Title: A Memoir of Ted Hughes Author: Dr Nathaniel Minton Publisher: Westmorland Press (233 Crystal Palace Road, London SE22 9QJ) ISBN: 978 0 9932660 0 3 Price: £4.99 (paperback) 43 pages
Nathaniel Minton (‘Than’) first met Ted Hughes in Cambridge in 1955. At that time Ted had graduated from Cambridge University and was working nearby in a rose garden. Nathaniel was in his second year at Cambridge University when, because of his friendship with David Ross and Daniel Weissbort and his fascination with poetry, he became part of what Ted referred to as “the gang”. Being with this group of poets, scholars and ballad–singers which included David, Daniel, Ted Hughes, Daniel Huws and Lucas Myers, was, says Minton, “like being inside a creative workshop”. And it was the start of his lifelong friendship with Ted.
Although he had a scientific background, the young Minton dreamed that he might one day become a famous poet. He contributed a short story to the St Botolph’s Review and, so, was there at the Review’s launch party and saw the first meeting between Ted and Sylvia Plath. Sylvia was a tall girl dancing with a partner in the gloom and he saw Ted appear, sweep her away and vanish with her. He met Sylvia only briefly whilst he was in Cambridge and she appeared a vibrant and happy young woman. Six years later, in an awkward encounter shortly before her death, she was much changed. In retrospect, in the light of his study of psychology, he concluded that she might then have been “on the edge of a psychotic, agitated depression’. He writes of hearing dramatically from Sue Alliston of Sylvia’s death, and of Ted’s broken condition at that time. And he writes of the way in which Ted became his own art–therapist, healing himself through his creative work. Minton himself became a doctor, and later spent three years training in psychoanalysis and depth psychotherapy at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. In 1988 he produced the University of London film Art Therapy and Psychiatry.
Ted put Minton in touch with his sister, Olwyn, whilst she was living and working in Paris. He describes her as warm, friendly and witty, and they became good friends. In this memoir, he puts on record the way in which she gave up her Paris life and career to move to Devon and care for Ted’s and Sylvia’s children after Sylvia’s suicide. She was, for two years, a “mother substitute” and a most important part of their early lives.
Minton writes, too, of meeting Assia and Ted shortly after Sylvia’s death, and, whilst giving them a lift in his new car, hearing Assia in the back seat shout hysterically “I am going to kill myself. I am going to kill myself”. He got to know Assia better than he had known Sylvia and he knew that she was deeply disturbed by Sylvia’s death. He saw, too, classic symptoms of denial in the fragile psyche beneath her well defended persona. He writes of Ted’s deep attachment to her; and of the way in which she helped Ted get close to the poetry of Yehuda Amichai and to Kabbala.
As well as offering a view of Ted as a generous and loyal friend, this short memoir also briefly describes aspects of Minton’s own life and career, and reveals his own personality and the qualities which cemented this friendship. It was originally written for the book of memoirs edited by Bertram Wyatt Brown and Lucas Myers which, due to copyright problems and delays, was never published*. Minton’s daughter, Anna, has now published it in memory of her father. More of Nathaniel Minton’s life can be read in his obituary in the BJ Psych Bulletin.
NB: Minton mistakenly writes that Ted once worked as a supply teacher at a grammar school. In fact, in 1957 Ted was teaching English and Drama at the Coleridge Secondary Modern School in Cambridge to boys who had failed their eleven–plus exam and, so, failed to get into grammar school.
* Other contributions to this book of memoirs were published separately as:
Lucas Myers, The Essential Self – Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, Five Leaves Publications (Richard Hollis), 2010.
Daniel Weissbort, Ted Hughes and Translation, Five Leaves Publications (Richard Hollis), 2011.
Daniel Huws, Memories of Ted Hughes, 1952-1963, Richard Hollis, 2010.
Michael Baldwin, , Ted Hughes and Shamanism
Tim Supple, Ted Hughes and the Theatre
Ann Skea, Ted Hughes: Occult Energies