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Charlotte Mew Collection

About the Collection

This digital collection features manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, documents, and clippings related to the British poet and author Charlotte Mary Mew (1869-1928), a transitional figure between the periods of Victorian and Modernist poetry.

Charlotte Mew was born in London, England, the daughter of an architect. Her life was plagued by the deaths of family members and a family history of mental illness, to which she ultimately succumbed. Mew was especially close to her sister Anne, who became Mew’s last surviving close relative; the two agreed never to marry to avoid passing on genetic predispositions to mental illness. Unable to live openly as a lesbian, Mew’s self-effacing manner and rejection of traditional feminine gender expression further alienated her from polite society, even as she was accepted by some literary circles. She was known to wear short hair, masculine attire, and carry a black umbrella. Unusually for a woman in Victorian England, Mew smoked profusely and rolled her own cigarettes.

Despite winning the admiration of major literary figures—including Thomas Hardy, H.D., Ezra Pound, Siegfried Sassoon, and Virginia Woolf—during her lifetime, Mew's work remained relatively obscure in the years following her death. It wasn’t until 1981 that Mew’s complete works were published in the Collected Poems and Prose edited by Val Warner. The first full biography of Mew, by Penelope Fitzgerald, followed in 1984.

The Poetry Collection’s Charlotte Mew collection mostly originates from Alida Klementaski Monro. Monro was a friend of Mew’s and an employee and later proprietor of the Poetry Bookshop in London, which published Mew’s work. Additional materials come from the collection of Sydney Cockerell. Cockerell was an associate of Mew’s, director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and literary executor for Thomas Hardy, himself a champion of Mew’s work. More information about the Poetry Collection’s Charlotte Mew collection can be found in the collection’s finding aid.