Hunting Diary, 1943
No Place. No Publisher, 1943.
Diary; 32mo (122 x 80mm.); green leatherette cover, gilt edges; marbled endpapers; c.105pp. Ownership inscription "Edward James Hughes" in pencil on front free endpaper, second ownership inscription "Edward Hughes, 75 Main St, Mexborough" on title-page, numerous manuscript notes and illustrations throughout in pencil or ink. Hughes lists his kills under each date, often accompanied by animal sketches, some closely observed. In Poetry in Making Hughes recalled that he was fascinated by animals, collecting, and drawing toy lead creatures. He acted as retriever when his elder brother a gamekeeper shot magpies, owls, rats and curlews, growing up surrounded by the harsh realities of working farms in the valleys and on the moors. Written between the ages of twelve and thirteen, the diary evokes a tension between destructiveness and creativity in Hughes' nascent conception of the natural world. It prefigures the imagery and ideas expressed in mature lyrics like "Crow Goes Hunting" (Life and Songs of Crow, 1970), where the ideal object of poetry (a hare) is chased by words (a pack of hounds). As Crow attempts violence upon the hare, the hare responds by metamorphosing into ever more beautiful forms, leaving Crow at the end of the poem as an observer of Creation, "Speechless with admiration". In the introduction to his 1967 children's anthology Poetry in the Making, Hughes defines poetry itself as a "sort of animal", and recalls keeping hunting diaries after his family moved to Mexborough when he was a seven-year-old boy ("I still have some diaries that I kept in those years"), though he downplays their artistic significance ("they record nothing but my catches"). In fact, this diary teems with insights into the daily life of Hughes as a boy (Thursday 4 February: "airman lends me Arab dagger"; Monday 15 March: "break Nicholsons [sic] window with catapult"), marks events such as his thirteenth birthday (Tuesday 17 August: "My Birthday | 13", accompanied by an abstract doodle), and even notes his hat size, boot size, weight, and height. On a preliminary blank leaf is a large, cartoonish, partially effaced pencil sketch of a body builder (?), captioned "COLT MCGEE". Curiously, on the entry for Monday 25 October (two days before Sylvia Plath's birthday), Hughes has written the address of his mother-in-law-to-be in a later hand - "Mrs Plath, 26 Elmwood Road Wellesley, 81 Massachusetts USA", showing that he returned to the diary in some capacity as an adult. Formerly the property of Frieda Hughes the daughter of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Good some gatherings coming loose, endpapers becoming detached, lacking pages with entries for 13-28 May, rear free endpaper roughly torn out, binding rubbed.