Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: British, Irish, & Commonwealth Poets)
Ted Hughes was born Edward James Hughes in a small Yorkshire town on the edge of the moors, only a few miles from where the famous Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) had lived. His father, William, a carpenter, had been badly wounded in World War I during the Gallipoli landings. Hughes was the youngest of three children. His brother briefly became a gamekeeper; his sister, Olwyn, became an executor and literary agent for the estate of Sylvia Plath. When Hughes was seven, the family moved to a mining town in south Yorkshire called Mexborough. From the grammar school there, he won an scholarship to attend Cambridge University, and he went to Cambridge in 1951 after two years of national service in the Royal Air Force. Having changed his major from English to archaeology and anthropology, he graduated in 1954.
Hughes then worked at a number of jobs, including teaching. Although he had been writing poetry from the age of fifteen, he wrote little at Cambridge and attempted to publish only locally at first. In 1956, he met Sylvia Plath, who was two years younger than he and was in Cambridge on a Fulbright Fellowship. At the time of their meeting, she was already a published poet. She began to send his poems to magazines and also entered him for a competition in New York for a first volume of poetry. He won with The Hawk in the Rain, and through its publication, his name quickly became known.
Plath and Hughes were married within...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Edward James Hughes was born on August 17, 1930, in Mytholmroyd, on the Calder River, one of England’s first industrialized rivers yet also near the wildness of the moors. Hughes was the youngest of three children of Edith Farrar, who traced her ancestry back to the martyr Bishop Farrar, and William Hughes, a carpenter, who was one of only seventeen of an entire regiment to have survived the battle at Gallipoli in World War I. When Hughes was seven, the family moved to Mexborough; there, Hughes led a double life of living in town but often roaming about on nearby farms and estates. The landscape and the language of West Riding and South Yorkshire were undoubtedly significant in shaping Hughes’s sensibility: his fascination with animals, natural processes, and archaic myths; the conflict between wilderness, farm, and industrialization; the rhythms of collapse and renewal; and the spare, physical language of the people are present throughout his poetic career.
In 1948, Hughes won an open exhibition to the University of Cambridge. He postponed his studies at Cambridge until 1951, choosing to serve for two years in the National Service, in the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a mechanic at an isolated radio transmission station in Yorkshire. Though he planned to study English literature at Pembroke College, Cambridge, he changed in his third year to archaeology and anthropology. He graduated in June, 1954, the same month that his first poem, “The Little Boys and the Seasons,” appeared in the Cambridge journal Granta. For the following two years, he worked as a rose gardener, a night watchman in a steel works, a zoo attendant, and a schoolteacher.
In late February, 1956, Hughes met Sylvia Plath, who had arrived from the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship to study. Her own literary career had begun in 1950 with the publication of her poetry. Four months after their first meeting, Plath and Hughes were married. In Plath’s Letters Home (1975), she states that she learned through Hughes “the vocabulary...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Ted Hughes offers a powerful vision of the world and of poetry. While the underpinnings of much of his thought may seem esoteric, his poetry is direct and sensory; the poems’ immediacy brings the reader into contact with the archaic, mythic, or primordial forces explored by Hughes. Hughes certainly belongs to the tradition of English landscape poets, such as Andrew Marvell, William Wordsworth, or D. H. Lawrence; however, his vision of the natural world suggests that any attempt to control nature results not only in damaging the natural world but also in the distortion and destruction of the human spirit.
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
The youngest of the three children of Edith Farrar Hughes and William Henry Hughes, Ted Hughes grew up on the sprawling and barren moors of West Yorkshire, where he spent his boyhood scouting the wilderness with his older brother, an avid hunter and woodsman. These early experiences with nature began a lifelong preoccupation with animals which would form the basis for one of the most unique and powerful voices in English poetry.
While Hughes was still a boy his family moved to Mexborough, where Hughes began writing poetry, encouraged by an English teacher at the town’s only grammar school. Following his national service, Hughes enrolled at Cambridge University and studied archaeology and anthropology. With a group of classmates he founded a literary magazine, St. Botolph’s Review, and at its inaugural party in 1956 he met a young American college student, poet Sylvia Plath. They were married only four months later.
Hughes and Plath influenced each other’s writing and sensibilities, with her learning about “woods and animals and earth” (in her words) from Hughes, and him learning about American poetry from her. The manuscript for Hughes’s first book, The Hawk in the Rain, was submitted to a New York poetry contest by Plath, who typed the manuscript for Hughes. First prize, which Hughes won, was publication of the book. Hughes and Plath had two children, Frieda, born in 1960, and Nicholas, born in 1962. By mid-1962, however, their marriage was disintegrating—Hughes had become involved with another woman—and they returned to London separately from Devon, where they had been living. Plath sank into a deep depression and committed suicide in February, 1963.
For a few years after Plath’s death, Hughes primarily wrote books for children; his next book of poetry for adults was Wodwo, published in 1967. In 1969, tragedy struck again when Assia Gutzmann, his new partner, and her child died. In 1970 Hughes married Carol Orchard. Hughes spent time living in Yorkshire, London, and, primarily, Devon. He was...
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