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Emory University acquires Library of Late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes

15 May 2003
[Images by kind permission of Emory University Library
© Emory University Library ]

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Ted Hughes: Bible Doodles
Image by kind permission of Emory University Library © Emory University Library

[ Bible Doodles, inside the back cover of Ted Hughes's grammar school Bible. ]

The Robert W. Woodruff Library of Emory University has acquired the library of the late poet laureate of Great Britain Ted Hughes. At the time of his death in 1998 Hughes was among Britain's leading literary figures and the author of dozens of critically-acclaimed collections of poems, including The Hawk in the Rain, Lupercal, Wodwo and Crow. His 1998 collection, Birthday Letters, chronicled his relationship with his first wife, the poet Sylvia Plath, and was an international bestseller as well as recipient of the Whitbread Book of the Year award. During the course of a distinguished life in letters, he also published many books for children, translations, a monumental critical study of Shakespeare, and other works.

The Hughes library, which numbers more than 6,000 volumes, offers students and scholars a detailed map of Hughes' own creative and intellectual development. In addition to many works of poetry by a wide literary circle (many inscribed to him by the author), the library also reflects Hughes' wide-ranging interests far beyond the field of literature. The library includes many works devoted to natural history, folklore, mysticism, religion, and esoteric knowledge, among other subjects.

Ted Hughes: The White Goddess, inscribed by John Fisher
Image by kind permission of Emory University Library © Emory University Library

[ The White Goddess by Robert Graves. A gift to Hughes from his English teacher John Fisher, an important influence, before Hughes went to Cambridge. ]

The earliest books in the Hughes library date from his school days at the Mexborough Secondary School, including a pocket edition of Shakespeare's Henry IV as well as editions of Wordsworth and Keats which he read as a school boy. The copy of Robert Graves' The White Goddess presented by his English teacher on his going up to Cambridge also is included, as is the copy of Shakespeare which he read and reread while stationed at a remote RAF station in Yorkshire in the late-1940s. A number of the earliest books in the Hughes library contain sketches and notes in Hughes' hand.

Ted Hughes's Complete Shakespeare
Image by kind permission of Emory University Library © Emory University Library

[ Title page of Ted Hughes's copy of Shakespeare's Complete Works. ]

Also of special interest are those books owned by Hughes and Plath during the years of their marriage. These include a study of nightmares which Plath presented to her husband as a Christmas gift in the first year of their marriage and a copy of Hart Crane's Complete Poems which Hughes inscribed to her. Plath often marked books as she read them, as revealed by her copies of D.H. Lawrence's Kangaroo, Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse and A Writer's Diary, Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, and other works.

Ted Hughes's Complete Shakespeare
Image by kind permission of Emory University Library © Emory University Library

[ Ted Hughes's autograph inside the copy of Shakespeare's Complete Works ]

"The estate is very pleased that Emory University has acquired the poet's library. It was an essential criterion of the sale that the library should remain a single entity," says a spokesman for the Hughes estate.

"Uniting the library and the literary archives of the great poet, author and scholar Ted Hughes provides an invaluable resource for teaching and learning about not only his work, but about contemporary poetry as well. Emory is committed to investing in resources that expand knowledge in the arts and sciences and to making those resources available to students and researchers," says Emory Interim Provost Howard O. Hunter.

Ted Hughes's Poemas Humanos
Image by kind permission of Emory University Library © Emory University Library

[ Cesar Vallejo: Poemas Humanos – (caption on image canvas) This drawing is circa the Crow cycle of poems. ]

This acquisition unites the Ted Hughes library with the poet's literary archive which Emory acquired in 1997. The Robert W. Woodruff Library offers a competitive annual fellowship for researchers needing support to travel to Emory for work in these and other of the Library's literary collections.

More details may be found at:

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Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Steve Enniss & Deb Hammacher for allowing the publication of this news item on this site.

Please note that all images from this article are included here by kind permission of Emory University Library & © Emory University Library

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