Ted Hughes

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Ted Hughes
Hughes in later life
Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom
In office
28 December 1984 – 28 October 1998
MonarchElizabeth II
Preceded byJohn Betjeman
Succeeded byAndrew Motion
Personal details
Born(1930-08-17)17 August 1930
Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire, England
Died28 October 1998(1998-10-28) (aged 68)
London, England
  • (m. 1956; died 1963)
  • Carol Orchard
    (m. 1970)
Domestic partner(s)Assia Wevill
Alma materPembroke College, Cambridge
OccupationPoet, playwright, writer

Edward James Hughes OM OBE FRSL (17 August 1930 – 28 October 1998)[1] was an English poet, translator, and children's writer. Critics frequently rank him as one of the best poets of his generation and one of the twentieth century's greatest writers. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1984 and held the office until his death. In 2008 The Times ranked Hughes fourth on its list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".[2]

Hughes was married to American poet Sylvia Plath from 1956 until her death by suicide in 1963 at the age of 30.[3] His last poetic work, Birthday Letters (1998), explored their relationship.


Early life[edit]

Hughes's birthplace in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire

Hughes was born at 1 Aspinall Street, in Mytholmroyd in the West Riding of Yorkshire, to William Henry (1894–1981) and Edith (née Farrar) Hughes (1898–1969),[4] and raised among the local farms of the Calder Valley and on the Pennine moorland. Hughes's sister Olwyn Marguerite Hughes (1928–2016) was two years older and his brother Gerald (1920–2016)[5] was ten years older.[6] One of his mother's ancestors had founded the Little Gidding community.[7]

Most of the more recent generations of his family had worked in the clothing and milling industries in the area. Hughes's father, William, a joiner, was of Irish descent[8][9] and had enlisted with the Lancashire Fusiliers in the First World War and fought at Ypres. He narrowly escaped being killed when a bullet lodged in a pay book in his breast pocket.[7] He was one of just 17 men of his regiment to return from the Dardanelles Campaign (1915–16).[10] The stories of Flanders fields filled Hughes's childhood imagination (later described in the poem "Out").[11] Hughes noted, "my first six years shaped everything".[12]

Hughes loved hunting and fishing, swimming, and picnicking with his family. He attended the Burnley Road School until he was seven before his family moved to Mexborough, then attending Schofield Street junior school.[7] His parents ran a newsagent's and tobacconist's shop.[6] In Poetry in Making he recalled that he was fascinated by animals, collecting, and drawing toy lead creatures. He acted as retriever when his elder brother gamekeeper shot magpies, owls, rats and curlews, growing up surrounded by the harsh realities of working farms in the valleys and on the moors.[11] During his time in Mexborough, he explored Manor Farm at Old Denaby, which he said he would come to know "better than any place on earth". His earliest poem "The Thought Fox", and earliest story "The Rain Horse" were recollections of the area. A close friend at the time, John Wholly, took Hughes to the Crookhill estate above Conisbrough where the boys spent great swathes of time. Hughes became close to the family and learnt a lot about wildlife from Wholly's father, a gamekeeper. He came to view fishing as an almost religious experience.[7]

Hughes attended Mexborough Grammar School, where a succession of teachers encouraged him to write, and develop his interest in poetry. Teachers Miss McLeod and Pauline Mayne introduced him to the poets Gerard Manley Hopkins and T.S. Eliot. Hughes was mentored by his sister Olwyn, who was well versed in poetry, and another teacher, John Fisher.[7][13] Poet Harold Massingham also attended this school and was also mentored by Fisher. In 1946, one of Hughes's early poems, "Wild West", and a short story were published in the grammar school magazine The Don and Dearne, followed by further poems in 1948.[6] By 16, he had no other thought than being a poet.[7]

During the same year, Hughes won an open exhibition in English at Pembroke College, Cambridge, but chose to do his national service first.[14] His two years of national service (1949–51) passed comparatively easily. Hughes was stationed as a ground wireless mechanic in the RAF on an isolated three-man station in east Yorkshire, a time during which he had nothing to do but "read and reread Shakespeare and watch the grass grow".[6] He learnt many of the plays by heart and memorised great quantities of W. B. Yeats's poetry.[7]


In 1951 Hughes initially studied English at Pembroke College under M. J. C. Hodgart, an authority on balladic forms. Hughes felt encouraged and supported by Hodgart's supervision, but attended few lectures and wrote no more poetry at this time, feeling stifled by literary academia and the "terrible, suffocating, maternal octopus" of literary tradition.[7][15] He wrote, "I might say, that I had as much talent for Leavis-style dismantling of texts as anyone else, I even had a special bent for it, nearly a sadistic streak there, but it seemed to me not only a foolish game, but deeply destructive of myself."[7] In his third year, he transferred to Anthropology and Archaeology, both of which would later inform his poetry.[16] He did not excel as a scholar, receiving only a third-class grade in Part I of the Anthropology and Archaeology Tripos in 1954.[17][18] His first published poetry appeared in Chequer.[17] A poem, "The little boys and the seasons", written during this time, was published in Granta, under the pseudonym Daniel Hearing.[19]

After university, living in London and Cambridge, Hughes went on to have many varied jobs including working as a rose gardener, a nightwatchman and a reader for the British film company J. Arthur Rank. He worked at London Zoo as a washer-upper,[20] a post that offered plentiful opportunities to observe animals at close quarters.[17] On 25 February 1956,[21] Hughes and his friends held a party to launch St. Botolph's Review, which had a single issue. In it, Hughes had four poems. At the party, he met the American poet Sylvia Plath, who was studying at Cambridge on a Fulbright Scholarship.[22] She had already published extensively, having won various awards, and had come especially to meet Hughes and his fellow poet Lucas Myers. There was a great mutual attraction but they did not meet again for another month, when Plath was passing through London on her way to Paris. She visited him again on her return three weeks later.[citation needed]

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox's nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

The last four stanzas of "The Thought Fox"
from The Hawk in the Rain, 1957[23]

Hughes and Plath dated and then were married at St George the Martyr, Holborn, on 16 June 1956, four months after they had first met. The date, Bloomsday, was purposely chosen in honour of James Joyce.[7] Plath's mother was the only wedding guest and she accompanied them on their honeymoon to Benidorm on the Spanish coast.[24] Hughes's biographers note that Plath did not relate her history of depression and suicide attempts to him until much later.[7] Reflecting later in Birthday Letters, Hughes commented that early on he could see chasms of difference between himself and Plath, but that in the first years of their marriage they both felt happy and supported, avidly pursuing their writing careers.[24]

On returning to Cambridge, they lived at 55 Eltisley Avenue. That year they each had poems published in The Nation, Poetry and The Atlantic.[25] Plath typed up Hughes's manuscript for his collection Hawk in the Rain which went on to win a poetry competition run by the Poetry centre of the Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association of New York.[24] The first prize was publication by Harper, garnering Hughes widespread critical acclaim with the book's release in September 1957, and resulting in him winning a Somerset Maugham Award. The work favoured hard-hitting trochees and spondees reminiscent of Middle English – a style he used throughout his career – over the more genteel latinate sounds.[7]

The couple moved to America so that Plath could take a teaching position at her alma mater, Smith College; during this time, Hughes taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 1958, they met Leonard Baskin, who would later illustrate many of Hughes's books, including Crow.[24] The couple returned to England, staying for a short while back in Heptonstall and then finding a small flat in Primrose Hill, London. They were both writing, Hughes working on programmes for the BBC as well as producing essays, articles, reviews, and talks.[26] During this time, he wrote the poems that would be published in Wodwo (1967) and Recklings (1966). In March 1960, Lupercal came out and won the Hawthornden Prize. He found he was being labelled as the poet of the wild, writing only about animals.[7] He began to seriously explore myth and esoteric practices including shamanism, alchemy and Buddhism with The Tibetan Book of the Dead being a particular focus in the early 1960s.[27] He believed that imagination could heal dualistic splits in the human psyche and poetry was the language of that work.[7]

Hughes and Plath had two children, Frieda Hughes (b. 1960) and Nicholas Hughes (1962–2009) and, in 1961, bought the house Court Green, in North Tawton, Devon. In the summer of 1962, Hughes began an affair with Assia Wevill who had been subletting the Primrose Hill flat with her husband. Under the cloud of his affair, Hughes and Plath separated in the autumn of 1962 and she set up life in a new flat with the children.[28][29]

Letters written by Plath between 18 February 1960 and 4 February 1963, unseen until 2017, accuse Hughes of physically abusing her only days before she miscarried their second child in 1961.[30]

Death of Sylvia Plath[edit]

Beset by depression made worse by her husband's affair and with a history of suicide attempts, Plath took her own life on 11 February 1963.[31] Hughes dramatically wrote in a letter to an old friend of Plath's from Smith College, "That's the end of my life. The rest is posthumous."[32][33] Some people argued that Hughes had driven Plath to suicide.[34][35][36] Plath's gravestone in Heptonstall was repeatedly vandalized by those aggrieved that "Hughes" is written on the stone and attempted to chisel it off, leaving only the name "Sylvia Plath".[35] Plath's poem "The Jailer", in which the speaker condemns her husband's brutality, was included in the 1970 anthology Sisterhood Is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the Women's Liberation Movement.[37] Poet Robin Morgan published the poem "Arraignment", in which she openly accused Hughes of the battery and murder of Plath.[35][38] There were lawsuits, Morgan's 1972 book Monster which contained that poem was banned, and underground, pirated editions of it were published.[39] Other radical feminists threatened to kill Hughes in Plath's name.[40] In 1989, with Hughes under public attack, a battle raged in the letters pages of The Guardian and The Independent. In The Guardian on 20 April 1989, Hughes wrote the article "The Place Where Sylvia Plath Should Rest in Peace":

In the years soon after [Plath's] death, when scholars approached me, I tried to take their apparently serious concern for the truth about Sylvia Plath seriously. But I learned my lesson early... If I tried too hard to tell them exactly how something happened, in the hope of correcting some fantasy, I was quite likely to be accused of trying to suppress Free Speech. In general, my refusal to have anything to do with the Plath Fantasia has been regarded as an attempt to suppress Free Speech... The Fantasia about Sylvia Plath is more needed than the facts. Where that leaves respect for the truth of her life (and of mine), or for her memory, or for the literary tradition, I do not know.[35][41]

As Plath's widower, Hughes became the executor of Plath's personal and literary estates. He oversaw the publication of her manuscripts, including Ariel (1965). Some critics were dissatisfied by his choice of poem order and omissions in the book[31] and some critics of Hughes argued that he had essentially driven her to suicide and therefore should not be responsible for her literary legacy.[31] He claimed to have destroyed the final volume of Plath's journal, detailing their last few months together. In his foreword to The Journals of Sylvia Plath, he defends his actions as a consideration for the couple's young children.

Following Plath's suicide, he wrote two poems "The Howling of Wolves" and "Song of a Rat" and then did not write poetry again for three years. He broadcast extensively, wrote critical essays and became involved in running Poetry International with Patrick Garland and Charles Osborne in the hopes of connecting English poetry with the rest of the world. In 1966, he wrote poems to accompany Leonard Baskin's illustrations of crows, which became the epic narrative The Life and Songs of the Crow, one of the works for which Hughes is best known.[7] In 1967, while living with Wevill, Hughes produced two sculptures of a jaguar, one of which he gave to his brother and one to his sister; Gerald Hughes' sculpture, branded with the letter 'A' on its forehead, was offered for sale in 2012.[42]

On 23 March 1969, six years after Plath's suicide by asphyxiation from a gas stove, Assia Wevill died by suicide in the same way. Wevill also killed her child, Alexandra Tatiana Elise (nicknamed Shura), the four-year-old daughter of Hughes, born on 3 March 1965. Their deaths led to claims that Hughes had been abusive to both Plath and Wevill.[43][44][45] Hughes did not finish the Crow sequence until the work Cave Birds was published in 1975.[7]


The Ted Hughes Arvon Centre, Lumb Bank – an 18th-century mill-owner's house, once Hughes's home

In August 1970, Hughes married Carol Orchard, a nurse, and they remained together until his death. He bought the house Lumb Bank near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, and maintained the property at Court Green. He began cultivating a small farm near Winkleigh, Devon called Moortown, a name which became embedded in the title of one of his poetry collections. He later became President of the charity Farms for City Children, established by his friend Michael Morpurgo in Iddesleigh.[46] In October 1970, Crow was published.

In 1970, he and his sister, Olwyn (26 August 1928 – 3 January 2016),[47] set up the Rainbow Press, which published sixteen titles between 1971 and 1981, comprising poems by Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Ruth Fainlight, Thom Gunn, and Seamus Heaney, printed by Daedalus Press, Rampant Lions Press and the John Roberts Press.

Hughes was appointed Poet Laureate in December 1984, following Sir John Betjeman. A collection of animal poems for children had been published by Faber earlier that year, What is the Truth?, illustrated by R. J. Lloyd. For that work he won the annual Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime book award.[48] Hughes wrote many works for children and collaborated closely with Peter Brook and the National Theatre Company.[49] He dedicated himself to the Arvon Foundation which promotes writing education and runs residential writing courses at Hughes's home at Lumb Bank, West Yorkshire.[49] In 1993, he made a rare television appearance for Channel 4, which included him reading passages from his 1968 novel The Iron Man. He also featured in the 1994 documentary Seven Crows A Secret.[50]

In early 1994, Hughes became increasingly alarmed by the decline of fish in rivers local to his Devonshire home. This concern inspired him to become one of the original trustees of the Westcountry Rivers Trust, a charity set up to restore rivers through catchment-scale management and a close relationship with local landowners and riparian owners.[51]

Lumb Bank in the Calder Valley

Hughes was appointed a member of the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II just before he died. He continued to live at the house in Devon, until suffering a fatal heart attack on 28 October 1998 while undergoing hospital treatment for colon cancer in Southwark, London. His funeral was held on 3 November 1998, at North Tawton church, and he was cremated in Exeter. Speaking at the funeral, fellow poet Seamus Heaney, said: "No death outside my immediate family has left me feeling more bereft. No death in my lifetime has hurt poets more. He was a tower of tenderness and strength, a great arch under which the least of poetry's children could enter and feel secure. His creative powers were, as Shakespeare said, still crescent. By his death, the veil of poetry is rent and the walls of learning broken."[52]

Nicholas Hughes, the son of Hughes and Plath, committed suicide in his home in Alaska on 16 March 2009 after suffering from depression.[53]

Carol Hughes announced in January 2013 that she would write a memoir of their marriage. The Times headlined its story "Hughes's widow breaks silence to defend his name" and observed that "for more than 40 years she has kept her silence, never once joining in the furious debate that has raged around the late Poet Laureate since the suicide of his first wife, the poet Sylvia Plath."[54]

A memoir by Hughes's brother Gerald was published late in 2014, Ted and I: A Brother's Memoir, which Kirkus Reviews calls "a warm recollection of a lauded poet".[55]


Crow Blacker Than Ever

When God, disgusted with man,
Turned towards heaven,
And man, disgusted with God,
Turned towards Eve,
Things looked like falling apart.

But Crow Crow
Crow nailed them together,
Nailing heaven and earth together-

So man cried, but with God's voice.
And God bled, but with man's blood.

Then heaven and earth creaked at the joint
Which became gangrenous and stank-
A horror beyond redemption.
The agony did not diminish.
Man could not be man nor God God.

The agony


Crying: "This is my Creation,"

Flying the black flag of himself.

"Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow, 1970[56]

Homage to Ted Hughes by Reginald Gray (2004), Bankfield Museum, Halifax

Hughes's first collection, The Hawk in the Rain (1957), attracted considerable critical acclaim. In 1959 he won the Galbraith prize, which brought $5,000. His most significant work is perhaps Crow (1970), which whilst it has been widely praised also divided critics, combining an apocalyptic, bitter, cynical and surreal view of the universe with what sometimes appeared simple, childlike verse. Crow was edited several times across Hughes' career. Within its opus he created a cosmology of the totemic Crow who was simultaneously God, Nature and Hughes' alter ego. The publication of Crow shaped Hughes' poetic career as distinct from other forms of English Nature Poetry.

In a 1971 interview with The London Magazine, Hughes cited his main influences as including Blake, Donne, Hopkins, and Eliot. He mentioned also Schopenhauer, Robert Graves's book The White Goddess, and The Tibetan Book of the Dead.[57]

Hughes worked for 10 years on a prose poem, "Gaudete", which he hoped to have made into a film. It tells the story of the vicar of an English village who is carried off by elemental spirits, and replaced in the village by his enantiodromic double, a changeling, fashioned from a log, who nevertheless has the same memories as the original vicar. The double is a force of nature who organises the women of the village into a "love coven" in order that he may father a new messiah. When the male members of the community discover what is going on, they murder him. The epilogue consists of a series of lyrics spoken by the restored priest in praise of a nature goddess, inspired by Robert Graves's White Goddess. It was printed in 1977. Hughes was very interested in the relationship between his poetry and the book arts, and many of his books were produced by notable presses and in collaborative editions with artists, for instance with Leonard Baskin.[58]

In addition to his own poetry, Hughes wrote a number of translations of European plays, mainly classical ones. His Tales from Ovid (1997) contains a selection of free verse translations from Ovid's Metamorphoses. He also wrote both poetry and prose for children, one of his most successful books being The Iron Man, written to comfort his children after their mother Sylvia Plath's suicide. It later became the basis of Pete Townshend's 1989 rock opera of the same name, and of the 1999 animated film The Iron Giant, the latter of which is dedicated to his memory.

Hughes was appointed Poet Laureate in 1984 following the death of John Betjeman. It was later known that Hughes was second choice for the appointment. Philip Larkin, the preferred nominee, had declined, because of ill health and a loss of creative momentum, dying a year later. Hughes served in this position until his death in 1998. In 1992 Hughes published Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being, a monumental work inspired by Graves's The White Goddess.[59] The book, considered Hughes's key work of prose, had a mixed reception "divided between those who considered it an important and original appreciation of Shakespeare's complete works, whilst others dismissed it as a lengthy and idiosyncratic appreciation of Shakespeare refracted by Hughes's personal belief system". Hughes himself later suggested that the time spent writing prose was directly responsible for a decline in his health.[60] Also in 1992, Hughes published Rain Charm for the Duchy, collecting together for the first time his Laureate works, including poems celebrating important royal occasions. The book also contained a section of notes throwing light on the context and genesis of each poem.[61]

In 1998, his Tales from Ovid won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. In Birthday Letters, his last collection, Hughes broke his silence on Plath, detailing aspects of their life together and his own behaviour at the time. The book, the cover artwork for which was by their daughter Frieda, won the 1999 Whitbread Prize for poetry.[62]

Hughes's definitive 1,333-page Collected Poems (Faber & Faber) appeared (posthumously) in 2003. A poem discovered in October 2010, "Last letter", describes what happened during the three days leading up to Plath's suicide.[63] It was published in New Statesman on National Poetry Day, October 2010. Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy told Channel 4 News that the poem was "the darkest poem he has ever written" and said that for her it was "almost unbearable to read".[64]

In 2011, several previously unpublished letters from Hughes to Craig Raine were published in the literary review Areté.[65] They relate mainly to the process of editing Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being, and also contain a sequence of drafts of letters in which Raine attempts to explain to Hughes his disinclination to publish Hughes's poem The Cast in an anthology he was editing, on the grounds that it might open Hughes to further attack on the subject of Sylvia Plath. "Dear Ted, Thanks for the poem. It is very interesting and would cause a minor sensation" (4 April 1997). The poem was eventually published in Birthday Letters and Hughes makes a passing reference to this then unpublished collection: "I have a whole pile of pieces that are all – one way or another – little bombs for the studious and earnest to throw at me" (5 April 1997).


This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet

Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.

From "Wind"
The Hawk in the Rain, 1957[23]

Hughes's earlier poetic work is rooted in nature and, in particular, the innocent savagery of animals, an interest from an early age. He wrote frequently of the mixture of beauty and violence in the natural world.[66] Animals serve as a metaphor for his view on life: animals live out a struggle for the survival of the fittest in the same way that humans strive for ascendancy and success. Examples can be seen in the poems "Hawk Roosting" and "Jaguar".[66]

The West Riding dialect of Hughes's childhood remained a staple of his poetry, his lexicon lending a texture that is concrete, terse, emphatic, economical yet powerful. The manner of speech renders the hard facts of things and wards off self-indulgence.[13]

Hughes's later work is deeply reliant upon myth and the British bardic tradition, heavily inflected with a modernist, Jungian, and ecological viewpoint.[66] He re-worked classical and archetypal myth working with a conception of the dark sub-conscious.[66]


In 1965, he founded with Daniel Weissbort the journal Modern Poetry in Translation, which involved bringing to the attention of the West the work of Czesław Miłosz, who would later go on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Weissbort and Hughes were instrumental in bringing to the English-speaking world the work of many poets who were hardly known, from such countries as Poland and Hungary, then controlled by the Soviet Union. Hughes wrote an introduction to a translation of Vasko Popa: Collected Poems, in the "Persea Series of Poetry in Translation", edited by Weissbort.[67] which was reviewed with favour by premiere literary critic John Bayley of Oxford University in The New York Review of Books.[67]

Commemoration and legacy[edit]

A memorial walk was inaugurated in 2005, leading from the Devon village of Belstone to Hughes's memorial stone above the River Taw, on Dartmoor,[68][69] and in 2006 a Ted Hughes poetry trail was built at Stover Country Park, also in Devon.[70]

On 28 April 2011, a memorial plaque for Hughes was unveiled at North Tawton by his widow Carol Hughes.[46] At Lumb Bridge near Pecket Well, Calderdale is a plaque, installed by The Elmet Trust, commemorating Hughes's poem "Six Young Men", which was inspired by an old photograph of six young men taken at that spot. The photograph, taken just before the First World War, was of six young men who were all soon to lose their lives in the war.[71] A Ted Hughes Festival is held each year in Mytholmroyd, led by the Elmet Trust,[72] an educational body founded to support the work and legacy of Hughes.[73]

In 2010, it was announced that Hughes would be commemorated with a memorial in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.[74] On 6 December 2011, a slab of Kirkstone green slate was ceremonially placed at the foot of the memorial commemorating T. S. Eliot.[75][76] Poet Seamus Heaney and actress Juliet Stevenson gave readings at the ceremony, which was also attended by Hughes's widow Carol and daughter Frieda, and by the poets Simon Armitage, Blake Morrison, Andrew Motion and Michael Morpurgo.[77] Motion paid tribute to Hughes as "one of the two great poets of the last half of the last century" (the other being Philip Larkin).[78] Hughes's memorial stone bears lines from "That Morning", a poem recollecting the epiphany of a huge shoal of salmon flashing by as he and his son Nicholas waded a stream in Alaska:[77] "So we found the end of our journey / So we stood alive in the river of light / Among the creatures of light, creatures of light."

In October 2015, the BBC Two major documentary Ted Hughes: Stronger Than Death examined Hughes's life and work. The programme included contributions from poets Simon Armitage and Ruth Fainlight, broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, biographers Elaine Feinstein and Jonathan Bate, activist Robin Morgan, critic Al Alvarez, publicist Jill Barber, friend Ehor Boyanowsky, patron Elizabeth Sigmund, friend Daniel Huws, Hughes's US editor Frances McCullough, and younger cousin Vicky Watling. His daughter Frieda spoke for the first time about her father and mother.[79]


Hughes archival material is held by institutions such as Emory University and Exeter University. In 2008, the British Library acquired a large collection comprising over 220 files containing manuscripts, letters, journals, personal diaries, and correspondence.[80] The library archive is accessible through the British Library website.[81] There is also a Collection Guide available grouping together all of the Hughes material at the British Library with links to material held by other institutions.[82] Inspired by Hughes's Crow the German painter Johannes Heisig created a large painting series in black and white which was presented to the public for the first time on the occasion of Berlin Museum Long Night in August 2011 at the SEZ Berlin.[83]

Ted Hughes Award[edit]

In 2009, the Ted Hughes Award for new work in poetry was established with the permission of Carol Hughes. The Poetry Society notes "the award is named in honour of Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate, and one of the greatest twentieth century poets for both children and adults".[84] Members of the Poetry Society and Poetry Book Society recommend a living UK poet who has completed the newest and most innovative work that year, "highlighting outstanding contributions made by poets to our cultural life". The £5,000 prize was previously funded from the annual honorarium that former Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy received as Laureate from The Queen.[85]

Ted Hughes Society[edit]

The Ted Hughes Society, founded in 2010, publishes a peer-reviewed on-line journal, which can be downloaded by members. Its website also publishes news, and has articles on all Hughes's major works for free access. The Society staged Hughes conferences in 2010 and 2012 at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and will continue to stage conferences elsewhere.

Ted Hughes Paper Trail[edit]

On 16 November 2013, Hughes's former hometown of Mexborough held a special performance trail, as part of its "Right Up Our Street" project, celebrating the writer's connection with the town. The free event included a two-hour ramble through Mexborough following the route of young Hughes's paper round. Participants visited some of the important locations which influenced the poet, with the trail beginning at Hughes's former home, which is now a furniture shop.[86]

Elmet Trust[edit]

The Elmet Trust, founded in 2006, celebrates the life and work of Ted Hughes. The Trust looks after Hughes's birthplace in Mytholmroyd, which is available as a holiday let and writer's retreat. The Trust also runs Hughes-related events, including an annual Ted Hughes Festival.[87]

In other media[edit]

  • Hughes's 1983 River anthology was the inspiration for the 2000 River cello concerto by British composer Sally Beamish.[88]
  • Selected stories from Hughes' How the Whale Became and The Dreamfighter were adapted into a family opera by composer Julian Philips and writer Edward Kemp, entitled How the Whale Became. Commissioned by the Royal Opera House, the opera was premiered in December 2013.[89]
  • Hughes was portrayed by Daniel Craig in the 2003 film Sylvia.[90]

Selected works[edit]

Poetry collections[edit]

Volumes of translation[edit]

Anthologies edited by Hughes[edit]

  • Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson. Faber and Faber. 2004. ISBN 978-0-57-122343-5.[92]
  • Selected Poems of Sylvia Plath. Faber and Faber. 2003. ISBN 978-0-57-113586-8.[93]
  • A Choice of Shakespeare's Verse. Faber and Faber. 2000. ISBN 978-0-57-123379-3.[94]
  • A Choice of Coleridge's Verse. Faber and Faber. 1996. ISBN 978-0-57-117604-5.[95]
  • With Seamus Heaney, ed. (1982). The Rattle Bag. Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-57-111976-9.[96]
  • With Seamus Heaney, ed. (1997). The School Bag. Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-57-117750-9.[97]
  • By Heart: 101 Poems to Remember. Faber and Faber. 1997. ISBN 978-0-57-119263-2.[98]
  • 1965: Modern Poetry in Translation (literary magazine)[99]
  • Here Today (anthology for children). Hutchinson. 1963.[100]

Short story collection[edit]

  • 1995 The Dreamfighter, and Other Creation Tales, Faber and Faber, London, England.
  • 1995 Difficulties of a Bridegroom: Collected Short Stories, Picador, New York, NY.


  • 1967 Poetry Is, Doubleday, New York.
  • 1967 Poetry in the Making: An Anthology of Poems and Programmes from "Listening and Writing", Faber and Faber, London.
  • 1992, revised and corrected 1993 Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.
  • 1993 A Dancer to God Tributes to T. S. Eliot. (Ed) Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York.
  • 1994 Winter Pollen: Occasional Prose, (essay collection) Edited by William Scammell, Faber and Faber (London), Picador USA (New York) 1995.

Books for children[edit]


  • The House of Aries (radio play), broadcast, 1960.
  • The Calm produced in Boston, 1961.
  • A Houseful of Women (radio play), broadcast, 1961.
  • The Wound (radio play), broadcast, 1962.
  • Difficulties of a Bridegroom (radio play), broadcast, 1963.
  • Epithalamium produced in London, 1963.
  • Dogs (radio play), broadcast, 1964.
  • The House of Donkeys (radio play), broadcast, 1965.
  • The Head of Gold (radio play), broadcast, 1967.
  • The Coming of the Kings and Other Plays (based on juvenile work).
  • The Price of a Bride (juvenile, radio play), broadcast, 1966.
  • Adapted Seneca's Oedipus, produced in London, 1968).
  • Orghast (with Peter Brook), produced in Persepolis, Iran, 1971.
  • Eat Crow, Rainbow Press, London, England, 1971.
  • The Iron Man, juvenile, televised, 1972.
  • Orpheus, 1973.

Limited editions[edit]

  • The Burning of the Brothel (Turret Books, 1966)
  • Recklings (Turret Books, 1967)
  • Scapegoats and Rabies (Poet & Printer, 1967)
  • Animal Poems (Richard Gilbertson, 1967)
  • A Crow Hymn (Sceptre Press, 1970)
  • The Martyrdom of Bishop Farrar (Richard Gilbertson, 1970)
  • Crow Wakes (Poet & Printer, 1971)
  • Shakespeare's Poem (Lexham Press, 1971)
  • Eat Crow (Rainbow Press, 1971)
  • Prometheus on His Crag (Rainbow Press, 1973)
  • Crow: From the Life and the Songs of the Crow (Illustrated by Leonard Baskin, published by Faber & Faber, 1973)
  • Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter (Rainbow Press,1974)
  • Cave Birds (illustrated by Leonard Baskin, published by Scolar Press, 1975)
  • Earth-Moon (illustrated by Ted Hughes, published by Rainbow Press, 1976)
  • Eclipse (Sceptre Press, 1976)
  • Sunstruck (Sceptre Press, 1977)
  • A Solstice (Sceptre Press, 1978)
  • Orts (Rainbow Press, 1978)
  • Moortown Elegies (Rainbow Press, 1978)
  • The Threshold (illustrated by Ralph Steadman, published by Steam Press, 1979)
  • Adam and the Sacred Nine (Rainbow Press, 1979)
  • Four Tales Told by an Idiot (Sceptre Press, 1979)
  • The Cat and the Cuckoo (illustrated by R.J. Lloyd, published by Sunstone Press, 1987)
  • A Primer of Birds: Poems (illustrated by Leonard Baskin, published by Gehenna Press, 1989)
  • Capriccio (illustrated by Leonard Baskin, published by Gehenna Press, 1990)
  • The Mermaid's Purse (illustrated by R.J. Lloyd, published by Sunstone Press, 1993)
  • Howls and Whispers (illustrated by Leonard Baskin, published by Gehenna Press, 1998)

Many of Ted Hughes's poems have been published as limited-edition broadsides.[105]



  1. ^ Mackinnon, Lachlan (30 October 1998). "Obituary: Ted Hughes". The Independent. Archived from the original on 26 May 2022. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  2. ^ "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945". The Times. 5 January 2008. Retrieved 1 February 2010. (subscription required)
  3. ^ Joanny Moulin (2004). Ted Hughes: alternative horizons. p. 17. Routledge, 2004
  4. ^ "Ted Hughes Homepage". ann.skea.com. Retrieved 30 September 2008.
  5. ^ "Gerald Hughes, brother of Ted – obituary". The Telegraph. 15 August 2016. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 1 December 2018 – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  6. ^ a b c d Bell (2002) p. 4.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Sagar, Keith (2004). "Hughes, Edward James (1930–1998)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/71121. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. Retrieved 9 May 2020. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  8. ^ Paul Bentley, "Ted Hughes, Class and Violence", 2014, pp. 63 and 64.
  9. ^ Gerald Hughes, "Ted and I: A Brother's Memoir", 2014, p. 4.
  10. ^ Sagar, Keith (1983). The Achievement of Ted Hughes. Manchester University Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-7190-0939-6.
  11. ^ a b Sagar (1978), p. 6.
  12. ^ "Ted Hughes Timeline – publications, life-events etc". Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  13. ^ a b Sagar (1978) p. 7.
  14. ^ Keith M. Sagar (1981). Ted Hughes p. 9. University of Michigan
  15. ^ Sagar (1978), p. 8.
  16. ^ Reddick, Yvonne (September 2015). "'Throttle College'? Ted Hughes's Cambridge Poetry" (PDF). University of Central Lancashire. Retrieved 23 October 2021.
  17. ^ a b c Bell (2002), p. 5.
  18. ^ 'Cambridge Tripos', Times, 19 June 1954, p. 3.
  19. ^ Sagar (1978), p. 9.
  20. ^ "Tobias Hill: Tales from decrypt". The Independent. 9 August 2003. Archived from the original on 26 May 2022. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  21. ^ Jonathan Bate (2015). Ted Hughes: the unauthorised life p. 98.
  22. ^ "Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes talk about their relationship", Guardian, 15 April 2010. Excerpt taken from British Library's sound archive, published on the audio CD The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath.
  23. ^ a b "The Thought Fox - poetryarchive.org". Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  24. ^ a b c d Bell (2002), p. 6.
  25. ^ Sagar (1978), p. 11.
  26. ^ Bell, Charlie (2002) Ted Hughes Hodder and Stoughton, p. 7.
  27. ^ Rácz, István D. (1991). "The Realm Between Life and Death in Ted Hughes". Hungarian Studies in English. 22: 121–126. ISSN 1217-0283. JSTOR 41273855.
  28. ^ Kirk, Connie Ann (2004). Sylvia Plath: A Biography. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. xx. ISBN 978-0-313-33214-2.
  29. ^ "Haunted by the ghosts of love". The Guardian. 10 April 1999. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  30. ^ Kean, Danuta (11 April 2017). "Unseen Sylvia Plath letters claim domestic abuse by Ted Hughes". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  31. ^ a b c Bell, Charlie (2002) Ted Hughes Hodder and Stoughton p8
  32. ^ Gifford, Terry (2009). Ted Hughes. Taylor & Francis US. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-415-31189-2.
  33. ^ Smith College. Plath papers. Series 6, Hughes. Plath archive.
  34. ^ "Ted Hughes". 11 April 2017. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  35. ^ a b c d Phegley, Jennifer; Badia, Janet (2005). Reading Women Literary Figures and Cultural Icons from the Victorian Age to the Present. p. 252. ISBN 978-0-8020-8928-1.
  36. ^ "Unknown poem reveals Ted Hughes's torment over death of Sylvia Plath". The Guardian. 6 October 2010
  37. ^ Sisterhood is powerful : an anthology of writings from the women's liberation movement (Book, 1970). [WorldCat.org]. OCLC 96157.
  38. ^ Robin Morgan's Official website Archived 19 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 9 July 2010
  39. ^ Morgan, Robin. "Monster: Poems by Robin Morgan — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists". Goodreads.com. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  40. ^ "Rhyme, reason and depression". (16 February 1993). The Guardian. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  41. ^ Hughes, Ted. "The Place Where Sylvia Plath Should Rest in Peace". Guardian Article. 20 April 1989
  42. ^ "Ted Hughes's jaguar sculpture hints at poet's demons". The Guardian. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2021. Poet's family to sell rare jaguar sculpture that they believe shows his pain over Sylvia Plath's death
  43. ^ Azam, Nadeem (2001). "Ted Hughes: A Talented Murderer Guardian article on Hughes' relationship with Plath and Welville 11 December 2001". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  44. ^ I failed her. I was 30 and stupid The Observer 19 March 2000 Retrieved 9 July 2010
  45. ^ Koren, Yehuda; Negev, Eilat (19 October 2006). "Written out of history Guardian article on Wevill and Hughes 19 October 2006". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  46. ^ a b "North Tawton Blue Plaque for Ted Hughes". GGH Marketing Communication. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  47. ^ Guttridge, Peter (7 January 2016). "Olwyn Hughes: Literary agent who fiercely guarded the work of her brother, Ted Hughes, and his wife, Sylvia Plath". The Independent. Archived from the original on 26 May 2022. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  48. ^ a b "Guardian children's fiction prize relaunched: Entry details and list of past winners". The Guardian 12 March 2001. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  49. ^ a b Bell, Charlie (2002) Ted Hughes Hodder and Stoughton, p. 10.
  50. ^ Seven Crows A Secret on YouTube
  51. ^ "The Westcountry Rivers Trust Story". Westcountry Rivers Trust News. 25 May 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  52. ^ Boyanowsky, Ehor (2010). Savage Gods, Silver Ghosts In the Wild With Ted Hughes. Douglas & McIntyre Limited. p. 195. ISBN 978-1-55365-323-3.
  53. ^ "Tragic poet Sylvia Plath's son kills himself". CNN. 23 March 2009. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  54. ^ "My life with Ted: Hughes's widow breaks silence to defend his name". Valentine Low. The Times. 7 January 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  55. ^ "Ted and I: A Brother's Memoir by Gerald Hughes". Kirkus Reviews. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  56. ^ Young, Glynn (3 December 2013). "Poets and Poems: Ted Hughes' Crow". Tweetspeak Poetry. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  57. ^ Bell (2002) p11
  58. ^ "Richard Price, Ted Hughes and the Book Arts". Hydrohotel.net. 17 August 1930. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  59. ^ "Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being". Faber.co.uk. Archived from the original on 1 January 2011. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  60. ^ "Life – The Ted Hughes Society Journal". Thetedhughessociety.org. Archived from the original on 12 August 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  61. ^ "Rain Charm for the Duchy, Ted Hughes". Faber.co.uk. 22 June 1992. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  62. ^ "Ted Hughes wins Whitbread prize". 13 January 1999. Archived from the original on 26 May 2022. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  63. ^ "Exclusive: Ted Hughes's poem on the night Sylvia Plath died". 6 October 2010. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  64. ^ "Newly discovered Ted Hughes poem". 6 October 2010. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  65. ^ Areté, Issue 34, Spring/Summer 2011
  66. ^ a b c d Bell (2002) p1
  67. ^ a b Bayley, John (8 November 1979). "Life Studies". New York Review of Books. ISSN 0028-7504. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  68. ^ "Walking with words on park trail". BBC News. 28 April 2006.
  69. ^ Ted Hughes Memorial Walk (31 January 2008). "BBC Devon – Ted Hughes memorial". BBC. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  70. ^ "Stover Country Park – Ted Hughes Poetry Trail". Devon County Council. Archived from the original on 10 September 2015.
  71. ^ "Geograph:: Ted Hughes Plaque (C) Peter Worrell". Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  72. ^ "theelmettrust.co.uk". Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  73. ^ "theelmettrust.co.uk". Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  74. ^ Poets' Corner memorial for Ted Hughes, BBC News, 22 March 2010
  75. ^ Ted Hughes takes his place in Poets' Corner, BBC News, 2 November 2011
  76. ^ Spector, Felicity (6 December 2011). "Ted Hughes memorial marks poetic evolution". Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  77. ^ a b "Ted Hughes to take place in Poets' Corner". The Guardian. 6 December 2011. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  78. ^ "Hughes takes his place in Westminster Abbey". The Australian. 8 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  79. ^ "BBC Two – Ted Hughes: Stronger Than Death". BBC. 10 October 2015. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  80. ^ "Press Office Home – The British Library". Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  81. ^ Price, Richard. "Hughes, Ted (1930–1998)". Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  82. ^ Ted Hughes Collection Guide Retrieved 11 May 2020
  83. ^ son, max koffler/galerie. "berliner art". www.berliner-art.com.
  84. ^ "Hughes Award history". Archived from the original on 19 May 2011.
  85. ^ "Ted Hughes Award, hosted by the Poetry Society". Archived from the original on 26 April 2011.
  86. ^ "Mexborough hosts Ted Hughes' paper trail". Rotherham Advertiser. 12 November 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  87. ^ "Home". Theelmettrust.org. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  88. ^ "Sally Beamish website". sallybeamish.com. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  89. ^ The Inventive and beguiling world of Julian Philips, Rachel Beaumont, Royal Opera House. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  90. ^ Wilson, Jamie (3 February 2003), "Frieda Hughes attacks BBC for film on Plath", The Guardian, retrieved 28 August 2018
  91. ^ "On János Pilinszky at his website". Archived from the original on 25 March 2015. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  92. ^ "Emily Dickinson". Public Store View.
  93. ^ "Selected Poems of Sylvia Plath". Public Store View.
  94. ^ "A Choice of Shakespeare's Verse". Public Store View.
  95. ^ "A Choice of Coleridge's Verse". Public Store View. Retrieved 14 March 2021.
  96. ^ Guardian Staff (25 October 2003). "Seamus Heaney: Bags of enlightenment". The Guardian – via www.theguardian.com.
  97. ^ "The School Bag". Public Store View.
  98. ^ Hughes, Ted (19 February 1997). By Heart: 101 Poems to Remember. Faber & Faber. ISBN 9780571192632 – via Google Books.
  99. ^ "Modern Poetry in Translation 50th Anniversary Study Day – Cambridge". Polish Cultural Institute. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  100. ^ Bolton, Eric J. (16 May 2014). Verse Writing in Schools: The Commonwealth and International Library: Pergamon Oxford English Series. Elsevier. ISBN 9781483145815 – via Google Books.
  101. ^ The book began as a series of 'talks' that Hughes wrote, and read, for the BBC Schools Broadcasting radio series "Listening and Writing". The five surviving programmes, 'Capturing Animals', 'Moon Creatures', 'Learning to Think', 'Writing about Landscape' and 'Meet my Folks!' are available on the BBC British Library CD: "Ted Hughes: Poetry in the Making". The Spoken Word. British Library. 2008. ISBN 978-0-7123-0554-9
  102. ^ "Andrew Davidson Illustration & Design". www.andrewdavidsonillustration.com.
  103. ^ "Original artwork from 'The Iron Man' by Ted Hughes on display in the Faculty of English, May 2018". University of Cambridge: Faculty of English.
  104. ^ "The Iron Man". www.booktrust.org.uk.
  105. ^ Keith Sagar & Stephen Tabor, Ted Hughes: A bibliography 1946–1980 Mansell Publishing, 1983


  • Bate, Jonathan. Ted Hughes: the unauthorised life (2015. William Collins)
  • Bell, Charlie. Ted Hughes (2002. Hodder and Stoughton)
  • Carter, Sebastian. 'The Rainbow Press', in Parenthesis, 12 (November 2006), pp. 32–35
  • Dirda, Michael. Bound to Please (pp. 17–21). (2005. W. W. Norton)
  • Feinstein, Elaine. Ted Hughes: the life of a poet. (2001. W. W. Norton)
  • Gammage, Nick (ed.) The Epic Poise: a celebration of Ted Hughes (1999. Faber and Faber)
  • Hadley, Edward. The Elegies of Ted Hughes (2010. Palgrave Macmillan)
  • Rees, Roger (ed.) Ted Hughes and the Classics (2009. Oxford University Press)
  • Roberts, Neil. Ted Hughes: a literary life (2006. Palgrave Macmillan)
  • Sagar, Keith. The Art of Ted Hughes (1978. Cambridge University Press)
  • Sagar, Keith. The Laughter of Foxes: A Study of Ted Hughes (2000. Liverpool U.P.)
  • Sagar, Keith. Ted Hughes and Nature: Terror and Exultation (2009. Fastprint)
  • Sagar, Keith (ed.) The Achievement of Ted Hughes (1983. Manchester U.P.)
  • Sagar, Keith (ed.) The Challenge of Ted Hughes (1994. Macmillan)
  • Sagar, Keith and Stephen Tabor. Ted Hughes: A Bibliography 1946–1995 (1998. Mansell)
  • Skea, Ann. Ted Hughes: The Poetic Quest (1994. University of New England Press)
  • Tennant, Emma. Burnt Diaries (1999. Canongate Books Ltd)

External links[edit]