Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2015 SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE
‘Gripping and at times ineffably sad, this book would be poetic even without the poetry. It will be the standard biography of Hughes for a long time to come’Sunday Times
‘Captures the great poet in all his wild complexity. Powerful and clarifying, richly layered and compelling’ Melvyn Bragg, Observer
Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate, was one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. He is one of Britain’s most important poets, a poet of claws and cages: Jaguar, Hawk and Crow. Event and animal are turned to myth in his work. Yet he is also a poet of deep tenderness, of restorative memory steeped in the English literary tradition. A poet of motion and force, of rivers, light and redemption, of beasts in brooding landscapes.
With an equal gift for poetry and prose, and with a soul as capacious as any poet who has lived, he was also a prolific children’s writer and has been hailed as the greatest English letter-writer since John Keats. With his magnetic personality and an insatiable appetite for friendship, for love and for life, he also attracted more scandal than any poet since Lord Byron. At the centre of this book is Hughes’s lifelong quest to come to terms with the suicide of his first wife, Sylvia Plath, the saddest and most infamous moment in the public history of modern poetry.
Ted Hughes left behind him a more complete archive of notes and journals than any other major poet, including thousands of pages of drafts, unpublished poems and memorandum books that make up an almost complete record of Hughes’s inner life, preserved by him for posterity.
Renowned scholar Sir Jonathan Bate has spent five years in his archives, unearthing a wealth of new material. Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, his book offers for the first time the full story of Ted Hughes’s life as it was lived, remembered and reshaped in his art. It is a book that honours, though not uncritically, Ted Hughes’s poetry and the art of life-writing, approached by his biographer with an honesty answerable to Hughes’s own.
”'Remarkable … one of the very best biographies in years” - Joyce Carol Oates
”'I found it as spirited and sympathetic as it is scorching” - Bel Mooney, Books of the Year, Daily Mail
”'A work of head-spinning revelations … Bate offers a complete picture of Hughes: the man, the work and the restless mythologies that prowled his imagination … A moving, fascinating biography” - The Times
”'Comprehensive and definitive … Bate's relaxed prose keeps everything moving anecdotally … underpinning it all is a vast command of archival material … He is also a sure guide to the genesis and reception of each of Hughes's major books” - Daily Telegraph
”'Bate captures the great poet in all his wild complexity … A powerful and clarifying study, richly layered and compelling” - Melyn Bragg, Observer
”'[An] important … ultimately triumphant biography … Bate is obviously suited as a biographer and critic. His standing in his academic profession is eminent” - Financial Times
”'Magisterial … Bate writes with sympathy and perception about Hughes and his poetry. This fine book tells readers as much as they need to know for now” - Economist
”'Bate has read this huge mass of material with a scholar’s ability to date and arrange it … This scrupulous and lucid biography makes it all seem like muddle and self-deception, tormenting to himself and the many who loved him” - Guardian
”'Fascinating” - John Preston, Spectator, Books of the Year
‘Elegantly retells the myth and, occasionally, violence of the story and gives it new flesh’, Philip Hoare, Spectator, Books of the Year -
‘The most controversial biography of the year’, Gaby Wood, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year -
”'Epic in both scale and voice” - Independent, Books of the Year
”'Manages to illuminate the poet’s lowering literary presence” - Financial Times, Books of the Year
”'A great present idea for the literary fan in your life. Bate’s fascinating biography is a painstaking exploration of Hughes” - Mail on Sunday