THE COMPLETE WORKING PAPERS FOR THE FIRST VERSION OF TED HUGHES'S ESSAY ABOUT SYLVIA PLATH'S POEM, 'THE EVOLUTION OF SHEEP IN FOG,' comprising the autograph manuscript, revised typescript written in the form of a typed and autograph letter signed ('Ted') to Roy Davids as notes for a lecture, with autograph revisions and comments (' This is very hugger mugger - but it covers, with a specific example, the points we talked about at the weekend'; 'Puppet lecturer begins to speak'; 'I thought I was being brief'; 'if you manage to get over the main drift of this, it would be a good vindication of the craze to collect manuscripts. Unless it proved to be aversion therapy. I've a fear it might'), revised and unrevised photocopies (with suggestions by Roy Davids for changes in light of an unrealised publishing project, and Ted Hughes's own extensive comments and revisions including two pages of new text), typescripts at various stages, drafts of Roy Davids's intended foreword; with typescripts on some versos of Hughes's poem 'On the Reservation' and drafts for a foreword by Hughes to a projected collection of poems celebrating the opening of Sam Wanamaker's Globe Theatre, some 60 pages in Ted Hughes's handwriting or typescript pages annotated by him (including two pages relating to his foreword), plus drafts of Roy Davids's foreword, and various photocopies, loose, [Court Green, North Tawton], 25 February 1988
In the version printed in Winter Pollen, 1994, Ted Hughes supplied the following headnote to the final version: 'Written for Roy Davids, of Sotheby's Manuscripts Department, to be given as an illustrated lecture to the Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere, on 25 February 1988.''
To The Epic Poise, Roy Davids, as 'The Onlie Begetter', contributed a short piece about this essay: "'I'll try to send you something you may be able to use."' This throwaway remark by Ted Hughes concluded a discussion I had opened about poetical drafts during one of our summer afternoon drives through the Devon lanes. I had hoped at most for a few scraps that I might use in a lecture I was preparing for the forthcoming book collectors' weekend at Dove Cottage. Instead Ted hijacked the whole idea, made it entirely his own, and in less than a week produced this major, sparklingly written, critical essay, leaving me in (I must admit) the not unenviable role of attendant lord at the conception of a remarkable tour de force.'
It seemed true then, and seems so still, to be one of the best pieces Ted Hughes ever wrote on Plath's work and genius and also the best commentary on the nature and significance of drafts. 'No one else has written so eloquently or so perceptively on the importance of drafts, and why rather than being discarded they command respect as more that the "incidental adjunct to the poem [indeed] they are a complementary revelation, and a log-book of its real meanings. [Here, also,] they have revealed the nature and scope of the psychological crisis that gives the poem its weird life, sonority, its power to affect us. In other words, they are, as the final poem is not, an open window into the poet's motivation and struggle at a moment of decisive psychological change.." Ted's essay, is, moreover, one of the most penetrating exposures of the poetic impulse and the processes by which poems come or are dragged into being...Lastly, the essay is a wonderful demonstration of Ted's own genius and vision, the subtlety of his responses, the depth of his understanding, the generosity of his sympathies and of the thrill and powerful richness of his prose.'
Close study of these drafts and the final versions here will reveal differences between all of them, for instance in the autograph draft the passage: 'This fascinating process which tells us about Plath's inspiration, about her inner world, about her poetic struggle, & about the great wealth of experience behind the odd images...', became in his typed version dated 25 February 'The drafts show what a struggle she put up, with her practised technique. Finally she allowed it to go in like a police force, imposing those last three lines, to produce a state of affairs that suited her conscious wishes, and established order, even though it was to last only two months...' In the final version this passage reads: The drafts show what a struggle she put up, with her tried and tested technique. Finally, when the unwanted newcomer had almost taken over, she allowed the Ariel squad to go in as a police force, imposing the three final lines -- like martial law.'
See following lot.
PROVENANCE: Ted Hughes.
REFERENCES: Ted Hughes, Winter Pollen, 1994; Roy Davids, 'Ted Hughes's "Sylvia Plath: The Evolution of 'Sheep in Fog'" - The Onlie Begetter,' The Epic Poise: A Celebration of Ted Hughes, edited by Nick Gammage, 1999.