2 July 2010

A Murder in Islington, a Suicide in Primrose Hill - Joe Orton and Sylvia Plath: Literary London #28

Flat 4, 25 Noel Road, Islington, was the home of the playwright Joe Orton and his partner Kenneth Halliwell from 1959 until their deaths in 1967. Their defacing of books from Islington libraries in the 1960s - such as by typing false blurbs on them - is well known, as is the fact that they spent six months in Wormwood Scrubs prison for these multiple offences. By the mid-sixties, Orton was becoming famous for such plays as Entertaining Mr Sloane (1964) and Loot (1966), although that fame was to be short-lived.

As their relationship deteriorated, violent incidents increased until Halliwell murdered Orton with a hammer before taking a fatal overdose of Nembutal pills.
A blue plaque on the wall of 23 Fitzroy Road, Primrose Hill, records that W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) lived here. Yeat was here from 1867 to 1872. There is no plaque to record that Sylvia Plath moved into the top part of the house toward the end of 1962, after separating from her husband Ted Hughes, who had left her for Assia Wevill.

In February 1963, Plath gassed herself in the house, and her suicide was followed by Wevill's in 1969, when she gassed herself and her child.

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