Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends


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She fell in love with several brilliant older women, ''partly because, in each case, she had been helped and taught. It was her male mentors, however - one of whom was Thomas Hardy - who had most to do with shaping her career as a poet, each recognizing and nurturing the gifts of this almost pathologically demure woman. One sees, in particular, Hardy's influence in the subject matter and tone of her poetry, which often affects a country dialect reminiscent of his Wessex poems.

But there is something insistently original about Mew 's voice, as in ''The Shade-Catchers'': I think they were about as high As haycocks are. They went running by Catching bits of shade in the sunny street: ''I've got one,'' cried sister to brother, ''I've got two. Fitzgerald, in this study, seems something of a shade-catcher. Mew 's self-circumscribed life does not easily yield material for narrative.

Finishing Touches

Her relations with her friends remain obscure, despite her biographer's diligent probing. The poetry itself, most of which was published in ''The Farmer's Bride '' , contains little in the way of overt autobiography. Mew often wrote in other voices, preferring the self-deflection of a mask, although a fiercely personal emotion akin to hurt glitters through the highly polished surfaces of her poems. This volume includes a well-chosen selection of Charlotte Mew 's work, so readers can judge for themselves whether she warrants reconsideration.

ISBN 13: 9780201088953

I think sheJU does. Return to the Books Home Page. In this vein Miss Harrison returned to Carlyle, and to the idea of the heroic life as a model to imitate. At the end of the summer term there was an Open Day, when the reports were read and there was music, and a French or German play.

Miss Harrison approved of amateur dramatics, though not of low mimicry. But as a brilliant pianist with a delicate touch she was needed for the concert, and, at this stage of her life, still frankly enjoyed being told that she played well.


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But in spite of these failures her one motive was to please her headmistress. Lotti could not dress like Miss Harrison. She had of course, at the age of fourteen, no choice as to what she wore. She had a black-and-white checked dress, with a plain silver chain and cross, for weekdays, and a brown dress with a gold cross on Sundays. Her best friends were sober, hard-working girls.

All these girls had good, quiet homes — the Olivers were Quakers — and were not much disposed to question things. Lotti amazed them. They saw at school her wild side, her inquisitive, flamboyant, head-tossing, parasol-snapping side. The beloved headmistress could not be disobeyed, but Lotti seemed to pass her days in a state of painful emotion, as though listening to something they could not hear.

In , when Lotti was on the verge of adolescence, Miss Harrison, the undisputed centre of life in Gower Street, began to behave oddly. Her behaviour showed signs of overwork and strain. It was felt by the governors that she must leave the school, and try what a rest would do. She was going, it was decided, to retire for the time being and take rooms in Hampstead, half-way up Haverstock Hill.

During the daytime she would work in the British Museum, grimly persevering with her History of England , never, as it turned out, to be published. When Charlotte heard this news, she was practising the piano. Amice was dismayed, and wondered whether she ought to bang her head, too.

Lotti was sick with one of the most cruel of all preparations for adolescence, the passion for a teacher, confusing intense sexual anxiety with the duty of loving the highest when we see it. Wisely or unwisely, Miss Harrison now offered to take some of the older girls from Gower Street as boarders, and to teach them English literature in the evenings, when their school day was over.

Anna Maria was quite unable to face such a crisis, Lotti grieved wildly, Fred was called in to make a decision, and to put his foot down, and do something. For the next two years she was separated from her elder brother and her two sisters, Anne and the baby Freda. In the evening the walk was uphill.

Two of the Gower Street assistant teachers walked in front, as chaperones. Behind came the two sixteen-year-olds, Edith Oliver and Edith Scull, the daughter of an American professor. The two Ediths, then, walked ahead; next came Lotti, in the highest spirits, with the puzzled little Amice Macdonnell. When the little party arrived at Haverstock Hill there was a gracious reception, but also plain cooking of the cold meat and rice pudding variety. Mrs Newcombe, the Gower Street housekeeper, who regarded Miss Harrison with love and reverence, had come to Hampstead to look after her.

Eighteen months later, however, the situation totally altered when Miss Harrison herself fell passionately in love with Amy Greener, the teacher who had taken over the Gower Street School. When she recognized that her nerves had given way, Lucy Harrison had bought a piece of land, Cupples Field, near Wensleydale in her native Yorkshire. She had planted trees on the site at once, but waited for the right moment to build herself a house. Now, at one stroke she realized that the house must be shared.

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This is a trite remark, I am afraid. Lucy became the revered headmistress at the Mount School, York; Amy joined her staff. They retired together. She wavers, but finally gives her blessing.

It must have been painful for Miss Greener to read these words aloud in the whitewashed bedroom, among the plain oak furniture which her friend had knocked together. Meanwhile the boarders at Haverstock Hill were left to face their entry into life without their headmistress.

This for her was something more than the ordinary condition of being sixteen. It can be recognized in an early sonnet, Left Behind :.


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Of course, large numbers of schoolgirls all over England, at the turn of the century, felt passionately about the teacher. It passed, and was supposed to refine and ennoble. She would always be physically attracted to women rather than to men, and she would always choose wrong. She was marked out to lose, with too much courage ever to accept it. LOTTI, everyone said, had changed. She was still unpredictable and passionate and could still, if she wanted to and was in the vein, make everybody laugh until they cried.

But the innocent desire to show off had failed her. She was often fierce with strangers.

Charlotte Mew: Afternoon Tea

Her wild impulses no longer turned all the same way, outwards, to meet the world. Once she had been driven to wild happiness at any kind of celebration; now, it seemed, she had hardened. But whereas Anne continued in the same faith till death, Lotti suffered from all the spiritual nausea of belief and unbelief. Her family were at a loss, her friends still more so.

They knew only that Lotti was very brilliant, and out of them all must be the one who would do great things. In appearance she was still a tough, delicate miniature — her boot size was number 2 — her smallness making an immediate appeal, wherever she went, to the toy-loving human race.

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Charlotte was now the daughter at home. Still a complete failure from the point of view of gentlemanliness, he had had to put all his energy for some time past into the affairs of Kendall and Mew. So far, so good. Hampstead in the late s was a rapidly extending rural suburb, with a population of 40, By this it was meant that the Vestry could recover some of the expenses by letting it out for concerts.

In April the contract was offered for competition. But almost at once the familiar unpleasantness began.

Tim Kendall

The suggestion was that H. Criticism grew louder when the work was held up for month after month. The Vestry, obliged to meet in one of the dining-halls of Hampstead Workhouse, were restive. This sounds more like Fred than the suave and experienced Kendall, who in fact, at the age of seventy, had entered the slow deterioration of his last illness.

Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends
Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends
Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends
Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends
Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends
Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends
Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends Charlotte Mew: and Her Friends

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