Sylvia Plath: what price a kiss?
By JIM McCUE
Manuscripts of sixteen early poems by Sylvia Plath will be auctioned at Bonhams on March 16, along with photographs of her, and a birthday-card-letter to her mother from 1953, in which a rapturous Plath describes meeting W. H. Auden. Some of the material was first seen on the market when sold by the Plath estate in New York in 1982; more is anticipated, as a large collection is broken up.
The nine drafts in one lot date from Plath’s early teens, when, according to Ted Hughes, her poems were “always inspired high jinks, but frequently quite a bit more”. A second lot is made up of typescripts of six poems from her time at Smith College, including one beginning “All day she plays at chess with the bones of the world”. Two typed and autograph drafts of “Never Try to Know More Than You Should” (published in the Collected Poems as “Admonitions”) comprise a third lot.
Each of these lots has an estimate of £1,500–2,000, whereas a small group of “autograph drafts, notes, drawings and doodles for her story ‘Stardust’ . . . (with three red lipstick kisses applied by the author)” is estimated at £4,000–6,000. What price a kiss from Sylvia Plath?