Ted Hughes came to Cambridge in 1951, to read English at Pembroke. In 1953 he dreamed a burned fox entered his room one night as he struggled with an essay. It told him: ‘Stop this — you are destroying us.’ In February 1956 he met Sylvia Plath at a party to launch St Botolph’s Review. That magazine, and his student calendar, complete with fox, feature in an exciting new exhibition of Hughes’s work, from his Cambridge days to his years as Poet Laureate.
The items are on loan from Pembroke’s extraordinary collection of Hughes’s work — fine press and trade editions, manuscripts, art work and photographs — acquired since 2001, when the College Library unveiled a stained glass window devoted to Hughes’s poetry. Highlights in the Benson Gallery and on the first floor landing include some of the verse dedications Hughes inscribed in copies of his work for his close friend Roy Davids, who oversaw the sale of Sylvia Plath’s papers to Smith College; Hughes’s work as fisherman poet, including manuscript additions to the poem he wrote to raise money for salmon conservation in 1985, ‘The Best Worker in Europe’; his illustrations for broadsides and pamphlets of his poems printed at home by his son Nicholas on his Morrigu Press; and examples of Hughes’s long collaboration with the American artist Leonard Baskin.