Sunday, June 17, 2007
Lover of Unreason
This little girl, Shura, died at age 4 when her mother, Assia Wevill, gassed herself. Assia Wevill decided that no one would want her daughter after she was gone, and so it was best to kill her, too. (An astrological chart reading at the request of father Ted Hughes at the girl's birth showed her a Pisces sun, Pisces moon, Libra rising...The astrologer wrote "a real crucifixion...I really don't feel this chart is very promising." With a double Pisces, I do agree.)
Thirty-five years after Sylvia Plath's death, Ted Hughes wrote that Plath had "character." Plath was his first wife, the mother of his first two children, Frieda and Nicholas. When she killed HERself, she made sure that her babies' rooms were sealed off from the gas fumes. Though I doubt that Hughes's comment had anything to do with either woman's suicidal MO.
Assia Wevill had no character. After reading "Lover of Unreason," I learned more about her background, but got no more favorable impression of her than I first had. I'd thought she was a woman who used her looks to get men, and that's exactly the same impression I came away with. She'd been married 4 times, and, funnily, two of her husbands said, "She was very loyal: To me and [insert name here]"---meaning she'd been fucking some other guy while still married, but that the husbands' egos couldn't quite accept the cheesiness of their situations.
Hughes, to his down-to-earth Yorkshire-man credit, never married Assia Wevill, only lived with her on occasion, and didn't like to have her around his parents.
I absolutely deplore the fact that Hughes once made a list of "to do" things for Assia: "Be up by 8 a.m. and don't walk around in a housecoat; don't pretend to be English (she was of German/Russian/Jewish descent); learn one new recipe a week; play with the children for one hour a day; be nice to my friends, even if you don't like them"... I also deplore the fact that Wevill put up with such a list (and had to have such a list made for her). In contrast with Plath: who was up at the crack of dawn, cooked assiduously, took care of her kids for half the work-day then insisted that Hughes take over for the other half while she herself worked, and completely froze out Hughes' obnoxious friends when they got on her nerves. Bitchy, perhaps, but also: Having-character versus not-having-character. And Hughes remembered Plath to his grave, his "Birthday Letters" honorarium to her published only months before his death (on October 28 in London; Plath's Boston birthdate was October 27).
I dislike Assia Wevill because she was a serial fuck who attempted to become tragic by clinging onto Ted Hughes for years. Plath killed herself, and so Assia assumed that she, after only a few months of fucking, was destined to be Hughes' wife... The tragedy and guilt of Plath's death bound Wevill to him for 6 years, but it's extremely telling that he would only live with her for brief periods before repeatedly separating. (Note to neophytes: When someone is in love with you, they want to live with you on a full-time basis.)
I also dislike Wevill because she assumed, in all of her own misery, that her 4-year-old daughter Shura should die when she did. Her claims that Shura would be an orphan without her were pathologically false. Shura wouldn't have been an orphan. Either her father, Ted Hughes, would have taken her in, or her grandfather or aunt in Canada, or David Wevill (Assia's husband at the time of Shura's birth), who'd taken care of Shura as a baby and loved her...
But, as Assia wrote in her will a year before killing herself, "To Ted Hughes I leave my no doubt welcome absence and my bitter contempt."
Assia was 42 when she killed herself, and her will written a year earlier, but her words above sound like those of a 20-year-old caught up in the heat/height of a high-school emotional drama, except with much larger consequences.