Entertainment & Arts

Sylvia Plath claims 'absurd', says Ted Hughes's widow

Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath
Image caption Hughes and Plath married in 1956 after meeting at Cambridge University

The widow of poet Ted Hughes has described claims that he abused Sylvia Plath as "absurd".

There are reports that Plath wrote to her psychiatrist saying Hughes, her husband at the time, physically abused her days before she miscarried.

A statement issued on behalf of Carol Hughes said the allegations were as "absurd as they are shocking".

The letters have not been made public but a bookseller who has offered them for sale has confirmed their contents.

The letters were written by Plath to Dr Ruth Barnhouse between 1960 and 1963 and are among a collection that has come to light.

According to The Guardian, Plath wrote that Hughes, whom she had married in 1956, beat her and wanted her dead.

The correspondence was put up for sale for $875,000 (£700,000). Antiquarian bookseller Ken Lopez told the BBC the Guardian story "can be corroborated by the letters".


Who was Sylvia Plath?

Image copyright REX/Shutterstock
Image caption Plath and Hughes had two children - Nicholas (pictured with Plath) and Freida
  • Sylvia Plath was an American novelist, poet and short story writer
  • Born in Boston, she studied at Cambridge University, where she met Ted Hughes
  • The couple married in 1956 and had two children together
  • She is best known for writing The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel, released in 1963 shortly before she died
  • Plath was clinically depressed for much of her life, and took her own life aged 30

Image copyright PA
Image caption Carol Hughes became the poet's second wife in 1970

Responding to the report, the Ted Hughes Estate issued a statement on behalf of Carol Hughes, who was married to the poet from 1970 until his death in 1998.

It said the claims would be seen as absurd by "anyone who knew Ted well".

The statement added: "Private correspondence between patient and psychiatrist is surely one of the most confidential imaginable and, in this case, these alleged claims were from someone who was in deep emotional pain due to the apparent disintegration of her marriage."

The sale of the letters has been blocked by Smith College, the Massachusetts arts college where Plath studied in the 1950s, which filed a lawsuit claiming the letters were bequeathed to it by Dr Barnhouse after her death.

Mr Lopez said: "They are off the market for the time being as the lawsuit is in litigation.

"Hopefully, the lawsuit will be over soon and the letters, and the archive they are a part of, which includes a good deal more material by and about Plath albeit none of it quite as shocking as the Barnhouse letters, can be sold to a research institution where it can all be read and studied by scholars, researchers, students, historians, journalists, other poets and writers, readers of Sylvia Plath, etc."


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