Nicholas Hughes
March 22, 2009 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Nicholas Hughes has taken his own life. A marine biologist specializing in Alaskan stream fish, he has been preceded in death by his mother, Sylvia and his father, Ted.
posted by felix betachat (49 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, my god. That's heartbreaking.
posted by yhbc at 7:14 PM on March 22, 2009

posted by batmonkey at 7:22 PM on March 22, 2009


(Damn it.)
posted by ltracey at 7:23 PM on March 22, 2009

posted by rollbiz at 7:27 PM on March 22, 2009

This sums up a conversation my girlfriend and I were having on the subject of celebrity death earlier today:

Plath’s friend, the poet and critic Al Alvarez, once said: “I would love to think that the culture’s fascination is because Plath is a great and major poet, which she is. But it wouldn’t be true. It is because people are wildly interested in scandal and gossip.”
posted by rollbiz at 7:30 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:32 PM on March 22, 2009

Well let us at least hope that what was once considered mere scandal or gossip has more empathy and respect now.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:34 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

DO NOT CLICK THE FIRST (NICHOLAS HUGHES) LINK. It attempted to install the antivirus 2009 malware on my machine.
posted by localroger at 7:35 PM on March 22, 2009


Such sad news.

I feel like the article could have done a better job paying tribute to this poor family's fresh loss. The focus is wrapped up with all of the other drama, which kind of only makes it worse. What a sad story.
posted by juliplease at 7:35 PM on March 22, 2009

Well let us at least hope that what was once considered mere scandal or gossip has more empathy and respect now.

I'd like to think so, but what on Earth would give you that notion?
posted by rollbiz at 7:36 PM on March 22, 2009

So many, many suicides in that poor guy's life. God.

Fighting depression is hard enough, but when so many of the most important adults in your early life did their best to model it for you-- well, Christ, talk about a stacked deck.

It does sound like the parts of his life that he managed to live when he wasn't bowled over by depression were amazingly rich, vibrant, and useful. He must have been an amazing guy. What a sorry waste.

posted by palmcorder_yajna at 7:40 PM on March 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, and this...

posted by localroger at 7:44 PM on March 22, 2009

All the dead dears.

posted by orthogonality at 7:44 PM on March 22, 2009

I'd like to think so, but what on Earth would give you that notion?
posted by rollbiz at 7:36 PM on March 22

A better understanding of the cultural influences and genetic predispositions leading to the mental-health issues involved, for one. Surely we'd made some progress in the last half century?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:45 PM on March 22, 2009

God help us all.
posted by phaedon at 7:52 PM on March 22, 2009

DO NOT CLICK THE FIRST (NICHOLAS HUGHES) LINK. It attempted to install the antivirus 2009 malware on my machine.
posted by localroger at 10:35 PM on March 22

Really? Did this happen to anybody else?
posted by stresstwig at 7:53 PM on March 22, 2009

Given his background, it's easy to say it's quite tragic. But it truly is sad. He seemed to have put together a rich life for himself and done interesting work despite the shadows cast upon his life by his family. But in the end, such is depression, the great thief. It's sad when anyone loses this battle.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:54 PM on March 22, 2009


(and because this is too familiar)
posted by R. Mutt at 7:54 PM on March 22, 2009

God, so indescribably sad. His poor sister.
posted by scody at 7:54 PM on March 22, 2009

Not to me, stresstwig.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:55 PM on March 22, 2009

posted by Smart Dalek at 8:15 PM on March 22, 2009

So, so sad.
posted by chihiro at 8:16 PM on March 22, 2009

Me neither. Hope your hosts file is okay, localroger!
posted by lumensimus at 8:17 PM on March 22, 2009

Single male in Fairbanks, winter, family history of suicide. Not very good odds.
posted by docpops at 8:22 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:27 PM on March 22, 2009

I was just thinking about Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath's children the other day. How sad to see this. My heart goes out to his sister Frieda.
posted by Kattullus at 8:31 PM on March 22, 2009

I remember going down into the ice cold water. Chute came down on top of me and I got tangled. I had an outstanding knife with me. If there was one blade sharp enough to cut floating paracord, it was strapped to my body. The sheath, on the other hand, not top of the line and the knife went to the bottom of the ocean. Pretty much no way I'd reach the shore. And even if I could, dragging all this weight, the cold would be freezing my muscles very soon. So I started sinking and this thought came out of nowhere "what the hell else do you have to do?" So I swam. And swam until pink and purple spots were in my eyes, one eye went dark, couldn't feel anything, and I passed out, to my death. And I was dead. The guys who hauled me out of the water and resuscitated me said I must have been gone a good three minutes.
But I remember that through all the depressing times in my life 'what else have you got to do?'
Sometimes the suffering is all you have. I also know that without that event I might have not made it later in life myself.
Folks often look for a 'why' in these things. Why, with all the things going for him would he take his own life? And yeah, maybe it's his past and all that. Maybe it was just a moment that was enough to convince him he'd never see the light again.
But what we don't ask much is how is it that so many people who have been there make it back.
And I think we don't address that because the answer sometimes is just as incomprehensible.
How many people can sit there and really say why they're alive instead of dead? Hell, I've survived so damn many things I almost believe my own b.s. about being bulletproof.

But when you're in that depression I don't think there's a damn thing that can help you. Maybe another human voice. Maybe a screwy thought. But all that is just maybe.
And I think the flip side is true too. Who know what really pushes it one way or the other except the person experiencing that?
Suicide is such a complex and deeply personal thing. It's nearly impossible to make sense of, even amongst intimates.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:31 PM on March 22, 2009 [59 favorites]

posted by mike3k at 8:31 PM on March 22, 2009

Oh, Jesus. I can't stop thinking about Frieda Hughes.
posted by jokeefe at 8:47 PM on March 22, 2009

Holy crap. I was having a Ted Hughes chat with a friend not an hour ago.

Poor guy. Poor family. Both a very publicly dissected background, and depression.

posted by andraste at 8:56 PM on March 22, 2009

holy shit, smed. I, for one, am profoundly glad that you're still around.
and impossibly saddened by another senseless death in this brilliant family.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:01 PM on March 22, 2009

posted by schyler523 at 9:14 PM on March 22, 2009

Christ how unbelievably sad that family's story is. I didn't know about his mistress. I don't think I could have gone on after that.

The only thing I've ever read of sylvia Plath's is Daddy. Should i read the bell jar? Does it hold up?
posted by empath at 9:21 PM on March 22, 2009

I wonder if unSane ever met him and what his thoughts are about the man.

posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:51 PM on March 22, 2009


(I just had the same thing happen as localroger and suggest the first link be removed or modified in case.)
posted by notquitemaryann at 10:05 PM on March 22, 2009

empath--don't start with The Bell Jar. read Ariel, which includes Plath's very last poems written just weeks before her suicide. Ariel is dedicated to Frieda and Nicholas. i just started reading it a few days ago. Coincidence.
posted by subatomiczoo at 10:13 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Simon, you were such a good friend of mine when I needed a friend most, all alone, after my parent's divorce and my accident. I remember the last day I saw you, you seemed so happy.

I was devastated when I found out you had gone, on the anniversary of your mum.

I carry the regret of how we drifted apart as we grew up, how I couldn't repay what you gave a lonely boy in those dark days.

I just hope you found happiness, or at least relief.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 12:42 AM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

In a book I read once that I have mostly forgotten - John Irving, maybe? Vonnegut? - there was a conversation about suicide in families. It said, roughly, that if your parent commits suicide then you will always see it as an option. You might not do it; you might not even contemplate it, but somewhere in the back of your head will be a small voice saying, well, you know, there's always the Exit button. After all, Mom/Dad did it.

This thought kept me going through some very dark moments in my life. I have children. I don't want them to have that ending as a possible option on their internal DVD.

posted by mygothlaundry at 7:12 AM on March 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

Nick and the Candlestick
posted by jivadravya at 8:16 AM on March 23, 2009

To paraphrase Vonnegut: well if this isn't sad, I don't know what is.
posted by the bricabrac man at 8:21 AM on March 23, 2009

How unbelievably sad for his sister and family and friends.
posted by ameliajayne at 8:36 AM on March 23, 2009

posted by nonmerci at 9:41 AM on March 23, 2009


I wonder how much he was affected by the often stated idea that his mother was brought down by the drudgery, oppressiveness and isolation of marriage and children. I won't debate the truth of that idea; I just think that the suicide would be a hell of a burden for any child to bear, but to have to hear people say that parenting and caring for you was a part of the reason they killed themselves - that's a tremendous load to have to bear.
posted by echolalia67 at 9:52 AM on March 23, 2009

With that kind of genetic history, Nicholas was probably doomed from the start to a life of fighting mental illness. The fact that it extended ultimately to suicide is a damn shame.
posted by chimaera at 10:18 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by Ber at 1:58 PM on March 23, 2009

My father killed himself when I was five. I never met another child survivor of a suicide until I was in high school. I didn't tell anyone about it until I was in college, and even then I was selective.

In all my years of reading Sylvia Plath, I thought from time to time about her children and about what life might be like for them, and although I've been known to write to people I don't know, I couldn't imagine writing to them. I mean, really, how many letters about I Feel Your Pain do you probably get in their situation? Too many, I'd guess, and most of them unbearable.

This is all just say that I don't know what to say, except to note that depression is a terrible, awful, lonely thing, and suicide is all too often its fatal result, and it's terribly sad for those left behind.

Empath, The Bell Jar may be one of those books that's best read in high school or college and that doesn't quite seem the same if you come to it later, but I don't know for sure. Ariel is wonderful, but there are a lot of other gems hidden in The Collected Poems. Winter Trees is a favorite of mine.
posted by newrambler at 5:22 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Depression is a horrible disease. I wish the brain would yield its secrets to those trying to cure this heart breaking mental illness.
posted by bluesky43 at 5:29 PM on March 23, 2009

This article suggests it was Ted Hughes's death that was perhaps what actually drove Nicholas Hughes's fatal depression.
“Nothing happened to Nick without him trying to understand every aspect of it, whether it was working out how fish swim upstream or his own depression. He read every book he could find on the subject and the absolute tragedy is that he understood everything that was happening in his brain inside out. He just couldn’t stop it happening and it was terrible to behold.”
posted by scody at 8:48 PM on March 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

That final paragraph from the article scody linked to is heartbreaking (Mr. Saxton is Nicholas Hughes' friend of 33 years):
“I never heard Nick tell anyone about his parentage,” Mr Saxton said. “He wasn’t embarrassed; it just wasn’t something he wanted to be a feature of him. That’s the irony. He spent his life trying to get away from all this, to find a place where he could be himself. Then the stupid bugger commits suicide and starts it all up again.”
posted by Kattullus at 9:03 PM on March 24, 2009

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