Sotheby's - London

Friday, July 9th, 2021 - Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

Your Own Sylvia: Sylvia Plath’s letters to Ted Hughes and other items, property of Frieda Hughes
Sale #L21421

The writing of Sylvia Plath has inspired generations of readers. Her poetic voice, especially in the posthumously published Ariel poems, has a power and intensity that is utterly unique, whilst The Bell Jar is both an intimate narrative of depression and a dark feminist satire that still resonates today. Her life, her marriage to Ted Hughes, and her death, have also commanded more attention and controversy than almost any other modern writer. This is in part because she crafted so much of her life into her writing, but also because of the tragedy of her life, curtailed by suicide at the age of thirty when she was at the height of her creative powers.

This sale of letters and personal items, which comes directly from the family, provides a unique portrait of Sylvia Plath as a writer, a lover, and a wife. At the heart of the collection are the letters that Plath wrote to Ted Hughes in October 1956. These are the only surviving letters from Plath to Hughes, dating from a rare period of separation between their meeting in February 1956 and the collapse of their marriage in the summer of 1962. The couple had been married for just four months and these are passionate love letters, full of optimism and unabashed literary ambition, revealing the deep and close collaboration between the two young writers. They are also letters in which Plath does not hide her emotional vulnerability, and in which she makes clear to Hughes how much she has invested her happiness and identity in their relationship.

If the letters to Hughes reveal a moment in Plath’s life in high intensity, the rest of the sale provides a narrative of their life together, through her regular letters to her parents-in-law as well as family photographs and association items. Their marriage is commemorated by the wedding bands, second-hand gold rings hurriedly purchased in the days before their rushed marriage; their honeymoon by Hughes’s gift of an Egyptian turquoise hawk; their domestic life together by typed recipe cards. Plath’s letters to Hughes’s parents describe their life together in Cambridge, their two years in America, Hughes’s early and burgeoning success as a poet, and their return to England and new life with children. Plath’s own photo album provides a further narrative of this journey into domesticity, beginning with photos of the two young and fresh-faced poets beginning their life together, and ending with a smiling Plath and her two young children in a field of daffodils at their home in Devon in the spring of 1962, just before Hughes’s affair sent their lives spiralling out of control.


Lots close independently at one-minute intervals; closure times are subject to change

Sotheby's - London
34-35 New Bond Street

London, UK

51.5118195, -0.1437308

Sotheby's - London