The British Library has acquired "a significant collection of letters" sent by Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath to Olwyn Hughes, sister of the late Poet Laureate. The acquisition was announced at the sixth International Ted Hughes Conference at Pembroke College, Cambridge.
The archive contains 41 letters from Hughes and Plath, together with papers, including early poetry and prose drafts and some previously unpublished material believed to date from the 1950s and '60s. The cost was £29,500, and the archive will be catalogued and made accessible to researchers at the British Library by early next year.
The letters, which date from 1954 to 1964, shed light on different aspects of Hughes' life and early career and his opinions on contemporary poets and writers. Writing from the US, where he lived for two years in the late fifties, Hughes often contrasted his feelings on life in Massachusetts to the post-War Britain he had left behind. The letters also offer an insight into early developments in his career, including the publication of Hawk in the Rain and time spent at Yaddo in New York State, where life according to Hughes was "perfect".
Family life is illustrated in the letters written jointly by the couple, Plath often adding her news to the reverse or to the end of Hughes contributions, "providing an interesting juxtaposition of handwriting, opinion and subject matter". Helen Broderick, Curator of Modern Literary Manuscripts at the British Library, said: "This exciting new acquisition provides a real insight into the early careers of both Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath as they sought publication and recognition for their work. Hughes' insights into life in America are particularly fascinating and the archive complements the British Library's existing Hughes collections by covering this key period of change and development in his life."
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