The son of the poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, Nicholas Hughes, has commited suicide. Sylvia Plath’s son hanged himself almost a half a century after his mother killed herself. Read more on Nicholas Hughes’ suicide below.

Battling depression for years, Nicholas Hughes was found hanged at his home in Fairbanks, Alaska, by his girlfriend last Monday. Nicholas’ death comes 46 years after Sylvia Plath put her head in an oven and turned on the gas as her children slept in the room next door.

Sylvia Plath

Plath had lined the door between the rooms with wet towels to prevent the gas seeping in and harming Nicholas, then aged one, and his sister Frieda, who was just a year older.

Nicholas Hughes was a very private person and had a successful career as an eminent professor of fisheries and ocean sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His life in Alaska, much of it spent at sea documenting the ecology of salmon or else hunting or gardening, was probably as far as a man could get from a London literary world that has obsessed and combed over every detail of Plath and Hughes’s relationship since her suicide.

Ted Hughes knew how badly Sylvia Plath’s suicide had hurt the children. In 1998, shortly before his own death from cancer, he wrote a letter to Nicholas in which he concluded: “But I tell you all this, with a hope that it will let you understand a lot of things.Don’t laugh it off. In 1963 you were hit even harder than me. But you will have to deal with it, just as I have had to. And as Frieda has had to.”

Nicholas was unmarried and had no children. He did have a long-time girlfriend but the relationship had ended and he had started dating again.His new girlfriend is the one that found his body.

His sister Frieda Hughes, who is a writer and poet, was heading to Alaska with Ted Hughes’s 80-year-old sister Olwyn. Frieda said in a statement: “It is with profound sorrow that I must announce the death of my brother, Nicholas Hughes, who died by his own hand on Monday 16 March 2009 at his home in Alaska. He had been battling depression for some time.

“He was an evolutionary ecologist who specialised in the study of stream fish and travelled thousands of miles across Alaska on research trips.

“His lifelong fascination with fish and fishing was a strong and shared bond with our father (many of whose poems were about the natural world). He was a loving brother, a loyal friend to those who knew him and, despite the vagaries that life threw at him, he maintained an almost childlike innocence and enthusiasm for the next project or plan.”

Nicholas was shielded from his mother’s suicide by his father who told his children she had killed herself only when they were in their teens.

By that time Ted Hughes had been hounded by feminists who accused him of responsibility for Plath’s suicide through his own infidelity. Six years after Plath killed herself, his mistress Assia Wevill gassed herself and her daughter in an apparent copycat suicide.

Nicholas had shunned the limelight for many years so it is ironic that in death he is making headlines again. Even at birth, he was being written about by his mother. In her 1962 journals, she wrote on the morning following her son’s birth: “I felt very proud of Nicholas, and fond. It had taken a night to be sure I liked him -his head shaped up beautifully – the skull plates had overlapped to get him through the boney door, and filled out, a handsome male head with a black brain-shelf. Dark, black-blue eyes, a furze of hair like a crew cut.”

What a tragedy! Our condolences to his family and friends.