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William Golding and Ted Hughes

On June 15th, I attended the Ted Hughes Network‘s inaugural conference at the University of Huddersfield to present my research into the literary relationship between Golding, and former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes. My interest in the connection between the two writers began when I spotted a first edition of Hughes’s debut collection of poetry The Hawk in the Rain in Golding’s library (pictured). Both men were Faber and Faber authors, and two of the best-known, and most-decorated, writers of the 20th century.

For Golding’s 75th birthday tribute book, published by Faber, and edited by John Carey, Hughes wrote an essay ‘Baboons and Neanderthals: A Rereading of The Inheritors’, an appreciative examination of Golding’s depiction of the struggle between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals. In addition, Hughes was invited to read a section of The Inheritors at Golding’s memorial service at Salisbury Cathedral in 1993. As John Carey recalls:

‘At about the midpoint of the memorial service in Salisbury Ted Hughes read, unforgettably, from The Inheritors. As a preface, he said that, though Golding wrote in prose, he was a poet with a “tragic imagination” who sensed the presence of another life, a “mythic life”, behind our personalities.’

I was lucky enough to be able to look at some of the correspondence between Golding and Hughes, and to read some sections from Golding’s unpublished journals about his views on Hughes and his poetry. In the course of this research, I’ve discovered some fascinating links, which I hope will be published at some point in the future.

William Golding looms large in the literary history of the twentieth century, and it is easy to see his influence stretching into the twenty-first, too – consider Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Michael Grant’s Gone, and Alex Christofi’s Glass, among many others. Golding’s work still resonates.