“THE RAW EXPERIENCE OF NIGHTMARE”
PLATH, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harper & Row, (1971). Octavo, original half burgundy cloth, original dust jacket. $2000.
First American edition of this frightening exploration of a brilliant yet fragile mind—the first edition to include illustrations by Plath.
Published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" in England one month before Plath's suicide in 1963, The Bell Jar is a fiercely frank, highly autobiographical account of a young, beautiful, and successful woman's self-destruction and descent into suicidal depression. With her "taut, controlled, colloquial yet poetic prose" Plath, in her only novel, has forever recorded "the raw experience of nightmare" (Drabble; Rosenthal). Plath reportedly had never wanted this novel to appear in the United States; many of its characters were unflattering, thinly veiled renditions of her family, friends and acquaintances. It is largely based on Plath's own experiences while she was a "guest editor" at Madamoiselle in 1953. Plath's mother, portrayed unsympathetically in the novel, succeeded in blocking American publication for eight years. The Bell Jar was first published under Plath's own name in England in a paperback edition released in 1967. With a biographical note written by Lois Ames and eight previously unpublished pen-and-ink drawings by Plath.