Sylvia Plath's unpublished letters alleging Ted Hughes of domestic abuse found

FP Staff

Apr 15, 2017 20:44:31 IST

Letters which are part of a correspondence written in the aftermath of the bitter marriage of well-known poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes have surfaced. The letters are part of an archive put together by feminist scholar Harriet Rosenstein seven years after Plath died, as a part of research for a biography that remained unfinished.

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Image from Flickr by summonedbyfells

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Image from Flickr by summonedbyfells

In these letters, Sylvia Plath talks about how her husband wanted her dead, how he beat her two days before she had a miscarriage, and that he had cheated on her. The letters are addressed to Dr Ruth Barnhouse, who served as the model for the character of Dr Nolan in The Bell Jar by Plath. Dr Barnhouse treated Plath after her first documented attempt to kill herself.

This correspondence is understood as the only surviving uncensored works from her last few months, when she produced her most powerful poetry. Nine letters, written after Plath discovered that Hughes had cheated on her with their friend Assia Wevill, have been discovered after a book seller put them up for sale.

Apart from adultery, the letters also speak of the alleged physical abuse Plath suffered at the hands of Hughes shortly before the miscarriage of their second child in 1961. She mentions this in a letter dated 22 September 1962, which is the same month when the couple separated.

In another letter dated 21 October 1962, Plath claims that Hughes told her that he wished she was dead. These unseen letters were written at a time when Plath was agitated by her mental state.

The letters describe a time period from Plath's life which had hitherto remained elusive to readers because there was no record of it. After her death, Hughes claimed that the journals she had maintained through her life had been lost, including the last volume which he had destroyed, because he wanted to protect his children from them.

Hughes and Plath met when they were students at Cambridge University in 1956. Yorkshire-born Hughes was already a known poet then, and Fulbright scholar Plath went to a party that year with the intention of meeting Hughes.

Within four months, they got married and their partnership is believed to have been integral to both their literary careers. During the period when they were married, Plath wrote her semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar and Hughes produced the Hawk in the Rain collection.

Updated Date: Apr 15, 2017 20:44:31 IST