The pair’s torrid love affair and Plath’s eventual tragic suicide at the age of 30 has, alongside their artistic output, earned them a particular place in poetry’s pantheon.
Many of the items in the sale are from the pair’s married life, and bears testimony to the warmth and mutual support they gave one another.
Among the sale’s highlights are:
- Sylvia Plath’s own copy of The Bell Jar, her only novel, published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in January 1963, two months before her death. It is inscribed and dated “Sylvia Plath/23 Fitzroy Road/London NW1/Christmas 1962” and is estimated at £60,000-80,000. Plath and her two children, Frieda and Nicholas, had moved to London from the family home in Devon following her split from Hughes.
- Plath’s copy of the “uncorrected proof” of The Bell Jar, with her manuscript corrections, inscribed “Sylvia Plath/Court Green/North Tawton/Devonshire” on the first page, estimated at £50,000-70,000. Plath has made approximately seventy textual corrections to this copy, including spellings and the addition of words. She signed the book with the address of her Devon home, where she worked on the proofs prior to her final break with Hughes.
- Sylvia Plath’s final typewriter – “Hermes 3000” estimated at £40,000-60,000. It was purchased by Plath in Boston in 1959, and was used by her to write The Bell Jar in spring-summer 1961.
Bonhams Senior Book specialist, Luke Batterham said, “This fascinating collection provides a riveting insight into the warmth and mutual support of the Hughes-Plath creative relationship, especially in the early years of their marriage.
“The deeply personal inscriptions to Plath in first editions of Hughes’ breakthrough works The Hawk in the Rain, and its successor Lupercal, show how much he appreciated and acknowledged his wife’s help.
“A tender and important pen and ink drawing of Hughes by Plath drawn shortly after their marriage while the couple were on honeymoon in Spain, was commemorated years later in Hughes’ last work Birthday Letters.
“And, of course, Ariel, the poetry with which Plath is most closely identified, owes its existence largely to Hughes who recognised the quality of the work and arranged for its publication.”
Other key items include:
- An important pen and ink portrait of Ted Hughes by Sylvia Plath, drawn shortly after their marriage in July 1956, probably during their honeymoon. In October 1956, Plath wrote to her mother about the sketches saying, “every drawing has in my mind and heart a beautiful association of our sitting together in the hot sun, Ted reading, writing poems, or just talking with me… the sketches are very important to me…“. The portrait is estimated at £20,000-30,000.
- The dedication copy of Hughes’ first book of poetry, The Hawk in The Rain (1957) inscribed to Plath – “Written [To Sylvia, printed] and now presented to her with all my love.” Plath was instrumental in the genesis of the book, and launching of Hughes’ career. In a letter to her mother Plath wrote, “I am more happy than if it was my book published! I have worked so closely on these poems of Ted’s and typed them so many countless times through revision after revision that I feel ecstatic about it all.” It is estimated at £10,000-15,000.
- The first American edition of The Hawk in the Rain bearing Hughes inscription “because the book belongs to you just as surely as all my love does.” It is estimated at £8,000-12,000.
- A first edition of Ariel, the book of Plath’s poems edited by Hughes after his wife’s death and on which her reputation rests. Frieda Hughes has written that her father had, “honoured my mother’s work and her memory by publishing Ariel… He, perhaps more than anyone, recognised and acknowledged her talent as extraordinary. Without Ariel, my mother’s literary genius might have gone unremarked for ever.” It is estimated at £2,000-3,000.
The sale takes place on March 21.