Ted Hughes

Early Life

Edward James Hughes, famously known as Ted Hughes, was an intelligent child of William Henry and Edith Hughes. He was born on the 7th of August in 1930 in Mytholmroyd in the West Riding of Yorkshire. His family moved to Mexborough in South Yorkshire when he was seven. He spent most of his time in the lap of nature. These early years of his life were dominantly rural which proved a starting point of his poetic imagination. Unfortunately, his mother died in 1960, and later, his father died in 1981.


He started his educational career from Mytholmroyd, where he attended his first institution, Burnley Road School. Later, the family moved to Mexborough. There, he attended Schofield Street Junior School followed by Mexborough Grammar School. During his school days, he was a bright student with unique writing qualities, the reason that the teachers encouraged him to try his hand in poetry. He soon started writing poetry and produced his first poem at the age of fifteen. He became a published poet in 1946, when his first poem, “Wild West” appeared in the school magazine, The Don and Dearne, followed by other compositions.

Later in 1948, he won a scholarship to Pembroke College, Cambridge. However, instead of pursuing his education, he chose the National Service. He joined the air force in 1949 and worked as a ground wireless mechanic in East Yorkshire. While working, he continued reading the works of Shakespeare. He completed his National Service in 1951. After his service, he joined Pembroke College on a scholarship to complete his education, where he chose Literature his major. However, Ted changed his preferences and studied Anthropology and Archaeology instead. He also continued spending his quality time studying mythology and works of great writers.

Married Life and Tragedy

While studying at Cambridge, he met a famous American writer, Sylvia Plath. The couple fell in love and tied a knot on the 16th of June in 1956.  The first year of their marriage was an ideal one. They supported each other in literary pursuits. Their poetry got published in highly reputed journals like The Nation, The Atlantic and Poetry.  Later, the couple had a successful tour of the United States. Ted worked as a teacher but eventually returned to England when Plath was pregnant with their first child. Later, in 1962, Plath discovered Hughes’s relation with Assia Gutmann Wevill and they parted their ways. The following year, Plath committed suicide, and in 1969. Assia also killed herself and their child. However, in 1970, he married for the third time with Carol Orchard and stayed with her until his death in 1998.


Ted Hughes, a great poet, spent the final days of his life at his home in Devon. He continued producing literary pieces until a few months of his demise. He published his final work titled “Birthday Letters” in 1998. This iconic figure died of cancer on the 28th of October in 1998.

Some Important Facts of His Life

  1. He married three times in his life. Sadly, his first two wives committed suicides.
  2. He was not only a tremendous poet but also a dramatist, teacher, children’s writer, and short story writer.
  3. His literary services earned him a lot of success that he won awards in different fields, including the Order of Merit, presented by the Queen.
  4. He was ranked fourth on The Times list of the fifty greatest British writers in 2008.

His Writing Career

Ted Hughes successfully pursued four careers during his life: poetry, teaching and playwrighting, and children fiction writing. He became a published poet at the age of fifteen. In 1946, his first literary piece, ‘Wild West’ was followed by other publications. Later, in 1956, he cofounded, St. Botolph’s Review, a literary magazine with some other editors. This shows he had a unique literary taste and great poetic skill, the reason that his meetings with great literary figures and experiences of life helped him shaping his mature thoughts. Specifically, his union with Sylvia Plath further accelerated his poetic career. She encouraged him to submit his first manuscript, “The Hawk in the Rain” for the contest which turned out a major success. His successful writing career included a large number of literary collections such as; “The Iron Man”, “The School Bag”, “Wolf Watching”, “Crow”, Cave Birds”, “Selected Poems 1957-1981” and other masterpieces.

His Style

Despite facing challenges in life and troubled marital status, Ted Hughes added diversity and versatility in the world of literature with his thoughtful and intellectual ideas. His works are acknowledged and praised internationally to this day. Marked by the heavy use of natural and animal imagery, the complexity of thought, literary devices and free verse, his poetry won global recognition. Since he is ranked the most important poet of the post-war era, his pieces failed to follow the paradigms set by the earlier classical poets. He depicted ordinary experiences of mankind but with intense emotions. The recurring themes in most of his poems are loss, death, fear and man and the natural world.

Ted Hughes’s Works

  • Best Poems: He was an outstanding poet, some of his best poems include: “The Thought Fox”, “Snowdrop”, “Pike”, “View of a Pig”, “Hawk Roosting”, “Crow’s First Lesson” and “The Blue Flannel Suit.”
  • Other Works: He also tried his hands on prose, plays and short stories. Some of them include: “The House of Aries”, “The Wound”, The House of Donkeys, The Price of a Bride and The Iron Man.

Ted Hughes’s Impacts on Future Literature

Ted Hughes is a well-known English poet, children’s writer, and translator who became popular during his lifetime. His highly intellectual pieces were applauded by the audience and other literary figures. His literary qualities and unique way of expression helped the world change views regarding the stereotypical and conventional styles of poetry. He successfully painted how humans strive for ascendancy and supremacy. His indifferent writing style and expression left a profound impact on various writers.  He successfully presented his ideas in his writings that even today writers try to imitate his unique style, considering him a beacon for writing prose and poetry and translations.

Ted Hughes’s Famous Quotes

  1. He swayed in the strong wind that pressed against his back. He swayed forward, on the brink of the high cliff. And his right foot, his enormous iron right foot, lifted-up, out, into space, and the Iron Man stepped forward, off the cliff, into nothingness.” (The Iron Man)
  2. “Who owns the whole rainy, stony earth? Death.
    Who owns all of space? Death.” (Crow)
  3. “My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
    It took the whole of Creation
    To produce my foot, my each feather
    Now I hold Creation in my foot.” (Hawk Roosting)