Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sylvia Plath's Son Kills Himself

It was very sad to read today that Nicholas Hughes, son of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, has committed suicide at the age of 47.

The Guardian reports that he had carved himself out a successful scientific career, but :
... ultimately he could not escape the legacy of being the offspring of one of the most famous and tragic literary relationships of the 20th century.
Sylvia Plath was famously very ill with depression and also died at her own hand. Depression often runs in families, and Sylvia had at least one other close relative who suffered from it (according to Kay Jamison's Touched with Fire). But Judith Flanders in The Guardian quite rightly has a go at those who would sensationalise these deaths, calling them a kind of curse of poetry.

The picture shows Sylvia with baby Nicholas taken from The Daily Mail which has a very good piece.

Nicholas was immortalised in his mother's poetry, including in this poem, Morning Song written just months before she died:
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.

The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry

Took its place among the elements.


Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.

In a drafty museum, your nakedness

Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

8 comments:

Chet said...

BTW, condolences to Frieda Hughes for the loss of her brother. For some reason, she reminds me of Caroline Kennedy.

hari ribut said...

i love her poems

Yusuf Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yusuf Martin said...

That is very sad. Is it confirmed that he endured depression, or any other form of mental ill health?

People can, and often do, end their own lives for a variety of reasons, other than depression, though that is sometimes a factor.

Anonymous said...

Yes -- Nick Hughes was a university professor in Alaska and had actually left his job due to serious depression. It is indeed sad news, but depression does often run in families (and not just creative ones).

-- Preeta

adline a.g. said...

oh no.. how tragic.

Anonymous said...

"A family in which a writer is born..."

That was in a previous post, wasn't it?

christinejalleh said...

This is sad. I latched onto her poems really quickly and only got to know about her tragic life story later.

It's really too bad her son was affected too.

I wonder if the public attitude (and lack of action) towards the real disaster of global warming compounded the depression?

He was a scientist and he was in Alaska...