Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes


For the first time, one volume surveys the life, works and critical reputation of one of the most significant British writers of the twentieth-century: Ted Hughes.

This accessible guide to Hughes' writing provides a rich exploration of the complete range of his works. In this volume, Terry Gifford:

  • offers clear and detailed discussions of Hughes' poetry, stories, plays, translations, essays and letters
  • includes new biographical information, and previously unpublished archive material, especially on Hughes' environmentalism
  • provides a comprehensive account of Hughes' critical reception, separated into the major themes that have interested readers and critics
  • offers useful suggestions for further reading, and incorporates helpful cross-references between sections of the guide.

Part of the Routledge Guides to Literature series, Ted Hughes presents an accessible, fresh, and fascinating introduction to a major British writer whose work continues to be of crucial importance today.


Ted Hughes is already regarded as a major poet of the twentieth century. This book presents the evidence for his being read as a writer with huge significance for the future of the human species in the twenty-first century. Although the complete body of his work is still in the process of being archived and published, there is plenty of evidence for such a claim. We have a Collected Poems, together with selections of his essays, translations and letters which include useful annotations and notes. And the bulk of Hughes’s papers are now available to scholars in two great libraries in Britain and America. Essentially a poet, the range of his work also includes stories, plays, translations, essays and letters. Within them is a body of work that Hughes called ‘within hearing of children’ that is not only of great educational value, but also essential for adult readers who wish to hear what Hughes has to say to the twenty-first century.

When we have learned to undo the artificial separations we have erected between forms of knowledge (the humanities and the sciences; art and activism, for example) we shall not only be able to appreciate the range of Hughes’s interests, including esoteric forms of knowledge, in relation to his writing, but be able to reconnect the ‘work’ of the poet with his life’s ‘work’ as supporter of educational broadcasting, the creative writing movement, local environmental activism and national campaigns against agricultural and industrial pollution. Hughes himself was deeply read, for example, in both astrology and the science of water pollution. He was also a literary historian, tracing the path Western culture has taken that led to our self-destructive separations of knowledge. So this book attempts to reconnect and cross-reference the ‘whole work’ of Ted Hughes, from all aspects of the life to the work and to its impact.

From the beginning Hughes possessed an amazingly coherent sense of the field he wanted to explore and articulate, first through poetry, and then quickly also through stories and plays. He knew that he needed to break with the conventional wisdom, preoccupations and modes of poetry that dominated in England when he began publishing his poetry. He felt that the Movement poets were avoiding the most urgent questions facing human beings in a postindustrial society. From the beginning his work was a radical attempt to challenge the taken-for-granted by addressing those urgent questions: What connected human nature, the inner lives of people, with the great forces of nature around them? How could people negotiate a relationship with the apparently battling . . .

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