FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Nicholas Hughes, the son of poet Sylvia Plath, has killed himself, 46 years after his mother committed suicide and almost 40 years to the day after his stepmother, Assia Wevill, did the same. He was 47.
Hughes, who was not married and had no children, hung himself at his home March 16, Alaska State Troopers said. An evolutionary biologist, he spent more than a decade on the faculty of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Marmian Grimes, the university’s senior public information officer, said he left about a year ago.
Hughes’ older sister, poet Frieda Hughes, issued a statement through the Times of London, expressing her “profound sorrow” and saying that he “had been battling depression for some time.”
Nicholas Hughes was only 9 months old when his parents, Plath and poet Ted Hughes, separated, and still an infant when his mother died in February 1963. A few months earlier, she had written of Nicholas: “You are the one/Solid the spaces lean on, envious/You are the baby in the barn.”
Not widely known when she died, Plath became a cult figure and feminist martyr through the novel “The Bell Jar,” which told of a suicidal young woman, and through the “Ariel” poems she had been working on near the end of her life.
The immediate cause of their breakup was Hughes’ affair with Wevill, and Plath’s fame would long haunt her husband, hounded for years by women who believed he was responsible for her suicide and by a procession of scholars and fans obsessed with the brief, impassioned and tragic marriage between the two poets.
Ted Hughes would relive the tragedy not only through the constant reminders of Plath, but also through the suicide of Wevill, his second wife, who in March 1969 killed herself and their 4-year-old daughter.
Hughes, England’s poet laureate, was reluctant to discuss Plath until near the end of his life when he published the best-selling “Birthday Letters,” a collection of deeply personal poems that came out in 1998. He died of cancer the same year.