I was thrilled to receive this email from Liz Hicklin, a former girlfriend of Ted Hughes. It gives added meaning to the words “based on a true story”. Liz has given me permission to share our correspondence with you:
I have just finished your book [Capriccio: A Novel]. I loved it. I knew the characters, Mr & Mrs Hughes, Ted’s sister Olwyn who was very protective of her brother, and the aunt who came to care for the children. I had met Assia when they called into my house in Buxton when I was visiting the UK. Assia was pregnant at the time and very quiet. Can’t blame her as Ted was visiting an old friend !! He might have written his poem Lovesong after a lunch date with Assia . My heart soared for this poor girl. Lizzy
Earlier Liz wrote:
I am reading your book at the moment and enjoying your interpretation. You must have researched their lives in depth.I am trying to write a story about my sister’s life but finding fact and fiction difficult. You do it well.
Love letters between Liz and Ted have now been added to the Hughes archive in the British Library. Hicklin, a nurse at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge met Hughes when he was an undergraduate at Pembroke College in the early 1950s. The couple were in a relationship for several years with Liz meeting the Hughes family in Yorkshire. More about the letters can be found on the following website:
Liz, the recipient of the letters, was from Manchester originally, but left both her home and Cambridge eventually to emigrate to Australia where she lives today. At one point the couple thought they would both emigrate and join Gerald, Hughes’s brother, but Liz left for America first and whilst the relationship did not survive her departure, the correspondence is warm and tender from Hughes. He calls her, ‘My darlingest bunnyown’ and ‘My darling Bunpussington.’When he considers the end of their relationship with the distance between them, he is totally candid – ‘I dare say you’d have shown more faith in me if I’d shown you more honesty.’ He appreciates that she may well meet someone else abroad, but he insists, ‘I love you Bun, don’t ever doubt that.’ The letters and postcards were sent over a two year period and shed light on the time when as he says in ‘Fidelity’ from Birthday Letters that he graduated, but remained part of the culture in which he had studied – ‘Free of University I dangled/ In its liberties’.