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Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes Residence

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9 Willow Street
Boston, MA 02108 United States

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes reportedly met at a party in Cambridge, England. Plath, who had seen some success with her publications and had recently weathered her first suicide attempt, was at Cambridge on a Fulbright Fellowship. The afternoon before the party, she had come across a few of Hughes’ poems in an issue of the Saint Botolph’s Review and by evening could recite them. According to Plath’s diary, when he kissed her, she bit his cheek hard enough to draw blood. Two days later, Plath wrote the poem “Pursuit” as a tribute to Hughes. Ominously, it opens,

“There is a panther stalks me down:

One day I’ll have my death of him.”

They were married several months later.

Plath finished school in England, and the couple moved back to the states in 1957. Plath fueled Hughes’ career by typing his poems and sending them to journals and contests, eventually leading to the publication of his first collection, Hawk in the Rain. Plath was quickly offered a position at Smith College, her alma mater, and moved them to Northampton, where they met the poet WS Merwin, with whom they maintained a friendship. Seeing Hughes with a Smith undergraduate, Plath here first had the impression that he was unfaithful. This, taken with Plath’s anxiety about teaching and her struggle to find time for her own work, caused the couple the couple to move to 9 Willow Street, in Beacon Hill, the following summer.

Plath and Hughes did not stay in Boston long, however. The following year they traveled extensively, eventually relocating to England. There, Plath released her first book, The Colossus and Other Poems, and had her first child. She also began work on The Bell Jar, a fictionalized account of her editorship at Mademoiselle and her institutionalization; it later became one of her best-known works.

Plath entered a period of nearly manic productivity, writing and publishing widely. Her relationship with Hughes grew increasingly strained, however, as she suspected him of infidelity. Eventually the two separated, and Plath—now with two children—moved into a flat in London. On February 11th, 1963, at the age of 30, Plath sealed off the children’s room, laid her head in the oven, and turned on the gas, committing suicide. Because she was still legally married to Hughes at the time of her death, he became the executor of her estate and burned her final journal. More than thirty years later, he published the collection Birthday Letters, his first explicit discussion of their marriage and her suicide, and shortly after, in 1998.


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Did You Know?

Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.