Notes and personal items belonging to Sylvia Plath going under the hammer

The Sotheby’s auction includes handwritten notes from Plath to her husband Ted Hughes.

Portrait of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath
Portrait of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath

A collection of letters and personal items belonging to Sylvia Plath – including passionate notes written to husband Ted Hughes following their marriage – are going under the hammer.

Sotheby’s said the sale contains “the most personal objects” belonging to American poet Plath to ever come to market.

It is comprised of 50 lots which come from the collection of Frieda Hughes, one of the couple’s two children.

Photograph of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath
Items belonging to Sylvia Plath from her marriage to Ted Hughes – one of 20th century literature’s most famous unions – are going under the hammer (Sotheby’s/PA)

The Bell Jar author Plath, who took her own life in 1963 aged 30, married British poet Hughes in 1956.

Theirs was one of the most well-known and turbulent unions in 20th century literature. Hughes died aged 68 in 1998.

The Sotheby’s sale features typed letters from Plath written during a brief period of separation immediately after the wedding.

Hughes was in London while his bride was studying at Oxford on a Fulbright Scholarship. In one note, Plath wrote “My husband is a genius” after reading his breakthrough poetry collection The Hawk In The Rain.

In another handwritten section, Plath said: “I love you and perish to be with you and lying in bed with you and kissing you all over … I love you teddy teddy teddy teddy and how I wish I could be with you … All my love ever, your own love wife, Sylvia.”

Letters to Ted Hughes from Sylvia Plath, photographed with wedding rings (2)
Letters to Ted Hughes from Sylvia Plath, photographed with the couple’s wedding rings, which are also on sale (Sotheby’s/PA)

A handmade family photo album put together by Plath, complete with handwritten captions detailing the couple’s holidays and other social occasions, is also going under the hammer.

It features a picture of Hughes sipping drinks with TS Eliot.

The album is described as a “remarkably personal record of Plath and Hughes’s married life together” and demonstrates her “keen sense of
humour”.

It is estimated to sell for £30,000 – £50,000.

Also up for sale are Plath and Hughes’s wedding rings, which were “hurriedly purchased” by the couple before their June 1956 marriage in London, just four months after they first met.

Pages from the Hughes family album
Pages from the Hughes family album, showing them fishing in Yellowstone Park (Sotheby’s/PA)

Writing about the occasion in her diary, Plath recalled: “We rushed about London, buying dear Ted shoes & trousers, two gold wedding rings (I never wanted an engagement ring) with the last of our money.”

The rings have an estimate of £6,000 – £8,000.

A set of “eclectic” recipe cards passed down from Plath’s ‘Gammy’, Aurelia Plath, including instructions for fish chowder, cherry and cottage cheese cobbler, carrot cake, beef stew and the “much-coveted recipe” of “Ted’s Mother’s Scots Porridge Oats Biscuits” is also for sale.

Frieda, a poet and painter, said of her mother’s love for cooking: “She was a fantastic baker and a fanatical cook … cooking for my father was one of her joys.”

The cards have an estimate of £800 – £1,200. A deck of Tarot cards, originally given to Plath by Hughes, has a guide price of £4,000 -£6,000.

Other personal items on sale include the Plath family bible – inscribed at the end by Frieda Plath, Plath’s aunt after whom she named her daughter – and two glass paperweights used by Hughes.

A signed document giving the BBC authorisation to broadcast Plath’s radio play, Three Women, is also for sale.

The Sotheby’s auction is set to take place on July 9.

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