A total of 55 personal items once owned by American poet Sylvia Plath, including her love letters to her husband and fellow poet Ted Hughes, wedding rings and photo albums, are up for auction at Sotheby’s.
Other items include Plath’s sketches, a family bible, paperweights, a tarot deck and household objects such as a collection of recipes, a rolling pin and chopsticks. The items are currently the property of Frieda Hughes, Plath’s daughter with Ted Hughes.
Plath, whose haunting poems turned the demons of her trauma into some of the most unsettling verses of modern English, killed herself in 1963 aged 30 by putting her head in a gas oven. Her young children were asleep in the flat but she had sealed their room against the gas. They were unharmed.
Plath and Hughes married in 1956 and their relationship was as tumultuous as it was passionate. Her letters to Hughes explore her agony of separation from him while she was studying at Cambridge. The 32 letters included in the Sotheby’s sale, which also include the poet’s letters to her in-laws, are dated between October 1956 and 1961.
The estimate for the letters ranges up to £20,000 ($27,600).
In addition, the sale includes a family photo album showing the couple’s road trip across America along with their friends, including poet TS Eliot.
A number of Plath’s artworks, including her pen and ink portrait of Hughes from 1956, possibly drawn during their honeymoon in Paris and Benidorm, are also included. The drawing of Hughes is estimated at £10,000 to £15,000.
Another sketch reveals Plath’s feelings towards domesticity via dark humour. With the phrase “Great Faux Pas” written on top, the scene shows Plath in a maid’s uniform serving a meal to her husband's two guests. One of the guests says, “Thanks – Sister Rabbit”, to which the Plath character imagines herself striking him with an axe. It is estimated at £1,500 to £2,000.
The items will be sold at the Your Own Sylvia sale by Sotheby's, with bidding running from Friday to Wednesday, July 9 to 21.