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Ted Hughes papers

Identifier: Manuscript Collection No. 644

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of personal and literary papers of Ted Hughes from 1958-1992. The papers include correspondence, writings by Hughes including published and unpublished manucript and typescripts of poems and prose, materials relating to Sylvia Plath, writings by other authors that were sent to Hughes, subject files, printed material, photographs, personal effects and memoriabilia, and audiovisual materials. Major correspondents include Yehuda Amichai, Leonard Baskin, Martin Booth, Charles Causley, Janos Csokits, Seamus Heaney, Michael Horovitz, Lucas Myers, Peter Redgrove, Keith Sagar, Stephen Spender, Alan Sillitoe and Ruth Fainlight, and Daniel Weissbort. The collection also contains materials relating to Hughes that have been collected by the Library.


  • 1940-2002

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Restrictions on Access

Special restrictions apply. Letters written by Janos Csokits and Daniel Weissbort are restricted and require the permission of the copyright holder in writing in order to be examined. Letters from Seamus Heaney are closed to researchers for the lifetime of Carol Hughes. Access to selected additional letters are restricted for a period of twenty-five years (2022) or the for the lifetime of Carol Hughes, whichever is greater. See container list for specific restrictions.

Special restrictions: Use copies have not been made for audiovisual material in this collection. Researchers must contact the Rose Library at least two weeks in advance for access to these items. Collection restrictions, copyright limitations, or technical complications may hinder the Rose Library's ability to provide access to audiovisual material.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Special restrictions apply: letters and manuscripts by Ted Hughes and most photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of Carol Hughes.

Emory University does not control copyright for items in this collection. These items are made available for individual viewing and reference for educational purposes only, such as personal study, preparation for teaching, and research. Your reproduction, distribution, public display or other re-use of any content beyond a fair use as codified in section 107 of US Copyright Law or other applicable privilege is at your own risk. It is your sole responsibility to investigate the copyright status of an item and obtain permission when needed. The copyright to all original Ted Hughes unpublished writings (such as letters and manuscripts) is owned by Carol Hughes. Researchers must obtain her permission to publish or reproduce this material.

The use of personal cameras is prohibited.

Biographical Note

Ted Hughes was born on August 17th, 1930, the third child of Edith Farrar and William Hughes of Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire. When he was seven the family moved to Mexborough, a nearby mining town, where Hughes' parents ran a local newsagent's shop. There Hughes attended Mexborough Grammar School where he first began writing adventure stories and, later, verse, as he has explained, "when I discovered that what I wrote amused my classmates." Two poems from this period-among the earliest he wrote-survive in the Ted Hughes papers.

In 1948 Hughes won a scholarship to attend Pembroke College, Cambridge, but he first completed two years of national service as a ground wireless mechanic in an isolated RAF station in East Yorkshire. As he later recalled, there he had "nothing to do but read and reread Shakespeare and watch the grass grow." The landscape of his early years in Yorkshire left a permanent imprint on his later poetry as it also did on his life-long habits of sight.

In 1951 Hughes entered Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he first studied English literature, before switching in his third year to archaeology and anthropology. After completing his degree, Hughes divided his time between Cambridge and London where he drifted between a variety of odd jobs, among them that of a script reader for Pinewood Studios (?). In the years immediately after finishing at Cambridge, he also began publishing poems under a variety of pseudonyms in local literary magazines, among them Chequer, Granta, and Delta.

In February 1956 Hughes contributed four poems to a new literary magazine called St. Boltoph's Review. It was at a party to mark the launch of the new magazine that he first met the American poet Sylvia Plath who was in Cambridge on a Fulbright Scholarship. Soon after, on Bloomsday, June 16th, 1956, they were married in a small service at the church of St. George the Martyr in London.

At the time, Plath had already published numerous stories and poems in leading American magazines, and she soon introduced Hughes to an active program or regular manuscript submissions to leading literary magazines far beyond Cambridge. His first acceptance, as recorded in the scrapbook that Plath kept at the time, came with the publication of "Bawdry Embraced" in the August 1956 issue of Poetry magazine.

On the first anniversary of their meeting, Hughes learned that a collection of his poems, The Hawk in the Rain, had been selected by Marianne Moore, W.H. Auden, and Stephen Spender, as the best first collection out of 287 entries in a poetry competition organized by the Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association of New York. With the publication of The Hawk in the Rain in both London and New York, Ted Hughes' literary career was launched.

From 1957 to 1959, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath lived in the United States where Plath taught at Smith College and Hughes at the University of Massachusetts. It was while living in the U.S. that Hughes met the artist Leonard Baskin who first suggested a sequence of poems based on a mythical crow figure and who later became a frequent collaborator on a number of fine press, artist's editions of Hughes' work. After a camping trip across the U.S. in the summer of 1959, Ted and Sylvia spent several weeks in residence at the Yaddo artists' colony in upstate New York. There Hughes worked on the poems that would later be collected in his second collection, Lupercal.

They returned to England in December and the following Spring Hughes learned that he had won both the Somerset Maugham Award and the Hawthorndon Prize (the latter for his second collection, Lupercal). A short time later their first child, Frieda, was born. Partly to support his new family, Hughes began a series of radio talks for the BBC's Listening and Writing program (later collected in Poetry in the Making), and in August the Hughes' moved into "Court Green," a former rectory in the village of North Tawton in Devon. In January 1962 their second child, Nicholas , was born.

During the fall of 1962 Hughes began seeing the artist Assia Wevill and soon after he and Sylvia Plath separated. While suffering from depression the following winter, Plath took her own life.

After Sylvia Plath's suicide, Hughes published a series of children's books, How the Whale Became (1963), The Earth-Owl and Other Moon People (1963), Nessie the Mannerless Monster (1964), and in 1965 he began serving as a judge for the National Children's Poetry Competition. He also, along with Daniel Weissbort, founded the journal Modern Poetry in Translation devoted to introducing the work of foreign language poets to English readers. Also in 1965, Hughes published Ariel, the posthumous collection of Sylvia Plath's poems upon which her reputation as a poet largely rests. In January 1967 Hughes and Assia Wevill's daughter Shura was born.

In 1967 Hughes published Wodwo, a collection of new poems, short stories, and a single radio play that he had previously recorded for the BBC. He also worked on a variety of other projects including serving as co-director of Poetry International, a major literary festival that included leading poets from around the world. He also collaborated with the director Peter Brook on a stage adaptation of Seneca's Oedipus for the National Theatre Company and translated a selection of poems by Yehuda Amichai (published in 1968).

In March 1969 Hughes' partner, Assia Wevill took her own life and that of Shura. Later that same year Hughes' mother also passed away.

In the late-1960s Hughes divided his time between Ireland and England and considered for a time moving permanently to Ireland; however, in 1969 he purchased Lumb Bank in his native Yorkshire. The following year he returned to Devon where he married Carol Orchard and where he settled permanently.

Beginning in 1970, and continuing over the next few years, Hughes published the cycle of crow poems that he had first begun at the suggestion of Leonard Baskin. In 1971 he also saw into print three collections of poems by Sylvia Plath, Crossing the Water, Lyonnesse, and Winter Trees. That same year he traveled to Iran where he again collaborated with Peter Brook, this time on a performance of Orghast which was first performed on the ruins of Persepolis.

In 1972 Ted and Carol Hughes purchased Moortown Farm in Devon which they managed with Carol's father, Jack Orchard. That same year, Faber and Faber issued a selection of Hughes' poems and an expanded edition of Crow. In 1974 Hughes received the prestigious Queen's Medal for Poetry. After the publication of his long poem Gaudete in 1977, Hughes published a series of collections that reflected his roots in the natural worlds of Yorkshire and Devon. These included Remains of Elmet (1979), Moortown Elegies (1979), and Moortown (1979), the latter dedicated to his father-in-law, Jack Orchard.

Hughes' interests in rural life and in children's education were combined in his work on behalf of the Farms for City Children program in the late 1970s. During this period and throughout the 1980s he continued to publish numerous works for children, and in 1982 he and Seamus Heaney collaborated on The Rattle Bag, an anthology of poems for children. In 1984 Ted Hughes was named Poet Laureate to the Queen, succeeding Sir John Betjeman. A collection of his laureate poems were collected in 1994 under the title Rain-Charm for the Duchy. Hughes' life-long interest--and love for--Shakespeare culminated in the 1992 study of his plays, Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being.

After contributing to a collection of translations of Ovid in 1994, Hughes embarked on a series of translations of the Metamorphoses, which were published as Tales from Ovid in 1997. In February 1998 Hughes surprised the literary world with the publication of Birthday Letters, a series of 88 poems written to his first wife, Sylvia Plath. The critic Al Alvarez described them as "the most vulnerable he ever wrote, and also the saddest." Hughes' annus mirabilis continued with the completion of translations, in rapid succession, of three major dramatic works Racine's Phedre, Aeschylus' The Oresteia, and Euripides' Alcestis.

On October 28th, 1998 Ted Hughes died of cancer. In May 1999, the world paid tribute in a memorial service at London's Westminster Abbey.


94.75 linear feet (192 boxes); 13 oversized papers boxes and 5 oversized papers folders (OP); 1 oversized bound volume (OBV); AV Masters: 1.25 linear feet (2 boxes)


Papers of British poet laureate Ted Hughes including correspondence, writings by Hughes, materials relating to Sylvia Plath, writings by other authors, subject files, printed material, photographs, personal effects and memoriabilia, and audiovisual materials.

Arrangement Note

Organized into ten series: (1) Correspondence, (2) Writings by Ted Hughes, (3) Sylvia Plath, (4) Writings by others, (5) Subject files, (6) Printed material, (7) Photographs, (8) Personal effects and memorabilia, (9) Audiovisual materials, and (10) Collected materials.


Purchase, 1997 with previous acquisitions and subsequent additions.

Separated Material

Emory University also holds the private library of Ted Hughes, as well as books formerly owned by Sylvia Plath. These materials may be located in the Emory University online catalog by searching for: Hughes, Ted, former owner and Plath, Sylvia, former owner.


Control level 3


File name: hughes644.doc


Processed by Literary Collections Assistants.

Control level 3

File name: hughes644.doc

This finding aid may include language that is offensive or harmful. Please refer to the Rose Library's harmful language statement for more information about why such language may appear and ongoing efforts to remediate racist, ableist, sexist, homophobic, euphemistic and other oppressive language. If you are concerned about language used in this finding aid, please contact us at

Ted Hughes papers, 1940-1999
Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University
January 31, 2007
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • November 20, 2014: Restricted container list in Series 1.1 redacted in finding aid.

Repository Details

Part of the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library Repository

540 Asbury Circle
Atlanta Georgia 30322 United States