Ted Hughes' widow says Sylvia Plath claims about abuse are 'absurd as they are shocking'

Plath reportedly said Hughes had beat her two days before she suffered a miscarriage

Roisin O'Connor@Roisin_OConnor
Thursday 13 April 2017 10:35
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Fullest account yet: Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath in Massachusetts in 1959
Fullest account yet: Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath in Massachusetts in 1959

Ted Hughes' widow has responded to claims that he abused Sylvia Plath, calling them "absurd as they are shocking".

The statement was issued on behalf of Carol Hughes after reports emerged that an unpublished letter written by Plath to her psychiatrist claimed that Hughes physically abused her two days before she miscarried.

According to the Guardian, the correspondence between Plath and Ruth Barnhouse took place between 18 February 1960 and 4 February, a week before Plath took her own life.

Feminist scholar Harriet Rosenstein collected the letters seven years after her death. They have not been made public, but a bookseller who offered them for sale has confirmed their contents.

In two separate letters, Plath reportedly wrote that Hughes, whom she married in 1956, beat her and told her he wanted her dead.

Responding to the claims, the Ted Hughes estate issued a statement on behalf of his widow Carol, who was married to him from 1970 until his death in 1998.

It said that the claims would seem absurd to "anyone who knew Ted well".

Ted Hughes pictured with his wife, Carol

"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," the statement added.

The sale of the letters is currently blocked by Smith College, the arts school where Plath studied during the 1950s. It has filed a lawsuit claiming that the letters were bequeathed to it by Dr Barnhouse after her death.

Antiquarian bookseller Ken Lopez said the story, originally reported in the Guardian, can be "corroborated by the letters".

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