Thursday, 3 April 2014

Poets and biography

It probably wasn't a huge surprise to many that Jonathan Bate's biography of Ted Hughes - originally being written with the co-operation of the poet's estate - has now effectively been 'outlawed' by the same. Bate intends to continue with it, but it will be with a different publisher (Faber were originally due to bring it out), and without the blessing of the poet's family, notably his widow, Carol.

I won't go into all the ins and outs of it here, but you can read Bate's side of things, and some interesting questions are raised. For one thing, as Bate and others have pointed out, there's a strange situation surrounding quotations from documents in the British Library. As they've been bought with public money, why should the public only be allowed to see them, but not quote from them at length? That feels rather like the estate trying to have their cake and eat it.

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