An auction of possessions of the late poet Sylvia Plath brought in a seven-figure sum Wednesday, marking the first time many of the items, including Plath’s wedding band and intimate love letters, had ever seen the auction block.
The lot of nearly 50 items brought in more than $1 million excluding hammer fees when bidding finished Wednesday afternoon in London, according to auction house Sotheby’s.
The items were sold by Frieda Hughes, the daughter of Plath and the poet Ted Hughes.
$206,886. That’s how much the most expensive item on the block, a deck of French Tarot cards that belonged to Plath, fetched, excluding hammer fees. Hughes introduced Plath to the occult lore that went on to influence Plath’s work, like her 1960 poem The Hanging Man. Based on letters Plath wrote that also sold at auction Wednesday, experts believe Hughes gave the Tarot cards to Plath as a 24th birthday present.
Plath is remembered for her dark poetry and frank depiction of mental illness in her quasi-autobiographical work, including the novel The Bell Jar. Plath was born in 1932 in Boston, but spent much of her life in England after moving there in 1955 to attend the University of Cambridge as a Fulbright Scholar. Plath met Hughes at a party in Cambridge and they got married just four month later in London on June 16, 1956. After six years of marriage, Hughes began an affair with a family friend and the couple separated in 1962. Just seven months later, Plath committed suicide in the home she shared with her two children in London. In the time between her separation from Hughes and her death at 30, Plath wrote much of the work that would become her most popular after it was published posthumously, like Ariel, a collection of poems dealing with mental illness.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.