PLATH (SYLVIA) Two draft typescripts, in successive versions, of her poem "Go Get the Goodly Squab", Smith College, April 1953
Lot 170*
PLATH (SYLVIA)
Two draft typescripts, in successive versions, of her poem "Go Get the Goodly Squab", Smith College, April 1953; ʻSOLD TO HARPER'S – APRIL 1953' – SYLVIA PLATH RECEIVES HER ʻFIRST REAL PROFESSIONAL ACCEPTANCE' AS A POET.
Sold for £625 (US$ 787) inc. premium

Lot Details
PLATH (SYLVIA)
Two draft typescripts, in successive versions, of her poem "Go Get the Goodly Squab", comprising six quatrains beginning: "Go get the goodly squab in gold-lobed corn..."; the first heavily with her typed initials at the head and heavily marked up by her teacher in pencil; the second with autograph revisions to four lines in black ink and inscribed in pencilled capital letters at the head "Sold To Harper's – April 1953", with her typed name and Lawrence House, Smith College, address at the foot; note in pencil at foot of first typescript [?by Aurelia] "written under name of Sandra Peters p.15"; marked in pencil at top right-hand corner "83" and "1", 2 pages, folio, Smith College, April 1953

Footnotes

  • ʻSOLD TO HARPER'S – APRIL 1953' – SYLVIA PLATH RECEIVES HER ʻFIRST REAL PROFESSIONAL ACCEPTANCE' AS A POET. Although between 1950 and 1953 she had succeeded in having poems published in Seventeen and Mademoiselle, it was not until the acceptance of this poem and two others by Harper's Magazine that – in her own view – she made her breakthrough. She had complained in her diary on 9 April 1953, following the rejection of a piece by The New Yorker, that nothing seemed to be happening. The next day, however, she was able to report to her mother: ʻAlso wrote two poems this weekend which I'll send eventually: "Go Get the Goodly Squab in Goldlobed Corn"' (Letters Home, p.109). On 27 April she took to her diary again; this time in triumph: ʻListen and shut up, oh, ye of little faith... something did happen. Russell Lynes of Harper's bought 3 poems ("Doomsday", "Go Get the Goodly Squab" and "To Eva Descending the Stair") for $100. Signifying what? first real professional acceptance, God, and all the possibilities: to keep cracking open my mind and my vocabulary breaking myself into larger more magnanimous orbits of understanding' (Journals, p.179). Russell Lynes, the Editor, wrote to her that their delay was not down to the fact that they did not like her poetry, but rather because they could not make up their minds which one they liked best; so they decided to buy all three, which, he wrote ʻisn't just weak-mindedness on our part but real enthusiasm' (Andrew Wilson, Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted, 2013). Harper's published the ʻGoodly Squab' that November.

    Sylvia Plath's poetry instructor at Smith was the Joyce scholar Alfred Young Fisher (husband of the food writer M.F.K. Fisher). The first of our typescripts has been heavily marked up by her instructor in pencil and scored as "A-" at the head, with queries noted in the margins and summary below: "Fine work in sound. It still needs final polishing. Consider marginal comment. Your visual imagery is sharp". Against "nimble-finned mackerel" is written "Beat": in the next typescript this re-emerges as "quicksilver mackerel". Other comments have been ignored. The second typescript bears, as has been noted, the triumphant heading "Sold to Harper's – April 1953", plus four revisions written in black ink. The eighth line of the first typescript had read "Lest the lightning cleave you asunder"; this now reads "Lest the lightning split you asunder". In the final version it becomes ʻLest the lightning strike you to cinder'. The Lilly Library holds two typescript drafts and two carbons, one with the pseudonym Sandra Peters (Plath MSS. II, Box 7a, folder 12); the present typescripts derive from her mother's estate (Sotheby's, New York, 6 April 1982). The final version is among the fifty early works chosen for inclusion by Ted Hughes in her Collected Poems (1981), p.313.
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