By Maya Palit
The apocrypha surrounding novelist and poet Sylvia Plath’s suicide in 1963 has been endlessly devoured by her ardent fans. Everything from her long history of clinical depression and apparent party animal life to her stormy marriage with poet Ted Hughes and the tribulations of poetry-writing have been poured over.
Hughes famously destroyed one of her last journals in an attempt to ‘protect their children’. But now nine newly discovered letters from Plath to her analyst Dr. Barnhouse, some of which were written a week before Plath’s death, reveal previously unknown anecdotes that suggest just how bad it got with Hughes (whose second wife Assia Wevill also killed herself) and the extent of her despair about their life toghether. In these letters Plath wrote that Hughes had beat her up two days before she had the miscarriage that sent her into a terrible spiral, and also told her that he wanted her dead.
Amongst the correspondence and letters are Plath’s medical records from the ’50s, various interviews with Barnhouse about her practice and treating Plath, and letters about Plath stumbling across Hughes’ affairs. The letters belong to a collection that was put together decades ago by Harreiet Rosenstein, a feminist scholar who was contemplating a biography on Plath, and are now being sold for an obscenely high amount (£695,000). But they may take a while to get into the hands of Plath junkies because there are lawsuits filed by Plath’s alma mater Smith College, which insist that the letters were Barnhouse’s property and should be considered as part of her estate.