Painter and poet Frieda Hughes is burdened with a complex birthright: her parents’ legacy is a compound of both astonishing talent, and unspeakable tragedy. Frieda is the daughter of poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, whose marriage dissolved when Plath learnt of Hughes’s affair with Assia Wevill. One of the most influential (and enduringly popular) poets of the 20th century, Plath’s work documents the relentless suffering wrought by her depression, which finally culminated in her suicide when Frieda was two-and-a-half.
Frieda Hughes is the last of Plath’s surviving children; her brother Nicholas, who was one when their mother died, committed suicide in 2009. This year, Hughes – a prolific author in her own right – is auctioning off a remarkable selection of her mother’s personal effects at Bonhams on March 21. The London-based auction house will feature items that belonged to Plath and (Ted) Hughes in a books and manuscripts auction curated around the poets’ shared lives.
Hughes is evidently prepared to part with some deeply personal paraphernalia. The auction will include irreplaceable heirlooms, such as her mother’s personal copy of The Bell Jar, complete with her handwritten inscription; a pen and ink portrait Plath drew of her husband shortly after their marriage, and Plath’s final typewriter, the same ‘Hermes 3000’ on which she composed The Bell Jar. Items of jewelry, a shared dictionary, and a copy of Hughes’ The Hawk in the Rain dedicated to Plath are just a few of the treasures that will be on offer; this auction is an irresistible prospect for the kinds of bibliophiles who long for a tangible connection to their literary gods.
Click here to find out more about the auction.