Dr. Nathaniel Minton
Westmoreland Press, 2015 (amazon)
– Reviewed by Rehan Qayoom
Dr. Nathaniel Minton provides a glimpse of the poet Ted Hughes’ inner circle (Hughes called them “the gang”) from his Cambridge days. Dr. Minton knew both Hughes and Sylvia Plath throughout their creative and personal lives, and he writes with an informal intimacy of style sometimes lacking in other memoirs about Hughes. Minton also shares abiding memories of Hughes and the women in his life at the time: wife Sylvia Plath, and lovers Assia Wevill and Susan Alliston.
He shares his perspective on the fateful night at the St. Botolph’s Review launch party, when two oceans converged (Hughes and Plath), but cannot recall whether he actually witnessed their meeting. Plath notably did not like Minton and treated him disrespectfully when he saw her last. She wrote ill of him in her journals in unkindly terms.
Whilst confessing that he lacked the literary background of others in Hughes’ circle, Dr. Minton admits that he harboured a liking for Gerard Manley Hopkins and knew some lines of Shakespeare and Blake. He touchingly recalls how an Irish Muse flitted away across the Irish sea, leaving him with an enduring love for Irish culture, its mythology and the poetry of W. B. Yeats.
With Hughes he shared an interest in the Jewish Kaballah and suggests that it was Assia Wevill who drew him to it, though he would already have been familiar with Jewish mysticism and folklore before her appearance in his life. Minton argues that Wevill was, in fact, psychologically disturbed and tormented by Plath’s death (a few years later she too would commit suicide as Plath had done), and as has been reported elsewhere, she seemed to be haunted by Plath’s ghost. He points out that Hughes’ work in art therapy has gone largely neglected and proposes that it be seriously studied among psychiatrists and psychotherapists.
This memoir was one of the books proposed as part of a commemorative volume in celebration of the tenth anniversary of Hughes’ death. The project never came to fruition, however, due to disputes over copyright, but individual memoirs by Hughes’ close friends such as this one, are well worth a read.
Rehan Qayoom is a poet, editor and translator educated at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has featured in numerous literary publications and performed his work internationally. He has published 2 books of poetry.