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Anne Stevenson, Poet and Plath Biographer, Is Dead at 87


In the British newspaper The Independent, Ronald Hayman was even harsher, calling “Bitter Fame” a “vindictive book” that sought not only to blame Ms. Plath for the failed marriage but also “to undermine her poetic achievement by representing her verse as negative, sick, death-oriented, and comparing it unfavorably with his.”

Credit…Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

But where some critics saw slanted scholarship, others found new insights.

“A poet herself, Ms. Stevenson not only writes intelligently and sympathetically about Plath’s verse,” Michiko Kakutani wrote in The Times, “but she also locates the work within the emotional matrix of the poet’s life.”

Anne Katharine Stevenson was born on Jan. 3, 1933, in Cambridge, England, to American parents, Charles and Louise Destler Stevenson. Her father was studying philosophy at Cambridge University and soon brought the family back to the United States, where he taught at Harvard, Yale and, for 31 years, the University of Michigan.

Ms. Stevenson enrolled at that university to study the cello but switched to literature, graduating in 1954. A brief marriage to an Englishman, Robin Hitchcock, took her back to England, but after their divorce she returned to graduate school at the University of Michigan, where she earned a master’s degree in English in 1961.

Her marriage to another Englishman, Mark Elvin, in 1963 took her back to England, where she lived for most of the rest of her life. That marriage, too, ended in divorce, as did a brief one in the late 1970s to Michael Farley. In 1987 she married Peter Lucas, an authority on Charles Darwin, who survives her, as do three children from her earlier marriages, Caroline, John and Charles, and six grandchildren.

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