"The son of the poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath has taken his own life, 46 years after his mother gassed herself while he slept.
Nicholas Hughes hanged himself at his home in Alaska after battling against depression for some time, his sister Frieda said yesterday.
He was 47, unmarried with no children of his own and had until recently been a professor of fisheries and ocean sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Dr Hughes’s death adds a further tragic chapter to a family history that has been raked over with morbid fascination for two generations.
Ted Hughes was hounded for the rest of his life by feminists and Plath devotees who accused him of driving her to her death by his infidelity.
In 1969 he suffered another terrible loss when his mistress gassed herself and their daughter in an apparent copycat suicide.
Plath’s friend, the poet and critic Al Alvarez, once said: “I would love to think that the culture’s fascination is because Plath is a great and major poet, which she is. But it wouldn’t be true. It is because people are wildly interested in scandal and gossip.”
Her turbulent marriage to Hughes became a modern myth, from their first meeting at Cambridge where he kissed the young American Fulbright scholar “bang smash on the mouth” and she bit his cheek so hard that it bled, through the whirlwind secret wedding all the way to its catastrophic ending.
Plath’s suicide in effect froze her children in time so that in the public memory they remained a one-year-old and a two-year-old lying in their cots, carefully sealed off from the gas leaking over their mother in the room next door.
Hughes did everything that he could to shield them from the increasingly lurid interest in their mother and did not tell them that she had killed herself until they were teenagers.
Dr Hughes’s parents split up before he was 1, his father leaving Plath for Assia Wevill, the exotic wife of another poet. The winter that followed was unrelentingly harsh. Struggling to get by on very little money as a single parent with two young children, Plath’s fragile mental state collapsed. She wrote many of her finest poems in a final burst of creativity and killed herself early one February morning.
Six years later Wevill, who had lived with Hughes and the children for much of the intervening period, also gassed herself. It was March 23, 1969 – 40 years ago today – and her death differed from Plath’s in one appalling respect: she had murdered four-year-old Shura in the process."
-- Ben Hoyle, telling one more of those stories that make it easy to despise humanity, in The Times Online.