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Thursday, October 29, 1998 Published at 12:14 GMT


Poet Ted Hughes dies

Ted Hughes: Kept his illness a secret

One of Britain's most admired literary figures, the Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, has died aged 68.

He was acclaimed for the intense images he evoked of the English countryside and the savagery of the animal world.

Poet Al Alvarez: "A greatly significant poet"
Mr Hughes death follows an 18-month battle against cancer, his publishers Faber and Faber said.

He died peacefully at home in Devon on Tuesday.

He had kept his cancer battle a secret from all but those very close to him.

Matthew Evans, chairman of Faber and Faber, said: "After an 18 month fight against cancer, Ted Hughes died yesterday. The loss to his family is inestimable."

Queen 'saddened'

Buckingham Palace has said the Queen expressed her condolences.

"The Queen was informed this morning of the death of Ted Hughes," said a spokesman. "She was very saddened and will be in touch with his family. She was grateful for the opportunity to recognise his work and achievements, before he died, through the award of the Order of Merit."

Mr Hughes was presented with his honour by the Queen at a private audience in Buckingham Palace 13 days ago.

Stormy marriage

BBC Arts Correspondent Rosie Millard: "A very fine Poet Laureate"
Mr Hughes was married to the American poet Sylvia Plath and their stormy relationship dogged his reputation after her suicide.

A collection of poems published by Mr Hughes this year called Birthday Letters shed new light on his difficult marriage and brought him sympathy along with rave reviews.

The ever reclusive Hughes had chosen not to defend himself against a storm of abuse from fans of Syliva Plath. He made few public appearances and, until the publication of Birthday Letters, made no comment on his six-year marriage.

[ image: Sylvia Plath: Committed suicide]
Sylvia Plath: Committed suicide
Sylvia Plath gassed herself in an oven on 11 February, 1963, soon after Mr Hughes left her for another woman.

Some Plath admirers called him a murderer and his name has been hacked off of her gravestone in Yorkshire, northern England, several times.

Mr Hughes, who had been Poet Laureate since 1984, refused to be interviewed about the poems, which span 25 years from the late 1960s.

They showed that although he remarried, he had never stopped thinking about Sylvia Plath.

Kept tightly under wraps with none of the fanfare usually accorded to publishing events, it came as a complete surprise to the literary world.

Mr Hughes' death will come as a similar surprise to many.

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