News & Opinion | October 24, 2018 10:30 am

Doctor’s Letters with Sylvia Plath Shed Light on Troubled Author

Ruth Barnhouse was the inspiration for Sylvia Plath's "Bell Jar" shrink.

Sylvia Plath
Letters between Sylvia Plath and her psychologist will be revealed in a new collection of documents from her life.
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After renowned writer Sylvia Plath first attempted suicide in 1953, she met Ruth Barnhouse, a psychologist who gained Plath’s trust and tried to save her life.

Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, depicted Barnhouse as Doctor Nolan, a psychologist tasked with treating Plath’s stand-in, Esther Greenwood.

After Plath moved from Boston — where Barnhouse was treating her — to London with her alleged abusive husband, the poet Ted Hughes, the two women corresponded through letters. Only 14 of those back-and-forth messages survived thanks to Harriet Rosenstein, who Barnhouse entrusted them to when Rosenstein began writing a Plath biography seven years after the writer’s suicide.

Those letters will now be shared with the public through The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume 2, published by Ken Lopez, who came into ownership of The Harriet Rosenstein Sylvia Plath Archive.

The letters are “the only surviving documents from Plath’s time in England in which she discusses candidly her own life from her own point of view,” Lopez said, according to Lit Hub.