October 2015 | Nate Pedersen

New Details About Sylvia Plath's Last Days

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An upcoming biography of Ted Hughes reveals that the poet was in bed with another lover on the evening that Sylvia Plath, his wife, committed suicide.

Sir Jonathan Bate, a provost of Worcester College, Oxford, and author of the new biography of Ted Hughes also discovered that the Hughes poem "Last Letter" is about the three days leading up to Plath's suicide at age 30 in 1963.

The poem was inspired by "an enigmatic parting love letter" that Plath wrote to Hughes a few days before she died. Plath wrote a letter stating that she planned to soon leave the country, never to see Hughes again.  

Plath mailed the letter on Friday, expecting it not to arrive until the following day, however an efficient postal service delivered the letter to Hughes on Friday afternoon. Hughes rushed "through the snow-blue, London twilight" to see Plath at her home in Primrose Hill. An argument ensued and Plath burnt the letter.

Hughes wrote of the meeting, " What happened that night? Your final night." The poem continues, "Late afternoon, Friday, my last sight of you alive. Burning your letter to me, in the ashtray, with that strange smile."

A distraught Plath attempted to telephone Hughes on Saturday, however the phone at Hughes's flat was answered by Hughes's lover Susan Alliston.  

Plath took her own life on the Sunday evening.  According to Bate, Hughes was in bed with Alliston that night.  Hughes found out about his wife's suicide the following morning.

Bate's biography will be published next week.

[Image from Wikipedia]