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Houghton Mifflin Company collection on Bitter Fame

 Collection
Identifier: MRBC-MS-00003

Scope and Contents

The Houghton Mifflin Company Collection of papers on Bitter Fame contain Houghton Mifflin's working papers for their 1989 publication of Anne Stevenson's biography Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath. In addition to correspondence and legal papers concerning the project, there are research notes, drafts, corrections, and press clippings. The papers span the dates 1954-1991, but the bulk of the material covers the years 1986-1990. The papers were presented to the Smith College Library Rare Book Room on October 1, 1992 by the Houghton Mifflin Company, through the kind offices of their consulting editor, Peter Davison.

The papers begin with the correspondence of Peter Davison, which includes notes about telephone conversations as well as letters to and from the principal people involved in the project: Olwyn Hughes, Ted Hughes, and Anne Stevenson, among others. A draft of Anne Stevenson's poem, "Homage to Sylvia Plath" is housed in Box 1, folder 14. Olwyn Hughes's correspondence with Penguin Books is arranged separately in Box 1, folder 15. A few letters between Anne Stevenson (or her husband Peter Lucas) and Olwyn Hughes are housed in Box 1, folder 18. Four other letters by Anne Stevenson ask for information or request permission to quote.

The rest of the collection relates to the writing, editing, and publishing of Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath (Boston, 1989). The original proposal for the project is in Box 1, folder 21, along with contracts and other business papers. Press clippings about Sylvia Plath: A Biography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987) by Linda Wagner-Martin are filed with articles about Plath (Box 2, folder 22). Dido and W. S. Merwin's correspondence with Linda Wagner-Martin is also part of the research section of the collection, along with notes about interviews with Jillian Becker, James Michie, Suzette de Macedo, and Nicola Tyrer. Fourteen photocopies of letters to and from Aurelia Plath and Sylvia Plath complete the research section of the papers.

Five separate drafts of the book are arranged in chronological order. A second copy of draft B (Box 4, folders 42-54) is heavily annotated by Peter Davison, who edited the biography. Later corrections by Davison may be found in Box 8, folders 88-89. Draft D (Box 6, folders 66-78) has been annotated by the copy editor and includes a second copy of Appendix I, with corrections by Lucas Myers (Box 6, folder 73). Draft E (Box 7, folders 79-87) includes Olwyn Hughes's changes, which are marked. Her suggested revisions are filed together in Box 8 (folders 90-99) and are arranged roughly by chapters. Additional suggestions may also be found in her correspondence with Peter Davison and Anne Stevenson. Ted Hughes, Dido Merwin and Anne Stevenson also submitted corrections which are filed separately.

At the end of the Bitter Fame series are photocopies of illustrations used in the book, copy for the jacket cover, and press clippings.

Dates

  • 1954-1991

Creator

Language of Materials

English.

Conditions Governing Access

Until we move into New Neilson in early 2021, collections are stored in multiple locations and may take up to 48 hours to retrieve. Researchers are strongly encouraged to contact Special Collections (specialcollections@smith.edu) at least a week in advance of any planned visits so that boxes may be retrieved for them in a timely manner.

Conditions Governing Use

The Houghton Mifflin Company Papers on Bitter Fame are the physical property of the Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors of the works or their legal representatives. Anne Stevenson retains copyright to all unpublished versions of the biography and, per her letter of 24 October 1997, will not grant permission to any scholar to quote from this material. Photocopies in the papers may not be duplicated and permission to quote from them must be obtained from the owner of the original manuscript as well as the copyright holder.

Extent

9 boxes (3.5 linear feet)

Overview

Papers collected by the Houghton Mifflin Company for their 1989 publication of Anne Stevenson's biography Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath. Includes correspondence and legal papers concerning the project, as well as research notes, drafts, corrections, press clippings, and photocopies of illustrations.

Arrangement

This collection is organized into two series:
  1. I. Correspondence (1963-1991)
  2. II. Bitter Fame (1954-1990)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were presented to the Smith College Library Rare Book Room on October 1, 1992 by the Houghton Mifflin Company, through the kind offices of their consulting editor, Peter Davison.
Title
Houghton Mifflin Company collection on Bitter Fame
Subtitle
Finding Aid
Author
Compiled by Karen V. Kukil
Date
2002
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (https://github.com/harvard-library/archivesspace-preprocessor)
  • 2005-09-23: manoscmr3 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

Repository Details

Part of the Mortimer Rare Book Collection Repository

Contact:
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton MA 01063