Ted Hughes's Cave Birds

Scope and Content

The collection is the complete series of poems and drafts for Cave Birds. This series of poems was commissioned from Hughes by the Ilkley Festival of Literature and first performed at Ilkley on 30 May 1975. The original ten Cave Birds poems were based on a series of ten drawings by Leonard Baskin. Later, a second series of ten drawings inspired a further ten poems, and later still these twenty poems were diversified, for relief and contrast, by the interpolation of a further ten poems in a looser and more dramatic style. The complete sequence consists of thirty poems. To these Hughes added a brief series of explanatory notes, one for each poem. The Scolar Press produced a limited edition of 100 copies of the first ten poems, together with the corresponding drawings by Baskin, in 1975. Twenty-nine poems were published in an edition by Faber in 1978.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ted Hughes was born at Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire, in 1930, the son of William Henry Hughes and Edith Farrar Hughes. He was educated at Mexborough Grammar School, having moved there in 1937, when his father opened a newsagents. In 1948 he won a scholarship to Cambridge, and read English at Pembroke College before changing to Archaeology and Anthropology, graduating in 1954. At Cambridge he met Sylvia Plath (d1963), whom he married in 1956. The year after his marriage his first book of poetry, The Hawk in the Rain, was published by Faber & Faber to widespread acclaim. A number of increasingly diverse publications followed, including children's stories and poetry, librettos and poetry. After a short period in London and the USA he moved to Devon in 1961. In 1970 he maried his second wife, Carol Orchard, who survived him. He became Poet Laureate in 1984, and received the Order of Merit just before his death. He died in London in October 1998. By his first wife he had one son and one daughter.


The manuscripts are in two sequences: A and B, reflecting the initial twenty poems and the final ten. Drafts, typescripts and notes for each poem are attached.

Access Information

Usual EUL arrangements apply

Acquisition Information

The collection was purchased by the University Library in 1975 from the poet with the assistance of the Arts Council of Great Britain.

Other Finding Aids

The collection is sorted and each part described, drafts for individual poems being associated

Conditions Governing Use

Photographic reproduction is not allowed

Custodial History

The collection was sorted by Hughes and the sequences described by him prior to acquisition.


Twenty-nine poems were published in an edition by Faber in 1978. See above.