The British Library has announced that it has acquired the final collection of Ted Hughes’ papers, with help from Friends of the National Libraries, and the Friends of the British Library, and a £200,000 grant from the Shaw Fund. The BL’s press release states: “The collection comprises over 220 files and boxes of manuscripts, letters, journals, personal diaries and ephemera, and offers an invaluable resource for researchers in all areas of Hughes’s prolific and wide-ranging career over more than forty years.” Of particular interest are the manuscripts of Birthday Letters, which explored his relationship with his first wife, Sylvia Plath. It also includes his diaries, letters, working drafts and notebooks.
Hughes was Poet Laureate from 1984 until 1998 and was described by Seamus Heaney as “a guardian spirit of the land and language”. He was born in Mytholmroyd in 1930. He went on to Cambridge, graduating in 1954. Hughes’ personal life arouses much interest largely because of his first marriage to Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide a year after their divorce. A detailed biography and bibliography for Ted Hughes is available to Loughborough University staff and students on Literature Online
The British Library also has details of its holdings in relation to Hughes on its website.
The BL has announced that: “A notebook containing early autograph manuscript drafts of Birthday Letters, revealing that Hughes had originally planned for the volume to be entitled ‘The Sorrows of the Deer’, will be displayed in The Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library from 15 October 2008.”
The archive will be catalogued and is expected to be available to researchers in 2009.
In the meantime and more easily available, copies of Hughes’ many works are available in the University Library, with copies of Birthday Letters at: 821.91 HUG