The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume 2: 1956–1963 edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil

Reviewed by
January-February 2019, no. 408
Sarah Holland-Batt reviews 'The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume 2: 1956–1963' edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil

The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume 2: 1956–1963

edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil

Faber & Faber, $69.99 hb, 1025 pp, 9780571339204

The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume 2: 1956–1963 edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil

Reviewed by
January-February 2019, no. 408

Sylvia Plath wrote her last letter to the American psychiatrist Dr Ruth Beuscher a week prior to her suicide on 11 February 1963. In it, Plath castigates herself for being guilty of ‘Idolatrous love’, a concept she drew from psychoanalyst and philosopher Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving. ‘I lost myself in Ted instead of finding myself,’ Plath writes, identifying the subsumption of her ego into her failed marriage at the heart of her unhappiness. The letter’s tone is self-lacerating – Plath diagnoses herself as ‘very narcissistic’, lacking ‘a mature identity’, and in the grip of a ‘ghastly defeatist cycle’ – and distraught, citing a ‘fear & vision of the worst’. It closes with a portentous image of her domestic life, made terrible with hindsight: ‘Now the babies are crying, I must take them out to tea,’ Plath wrote. A week later, she killed herself.

Sarah Holland-Batt reviews 'The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume 2: 1956–1963' edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil

The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume 2: 1956–1963

edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil

Faber & Faber, $69.99 hb, 1025 pp, 9780571339204

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