Sylvia Plath Forum

Messages, November 2007

I have taken a lot of flak for my suggestion that Forum posters should email David Wevill, begging him (my words) to write a book about all that personal turmoil regarding him and his wife and Sylvia. I have apologized - for any intrusion on his privacy - and have asked that my initial email be deleted from the Forum. As I said, me culpa.

On the other hand, David Wevill possesses knowledge that would be valuable to any scholar of Plath/Hughes, and I don't think it unreasonable to ask, politely, that he consider publishing his own view. After all, he lived through it and has a perspective that hasn't been explored. So far as I know, he's never even been interviewed in print.

Maybe it all comes down to whether protection of one's own personal experience trumps the needs of those who want to know more about an important writer. Where do we draw the line? No, we shouldn't all be e-mailing David - my mistake - but he does know details about those tragic relationships that would help us all understand better how and why Sylvia killed herself. Should he be allowed to keep them to himself? Of course he should. Don't we want to know what he knows and remembers? Of course we do. Can we make him cough up what he knows? No, of course not.

If I can be allowed to back up a few steps, I would humbly suggest that anyone already in contact with David Wevill try to persuade him to write a book about a relationship that has grown to proportions in the popular imagination that he never envisioned. He would do a great service to scholars of Sylvia by publishing his account, in his own words.

I know that David wants to be left alone, and I respect that, but he is a central character in what has become a literary soap opera. (And yes, The Forum has promulgated it: a review of previous postings brings his name up often.) Against his expressed wishes, he has become the cuckholded man - in public view. Ted is the rogue having his way with women, including David's wife. Sylvia is the wronged wife. We all know how it ended, but we're missing important details. David knows many of them.

What I assume is that he was a young guy, an academic, married to an attractive woman, who became involved with another similarly attractive couple - it's what we did in our 20s and early 30s - and his wife was seduced by - or seduced - a very attractive guy who was also a poet, and it all ended badly. But because at least two of the people in that love triangle turned out to be significant poets makes their relationships not just their personal business but ours, too.

David Wevill has absolutely no obligation to share anything with any of us, but wouldn't it be great if he did? Wouldn't we all be thankful to him for overcoming his personal grief to help us understand, just a little better, what might have been going through Sylvia's mind when she turned that oven on and deprived us all of another few decades of her poetry?

David Hall
Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
November 27, 2007

Hello David,

I also agree that David Wevill should write a book on Assia. I doubt he will though. I have read a lot of his poetry and while some of it is good, he's no Ted or Sylvia. I even read the one or two poems he wrote about Assia. They were moving but not very revealing, and frankly, not very good.

I have maintained an on again off again email correspondence with Assia's ex-husband Richard Lipsey for over two years now and I think he Should be the one to write a memoir. I have encouraged him to do so many times. He has a whole cache of photos of Assia that have never been seen, "in an old dusty cupboard somewhere" as he told me in an email last year.

I know he was very curious about Eliat Negev's biography of her. He wrote a short four to five page paper, a few months after the publication of the book, in which he addressed some of the inconsistencies in her book, but the problems were mainly small, and inconsequential. I was flattered to be included in the people he sent an email attachment of his short paper to. It was quite interesting.

I know Richard seems much more stable and frankly more of a strong type of personality, than David Wevill's artistic temperament. I think if Richard were to write a memoir, it would be far more interesting, because I think he had a far more realistic understanding of Assia Wevill. As he told me in an email, "Assia could be very good and very bad. She was a combination of really good qualities and really bad ones".

I never forgot that. Anyway, I've been busy, finishing my degrees and writing for a newspaper here in town. I am also creating a web page, with all my published and unpublished writing.

Good to see, the Plathophiles are still hashing it out.

Therresa Kennedy
Portland, Oregon, USA
Monday, 26 November 2007

I think David Wevill should be left alone. Put yourself in his shoes for one moment. One wouldn't clearly want to talk publicly about such an episode of one's life. Imagine how he must have felt or indeed may still feel about his ex wife being written about everywhere and of his paramour, Ted Hughes going on to become one of the greatest English poets of the twentieth century. The person who made this suggestion to write to him and virtually 'BEG' him to write about it must either be very young or very foolish.

Rehan Qayoom
London , UK
November 21, 2007

I agree with all who have questioned my judgment in encouraging Forum posters to write to David Wevill. It was an ill-considered suggestion on my part, and I have asked that my original posting be removed from the Forum immediately - if not, that it be ignored. Me culpa.

David Hall
Fort Collins, Colorado , USA
November 17, 2007


I realise I am repeating what others said already. I can't actually figure out if you're being sarcastic or not. If you aren't, what you are saying is outrageous!

I remember your post a long while back about being at that university and then discovering afterwards that David Wevill worked there and you wished that you had known that at the time so that you could have asked him questions. That was bad enough. I'm wondering if you are hoping that nobody will really remember that post. You didn't know David Wevill worked there when you were studying there. You didn't know until afterwards. You contacted him and he never responded. You cannot 're-establish' contact with someone you didn't have contact with in the first place. Perhaps you think your post will make it sound as if you're old buddies. I can't be the only person that remembers your post from a while back.

So you were a grad student at that university... so were a lot of people. It doesn't give you or anyone the right to intrude into his privacy in that way and if you are being serious, I am quite astounded that you think it's ok to do that.

I can't believe that you emailed him to tell him what was being said about him online. If he wants to know what is being said about him online, he can look for himself. He doesn't need a stranger emailing him and telling him. Perhaps he never looks at anything that is said about him - that wouldn't surprise me and it should be up to him. He shouldn't be subjected to other people telling him.

These past events were a tragedy in his life. He has survived and he has made a life for himself. I'm sure he can think about the past when he chooses to - he doesn't need it shoved in his face.

The fact that he answered you back, that he's good with words and he 'knows things' does not mean that he should write a book about it. If he ever wants to, fine - but why should it be for any reason other than that?

As for your I-know-something-you-don't-know comment about his email address and not being able to give it out, I have his email address. Anyone can find his email address online. Only most of us wouldn't be intrusive enough to use it. I'm afraid if you were attempting to sound as if you have certain information that you can't possibly give out, you failed.

I would never in a million years write to him asking him to write a book and I should think that most Forum members feel the same way.

I think you're probably trying to be sarcastic and funny. It isn't funny.

David Wevill survived - leave him alone.

Morney Wilson
London, UK
November 16, 2007

Aliza -- On the question of whether Sylvia called a doctor on the night before her death and her call going unanswered: According to her friend Jillian Becker, at whose home she was staying during the few days just prior to her death (in "Giving Up: the last days of Sylvia Plath". St. Martin's Press, 2002) Sylvia was in touch with her doctor by phone on Saturday the 9th and arranged to see him on Sunday the 10th.

According to Anne Stevenson's biography "Bitter Fame: a life of Sylvia Plath" her doctor, Dr. Horder, visited her personally at her (Sylvia's) apartment on Sunday, the night before her death. This is also stated in Paul Alexander's book "Rough Magic: a biography of Sylvia Plath", although he may have based his statements on Stevenson's account, which had been published 2 yrs earlier, and which he seems to follow very closely in its particulars.

The point is that her doctor did not leave her unattended for long. He conferred with the Beckers about seeing that Sylvia took her medication on schedule (see Becker). If she had been out of her medication, his concern was such that he would have seen that she had it before leaving her on Sunday evening. That night, when she spoke to her downstairs neighbor, Mr. Thomas. He offered to call her doctor but, in the event, did not. So, the answer to your question would seem to be "No", she made no calls for help that went unanswered.

Jim Long
Honolulu , USA
15 November 2007

Seminar Announcement - MSS: Modern Manuscript Studies Seminar at the Institute of English Studies (University of London)

Speaker: Dr Tracy Brain (Bath Spa University): "Representing Sylvia Plath"

Venue: Senate House, Malet Street,
London WC1E 7HU, Room NG14
Date: 20 November
Time: 5.30-7pm

All welcome

Wim Van Mierlo
London, UK
Thursday, 15 November 2007

David - I can understand the natural desire to know all that we can about the events of Plath's life, which necessarily involves the lives of those associated with her in one way or another. But, I truly think that, of all people, David Wevill deserves to be left alone without having to dredge up once again all the painful details of a most tragic situation simply to satisfy the curiosities of a bunch of Plath fans, or even a bunch of literature scholars. I would appeal to everyone to exercise restraint and not subject David Wevill to email harassment to push him to revisit something that even we, if it were a part of our history, would probably want to leave in the past.It's hard to imagine that he would be able to add anything to the mix we already have that would enlighten us in any significant way about the actions or motives of the other actors in the events that transpired, from the Ted/Assia affair to Plath's suicide to Assia's. Those who want to write their stories will do so; I think those who choose not to should be respected and left alone.

I suspect that his private thoughts and feelings about these things are probably best gleaned from his numerous poetry collections over the years, particularly:

Other Names for the Heart; New and Selected Poems, 1964-1984. (Firefly Bks, 1985).

Departures; Selected Poems. (Shearsman Bks, 2003).

He has recently published a new collection:

Asterisks. (Exile Editions, Sept. 2007).

Jim Long
Honolulu , USA
13 November 2007

David, why would anyone want to write David Wevill to encourage him to write a book about an obviously still painful time in his life? He flat out said he didn't want to read the Forum because it would stir up painful memories. I can't think of anything worse than to track him down and, as a stranger, encourage him to spill his guts about his painful relationship with Assia. It's his life and if he chooses to write about it, and find something cathartic in that, great. But otherwise, it's none of our business. The only reason I can come up with to track him down and contact him would be to warn him that various strangers may be contacting him in order to encourage him to metaphorically plunge his heart into boiling water for their own entertainment. Just because the internet makes it easy to find people doesn't mean we necessarily should. Just my 3 cents.

Cathy, Diane's talk at Oxford was, unfortunately, canceled.

Detroit , USA
Monday, 12 November 2007

notice that David Wevill's name has come up again in The Forum. As I may have mentioned before, I was a grad student at the U. of Texas with him many years ago. Recently I e-mailed him, just to re-establish contact and to let him know what was being said about him online, and, to my surprise, he answered back. He has never looked at The Forum and says he won't, as it would just stir up bad memories, etc.

At the same time, it occurs to me that (1) he answered back, (2) he's an English professor, meaning he's good with words, and (3) he knows things that no one else does.

In short, he should write a book! I think that the members of The Forum should write to David Wevill -- sorry, I can't give you his email address (but he's at the U. of Texas in Austin, English Dept.) - and beg him to write a book about that terrible time in his life.

David Hall
Fort Collins, Colorado , USA
November 1, 2007

I was wondering whether anyone went to the Diane Middlebrook talk on "Her Husband:Hughes and Plath" at Jesus College, Oxford on 24th October? If so, do tell the Forum what it was like and whether there were interesting dicussions or new insights, etc.! I would have loved to have been there, but found out about it too late...

Cathy E
Yorkshire, UK
November 4, 2007

I am a senior in HS and recently read 'The Bell Jar' (for leisure) and I am now fascinated with Sylvia Plath. So, I'm writing a research paper on her, but before I can form my thesis, I need to figure out whether this is truth or rumor: I heard that Sylvia Plath called a doctor the night she killed herself, but no one picked up the call. So, can this be confirmed? I've tried to look it up myself online, but my search wasn't very successful.

Aliza J
31 October 2007