Ted Hughes' schoolbook masterpiece
The British Library has just acquired a major and critical archive of material from Ted Hughes, a titan of 20th Century poetry.
Comprising of notebooks, diaries and personal letters, it covers Hughes' entire career from his energetic debut, Hawk In The Rain, to the revelatory Birthday Letters - an account of his tragic relationship with Sylvia Plath.
Like many writers, Hughes had a superstitious tic - he preferred to write on second-hand paper. During harmonious times, he and Plath would share notepaper, taking advantage of their habit of writing at opposite ends of the day. Following her suicide, Hughes started writing about their relationship in partially-used school jotters, which he had bought in bulk and stored in his home in Devon.
Those early drafts eventually became Birthday Letters, the Whitbread Prize-winning collection Hughes published in 1998, the year he died.
One of the notebooks in the British Library's collection is even inscribed with the details of its previous owner. "P Hunt, June 1960," it reads, "Histry [sic]".
I got to wondering what had happened to P Hunt? And how would it feel to have your tatty old school book be the starting point for this touchstone of British literature? If you share that name - and were at Vicars Hill School in Boldre, Hampshire, in 1960 - why not get in touch?