Friday, May 27, 2011

Letter from Ted Hughes to son Nicholas 2/28/98

"...you described a dream... You were walking up a garden path towards a building with a glass door. A frog was jumping up the path behind you. You entered the building and closed the glass door, shutting out the frog. The frog then jumped against the glass of the door. Do you remember it?...

[many pages of various Hughes dreams on the same subject]

...So all I wrote, through all those years, contained nothing of what I really needed to say. And nothing in my real life contained the real me -- I was living on the wrong side of the glass door. All I was aware of, all that time, was the desperate need to break the glass door, and blow up the log jam, but I didn't dare because it was -- the business of your mother and me. The incessant interference of the feminists and everything to do with your mother's public fame made it impossible for me -- it seems -- to deal with it naturally, and express it indirectly, obliquely, though other symbols, because everything I did was examined so minutely for signs of it. Also, I was not allowed ever to forget it enough to let it sink into imagination and be changed there subconsciously. Which is the natural process for dealing with unmanageable experiences.

So my daily feeling that I could write nothing and hardly even live until I freed myself from the log-jam was blocked and frustrated all those years -- till I got ill.

It was when I realised that my only chance of getting past 1963 was to blow up that log-jam, and assemble whatever I had written about your mother and me, and simply make it public -- like a confession -- that I decided to publish those Birthday Letters as I've called them. I thought, let the feminists do what they like, let people think what they like about me, let critics demolish and tear to bits those simple, unguarded, quite private for the most part, unsophisticated bits of writing, let the heavens fall, let your mother's Academic armies of support demolish me, let Carol [Hughes's 2nd wife] go bananas, let Frieda and Nick bolt for their bomb shelters -- I can't care any more, I can't lock myself in behind this glass door one more week.

So I did it, and now I'm getting the surprise of my life. What I've been hiding all my life, from myself and everybody else, is not terrible at all. Though you didn't want to read it.

And the effect on me, Nicky, the sense of gigantic, upheaval transformation in my mind, is quite bewildering. It's as though I have completely new brains. I can think thoughts I never could think. I have a freedom of imagination I've not felt since 1962. Just to have got rid of all that.

Well, let's hope it wasn't all just a bit too late.

But I tell you this, with a hope that it will let you understand a lot of things. Also, that it will make you think about the frog, and the kiln. Don't laugh it off. In 1963 you were hit even harder than me. But you will have to deal with it, just as I have had to. And as Frieda has had to. You were given the means -- if you use them, everything about you will be changed, by what follows the frog through the door...."

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Ted Hughes died of cancer on October 28, 1998, eight months after this letter. (The day after Plath's birthday.) He was 68.
His son with Sylvia Plath, Nicholas Hughes, hanged himself in Fairbanks, Alaska, on March 16, 2009. He was 47.

"Something has to stay." But what? Videos?

2 comments:

So-and-so said...

Our mutual interest in Sylvia Plath brought me to your site. I'm new to blogger(1st post today actually). I've been with the competition I'm afraid to admit, but I've been lured here now and I'm not sure of all the customs and etiquettes but your site is fascinating! You're a gifted communicator. You don't by chance keep a copy of 'The Bell Jar' on your night-stand do you?

Enjoy your holiday week-end

Beth Austin said...

Thanks for the compliment on the blog! RE nightstand reading: No, no "Bell Jar," but for over a decade (up 'til the mid-90s, probably), I did keep a copy of the first edition of her "Collected Poems" there! It was paperback, and it finally fell apart. (I tied a shoelace around it and still have it on a bookshelf, though I've since bought a new copy.)