possibly letters to her family, as well.

Here is a breakdown by month:

January: 106;
February: 113;
March: 100;
April: 119;
May: 95;
June: 92;
July: 185;
August: 74;
September: 81;
October: 163;
November: 114; and
December: 110.

If you do the math and add all these up, you get 1,358. Elsewhere on this blog I have posted that we know of (i.e. have) 1,320 letters by Plath. Did we find 38 letters? No, unfortunately not. The difference is that Plath wrote letters, sometimes, over the course of two or more days and so in some instances one letter was counted two time as it was written over two dates.

In this extracurricular activity, I have endeavored to be as accurate as possible in my mathematics: in counting, adding, subtracting, etc. This includes trying to be consistent in how I captured these figures. I think I was, but as some of the letters are undated or circa dated, some of the figured might eventually changed.

And, based on the same criteria as above of reviewing the letters we know about, Sylvia Plath wrote the most letters (13) on 6 July. Busy, busy!

All links accessed 13 July 2014.

14 July 2014

Sylvia Plath's Writing Days

Sylvia Plath was a prolific letter writer. As of today, we know of approximately 1320 extant letters. But of course there were many more. This is the first of two blog posts on Sylvia Plath's letters. These posts will not be revealing any of the content of the letters, but will highlight some of the metadata about them.

As I was working on the letters (that is, transcribing, editing, proofing, and annotating roughly 1200 of them), I began to wonder on which day of the week Plath tended to write most often? And, for letters that spanned more than one day, on which day was she most likely to have needed extra time to complete it or to get around to posting it off?

So, here is a breakdown of the days of the week and the number of letters written. Beneath each day are those letters written over two or more days with a separate count of letters.

Sunday - 154 letters
(Sunday-Monday - 4 letters)

Monday - 207 letters
(Monday - Wednesday - 1 letter)
(Monday - Saturday - 1 letter)

Tuesday - 193 letters
(Tuesday - Wednesday - 3 letters)
(Tuesday - Thursday - 2 letters)
(Tuesday - Friday - 2 letters)
(Tuesday - Saturday - 1 letters)

Wednesday - 180 letters
(Wednesday - Thursday - 3 letters)
(Wednesday - Friday - 1 letter)
(Wednesday - Saturday - 1 letter)

Thursday - 187 letters
(Thursday - Friday - 8 letters)
(Thursday - Saturday - 1 letter)
(Thursday - Monday - 1 letter)

Friday - 166 letters
(Friday - Saturday - 1 letter)
(Friday - Monday - 1 letter)
(Friday - Tuesday - 1 letter)

Saturday - 162 letters
(Saturday - Sunday - 4 letters)
(Saturday - Monday - 2 letters)

Of the known letters, 33 at the moment are either not dated or not datable, but I am hoping to whittle that down to as few as possible as work continues on an edition of Plath's letters.

So, Sylvia Plath most often wrote letters on Monday. And she was more likely to take more than one day to write a letter if she started it on a Thursday. These numbers are subject to change based on further work/research on the letters, but this is where things stand as of now (14 June 2014).

Somewhat related, and if you missed it shame on you, but please go and read David Trinidad's recent blog "More is More: Sylvia Plath's Letter".

All links accessed 6 June 2014.

07 July 2014

More Sylvia Plath College Articles Found

This is a third blog post on articles authored by (or possibly/probably authored by) Sylvia Plath. The first blog post was posted on 20 May 2014. The second was posted on 8 June 2014. This post discusses articles published or referenced to in letters from events Plath covered for Press Board in March, April, and May 1952.

In her sophomore year, Plath was active on the Smith College Press Board. Her letters home refer repeatedly to events she was covering. This presents us with tantalizing possibilities to either uncover original Press Board typescripts in the Smith College Archives, or anonymous articles as they appeared in newspapers in Northampton and Springfield, Massachusetts. In addition to her letters, Plath's calendars at the Lilly Library are perhaps the richest sources for biographical information of her college years. The calendars record particularly her activities with regard to campus events, classes, dates for tests and papers, dates with boys, social engagements, and meals, among other data. Her calendars featured the words "Press Board" or "cover" on so many occasions one could go blind and/or crazy trying to find articles she possibly authored.

In the absence of original, attributed typescripts, we are therefore relegated to searching for only those events Plath covered that she wrote about in letters or detailed in her calendars. In conjunction with the letters and calendars, there is further need for cross-referencing to gain information on her activities and to narrow down the events Plath attended by looking through copies of the Smith College newspapers, the Smith College Associated News and The Sophian, as well as the Smith College Weekly Bulletin. Massive thanks are due to Nanci Young, the College Archivist at Smith, and Diane Wieland, the College Archives Intern for their help to my remote queries.

On Thursday 6 March, Plath wrote to her mother that she the M.I.T. professor/communist Struik (Dirk Jan Struik) speak on 3 March (a Monday) and that she found him to be a compelling Marxist; and that the Press Board accepted her review nearly word for word. The letter was published, heavily edited and with these details cut out, under the wrong date --the postmark date-- in Letters Home. An article was published anonymously in the Springfield Union on Tuesday 4 March 1952, page 2, under the title "'Heresy Hunts' Menace Liberty: Struik Claims". Based on Plath's letter to her mother and the tone of the article I do believe this was the piece Plath authored.

On Wednesday 30 April, Plath wrote to her mother that she was covering five lectures in four days. Like the above, the letter was included in Letters Home and heavily edited, though was published under the correct day. The lectures Plath covered were Ogden Nash that night, 3 European student conference lectures on 1 & 2 May; and a "Friends" (probably Friends of the Library) meeting on Saturday 3 May 1952, which involved Smith alumnae who have great book collections.

Of all these events covered over those four days, there was only one article I found in searching the three newspapers for whom Plath regularly wrote while on Press Board (Springfield Daily News, Springfield Union, and the Daily Hampshire Gazette). There was an anonymous article reviewing the Ogden Nash reading printed on 1 May 1952 in the Springfield Union, page 30, with the title "Ogden Nash's Rhyming Knack Makes Up for His Talent Lack".

All links accessed on 30 May 2014 and 14 June 2014.

01 July 2014

Review of Collecting, Curating, and Researching Writers' Libraries: A Handbook

The new book Collecting, Curating, and Researching Writers' Libraries: A Handbook, edited by Richard W. Oram and Joseph Nicholson (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014; also available on Amazon) contains well-written and valuable essays on this understudied but worthy subject.

Oram and Nicholson both contribute excellent and introductory pieces that provide an historical overview and curatorial considerations (Oram) and information on the process of cataloging writer's private libraries (Nicholson), replete with jargon that for many will be like a foreign language. Both, however, are easy to read and expert, and complement the other pieces contributed by booksellers, academics, librarians, and writers. A library and/or archive can house myriad items. For the purposes of this book, Oram states that a writer's library is "a set of books or other printed works owed by the author at a particular moment in time" (1-2).

The use of books in a writer's library is expertly illustrated in Amanda Golden's chapter "Anne Sexton's Modern Library." In fact, it made me wish the volume contained more essays in this vein. Golden's scholarship is sound and well-presented. It shows how fascinating working with these books can be, and how illuminating it is to see the annotations and untraditional conversations Sexton had with author's and to consider their influence on her creative writing. Golden shows Sexton's reading reflects "a broader range of texts than critics may have previously assumed she had encountered" (66) and in consuming this chapter, I grew more eager for her forthcoming tome Annotating Modernism: Marginalia and Pedagogy from Virginia Woolf to the Confessional Poets to be published next year by Ashgate. It is bound to be a cornerstone work in this field.

The next essay, by the Curator and Rare Books Librarian at Emory University David Faulds, "A Poet's Library Times Two: The Library of Ted Hughes at Emory University" was a letdown in some ways. It is a fascinating topic, but the absence of a bibliography and very weak notes were a curious and disappointing oversight. As well, there was a fairly heinous error made in discussing books Plath's received for Christmas in 1954 on pages 79-80. In discussing the importance of a book Aurelia Plath gave to her daughter in Christmas 1954, Grimm's Fairy Tales in German, Faulds writes "In August 1954 Plath had attempted suicide by taking a large overdose of sleeping pills and in October was moved from Massachusetts General Hospital to McLean Hospital … This is where she was residing when her mother gave her this book as a Christmas present" (80). Faulds, who works at Emory and should have access to the correct information, gets the year Plath attempted suicide wrong. It was in August 1953. Aurelia Plath did give SP the book in Christmas 1954, which of course makes sense as in the summer of 1954 for this was after her daughter took German in Harvard Summer School and was enrolled in an Intermediate German course at Smith (as well as auditing a second German course) in the Fall of 1954. The gift of a German edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales makes much more sense contextually than to be so careless as to give her daughter a book in the midst of her recovery when, as part of the symptoms of her breakdown, it is reported that she lost some of her reading and writing capabilities.

Even if you have never worked with a writer's library, this book will resonate and take hold of you. It makes you want to seek out and find where the books that belonged to your favorite (dead) writer are now held. Or, if you are on the fence about it, consider what Oram writers in the first chapter: "the sense of direct, even mystical, communion with a deceased creative individual through an item which once belonged to him or her" (13). This is exactly what it is like, in my experience, when I have worked with the books and other archival materials formerly belonging to Sylvia Plath.

Collecting, Curating, and Researching Writers' Libraries: A Handbook includes a series of interviews with living writers with large libraries. About half the book is dedicated to a list of writers and the locations which hold their books. It is an indispensable resource guide to writers throughout many centuries.

Overall, Collecting, Curating, and Researching Writers' Libraries: A Handbook, edited by Richard W. Oram and Joseph Nicholson, marks a significant publication on a largely ignored but hugely important aspect to archives and special collections. So often the focus of an archive is on the manuscripts, photographs, and other evidences of life. This may be right, but while we take much from written correspondence, it is sometimes the case that a person's library contains hidden conversations with a published author. There is value in this line of study, as this book makes unequivocally clear.

All links accessed 1 July 2014.

16 June 2014

A Ted Hughes Study Week (with Sylvia Plath relevance)

I received the following information from Terry Gifford of Bath Spa University:

At Almàssera Vella:

'A Ted Hughes Study Week' 

a residential poetry course with Professor Terry Gifford with Lorraine Kerslake
4-11 October 2014

Where I felt at home. The blood-raw light,
The oiled anchovy faces, the African
Black edges to everything"

FIVE OF THE POEMS in Birthday Letters, Ted Hughes last collection, were based on his experience of Benidorm whilst on honeymoon there in 1956. During this week we will be visiting the house which he and Sylvia Plath shared in 1956 and the quay at Alicante where he described his new wife as:

"… in moonlight,
Walking the empty wharf at Alicante
Like a soul waiting for the ferry,"

IN THIS RESIDENTIAL STUDY WEEK we will be, discussing aspects of Ted Hughes work including his poetry, prose essays and letters, and his work for children (much of How the Whale Became was written in Benidorm). The course is designed to suit interested readers of Hughes, postgraduate students, teachers and poets at all levels.

TERRY GIFFORD is the author of Ted Hughes (2009), Reconnecting With John Muir: Essays in Post-Pastoral Practice (2006), Pastoral (1999) and Green Voices: Understanding Contemporary Nature Poetry (1995; 2nd edn. 2011), together with six chapters in books on Ted Hughes. He recently edited The Cambridge Companion to Ted Hughes (2011). His seventh collection of poems (with Christopher North) is Al Otro Lado del Aguilar (Oversteps Books, 2011). Terry Gifford is Visiting Scholar at Bath Spa University's Centre for Writing and Environment, UK, and Senior Research Fellow and Profesor Honorifico at the University of Alicante, Spain.

LORRAINE KERSLAKE holds a BA in English and French studies and an MA in Translation and Interpreting from Alicante University, Spain, where she teaches English Language and Literature. She has worked as a translator of literary criticism, poetry and art and published articles and reviews on children's literature and ecocriticism. Her current research interests include children’s literature, the representation of animals and nature in literature and art, ecocriticism and ecofeminism.

ALMASSERA VELLA is Relleu's original olive press opened in 2002 by Christopher and Marisa North as a Literature and Arts Centre. Comfortable bedrooms, private bathrooms, day-room, loggia, 3000 book library, Free wi/fi, a refectory and a meeting place with log fire. Extensive rear terrace, pool and almond orchard and nearby olive and citrus groves. Relleu is an ancient mountain village with modern pharmacy, general store and bars. Alicante airport is 50 minutes away.

Cost of the week ₤750 all inclusive (7 nights) save Flight/travel and insurance.

FURTHER DETAILS APPLY: Christopher and Marisa North (email | web)

08 June 2014

Sylvia Plath: Covering the Crisis

This is a second post on recently found articles authored by (or in some instances possibly/probably authored by) Sylvia Plath. The first article was posted on 20 May 2014. This post presents two new, additional newly found articles authored by Sylvia Plath.

On 4 and 5 February 1952, Sylvia Plath attended two lectures on the campus of Smith College for Press Board. The lectures were conducted American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who was at the time professor of Christian ethics at Yale University. She wrote about covering the lecture in letters to her mother dated on 4 February and 6 February. The 6 February letter was included in Letters Home (page 83), but was printed—like many—under the postmark date of 7 February.

Plath's calendar for 1952, held by Lilly Library, confirms that she attended the lecture, held in the Browsing Room of the Neilson Library, at 8:00 pm on 4 February; and that she had an "early writeup" due to the Springfield Union by 11 pm. A note on the 5th indicates that the Niebuhr article was due at 8:30. (I think this would be 8:30 am).

In a bit edited out of the 6 February 1952 letter, Plath writes that she felt professional having to call in the news story to the newspaper "last night" (i.e. the 5th). So, while some of these dates and times are hard to match up or really make sense of, what we know is that Plath attended the lectures for Press Board, wrote up article(s) on them, and telephoned the article at least one of them in to the Springfield Union. But, did the article(s) run?

If you look for anything dated 5 or 6 February 1952 in Stephen Tabor's Sylvia Plath: An Analytical Bibliography you will not find anything. However, if you look at the microfilm for the Springfield Union, you will. This post, therefore, presents two new additional newly found articles authored by Sylvia Plath (see this post on another recently located article by Plath).

"Universal Faith Has the Answer, Dr. Niebuhr Says" ran in the Springfield Union on 5 February 1952, on page 21. The article is unattributed, but there should be confidence based on Plath's letters and calendar that she did in fact author this piece. The article is a review of Niebuhr's lecture "The Cultural Crisis" which opened the Religious Association forum at Smith College on the theme of "The shaping of the foundation".

"'Crisis' Is Topic of Dr. Niebuhr In Northampton" ran in the Springfield Union on 6 February 1952, on page 21. This article is a review of Niebuhr's second lecture, "The Personal Crisis", and this is the one that Plath telephoned in late on the 5th.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that there must exist some doubt in Plath's authorship because a) she does not get a byline and b) there does not to my knowledge exist any documentary evidence of an article (typescript) authored by her. However, we do have her letters and her calendar to lend some support in favor of the claim of Plath authoring these articles.

When we think of Sylvia Plath, we think first of her poetry and novel The Bell Jar, as well as her short stories, her letters, and journals. The "journalistic" Plath might be the lesser known of all her writerly selves, but it is no less important. She dedicated two full academic years to this kind of writing, and published full-length articles, often illustrated, for the Christian Science Monitor off and on in college, but then also periodically between 1956 and 1959. There are varying degrees in these writing, some are impersonal, such as her write-ups for press board, which merely recap the event(s) covered. On the contrary, the articles that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, and even is Isis and Punch are closer to her creative writing in that there is something "personal" about them, something to do with an experience, her experience.

All links accessed on 30 May 2014.

01 June 2014

10 Year Anniversary of Sylvia Plath (Great Writers)

This is not naturally something I would expect anyone to know, remember, or commemorate, but ten years ago this month my biography of Sylvia Plath (Chelsea House Publishers, Great Writers series) was published. (Amazon's page claims that it was published in April, but copies were not available until June. It also has a capsule review, still, for the wrong book. #OhWell.) To those who have read it: Thank you! To those who have not, it is available in both hardback and Kindle editions, and also available in many libraries around the world, and through some used book shops.

Sylvia Plath formed one sixth of an original series that also includes biographies of Barbara Kingsolver by Linda Wagner-Martin, Kurt Vonnegut by John Tomedi, J.R.R. Tolkien by Neil Heims, Charles Bukowski by Michael Gray Baughan, and Jack Kerouac by Jenn McKee. The series expanded the following year to include books on five gay and lesbian writers: Adrienne Rich by Amy Sickels, Allen Ginsberg by Neil Heims, James Baldwin by Randall Kenan and Amy Sickels, Oscar Wilde by Jeff Nunokawa and Amy Sickels, Walt Whitman by Arnie Kantrowitz, and Sappho by Jane McIntosh Snyder and Camille-Yvette Welsch. I have not yet read the other books in the series, but as I think about this, maybe I should. Has anyone out there read any of the others?

At the time it was published, it was the first new biography of Plath to appear since 1991, when Paul Alexander's Rough Magic: A Biography of Sylvia Plath and Ronald Hayman's The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath were published. The book was written for a specific audience in mind: junior high and high school aged children and college students, to serve as an introductory text that might inspire its readers to both become interested in Plath's writings and life, and lead them to potentially investigate full-length biographies as well as works of criticism. Notwithstanding, it presented snippets of new information never previously known or mentioned in other biographies.

One of the aims of my book was to present a bias-free version of Plath's life for that younger audience. I think I largely succeeded in doing this, keeping it straightforward, hopefully easy to read, interesting and informative. I had intended the book to include illustrative photographs and sidebars, written to the guidelines stipulated in the contract. Neither of these added-value materials were used, sadly. I posted the unused sidebars on this blog in 2007, and hope that they can be read in conjunction with the text, to highlight certain things in the work, or on occasion to at least discuss topics intentionally not expounded upon in the text.

Overall I am still thrilled to have had the opportunity to write the book. It gave me a chance to share some of the information I had acquired on Plath to that point. How I wish I could revise it with some of the things I have learned since! And, too, how I wish I had more than 10 weeks in which to write it!

All links accessed 16 May 2014.

20 May 2014

New Article Written by Sylvia Plath Found

Sylvia Plath was very active on Smith College Press Board in the academic year of 1952-1953. In March 2012, this blog listed many of the articles known to have been written by Plath, though largely were printed without a byline.

In a letter wholly omitted from Letters Home which Plath wrote on 18 May 1953, she writes her mother that recently she had three articles printed in local papers: two in the Daily Hampshire Gazette with a byline and one, a review, appeared anonymously in the Springfield Union. Two of these three articles are listed in Stephen Tabor's excellent Sylvia Plath: An Annotated Bibliography. That means one was omitted, presumably because its existence was not evident.

In the first of the articles, and one of the two included in Tabor's bibliography, Plath writes that the Springfield Union piece was a review of the recent Smith College production of Ring Round the Moon, written by Jean Anouilh and adapted by Christopher Fry. This article "Smith College Play Delights 'Hamp Audience", appeared on May 15, 1953, on page 31. (Please note that the review appeared on page 30 of the West Edition of the Springfield Union, too. Those tricky editors were messing with us!) Plath writes that Ring Round the Moon "treats with with a aplomb the central situation of a beautiful and poverty-stricken ballet dancer made queen for a night at a spectacular ball in a palatial chateau."

A bit of Plath's review of Ring Round the Moon,
from the Springfield Union, 15 May 1953, p. 31 
The two Daily Hampshire Gazette articles were printed on May 16 and May 20, respectively. The 16 May 1953 article, also included in Tabor, was"Austrian-born Junior enlists in Women's Marine Corps, 'Can't wait to get there'" about Baldwin House resident Antoinette Willard. Willard fled Austrian on the cusp of World War II in 1939 and became an American citizen in 1944. The article contains a very focused and thorough biographical sketch of Willard.

Headline from 16 May 1953 Daily Hampshire Gazette article
The second Daily Hampshire Gazette piece, actually printed two days after Plath's letter home, was an interview/article on Northampton seniors set to graduate from Smith College. This is the article that has never before appeared in any Sylvia Plath bibliography. The title is "Many Area Students Are Among the 464 Who Will Get Smith Degrees on June 8" and appeared on a full page spread covering the "75th Smith College Commencement" which was set to begin on 4 June that year. I have a copy of the page from the microfilm and it must have given Plath an immense sense of journalistic pride to see it.

A portion of Plath's newly found, credited article from
Daily Hampshire Gazette, 20 May 1953, p. 8

Full page (low resolution) from the Daily Hampshire Gazette,
 from 20 May 1953, p. 8.
In the letter to her mother, Plath said she felt these three article showed her versatile skills as a journalist.

For the most part, Plath's contributions while on Press Board were anonymous. Her calendar's are filled with references to lectures and events attended and covered for the Board. Many likely were printed. The nice thing about the post I did called "Sylvia Plath was busy...did you know..." is that there was direct evidence found at Smith attributing certain articles to her. With time, more might be found. One thing that post failed to acknowledge was that Plath also served on Press Board in her sophomore year, 1951-1952. My apologies for that oversight.

The above 1953 article may not have been Plath's first foray in senior write-ups. Her calendar for 1952 (whilst still a sophomore), held at Lilly Library, indicates that between 8-10 May of that year, she was also doing write-ups, which she called "Senior Personals".  On 27 May 1952, the Daily Hampshire Gazette published an article titled "15 Area Girls to Graduate from Smith College June 9" but no author is stated. As you can see below, it is the same format as the 1953 article and similar content. But being unattributed we cannot say for certain if Plath authored this piece, too.

Possibly by Plath, the senior write-ups from 27 May 1952,
Daily Hampshire Gazette, p.9.

n.b. The original 18 May 1953 letter to her mother mentioned above where these three articles are referenced, that started this blog post to begin with, is held by the Lilly Library, Indiana University. By my rough count there are a total of 738 letters to Aurelia Plath (sole addressee) from 1943-1963 at the Lilly Library. Not all of these letters are in Letters Home. Of those that are in the 1975 book, there are (about) 341 letters to Aurelia Plath; 19 letters addressed to both Aurelia Plath and Warren Plath; 1 to Aunt Dorothy Benotti (Aurelia Plath's sister); 1 to Eddie Cohen; 1 to her grandparents Frank and Aurelia Schober; 2 to Olive Higgins Prouty; 17 to Warren Plath (sole addressee); and 2 to Warren and Margaret Plath; for a total of 384 letters. Letters Home prints, also, two letters from Plath (a postcard and a birthday poem) that do not appear to be part of the collection at the Lilly Library.

All links accessed 19 May 2014.

10 May 2014

Sylvia Plath in Paris

It is May, but I am thinking about December already…

In December 1955, Sylvia Plath spent a large portion of her Christmas holiday from Newnham College and Cambridge, England, in Paris, France.

At some point between the 20th and 29th, Plath saw the Emlyn Williams play Someone Waiting, although she saw the French version with the title of Le Monsieur qui attend. She wrote of this in a letter dated 29 December to J. Mallory Wober, who was a student and love interest at King's College, Cambridge, that Plath met and dated in her first fall as a Fulbright scholar. (Wober gave his letters from Plath to King's College in 1988, and I worked with them in February 2004 on a trip to England. Back in June 2007 and February 2008, I posted on this collection of letters.) And more recently, I learned that Plath also wrote about this play to her mother and Gordon Lameyer in letters dated 30 December 1955 and 21 January 1956, respectively

Anyway, I was curious about the play, which Plath referred to for the first time in the letter to Wober by its French name. Curious to see if it was possible to narrow down what day she saw it and at which venue, I visited the Microtext department at the Boston Public Library and browsed through the December 1955 issues of the French daily newspaper Le Monde. I found that the play was performed at the theater Comedie Caumartin (25, rue Caumartin, 75009 Paris; map & website). I looked at the newspaper for each day, just to verify the play ran for the entire duration of her stay in Paris.

Using Plath's fascinating calendars held at the Lilly Library (Plath Mss II, Box 7, folder 6), which are a set of fascinating documents for the detail they provide about Plath's daily activities between 1951 and 1957, I learned that she saw this play on Wednesday, 28 December 1955. Which is curious as both Wednesday's she was in Paris (21 December and 28 December) there was the play was not listed in the newspaper. While she was in Paris, Plath  took in other cultural performances, too, including a ballet (Roland Petit's La Chambre and Le Loup) and movies (Les Carnets du Major Thompson, Vive Monsieur le Maire, and Jeanne D'Arc).

Can I digress, please? Plath's activities for these years is neither completely recorded nor available… for example there are a few instances where pages of these calendar are missing. Were they removed by Plath herself? By Aurelia Plath who had them in their Wellesley house from circa 1957-1959 until they were sold in the 1970s? By some vandalizing researcher? Going off topic... One of the more chilling moments in working with these calendars is occurs in her 1953 calendar. Firstly, there is a week missing from her time at Mademoiselle, the week of 21-27 June 1953; and then by late July when Plath had two series of shock treatments over three days (on 29 July and 31 July, noted down in truncated form as "SHOCKT"), and then into August when the busyness and the meticulous recording that I had grown accustomed to seemingly, suddenly, slows down. Penned plans turn to tentative faint pencil. The note to call her friend Marcia Brown on Monday 17 August is in hardly recognizable handwriting, which I think illustrates how serious and fragile was her condition and frame of mind at the time. Then the silence that ensues after that, from 24 August 1953 when she attempted suicide and the remainder of the year (she clearly neither had the calendar with her at the various hospitals in which she recovered, nor had any need for it). And there are two missing pages in her 1962 Royal Lett's Diary tablet held by Smith College, which Gail Crowther and I discussed from time to time in our "These Ghostly Archives" papers (links to all of them here).

Anyway, back to the point of this post which was the play she saw and enjoyed. Emlyn Williams (1905-1987, obituary) was a Welsh dramatist and actor. Copies of Someone Waiting, published by Heinemann in 1954, can be purchased on ABEbooks.com. Has anyone out there ever read this play or seen it performed? Did Plath ever read the physical book? I am not sure. But she enjoyed the play and you very well might, too. You can see a list of books that Plath read or owned on LibraryThing.

All links accessed 11 June 2012, 16 February 2013, 21 April, 1 May, and 8 May 2014.

01 May 2014


Sylvia Plath Info Blog turned 7 just a few days ago on April 27, 2014! It is hard for me to fathom, still, that it has carried on this long. I sincerely hope the content is interesting, useful and relevant. Sincere thanks to all who visit, comment, and take something away (and not just in the literal sense of those of you who save every post to your computer hard drive!).

Since this blog began, there have been nearly 400,000 page views from people spanning 179 countries and territories. It shows how far reaching interest in Sylvia Plath is and it is an honor to try to contribute to that. I am not sure if anyone on the International Space Station has hit the blog or not. Since that first post in 2007, which I still cringe at -- being quite nervous about what the blog would be like, I and several guest posters have contributed nearly 1,000 individual blog posts!

For those who are interested, here are some metrics:

The top five pages viewed since this blogs conception are:

"Frieda Hughes on the breakup of her parents marriage"

"Letter from Julia Stiles regarding The Bell Jar"

"Additional News Articles on Sylvia Plath's First Suicide Attempt"

"Sylvia Plath's Voice"

"The Magic Mirror by Sylvia Plath"

There is a natural bias there in that they have been around longer versus some of the more recent posts.

The top keyword searches are:

"plath info blog"

"sylvia plath blog"

"sylvia plath info"

"Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how studly is Peter K Steinberg?
A: 12"

"sylvia plath blogspot"

"plath blog"

Hardly surprising.

As a result of this blog, and my website for Sylvia Plath A Celebration, This Is, I have met some truly remarkable people, as well as some pretty skeevy stalkers. But, hey, I guess "it is what it is"... I hope to keep the blog going for a while longer at least. Posts this year have been a bit slower than in the past as I continue to work on transcribing, proofing, and annotating Sylvia Plath's letters. In working on this project I have learned so much about Plath, gained new respect for her work as a writer and her life. It has been an absolute honor. Similarly, it has been a special privilege to write this blog and all these posts for you, its readers. My most sincere and humble thanks to you all for your interest in this blog. Plath on!
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Publications & Acknowledgements