‘I love you and perish to be with you’: Sylvia Plath’s passionate notes to Ted Hughes up for auction

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Undated photo of poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath (PA)
Undated photo of poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath (PA)

Some of the “most personal objects” belonging to poet Sylvia Plath are being put up for auction next week.

Letters and other personal items, including some of the passionate notes she sent to her husband, Ted Hughes, are among 50 lots being auctioned by Sotheby’s.

The collection comes from Frieda Hughes, one of the couple’s two children.

The Bell Jar author married Hughes in 1956, and their union became known as one of the most volatile relationships in 20th century literature. Plath took her own life in 1963, aged 30. Hughes died in 1998, aged 68.

The Yorkshire-born Hughes met American poet Plath while they were students at Cambridge University in 1956.

One of the letters to Hughes was typed by Plath during a brief period of separation immediately after their wedding, when Hughes was in London and Plath was studying on a Fulbright Scholarship at Oxford.

“My husband is a genius,” she wrote in one note after reading his breakthrough poetry collection, The Hawk in the Rain.

In another section, which was handwritten, she 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.”

A 1961 portrait of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, taken by David Bailey and inscribed by Plath (PA)
A 1961 portrait of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, taken by David Bailey and inscribed by Plath (PA)

Another lot is a handmade family photo album created by Plath, complete with handwritten captions about the couple’s holidays and other social occasions. One photo shows Hughes sipping drinks with TS Eliot.

Sotheby’s described the photo album as a “remarkably personal record of Plath and Hughe’s married life together” that demonstrates her “keen sense of humour”.

It is expected to fetch between £30,000 to £50,000.

The couple’s wedding rings are also up for auction – they were “hurriedly purchased” before the June 1956 marriage, along with shoes and trousers for Hughes using “the last of our money”, just four months after Plath and Hughes first met.

Notes written by Sylvia Plath to her husband, Ted Hughes, along with their matching gold wedding bands (PA)
Notes written by Sylvia Plath to her husband, Ted Hughes, along with their matching gold wedding bands (PA)

Other lots include recipe cards for fish chowder, cherry and cottage cheese cobbler, beef stew and carrot cake, passed down from Plath’s “Gammy”, along with Hughes’s mother’s “much-coveted” recipe for Scots Porridge Oats biscuits.

There is a deck of Tarot cards, originally given to Plath by Hughes, the Plath family bible, and a signed document from Plath giving the BBC permission to broadcast her play, Three Women.

A Tarot card deck given to Ted Hughes by Sylvia Plath (PA)
A Tarot card deck given to Ted Hughes by Sylvia Plath (PA)

The auction is scheduled to take place on 9 July.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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