Allegations made against Mytholmroyd-born poet Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes.
Ted Hughes.

Unpublished letters written by poet Sylvia Plath claim Mexborough-based literary giant Ted Hughes beat her two days before she miscarried their second child.

The letters, written between February 1960 and February 1963, say that Hughes wanted her dead, according to The Guardian.

The accusations are among claims written in the aftermath of the pair’s marriage, which saw American born Plath commit suicide after the couple separated.

After her death, Hughes said his wife’s journals from this time were lost, including the last volume, which he said he destroyed to protect their children, Frieda and Nicholas.

The letters, sent to Dr Ruth Barnhouse, who treated the writer in the US after her first documented attempt to kill herself in August 1953, are part of an archive amassed by feminist scholar Harriet Rosenstein seven years after the poet’s death, as research for an unfinished biography.

The most shocking passages reveal Plath’s accusation of physical abuse shortly before miscarrying their second child in 1961, in a letter dated 22 September 1962 – the same month the poets separated.

The letters sent form part of a collection that emerged when an antiquarian put it up for sale for 875,000 dollars (£695,000).

However the sale has been blocked by Smith College, the Massachusetts arts college where Plath studied in the 1950s, which filed a lawsuit claiming the letters were bequeathed to it by Dr Barnhouse after her death. Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd, where he spent his early years and lived there until he was seven, when the family moved to Mexborough.

His parents ran a newsagent’s and tobacconist’s shop and during his time in the area, he explored Manor Farm at Old Denaby, which he said he would come to know “better than any place on earth”.

After university, Hughes met, dated and married American poet Sylvia Plath.

Beset by depression, and with a history of suicide attempts, Plath took her own life in 1963. Hughes was devastated and did not write poetry again for three years after the death.

A rebuttal issued on behalf of the late poet laureate’s widow, Carol Hughes, criticised the decision to reveal details in letters reportedly sent by Plath to her psychiatrist in which she also alleged her husband wanted her dead.

Responding to the report, the Ted Hughes Estate said: “The claims allegedly made by Sylvia Plath in unpublished letters to her former psychiatrist, suggesting that she was beaten by her husband, Ted Hughes, days before she miscarried their second child are as absurd as they are shocking to anyone who knew Ted well.

“Private correspondence between patient and psychiatrist is surely one of the most confidential imaginable and, in this case, these alleged claims were from someone who was in deep emotional pain due to the apparent disintegration of her marriage.”