Ted Hughes Collection

Scope and Content

In 1975 the University of Liverpool Library exchanged the original autograph drafts for the play Orpheus and Eurydice (ref.no. MS.3.56(15)) for some other Ted Hughes MSS. We hold photocopies of the drafts for Orpheus and Eurydice.

The Ted Hughes Collection includes various manuscript and typescript poem drafts. They include The Martydom of Bishop Farrar, Lust and Desire,Six Young Men, Egghead, The Horses, Famous Poet,Wind, Bayonet of Charge,Macaw and Little Miss, the Bedtime Story poems (published in Crow under different titles), Magical Dangers, Conjuring in Heaven, Rocket to Venus,Gog II, To be a Girl's Diary,Fern, Bad News Good!, Eating with Friends, As I sit Stoking my TV and The Thought Fox. Some of these have been heavily worked upon. There is also a small number of poems that appear not to have been published and/or are untitled. There is a small amount of correspondence, some scenarios possibly intended for television, scripts for radio plays and drafts of the plays The Demon and Orpheus and Eurydice. The majority of the archive comprises material related to Hughes's adaption of Seneca's Oedipus. This includes drafts of the play, proofs and printer's copies and correspondence related to this, accounts and correspondence concerning Hughes's transactions with The National Theatre with particular reference to a dispute over contract, and material relating to various productions. There are also two translations of Oedipus.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward (Ted) James Hughes was born on 17 August 1930 in Yorkshire to William Henry and Edith Hughes and enjoyed the rural existence, often hunting on the moors with his older brother Gerald. Hughes went to Cambridge University to read English at Pembroke College, later changing to Archaeology and Anthropology. He graduated in June 1954, the same month as one of his poems appeared in a Cambridge periodical for the first time. He met the American poet Sylvia Plath while at Cambridge and they married in June 1956. The same year Sylvia typed up a manuscript of Hughes and sent it off for a competition. The judges chose The Hawk in the Rain, the prize was publication by Harper and Hughes's first book was published in 1957. From then until his death Hughes published many volumes of poetry and prose for adults and children.

Hughes moved with Sylvia to America in 1957 and taught English and creative writing at the University of Massachusetts. In 1959 they toured the country and then spent several months in the writers' colony of Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York. At the end of 1959 they returned to England and settled in London until August, both leading productive literary lives. Hughes gradually grew tired of the city, however, and in September 1961 they moved to Devon. The couple's first child, Frieda, was born in 1960 and was shortly followed by Nicholas Farrar in 1962, but the same year the couple separated. After Plath's suicide in 1963, Hughes stopped writing poetry for nearly three years while editing and publishing her work, dividing his time between Devon and London. In 1966 he started writing the first Crow poems and Crow, perhaps his most famous work, was published in 1970, following Wodwo in 1967. Hughes was famed for his use of animals and they are a recurring feature throughout his work.

In 1970 he married Carol Orchard and finally settled in Devon. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1984. Hughes continued to write and received the Whitbread Prize for two consecutive years in 1997 and 1998. He died of cancer on the 28 October 1998.


The collection is organised under the following headings:

  • Poem Drafts
  • Correspondence
  • Scenarios
  • Plays
  • Adaption of Seneca's Oedipus

The Ted Hughes collection consists of several different deposits and these have been maintained in their original order to reflect their provenance.

Access Information

Access is open to bona fide researchers; an appointment must be made in advance of any visit.

Acquisition Information

The Ted Hughes collection is made up of a number of different deposits, the full acquisition information for each deposit is given lower down in the list.


In 1975 the University of Liverpool Library exchanged the original autograph drafts for the play Orpheus and Eurydice (ref.no. MS.3.56(15)) for some other Ted Hughes MSS. We hold photocopies of the drafts for Orpheus and Eurydice.

Other Finding Aids

A finding aid is available for consultation in the reading room.

Archivist's Note

The Hughes collection was originally listed by Michael Perkins as several different deposits according to their provenance. Additional information, especially on the identification of poems, was provided by Terry Gifford. The collection level description was created in 2003  for the Archives Hub by Roy Lumb. This finding aid was created by Hayley Thomas in 2006  in order to draw together all of the Hughes materials into one description.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction and licensing rules available on request.


There are no anticipated accruals.

Related Material

The University of Liverpool also holds:

  • a book collection of Hughes's work, including limited and first editions
  • limited edition poster poems illustrating Hughes's working partnerships with the artists Leonard Baskin and Gavin Robbins at reference SXF PR6058 U29
  • a recording of Hughes reading his own work at reference cassettes 5.

British Library Manuscript Collections hold Ted Hughes literary MSS and letters to Keith Sagar

Exeter University Library (Special Collections) hold Ted Hughes literary MSS

State University of New York: Buffalo State College hold Ted Hughes literary papers

Indiana University: Lilly Library hold Ted Hughes literary papers

Emory University Library: Special Collections and Archives hold Ted Hughes literary papers

Washington University Library Department of Special Collections hold Ted Hughes literary papers

Colombia University Libraries Rare Book and Manuscript Library hold Ted Hughes correspondence and proofs dating from 1968-1969

The University of Victoria: McPherson Library hold Ted Hughes literary MSS and correspondence dating from 1960-1962

Location of Originals

The autograph drafts for the play Orpheus and Eurydice, MS.3.56(15), are photocopies, the originals were exchanged for other Ted Hughes MSS, on 3 June 1975 , with Dr Keith Sagar.


Feinstein, ElaineTed Hughes The Life of a Poet (London Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2001)

Gifford, Terry andRoberts, NeilTed Hughes: A Critical Study(Faber and Faber, 1981)