Sylvia Plath's son commits suicide

Categories: Obituary
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Beautiful doom-- with his suicide last Monday, Nicholas Hughes follows in his mother's footsteps.

She was the poet who cemented her place in literary history with her suicide by gassing in 1963. And last Monday, March 16, Sylvia Plath's son, Nicholas Hughes, hung himself in his Alaska home at the age of 47, completing a circuit of tragic endings that plagued Plath and her husband Ted Hughes their entire lives.

Nicholas did not inherit his mother's passion for words, and lived his life far from the morbid limelight that sought him after his mother's death. But he inherited the powerful depression that plagued her. Childless and unmarried and employed as a marine biologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Hughes fought a losing battle with depression and despair that ended with his hanging last Monday.

It is perhaps for the best that Hughes never married. His father, the poet Ted Hughes, drove not one lover (Plath) but two lovers to suicide by gassing. His long time mistress Assia Wevill, for whom he left Plath, killed herself and their daughter with a gas oven in 1969.

Though Nicholas was an infant at the time of his mother's suicide, he is mentioned in several of her posthumously published poetry, and is a strong feature in his father's collections as well. Below is Plath's poem "Nick and the Candlestick."

Nick and the Candlestick
by Sylvia Plath

I am a miner. The light burns blue.
Waxy stalactites
Drip and thicken, tears

The earthen womb
Exudes from its dead boredom.
Black bat airs

Wrap me, raggy shawls,
Cold homicides.
They weld to me like plums.

Old cave of calcium
Icicles, old echoer.
Even the newts are white,

Those holy Joes.
And the fish, the fish -
Christ! they are panes of ice,

A vice of knives,
A piranha
Religion, drinking

Its first communion out of my live toes.
The candle
Gulps and recovers its small altitude,

Its yellows hearten.
O love, how did you get here?
O embryo

Remembering, even in sleep,
Your crossed position.
The blood blooms clean

In you, ruby.
The pain
You wake to is not yours.

Love, love,
I have hung our cave with roses,
With soft rugs -

The last of Victoriana.
Let the stars
Plummet to their dark address,

Let the mercuric
Atoms that cripple drip
Into the terrible well,

You are the one
Solid the spaces lean on, envious.
You are the baby in the barn.


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