Unseen Sylvia Plath letters claim domestic abuse by Ted Hughes

Unpublished correspondence from the poet to her former therapist records accusation of beating and says that he told her he wished she was dead

Sylvia Plath alleged Ted Hughes beat her two days before she miscarried their second child and that Hughes wanted her dead, unpublished letters reveal. The two accusations are among explosive asserts in unseen correspondence written in the bitter aftermath of one of literatures most famous and destructive marriages.

Written between 18 February 1960 and 4 February 1963, a week before her death, the letters encompass a period in Plaths life that has remained elusive to readers and intellectuals alike. While the American novelist, who was living in England during that time, was a prolific letter writer and had kept detailed publications since the age of 11, after her demise Hughes said his wifes journals from this time were lost, including the last volume, which he said he destroyed to protect their children, Frieda and Nicholas.

Sent to Dr Ruth Barnhouse the model for Dr Nolan in Plaths autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, who treated the writer in the US after her first documented attempt to kill herself in August 1953 the correspondence is understood to be one of Plaths only surviving uncensored accounts of her last months, in which she made some of her most well known verse, including the collection Ariel.

Sylvia Plath and Hughes on their honeymoon, in Paris 1956. Photograph: Everett Collection/ Alamy Stock Photo

Nine letters written after Plath discovered her husbands infidelity with their friend Assia Wevill in July 1962, form the core of the collecting. The letters are part of an repository amassed by feminist scholar Harriet Rosenstein seven years after the poets demise, as research for an unfinished biography. Also included in the collection are medical records from 1954, correspondence with Plaths friends and interviews with Barnhouse about her therapy conferences with the poet. The archive came to light after an antiquarian bookseller put it up for sale for $875,000( 695,000 ).

Plaths treatment with Barnhouse aimed when the poet endeavoured to England but the two shared a close friendship, which has long been of interest to scholars because of their affection for one another. The correspondence uncovers a warm and open intimacy, as well as a shared sense of humour.

But as well as exposing her ache at the discovery of Hughess adultery, the most shocking passageways disclose Plaths accusation of physical abuse shortly before miscarrying their second child in 1961, in a letter dated 22 September 1962 the same month the poets separated. Several of Plaths poems address her miscarriage, such as Parliament Hill Fields: Already your doll grip lets go.

The extent of their estrangement during this period is revealed in another letter in the collecting, dated 21 October 1962, in which Plath claimed to Barnhouse that Hughes told her immediately that he wished she was dead. Though Plath had a history of depression and self-harm, and had attempted to kill herself in 1953, she didnt disclose the full extent of her conflicts with mental health to Hughes until some time after their marriage.

The unseen letters were written at a time when Plath was troubled by her mental state, during the disintegration of one of the most famous literary romances of the 20 th century. Yorkshire-born Hughes had met Plath, a Fulbright scholar, while the latter are students at Cambridge University in 1956. Hughes was already an established poet and she had gone to a party on 25 February of that year with the express desire to meet him. Within four months they had marriage and the two quickly formed a formidable and mutually beneficial creative partnership that resulted in Hughess breakthrough Hawk in the Rain collection and Plaths semi-autobiographical fiction The Bell Jar.

Hughes Hughes and Plath in Massachusetts, 1959. Photograph: Alamy

Public fascination with their relationship has endured, in part because of how their creative output depicted on their life experiences. During October 1962, Plath wrote the majority of the poems that would be included in Ariel published posthumously in 1965 which include many references and iconography often interpreted as being about Hughes. These include the lines in Daddy: I made a model of you,/ A human in black with a Meinkampf look/ And a love of the rack and the fucking. Plath wrote to her mom during this period: I am writing the best poems of my life. They will build my name.

Reflecting on their relationship decades later in Birthday Letters, his 1998 collection about his time with Plath and the aftermath of her demise, Hughes recalled their stormy liaison. The book was his final riposte to the feminist critics who, in the 70 s, spoke out against Hughes over his therapy of Plath. During that time, he was interrupted with screams of murderer at his readings; American feminist Robin Morgan published the poem The Arraignment, which began with the line I accuse/ Ted Hughes. Plath was buried in a grave that read Sylvia Plath Hughes, at Hughess insistence. It was targeted by vandals who removed his name.

In his 1998 collecting Howls and Whispers, Hughes quoted one of Barnhouses replies to Plath in September 1962, in the title lyric: And from your analyst: Keep him out of your bed. Above all, keep him out of your bed. In 2010, Hughess apparent final word on the turbulent relationship was published in the form of his lyric Last Letter , which described what happened in the three days before his wife died.

Plath intellectuals hailed the letters and archive as a remarkable source of new information about Plath, whose collected letters are soon to be published by Faber, with the first of two volumes due out on 5 October. Co-editor Peter K Steinberg said: Its an amazing collect of material that has been entirely off the radar.

Describing the letters, which he has not yet find, as tantalising, he added that he expected them to expose details that would otherwise be unknown in the is a lack of her journals and other letters. He hoped it would be possible to include the newly discovered material in volume two. Citing the sensational verse Plath wrote in October 1962, including The Detective, the Bee poems, and Ariel, he said: It is possible that Plath observed catharsis in writing out to Dr Barnhouse; and that in doing so it freed her to write those explosive, lasting poems.

Andrew Wilson, writer of Mad Girls Love Song, about Plaths life before she gratified Hughes, said the interviews with Barnhouse would provide an invaluable insight into the origins of her battle with depression and were the missing link in her biography and literary history. These letters appear as though they could fill certain gaps in our knowledge, and seem as though they can shed new light on the turbulent, controversial matrimony between Plath and Hughes, he said.

The archive first came to the attention of Plath scholars after a rare volumes seller advertised it online for sale on behalf of the members of Rosenstein, with the collect also featured as part of the New York antiquarian volume fair in March. However, the letters may not see the light of day for quite some time. Smith College, Plaths alma mater, filed a suit on 12 March claiming the letters were part of the Barnhouse estate that was bequeathed to it after her death. Rosenstein preserves she was given the letters 47 years ago by Barnhouse. Until the lawsuit is settled, the letters have been taken off the market.

Such articles was updated on 12 April 2017 to add a statement from the Ted Hughes estate on behalf of Carol Hughes, the poets widow: The claims allegedly made by Sylvia Plath in unpublished letters to her former psychiatrist, suggesting that she was beaten by her husband, Ted Hughes, days before she miscarried their second child are as absurd as they are shocking to anyone who knew Ted well.