The British Library has apologised to the widow of Ted Hughes after placing the poet on slavery dossier for the actions of an ancestor active 300 years before his birth.
Despite the Yorkshire writer's modest origins the former Poet Laureate who died in 1998 was included on a list of authors connected to “profits from slavery or from colonialism”,
He was tenuously tarred over his distant colonialist ancestor Nicholas Ferrar who died in 1637, centuries before Hughes was born, The Telegraph revealed.
The British Library has issued an apology to the poet’s widow Carol Hughes for the distress caused by the research, which has now been withdrawn.
The Ted Hughes Estate has welcomed the withdrawal of the “misleading” reference which made a “tenuous” connection between the 20th century poet and a contemporary of Shakespeare.
A statement from the British Library said that including the Hawk In the Rain author on the list caused “confusion and concern” and the reference to the poet “should not have been made”.
It continued: “We regret profoundly the distress that this has caused and have removed the spreadsheet pending a review of this research.
“In particular we wish to apologise to Mrs Carol Hughes, widow of the late Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, and to other family members and friends.”
Researchers from the Printed Heritage Collections included Hughes on the list logging evidence of “connections to slavery”.
It was part of institutional work to make the British Library “anti-racist” in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests.
Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, and George Orwell were also included for indirect links to the slave trade.
Hughes’ offending relative was Nicholas Ferrar, born in 1592, who was said to be "deeply involved" with the London Virginia Company set up to establish colonies in North America.
The British Library has now said this reference to the poet’s distant ancestry “will not be made again” and has been withdrawn “unreservedly”.
A statement from the Ted Hughes Estate said: "Mrs Carol Hughes, widow of the late Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, has welcomed the apology from the British Library, its acknowledgement of the distress caused by comments on the Library's website that should not have been made, and its assurance that these comments will not be repeated."
Ted and Carol Hughes, nee Orchard, were married in 1970. Hughes became famous as a poet examining the brutality of the natural world, and became Poet Laureate in 1984.