Charlotte Mew

Penelope Fitzgerald

Charlotte Mew (1869-1928) cut one of the most distinctive figures of the twentieth century – beloved of Siegfried Sassoon and Walter de la Mare (for whom she was ‘a very rare being’), unafraid of Virginia Woolf, and considered by Hardy to be ‘far and away the best living woman poet’.

Part of a new wave of fashionable female dandies who lived passionate, precarious existences in Bloomsbury, she was an enchanting and spirited personality. But behind the brave face was a life riddled with grief: left to care for her disturbed mother, two siblings with undiagnosed Schizophrenia and Charlotte herself burdened by depression and closeted lesbianism; she killed herself by drinking household disinfectant.

In this unexpectedly gripping portrait of a life of passion unfulfilled, Penelope Fitzgerald brings all her novelist’s skills into play in telling a story that is at once tragic, beautiful and deeply human.

Reviews of Charlotte Mew

    • ‘A perceptive, witty biography. A marvel and a curiosity … reads like a Thomas Hardy novel’ The Times
    • ‘Everyone says you can’t write the biography of a genius. Penelope Fitzgerald has … and she has managed to present Charlotte Mew with such subtlety that you feel you’ve read her work, even if you haven’t’ The Times
    • ‘Absorbing … full of insight and sympathy and mellow humour’ Observer
    • ‘Wise and ironic, funny and humane, Fitzgerald is a wonderful, wonderful writer.’ David Nicholls
    • ‘The heartbreaking story, beautifully told, of a hitherto underestimated poet. Tantalizing but touching, an entire life’s emotional history in a short space.’ Victoria Glendinning, Sunday Times
    • ‘A subtle, succinct, generous biography.’ Hilary Spurling, Evening Standard