Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Thursday, October 29, 1998 Published at 19:28 GMT


Hughes: 'One of the great poets'

Described as "a giant of 20th Century literature"

Nick Higham: A deeply passionate poet
Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, who has died at the age of 68, has been lauded as "one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century".

This was just one of the tributes from the literary world and beyond after the news that Mr Hughes had died peacefully at home after a secret battle with cancer.

Ted Hughes discusses whether the post of Poet Laureate is outmoded
The writer was named Poet Laureate in 1984 and was widely acclaimed for his poetry in a career spanning 40 years.

Mr Hughes sealed his professional reputation in the year before his death with the publication of the bestseller Birthday Letters, a collection of 88 works chronicling his stormy relationship with American poet Sylvia Plath.

[ image: Birthday Letters: Close to autobiography, said Mr Evans]
Birthday Letters: Close to autobiography, said Mr Evans
Matthew Evans, chairman of Faber & Faber, which has published Mr Hughes's work since 1957, said: "Not only was he one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century but he was the most extraordinary man."

Mr Evans added: "He wanted Birthday Letters to be published because he knew he was seriously ill. He wanted to publish the work before he died."

Poet Dannie Abse: Full of praise
Poet Andrew Motion, professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia, had been a close friend of the poet for 15 years.

He said: "What especially matters is that he gave us a vision of England which manages to bring the whole of the history and traditional past into play with a present that is recognisably modern."

Fellow poet Douglas Dunn, professor of English at St Andrew's University, said: "He was one of that handful of poets who were pretty much household names."

[ image:
"A household name"
The Queen was said to be "saddened" at the poet's death.

She awarded him the Order of Merit less than two weeks ago at Buckingham Palace in what was to be the poet's final appearance in public.

Plaudits also came in from the political arena.

Culture Secretary Chris Smith said: "Ted Hughes was a giant of 20th Century literature.

"He wrote for young and old alike. He brought the power of nature alive and his latest poems, exploring the depths of relationships, were enormously moving."

The next Poet Laureate

Mr Hughes's death raises the question of who will succeed him as Poet Laureate.

He or she will be appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the prime minister.

Downing Street consults arts bodies and members of the public may write in with proposals before the Queen gives her approval.

Whoever succeeds Mr Hughes will join a long line of official poets which began with John Dryden in 1670.

Originally the office entailed composing court odes to mark occasions such as the sovereign's birthday.

But since the appointment of William Wordsworth in 1843, the position has been purely honorary, although the Poet Laureate may also write commemorative "official" verse.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

29 Oct 98 | Entertainment
Extracts from Hughes' Birthday Letters

29 Oct 98 | UK
Quiet man of intense verse

29 Oct 98 | Entertainment
Poet Ted Hughes dies

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online