Entertainment & Arts

Ted Hughes letters acquired by British Library

Ted Hughes in 1985
Image caption Hughes was Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death in 1998

A collection of letters sent by Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath to the former Poet Laureate's sister has been acquired by the British Library.

The archive of Olwyn Hughes contains 41 letters along with literary papers including unpublished poems and a handwritten draft of an untitled play.

The British Library said the letters provided "a real insight" into the early careers of both writers.

Hughes was married to writer Sylvia Plath, who killed herself in 1963.

The acquisition announcement was made at the International Ted Hughes Conference at Pembroke College, Cambridge.

The Olwyn Hughes archive cost £29,500 to purchase. The letters will be catalogued and made accessible to researchers at the British Library by early 2011.

Image caption The letters will be available to researchers early next year

The unpublished material by Hughes includes a handwritten draft of an untitled play and unpublished poems believed to date from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The three unpublished poems are called Lines In Mid-Air, Snatchcraftington Addresses and Eden.

The letters - which date from 1954 to 1964 - shed light on aspects of Ted Hughes' life and early career, including his time in the US and life with his first wife, Plath.

In one letter from Massachusetts in 1957, he wrote: "Luxury is stuffed down your throat - a mass-produced luxury - till you feel you'd rather be rolling in the mud and eating that."

In a letter from 1960, Hughes tells his sister that "everybody's full of Harold Pinter" following the playwright's first production of The Caretaker in London.

The British Library notes that, in most cases, Plath added her news to the reverse or end of Hughes' letters "providing an interesting juxtaposition of handwriting, opinion and subject matter".

Helen Broderick, the British Library's curator of modern literary manuscripts, 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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