Charlotte Mew Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Charlotte Mew was born in 1869 in the Bloomsbury section of London, where she would live her whole life, much of it at 9 Gordon Street. She was the first girl born to Frederick Mew and Anna Maria Kendall. Originally from the Isle of Wight, Frederick Mew had been sent to London by his father to train as an architect. He became an assistant to architect H. E. Kendall, Jr. In 1863, he married Kendall’s daughter, Anna Maria. Anna Maria, an invalid much of her life, saw her marriage as beneath her. Frederick’s death in 1898 put the family into financial crisis. Of the seven Mew children, only Charlotte, her older brother, Henry, and two younger siblings, Anne and Freda, survived to adulthood. Henry and Freda were both institutionalized for mental illness, a situation that strained the family’s limited resources and haunted Mew’s poetry.

Following her father’s death, Mew lived with her sister Anne and her mother at Gordon Street. Eventually they lived in the basement, having rented out the upper rooms for additional income. Mew was particularly devoted to Anne, a painter who attended the Royal Female School of Art and later rented a studio, 6 Hogarth Studios. In 1909, the year Mew published “Requiescat,” her sister Anne had a painting accepted by the Royal Academy. As girls, they attended the Gower Street School and later lectures at University College, London.

At Gower Street, Mew developed a crush on Miss Lucy Harrison, the school’s headmistress. Mew’s unrequited...

(The entire section is 613 words.)