I was reading up on Sylvia Plath’s life, so as to gain knowledge of her for the Leaving Cert poetry. She is always on the Irish curriculum and is very popular with students, from what I can gather. I was very perturbed to learn that she committed suicide, but was in for another shock upon discovering that her son also committed suicide in 2009. One tragedy begot another. It is so heartrendingly tragic and sad stuff to digest.
“Nicholas was born in North Tawton, Devon, England in 1962, the same year that Ted Hughes left Sylvia Plath for Assia Gutmann Wevill. After her son was born, Plath wrote most of the poems that would comprise her most famous collection of poems Ariel and published her semi-autobiographical novel about mental illness The Bell Jar. On February 11, 1963, while Nicholas and his sister slept in the next room, Plath placed towels around the kitchen door to make sure the fumes did not reach their cots, and committed suicide using the toxic gas from the kitchen oven.
Plath addressed one of her last poems, “Nick and the Candlestick” to her son:
O love, how did you get here?
In you, ruby.
You wake to is not yours.
After their mother’s death, Ted Hughes took over the care of his two children, and raised them with his second wife, Carol, on their farm in Devon after their marriage in 1970. Despite the posthumous fame of Sylvia Plath, and the growing literary and biographical writings about her death, Nicholas was not told about the circumstances of his mother’s suicide until the 1970s. It was not until 1998 that Hughes published Birthday Letters, over 30 years of poems about Plath, which he dedicated to his two children.
In the Poem “Life After Death” Hughes recounts how:
Your son’s eyes…. would become
So perfectly your eyes,
Became wet jewels
The hardest substance of the purest pain
As I fed him in his high white chair.
Goodness, gracious me! I’ve just this instant linked to the girlfriend of Ted Hughes R.I.P. to find that there was another suicide.
Assia Wevill (May 15, 1927 – March 23, 1969) was a German-born woman who escaped the Nazis, lived in British Palestine and later in Britain, and is best known for her relationship with the English poet Ted Hughes. She killed herself and also her four-year-old daughter Alexandra Tatiana Elise (Shura). Six years earlier, Hughes’s wife Sylvia Plath had also committed suicide. Wevill committed suicide in similar fashion to Plath, by use of a gas oven.
I’m not the better for reading these very painful stories, so will have to sign off for the time being. So, So, So, So horrendously sad.