Sylvia Plath Papers

Scope and Content

The Sylvia Plath papers comprise one radio play, "Three Women", and three typescript poems - "The Moon and the Yew Tree", "The Rabbit Catcher" and "Among the Narcissi".

Administrative / Biographical History

Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, 1932, to German immigrant parents. At school she appeared a model student, winning many prizes and scholarships; her first poem was published in The Boston Herald when she was eight years old. After winning a scholarship, she spent 1950 to 1955 at Smith College. In 1953, after working atMademoiselle Magazine during the summer, she suffered a breakdown and attempted suicide, later describing this period of life in The Bell Jar (published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas).

In 1955 she won a Fullbright Scholarship to study at Newnham College, Cambridge, where she met and married Ted Hughes the following year. The couple moved to America in 1957, returning at the end of 1959 to London, where they both led productive literary lives. Sylvia's first book of poems, The Colossus, was published in 1960. Several months before she had given birth to her first child, a daughter named Frieda.

In September 1961 the family moved to Devon, Sylvia having written "The Moon and the Yew Tree" between spring and autumn. Early in 1962 she gave birth to the couple's second child, Nicholas Farrar. In the spring her poems included "Among the Narcissi" and "The Rabbit Catcher", the latter written after a visit from David and Assia Wevill, during which Ted and Assia seemed to be flirting openly with one another (they would later become a couple). The couple soon separated and Sylvia moved to London. She committed suicide on 11 February 1963.

Much of Sylvia Plath's work has been published since her death. This includes Ariel (1965) with poems from the last months of her life, Crossing the Water (1971) containing most of the poems written in between The Colossus and Ariel, and Winter Trees - eighteen poems from the last nine months of her life together with the verse for her radio play "Three Women" written in early 1962. Following the eagerly awaited publication of Collected Poems in 1981, Sylvia Plath received a rarely posthumously awarded Pulitzer Prize.


The papers have been divided into two sections: radio play script and poems.

Access Information

Access is open to bona fide researchers. An appointment must be made in advance of any visit.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Bertram Rota, October 1977.

Other Finding Aids

A finding aid can be found in the reading room under the heading Literary Manuscripts.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction and licensing rules available on request.


There are no anticipated accruals.

Related Material

The University of Liverpool holds

Outside the University of Liverpool:

Indiana University: Lilly Library holds correspondence and literary papers.