Sunday, February 17, 2013

When Sylvia met Ted

11/02/2013 by Andrew Wilson - We Love This Book

Fifty years ago today, poet Sylvia Plath took her own life. Biographer Andrew Wilson reveals the night she met future husband, Ted Hughes

On 25th February 1956, twenty-three-year-old Sylvia Plath stepped into a roomful of people and immediately spotted what she later described as a “big, dark, hunky boy”. She asked her companions if anyone knew the name of this young man, but she received no answer. The party was in full swing and the freeform rhythm of the jazz – the ‘syncopated strut’ of the piano, the seductive siren call of the trumpet – made conversation difficult. Sylvia, in Cambridge studying on a Fulbright scholarship, had been drinking all night: a lethal line of ‘red-gold’ Whisky Macs at a pub in town with her date for that night, Hamish Stewart. The potent combination of Scotch and ginger wine had left her feeling that she could almost walk through the air. In fact the alcohol had had the opposite effect; as she had been walking to the party she had found herself so inebriated that she had kept banging into trees.
On arrival at the Women’s Union – the venue in Falcon Yard chosen to celebrate the first issue of the slim literary journal the St Botolph’s Review –  Sylvia saw that the room was packed with young men in turtleneck sweaters and women in elegant black dresses. Counterpointing the jazz, the sound of poetry was in the air: great chunks of it being quoted back and forth like rallies in a game of literary dominance and seduction…


Mad Girl's Love Song by Andrew Wilson is published by Simon & Schuster.

Photo credit: The Lilly Library Indiana University.

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