The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Ted Hughes

Edward James Hughes (Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire August 17, 1930October 28, 1998) was an English poet.

Hughes studied English, anthropology and archaeology at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he met Sylvia Plath. They married on June 16, 1956, separating in the autumn of 1962. Plath's suicide in 1963 has long been a subject of much speculation by feminist critics.

His first collection, Hawk in the Rain (1957) attracted considerable critical acclaim. In 1959 he won the Galbraith prize which brought $5000. His most significant work is perhaps Crow (1970).

Tales from Ovid (1997) contains a selection of free verse translations from Ovid's Metamorphoses. In Birthday Letters, Hughes broke his silence on Plath. He was unapologetic for his womanizing and generally insensitive behaviour toward Plath, even as he, paradoxically, pours his heart out to the reader. The cover artwork was by their daughter Frieda.

As her widower, Hughes became the executor of Plath’s personal and literary estates. He oversaw the publication of her manuscripts, including Ariel (1966). He also destroyed the final volume of Plath’s journal, detailing their last three years together. In 1982, Plath became the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize posthumously for The Collected Poems.

Hughes and his children moved into the flat of his married lover, Assia Wevill. Their daughter, Alexandra Tatiana Eloise Wevill, nicknamed Shura, was born on March 3, 1965. Assia killed herself and Shura on March 25, 1969 in much the same manner Plath did: she dragged a bed into the kitchen, sealed the door and window, dissolved sleeping pills in a glass of water and gave them to Shura, took the rest of the pills, turned on the gas stove, got into the bed with Shura, and cradled the child in her arms.

In August 1970, Hughes married Carol Orchard, a nurse; they remained together until his death.

He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1984 following the death of John Betjeman. It was later revealed that Hughes was second choice for the appointment. Philip Larkin was the preferred nominee but he declined, feeling his poetic gifts spent.

Hughes was one of the most significant and innovative English poets of recent times. His work is deeply reliant upon myth and the bardic tradition.

Hughes's children's book The Iron Man became the basis of Pete Townshend's rock opera of the same name and the animated film The Iron Giant.

Hughes died after an 18-month-long battle with liver cancer. His definitive 1333 page Collected Poems (Faber & Faber) appeared in 2003.




  • (1957) The Hawk in the Rain
  • (1960) Lupercal
  • (1967) Wodwo
  • (1968) The Iron Man
  • (1970) Crow
  • (1977) Gaudete
  • (1979) Moortown Diary
  • (1979) Remains of Elmet (with photographs by Fay Godwin)
  • (1986) Flowers and Insects
  • (1989) Wolfwatching
  • (1992) Rain-charm for the Duchy
  • (1994) New Selected Poems 1957-1994
  • (1997) Tales from Ovid
  • (1998) Birthday Letters

Anthologies edited by Hughes


  • A Dancer to God
  • Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being
  • Winter Pollen : Occasional Prose
  • Difficulties of a Bridegroom
  • Poetry in the Making

For children

  • How the Whale Became
  • Meet my Folks!
  • The Earth Owl and Other Moon-people
  • Nessie the Mannerless Monster
  • The Coming of the Kings
  • The Iron Man
  • Moon Whales
  • Season Songs
  • Under the North Star
  • Ffangs the Vampire Bat and the Kiss of Truth
  • Tales of the Early World
  • The Iron Woman
  • The Dreamfighter and Other Creation Tales
  • Collected Animal Poems : Vols. 1-4
  • Shaggy and Spotty

External links

  • homepage by Ann Skea
  • feminist dissection of Hughes' life and poetry
Preceded by:
John Betjeman
British Poet Laureate Succeeded by:
Andrew Motion
Last updated: 05-07-2005 13:02:32
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04