Insights of a poet laureate fetch £40k

Ted Hughes (1930-1998) is regarded as one of the greatest poets of his generation, and was Britain's Poet Laureate from 1984.

Nick Gammage first started writing to Hughes when he was an English student in the late 1970s. This evolved into a correspondence lasting two decades.

It was a long time before he had the chance to meet Hughes and introduce himself with the words "You won't have heard of me but I'm the guy who keeps writing to you." to Hughes's delight.

The letters begin with Hughes's answers on questions of English literature, including D H Lawrence " blended into the cultural air as we breathe. It is not easy to know what is our own and what came through him - it is probably impossible, since so many salient ideas of his were not original with him either..."

But the topics change, and move on through his views on religion and history (including a four page essay on how he believes WW1 affected his father's generation).

Most exciting to those fascinated by Hughes are explanations of the intentions behind his own work, and his dislike of reading comments about it, even if positive, " when a child is admired, in its hearing, for something it does naturally. Ever after - that something is corrupted with self-consciousness..." and his 18 year old obsession with Shakespeare and Yeats.

Ted Hughes letter from Nick Gammage collection
Ted Hughes letter from Nick Gammage collection

There is also a draft of Hughes's poem Enter Hamlet Staring in the Air.

The collection of 22 autographed and typed letters and 16 postcards signed by Hughes, and three pieces signed by Carol Hughes, his second wife, who outlived him were estimated at £15,000-20,000 in Sotheby's London auction.

However bidders saw them as more significant than that, and the price shot up until they finally left the stage for £39,650, perhaps more fitting price for a set of insights into a great poetical mind.

Autographs by poet Charles Baudelaire also recently beat their estimates in a Paris auction.


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