March 23, 2009 / 9:16 PM / 10 years ago

Son of poets Plath and Hughes commits suicide

LONDON (Reuters) - The son of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes has committed suicide 46 years after his mother gassed herself, his sister and police said on Monday.

Nicholas Hughes, 47, hanged himself at his home in Alaska, Frieda Hughes, who is also a poet, told Britain’s Times newspaper.

“It is with profound sorrow that I must announce the death of my brother, Nicholas Hughes, who died by his own hand on Monday, March 16 ... He had been battling depression for some time,” Hughes said in a statement to the newspaper.

Frieda Hughes, who was reported to be flying to Alaska, could not be reached for comment.

Alaska State Troopers said in a statement they had gone to a house in Fairbanks on March 16 where a man had hanged himself. Emergency services took Hughes to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead. No foul play was suspected, they said.

Hughes, who was unmarried, had until recently been professor of fisheries and ocean sciences at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

Plath, an American famous for her autobiographical novel “The Bell Jar” and the poetry collection “Ariel,” has been at the center of a literary cult since she committed suicide in 1963 at the age of 30 in the London flat while her children, one-year-old Nicholas and two-year-old Frieda, slept.

She left bread and milk for the children and sealed their room against the gas. They were unharmed.

Critics blamed Ted Hughes for driving Plath to despair and their relationship has been a source of public fascination fanned by the 2003 film “Sylvia” starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig as the troubled couple.

Ted Hughes’s lover Assia Wevill also committed suicide in 1969, at the same time killing her young daughter from her relationship with the poet.

He was one of Britain’s most distinguished poets and was appointed poet laureate, but Plath’s suicide cast a shadow over him until his death in 1998.

(Additional reporting by Bill Rigby)

Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Andrew Dobbie

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