REVEALED What Ted Hughes Didn't Want the World to Know about Sylvia Plath; after Sylvia Plath Committed Suicide Her Husband Ted Hughes Published Her Journals - but Only after Ruthlessly Editing Them. Now He Is Dead the Truth Can Be Told. and the Feminists Who Demonised Him as Her Killer Won't like It REVIEW

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), February 20, 2000 | Go to article overview

REVEALED What Ted Hughes Didn't Want the World to Know about Sylvia Plath; after Sylvia Plath Committed Suicide Her Husband Ted Hughes Published Her Journals - but Only after Ruthlessly Editing Them. Now He Is Dead the Truth Can Be Told. and the Feminists Who Demonised Him as Her Killer Won't like It REVIEW


Byline: PETER HILLMORE

We shouted as if in a high wind . . . I was stamping, and he was stamping on the floor and then he kissed me bang smash on the mouth. And when he kissed me on the neck I bit him long and hard on the cheek and when we came out of the room, blood was running down his face. And I screamed in myself, thinking: "Oh to give myself, crashing, fighting, to you."' Exultant, ecstatic and bewildered, Sylvia Plath recorded the violent poetry of her first meeting with Ted Hughes in awestruck and demonic prose. The passion, the desire and the violence that overcame them both at a Cambridge party on February 25, 1956, saw them married just a few months later.

He was a saturnine man of letters just embarking on a life of poetry; she was a beguiling American beauty who instantly connected with Hughes's dark soul.

Their marriage lasted until her suicide seven years later, in 1963.

Despairing of the constant infidelity of Hughes - who was with his mistress Assia Wevill - Plath put the children to bed, turned on the gas and killed herself. Six years later, Wevill committed suicide in a chillingly similar way, gassing herself and the baby daughter she and Hughes shared.

From her 18th birthday until her death 12 years later, Plath had kept record of her life and her thoughts.

She wrote 23 journals - calling them her 'Book' - in which she recorded dark and deep feelings about her life, her art and her husband.

In 1982, 19 years after her death, Ted Hughes published an abridged version of these journals. Although only published in America, it has become a literary classic, a tragic diary, a remorseless account of the pain of being a creative artist and the agony of being married to another elemental force.

It revealed many of Plath's insights and gave us clues to the maelstrom behind the pretty, milkmaid's face.

But it did not tell everything - Hughes would not allow that.

In particular, it did not fully illuminate their volcanic relationship, and many critics and feminists have tried to fit their own theories into the gaps.

Those gaps, however, will be filled this spring - partly because of the opening of Ted Hughes's vast collection of papers, and partly because a new edition of The Journals Of Sylvia Plath is to be published, in which the cuts Hughes made will be reinstated.

What they reveal sets most contemporary theories on their heads, and will particularly dent the feminist analysis which says that Plath killed herself because Hughes, emblematic of masculinity, took his pleasures where he found them.

Some of the new information comes from Hughes's own papers. For more than 40 years, he kept all his documents in a barn beside his thatched cottage at North Tawton, Devon, where he lived with his second wife, Carol. They included letters, photographs and countless verses and poems scrawled on scraps of paper in his barely-decipherable hand.

Hughes, Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death at the age of 68 in 1998, sold his archives for [pounds sterling]500,000 to the Woodruff Library at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Letters already released by the university reveal the depth of remorse that he felt after Plath's death - and the turbulent love they felt for each other when she was alive.

However, the publication of Plath's journals is shrouded in secrecy. After her death, all her papers were given by Hughes to her old American university, Smith College in Massachusetts.

For the first time, Plath's children by Hughes, Frieda and Nicholas, have granted Smith permission to uncover its entire collection of her journals.

Although her papers have been generally open to scholars, they have now been sealed until publication of the unabridged diaries.

But The Mail on Sunday can now reveal that the new Journals Of Sylvia Plath will show that she was not as pure as her admirers have long maintained - and not quite the saintly person that popular myth and modern feminism has created. …

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REVEALED What Ted Hughes Didn't Want the World to Know about Sylvia Plath; after Sylvia Plath Committed Suicide Her Husband Ted Hughes Published Her Journals - but Only after Ruthlessly Editing Them. Now He Is Dead the Truth Can Be Told. and the Feminists Who Demonised Him as Her Killer Won't like It REVIEW
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