What You Don’t Know About Ted Hughes’ Life

The original name of Ted Hughes is Edward James Ted Hughes. He was born in the western part of Yorkshire, more specifically in Mytholmroyd, in 1930. As the region which he inhabited as a child suggests, his young years were spent in a rural area. When Ted was around seven years old, his family decided to move to the southern part of Yorkshire.  It is believed that it was the landscapes of this region that inspired Ted Hughes for his poetry.

The Royal Air Force and College

After graduating from high school, Ted had to join the Royal Air Force. He spent two years as a mechanic. After leaving the Royal Air Force, Ted made the decision to go to Cambridge in order to study at Pembroke College. He managed to do so thanks to obtaining a scholarship. The area in which he studied more extensively in college was mythologies. Probably this was the reason because of which his first poems published at that time were devoted to archaeology and anthropology.

Interesting Facts about Ted Hughes’ Career

The Literary Magazine ‘Botolph’s Review’

After graduating from Cambridge, Ted Hughes became the co-founder of St. Botolph’s Review, a literary magazine. Interestingly enough, it was during the inaugural reception when he crossed paths with Sylvia Plath, who became his wife very soon afterward. Plath appeared to have played an essential role in Hughes' career.

‘The Hawk in the Rain’

It was Plath who made him take part in the Poetry Center’s book contest with his manuscript ‘The Hawk in the Rain.' The judges of this contest were very prominent poets of that time, namely Marianne Moore, Stephen Spender, and others, so it was a massive success for Ted Hughes when they awarded his work first prize. ‘The Hawk in the Rain' was published both in America and in England in 1957.

Hard Times for Hughes

During the first years of their marriage, Hughes and Plath moved to Massachusetts, where Hughes taught at the university. In 1959 they went back to England where their daughter was born. They called her Freida. In 1962, their son, Nickolas, was born. It was the same year in which Hughes left his wife because of Assia Wevill. Probably this was the reason for Plath to commit suicide during the following year. Several years after Plath’s suicide, Hughes didn’t write anything as he devoted all his time to edit Plath’s poems.

A Recurrent Nightmare

Hughes was criticized because people regarded him as being responsible for Plath’s suicide. Even his editorial work on Plath’s poems led to controversy. In 1965, his third child, Shura, was born, and only four years after that, Wevill also committed suicide. What was even worse is that she also killed Shura. In 1970, Ted Hughes got involved with Carol Orchard, who became his wife for the rest of his life.

Hughes’ Works

Hughes’ works consisted of poetry books, translations, children's books, and non-fiction. Some of his most popular books include:

  • ‘The Iron Man’ (1968) – his most popular children’s book;
  • ‘Wolfwatching’ (1990);
  • ‘Selected Poems’ 1957-1981 (1982);
  • ‘Flowers and Insects’ (1986);
  • ‘Cave Birds’ (1979);
  • ‘Moortown’ (1980);
  • ‘Lupercal’ (1960);
  • ‘Crow’ (1971);
  • ‘The Birthday Letters’ (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998) – This is his final collection. ‘The Birthday Letters' was devoted to the relationship between Sylvia Plath and Hughes.

The Themes in Hughes’ Works

Influenced by his years in Pembroke College, where he studied mythologies, Hughes frequently uses a such framework for his works. His poems often include dramatic monologues that depict an essential topic. The reader can also encounter a lot of animals in Hughes' poetry. They appear as icons, deities, and metaphors. Undoubtedly, the most frequently recurrent character is the ‘Crow,' which in his works is a mixture of bird, man, and god. The appearance of this crow is related to the image of evil and good.


Thanks to his indisputable talent, Ted Hughes was rewarded with a number of literary honors. In 1984, he was announced to be Poet Laureate of England, and he held this post until the moment he died in 1998.

Hughes Influence on Poetry Continues Even After His Death

An Award in Honor of Ted Hughes

The Ted Hughes Award was established in 2009. The Poetry Book Society and the Poetry Society nominated one of the living UK poets who had just finished an innovative poetry project that year. He won a prize of 5,000 pounds.

Ted Hughes Society

Shortly after the establishment of the Ted Hughes Award, the Ted Hughes Society was founded. This society published an online journal and also news and articles on most of Hughes' works. Access to these materials is free, so everyone interested can use them. It was this society that started staging Hughes conferences, and they promise that they will continue doing this in the future.