Charlotte Mew was born in London, England, in 1869. Charlotte was one of seven children. Three of her brothers died in childhood, and one brother and one sister were committed to asylums in their 20's. Her father died in 1898. Only her mother, her sister Anna, and herself were left.
To hide her lesbianism, Charlotte wrote with an ambiguous or male speaker. She wore men's clothes, kept her hair short, and never got married. Charlotte also smoked and used strong language, which was not accepted by women at that time.
Charlotte fell in love with a woman named Ella D'Arcy. However, Ella wanted nothing more than friendship, and Charlotte eventually gave up pursuing her.
Charlotte fell in love with novelist May Sinclair around 1913. When May returned Charlotte's love, May became cruel and began to spread rumors about Charlotte. One of May's stories states that she had to jump over a bed to escape Charlotte's advances.
In the 1920's, Charlotte's mother died, and her sister Anna was diagnosed with liver cancer. Charlotte then began to have thoughts that Anna was buried alive and infected with black spots. In 1928, Charlotte was put in a nursing home. She died in 1929 by drinking a bottle of Lysol.
Charlotte was one of the last poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry topics included loneliness, disillusionment, sexual longing, and fear. Mew was respected by many. Thomas Hardy said that she was "far and away the best living woman poet," and Virginia Woolfe told Vita Sackville-West insisting that Mew was the "greatest living poetess."
But first I want your life:--before I die I want to see
The world that lies behind the strangeness of your eyes,
There is nothing gay or green there for my gathering, it may be,
Yet on brown fields there lies
A haunting purple bloom: is there not something in gray skies
And in gray sea?
I want what world there is behind your eyes,
I want your life and you will not give it me.
Now, if I look, I see you walking down the years,
Young, and through August fields--a face, a thought, a swinging dream
perched on a stile--;
I would have liked (so vile we are!) to have taught you tears
But most to have made you smile.
Today is not enough or yesterday: God sees it all--
Your length on sunny lawns, the wakeful rainy nights--; tell me--;
(how vain to ask), but it is not a question--just a call--;
Show me then, only your notched inches climbing up the garden wall,
I like you best when you are small.
Is this a stupid thing to say
Not having spent with you one day?
No matter; I shall never touch your hair
Or hear the little tick behind your breast,
Still it is there,
And as a flying bird
Brushes the branches where it may not rest
I have brushed your hand and heard
The child in you: I like that best
So small, so dark, so sweet; and were you also then too grave and wise?
Always I think. Then put your far off little hand in mine;--
Oh! let it rest;
I will not stare into the early world beyond the opening eyes,
Or vex or scare what I love best.
But I want your life before mine bleeds away--
Here--not in heavenly hereafters--soon,--
I want your smile this very afternoon,
(The last of all my vices, pleasant people used to say,
I wanted and I sometimes got--the Moon!)
You know, at dusk, the last bird's cry,
And round the house the flap of the bat's low flight,
Trees that go black against the sky
And then--how soon the night!
No shadow of you on any bright road again,
And at the darkening end of this--what voice? whose kiss? As if you'd say!
It is not I who have walked with you, it will not be I who take away
Peace, peace, my little handful of the gleaner's grain
From your reaped fields at the shut of day.
Peace! Would you not rather die
Reeling,--with all the cannons at your ear?
So, at least, would I,
And I may not be here
Tonight, tomorrow morning or next year.
Still I will let you keep your life a little while,
I have made you smile.
MY HEART IS LAME
My heart is lame with running after yours so fast
Such a long way,
Shall we walk slowly home, looking at all the things we passed
Home down the quiet evening roads under the quiet skies,
Not saying much,
You for a moment giving me your eyes
When you could bear my touch.
But not tomorrow. This has taken all my breath;
Then, though you look the same,
There may be something lovelier in Love's face in death
As your heart sees it, running back the way we came;
My heart is lame.
Sappho (600 BC)
Katherine Fowler (1631-1664)
Aphra Behn (1640?-1689)
Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1698)
Anna Seward (1747-1809)
Wu Tsao (1800)
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
Katherine Bradley (1848-1915) and Edith Cooper (1862-1913)
Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929)
Amy Lowell (1874-1925)
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)
Renée Vivien (1877-1909)
Angelina Weld Grimké (1880)
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
Elsa Gidlow (1898-1986)
The Fight for Equality
Famous Les/Bi/Gay People throughout History
Homophobia and Hate Crimes
Links for Parents Trying to Deal with Their Teen's Homosexuality
Links for Teens Trying to Deal with Their Own Homosexuality
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