The working drafts of Sylvia Plath's Sheep in Fog, her final poem before her death, will sell at Bonhams today (May 8) in Part III of the sale of Roy Davids' remarkable poetry collection.
The papers are valued at £30,000-35,000 (46,500-54,500). They are described by Bonhams as "arguably the most revealing and important set of poetic draughts ever", with her handwritten changes reflecting her fragile state of mind.
Plath completed her first draft of Sheep in Fog in December 1962, with the mood of the piece surprisingly positive considering the years she spent suffering from depression. However, it was then revised on 28 January 1963, with Plath adding a darker ending that reads:
To let me through to a heaven
Starless and fatherless, a dark water
She killed herself just two week later, on February 11, 1963.
Roy Davids is a noted critical authority and knew Plath's husband and fellow poet Ted Hughes for over 20 years. He commented:
"The description in her poem of the heaven towards she was being inexorably drawn as 'fatherless' strikes right to the very core of Sylvia Plath's being.
"When she was only eight years old, her father, Dr Otto Plath, a scientist, died, having failed to seek medical help for the gangrene in his leg. In her poems, Plath habitually interpreted this not only as him having committed suicide, but also as having deliberately abandoned her.
"The word 'fatherless' Sylvia introduced into Sheep in Fog on 28 January 1963 plumbed her depths far deeper than any other she could have chosen."
In the last sale of Roy Davids' collection, a handwritten Charlotte Bronte manuscript set a new auction record at $141,500. The last John Keats manuscript to come to the market also fared well, auctioning with a 303% increase on estimate.
Paul Fraser Collectibles also has some remarkable literary items for sale, such as this limited edition signed copy of Virginia Woolf's Orlando, or a signed extract from William Golding's Lord of the Flies.