Former Poet Laureate was haunted by wife’s suicide

Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath
Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath
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LETTERS written by the former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes have revealed his anguish over the suicide of his first wife Sylvia Plath.

The Mytholmroyd-born poet’s letters to his friend, literary critic Keith Sagar have been published for the first time and reveal how he struggled to cope with Plath’s death and the idea - voiced by some feminists - that he was somehow to blame.

She was 30 when she put her head in an oven and gassed herself in February 1963 - just months after the couple split up.

Hughes wrote letters to Sagar from 1969 until his death in 1998.

He said a series of unfortunate coincidences caused her to sink into despair. He also felt that the drugs the mother-of-two was taking for her condition left her with suicidal tendancies that she could not control.

He wrote: “She was knocked off again by pure unlucky combinations fo accidents. No doubt that year exhausted her emotionally. The house making etc, the 62/63 snow and cold, the two kids exhausted her physically.Flu knocked her lower. Stirrers and troublemakers complicated our getting together again.

“But the key factor, maybe, was that her doctor prescribed, for pep up, a drug that US doctors knew - but her English doctor didn’t - induced suicidal depression in her. She was allergic to it.”

In a letter to Sagar in March 1975, Hughes reveals that he worte to the academic David Holbrook urging him to be discreet in a lecture about Plath.

The letters reveal Hughes to be a devoted father with little time for the trappings of fame.

In the letters, he also discussed a poem written for Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997, saying much of the “mass feeling” was for “symbols of royalty” rather than Diana herself, who he described as “just another Sloane.”