Sylvia Plath's love letters to Ted Hughes among personal items to be auctioned alongside family albums

Theirs was a union known to be among the most turbulent in 20th century literature, with a whirlwind romance that ended ultimately in tragedy.

Pages from 'The Hughes family album' of the Hughes family in Devon, one of the items belonging to American poet Sylvia Plath going under the hammer at Sotheby's on July 9.
Pages from 'The Hughes family album' of the Hughes family in Devon, one of the items belonging to American poet Sylvia Plath going under the hammer at Sotheby's on July 9.

Now the passionate personal letters written by famed American poet Sylvia Plath to her Yorkshire-born husband Ted Hughes are to go under the hammer for the first time.

The sale, Sotheby’s has said, contains “the most personal objects” of the novelist that have ever come to market.

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Among the lots are the couple’s love letters, wedding rings, and a handmade family photo album.

A 1961 portrait of American poet Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, taken by David Bailey and inscribed by Plath, one of the items belonging to Sylvia Plath going under the hammer at Sotheby's on July 9.

The Sotheby’s sale features typed letters from Plath which were written during a brief period of separation between the couple after their wedding in 1956.

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Hughes was in London while his bride was studying at Oxford on a Fulbright Scholarship. In one note, Plath wrote “My husband is a genius” after reading his breakthrough poetry collection The Hawk In The Rain.

In another handwritten section, Plath 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.”

Letters written to Ted Hughes by American poet Sylvia Plath, and their gold wedding rings, which are some of the items belonging to Sylvia Plath going under the hammer at Sotheby's on July 9. Sotheby's/PA Wire

Ted Hughes, who was born in Mytholmroyd and schooled in Mexborough, was appointed Poet Laureate in 1984 and held the position until his death in 1998.

He was to make his name as one of the finest poets and writers of his generation, with the University of Huddersfield, home to the Ted Hughes Network, now a major centre for the study of his life. An 18th century home he once owned, Lumb Bank, is also now a writers’ retreat.

To this day, the couple are often remembered for their tempestuous marriage, with Plath, author of The Bell Jar, taking her own life in 1963 at the age of 30.

The writer, who is also now recognised as one of the most important poets of the 20th century, is buried in the small Calderdale village of Heptonstall.

Pages from 'The Hughes family album' of the Hughes family in Devon, one of the items belonging to American poet Sylvia Plath going under the hammer at Sotheby's on July 9.

A 'remarkable' record

Now, personal records of their relationship are to auctioned, with the sale comprising some 50 lots from the collection of one of their two children, Frieda Hughes.

A handmade family album, complete with handwritten captions, details the couple’s holidays and social events, including a picture of Hughes sipping drinks with TS Eliot.

The album is described as a “remarkably personal record of Plath and Hughes’s married life together” and demonstrates her “keen sense of humour”.

A pair of gold wedding rings which belonged to American poet Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, which are going under the hammer at Sotheby's on July 9, with an estimated value of £6,000 - £8,000.

It is estimated to sell for between £30,000 to £50,000.

Also for sale are the couple’s wedding rings, which were “hurriedly purchased” before their June 1956 marriage in London, just four months after they first met.

Writing about the occasion in her diary, Plath recalled: “We rushed about London, buying dear Ted shoes & trousers, two gold wedding rings (I never wanted an engagement ring) with the last of our money.”

The rings have an estimate of £6,000 to £8,000 for the auction, which is to be held on July 9.

Auction

Also for sale is a set of “eclectic” recipe cards passed down from Plath’s ‘Gammy’, Aurelia Plath, including instructions for fish chowder, cherry and cottage cheese cobbler, carrot cake, beef stew and the “much-coveted recipe” of “Ted’s Mother’s Scots Porridge Oats Biscuits”.

The couple’s daughter Frieda, who is a poet and painter, said of her mother’s love for cooking: “She was a fantastic baker and a fanatical cook ... cooking for my father was one of her joys.”

The cards have an estimate of between £800 and £1,200, while a deck of Tarot cards, originally given to Plath by Hughes, has a guide price of £4,000 to £6,000.

Other personal items on sale include the Plath family bible – inscribed at the end by Frieda Plath, Plath’s aunt after whom she named her daughter – and two glass paperweights which were once used by Hughes.

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