‘Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life’

829be3f6-c702-448b-bb5e-873358a5ce7cJohn Sutherland at the Financial Times:

Possessed of insatiable sexual appetite and film-star looks, Hughes was flagrantly unfaithful. Plath was, his supporters allege, unstable. His most extended adultery was with the poet Assia Wevill — his dark lady. There was, she said, an “animal thing” between them. He was unfaithful to Assia, and others, eventually choosing to marry Carol Orchard, a young woman who had minded his children. In a ghastly echo of Plath’s death, the betrayed Wevill had killed herself by gas oven. She took her and Hughes’s child, Shura, with her. “All the women I have anything to do with seem to die”, said Hughes.

It is too easy to see Hughes as a villain. Bate avoids such judgment and mounts a subtly constructed explanation (it is not an apology). Hughes, Bate points out, “believed that all artistic creativity came from a wound”. The wound in his late work, from Crow (1970) onwards, was, of course, Plath’s death.

Bate draws, as closely as he is legally able, on Hughes’s dream journals to argue that he was haunted by her. The image that recurs — one that was played with by Ted and Sylvia in their early relationship — is Wuthering Heights.

more here.