‘Dearest love Teddy’: Sylvia Plath letters, photos and wedding rings for sale

Sotheby’s auction personal items including photo album from Frieda Hughes’ collection

Currently open for bidding, Sotheby's: Your Own Sylvia: Sylvia Plath's letters to Ted Hughes and other items sale, which ends on July 21st consists of very personal items from the two late poets. From the collection of their daughter Frieda, they are the only surviving letters between the writers, dating from a rare period of separation between their meeting in 1956 and the collapse of their marriage in 1962.

Though that marriage lasted only 12 years, on the day of her burial Hughes said of his wife: “It was a fight to the death. One of us had to die.” Attractive, smart and ambitious Plath, a gifted writer and poet, died by suicide aged 30. She spoke with a soporific transatlantic accent, like many of the tragic sirens from 1950s films, and her body of poetic work, much of it published posthumously, revealed her state of mind during her short life.

Engulfed in one of the most renowned and disastrous literary marriages to British poet laureate and womaniser Hughes – hailed as the greatest letter writer since John Keats – the couple's last trip together was to the fishing village of Cleggan in Connemara where Plath wished to spend the winter. Instead she remained just days, distraught that Hughes had returned to his lover Assia Wevill in London.


By February Plath was dead by suicide at her flat on Fitzroy Road in London, where Yeats once lived. Tragedy appeared to follow Hughes: his lover Assia subsequently killed herself and her four-year-old daughter Shura, and Assia's husband David Wevill attempted suicide over his wife's affair with Hughes. Four decades later, Hughes' son with Plath, Nicholas, also took his own life.

While their later life was drenched in sadness and tragedy, some lots in the sale reflect a period of love and harmony, with Plath writing a typed letter aboard the Cunard Line saying “I don’t want to eat until I taste your lovely mouth again” and “I love you, love you, love you, your own Sylvia”. Their wedding rings, second hand gold bands hurriedly purchased in the days before their rushed marriage, feature (lot 2, £6,000-£8,000) as does a typed letter to “Dearest love Teddy” on madness and art and the literary scene (lot 18, £10,000-£15,000). Lot 9 is another letter to Hughes on “my own private doctrine” with a poem is listed at £15,000-£20,000.

The highlight of the sale is Plath’s photograph album: “The Hughes Family Album”, which contains 192 photographs mounted on 48 pages. Plath captioned the first 32 pages in white ink, and several of the later photographs are captioned by her or Hughes on the reverse. It was assembled by Plath and details their life from the return from their honeymoon in Benidorm to summers in Cape Cod. While baby photographs dominate the latter part of the album, their literary success is also marked with Hughes alongside TS Eliot, WH Auden and Louis MacNeice (£30,000-£50,000).

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