“It is with profound sorrow that I must announce the death of my brother, Nicholas Hughes, who died by his own hand on Monday 16th March 2009 at his home in Alaska. He had been battling depression for some time.”
Dr Hughes’s death adds a further tragic chapter to a family history that has been raked over with morbid fascination for two generations.
He was only a baby when his mother died but she had already sketched out what he meant to her in one of her late poems. In Nick and the Candlestick, published in her posthumous collection Ariel, she wrote: “You are the one/ Solid the spaces lean on, envious./ You are the baby in the barn.”
Later his father wrote of how, after Plath’s death, their son’s eyes “Became wet jewels,/ The hardest substance of the purest pain/ As I fed him in his high white chair”. Neither he, nor his sister nor their Poet Laureate father could ever fully escape the shadow cast by Plath’s suicide in 1963 and the personality cult that then sprang up around her memory.
Ted Hughes was hounded for the rest of his life by feminists and Plath devotees who accused him of driving her to her death by his infidelity. In 1969 he suffered another terrible loss when his mistress gassed herself and their daughter in an apparent copycat suicide.
When everyone around you kills themselves, that's enough, Ted Hughes. RIP, though :(