Sale of Ted Hughes’s Poems Reveals His Raw Grief

Never-before-seen handwritten poems by the late poet show his grief after his partner’s suicide, just six years after his first wife Sylvia Plath’s.

A series of unpublished poems written by Ted Hughes immediately after the tragic deaths of Assia Gutmann Wevill and their daughter Alexandra Tatiana Elise, known as Shura, might change the prevalent view of Ted Hughes as a heartless manipulator of women. These poems, or fragments, now in the hands of an unnamed bidder at the recent Sotheby’s Auction in London, are a far cry from his series of 20 poems titled “Capriccio”, written twenty years after the loss of his mistress and daughter. As the attached article shows, these early poems reveal Hughes’s agonised grief, which stopped him completing his major work “Crow” for over two years. Tellingly, the dedication to “Crow” reads To Assia and Shura.

Assia Wevill and Shura Gutmann Wevill, England, December 1968. Photo copyright Martin Baker

Whereas the “Capriccio” poems are savage yet controlled, these unpublished fragments are described as a cry of uninhibited grief and shock. They are rough and unfinished, as if the poet could not control his emotions. If we ever get to read these fragments, they may give the lie to the image of Hughes as the fickle philanderer.

In my novel Capriccio, I aim to portray Ted Hughes as a flawed human being, who suffered for the grave mistakes he made in his relationships with the two main women in his life, Sylvia Plath and Assia Gutmann Wevill. I believe he carried his remorse for their suicides to the grave. This is not to excuse his behaviour, but to attempt to understand it.


— Read on


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