Claims Mexborough poet Ted Hughes beat Sylvia Plath before miscarriage are "absurd" says widow

Ted and Carol Hughes.
Ted and Carol Hughes.
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The widow of Mexborough literary giant Ted Hughes has spoken out to blast claims that he beat his ex-wife Sylvia Plath days before a miscarriage as "absurd."

Carol Hughes has rushed to the defence of her late husband after a national newspaper revealed earlier this week that unpublished letters between Plath and her psychiatrist allege that he beat her and "wanted her dead."

In reply, a statement said: "The claims allegedly made by Sylvia Plath in unpublished letters to her former psychiatrist, suggesting that she was beaten by her husband, Ted Hughes, days before she miscarried their second child are as absurd as they are shocking to anyone who knew Ted well.

"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."

According to The Guardian, the letters, written between February 1960 and February 1963 and sent to Dr Ruth Barnhouse, who treated the writer in the US after her first documented attempt to kill herself in August 1953, are part of an archive amassed by feminist scholar Harriet Rosenstein seven years after the poet’s death, as research for an unfinished biography.

The archive came to light after an antiquarian bookseller put it up for sale for $875,000 (£695,000).

The most shocking passages reveal Plath’s accusation of physical abuse shortly before miscarrying their second child in 1961, in a letter dated 22 September 1962 – the same month the poets separated. She later committed suicide.

Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd, where he spent his early years and lived there until he was seven, when the family moved to Mexborough.

His parents ran a newsagent’s and tobacconist’s shop and during his time in the area, he explored Manor Farm at Old Denaby, which he said he would come to know “better than any place on earth”.

His earliest poem “The Thought Fox”, and earliest story “The Rain Horse” were recollections of the area.

After university, Hughes met, dated and married American poet Sylvia Plath.

His partner after Plath, Assia Wevill, also took her own life in 1969.

Throughout the 1970s, Hughes continued to write and published several children’s books with critics lauding him as one of the best poets of his generation, leading to him being named Poet Laurerate by The Queen in 1984, a title which he held right up until his death in 1998 at the age of 68.