The media blitzkrieg surrounding the suicide of Nicholas Hughes has led many to immediately connect it to his mother's suicide in 1963. Ben Hoyle at The Times authored "Death of Ted Hughes 'drove his son Nicholas towards suicide'", a follow-up article to his March 23 news-breaking story.
In this article, he quotes one of Nicholas Hughes's oldest friends, Joe Saxton, in which Saxton's opinion is that it was the death of Ted Hughes - and not that of Sylvia Plath's - that had a direct relationship to Nicholas' mental health troubles, and ultimately his suicide.
While it is certainly more plausible for this to be the "cause" but unfortunately with suicide it is really all a mystery. Which in part has fuelled the conversity for almost five decades surrounding Sylvia Plath's death. Cancer and other causes of death are readily explainable and, to a certain degree, understandable. Suicide is the exact opposite. It is a private decision made for private reasons and no matter whether a note was left or not, Nicholas' reasons were his reasons there is not much more we can say about that. We want to be able to name something - place blame, whatever - in the absence of something concrete or tangible - like a tumor. But it really just makes us all look a bit desparate. I'm not a medical doctor and don't put much stock in psychobabble, but nothing everything is explainable and that is ok.
Mr. Saxton spoke with another friend of Nicholas's in Alaska and, according to the Hoyle article Nicholas was in a rough patch and "he just fell through the cracks in one brief moment". This is actually closer to Sylvia Plath's suicide, as anyone who has studied her final weeks well knows. Plath moved to London in December 1962 and was very busy fixing up her flat, making plans and commitments, seeing friends, and writing really wonderful prose and poetry. And then comes that weekend when she could no longer cope, and she, too, "fell through the cracks in one brief moment".
Ted Hughes, in letters to Keith Sagar, blamed the drug that Plath was put on for her suicide. Of all the theories and rationalizations for Plath suicide, this may fit more than anything else. It is quite possibly the only thing that "changed" in the last week or so of her life. If Nicholas, too, experienced adverse reactions to anti-depressant medication it could also have had an influence on the decision he made on March 16. What a hypocrite I am, trying to explain it!
Publications & Acknowledgements
- BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
- Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
- Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
- Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
- Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
- Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
- Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
- Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
- Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
- Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
- Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
- Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
- Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
- Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
- Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
- Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. 2000. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books. (Acknowledged in)
- Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
- Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
- Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
- Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
- "Banking on his passion for Plath" by Melissa Davis Haller. UMW Today. Spring 2005.
- "Sylvia Plath's Three Women to be staged in London" by Alison Flood. The Guardian. 3 December 2008.
- "FBI files on Sylvia Plath's father shed new light on poet" by Dalya Alberge. The Guardian. 17 August 2012.
- "There Are Almost No Obituaries for Sylvia Plath" by Ashley Fetters. The Atlantic. 11 February 2013.