Joanna Kavenna at Literary Review:
Mew’s poems range from conventional Victorian elegies to wild outpourings of loss, longing and fear of death. If you read her work to a random array of people who don’t know it (as I did the other day) then they may well liken it to Christina Rossetti, Thomas Hardy, D H Lawrence or (unkindly) ‘bad Philip Larkin’. Her most memorable and idiosyncratic poems include ‘Rooms’ (‘I remember rooms that have had their part/In the steady slowing down of the heart’) and ‘Fame’ (‘Sometimes in the over-heated house, but not for long,/Smirking and speaking rather loud,/ I see myself among the crowd’). Her work, writes Copus, was ‘unashamedly emotive’ and therefore ‘out of kilter with the ideals of the fashionable Imagists’. She was too traditional for some and too radical for others. A printer refused to set one of her poems, ‘Madeleine in Church’, because he thought it was blasphemous. She has ‘frequently been identified as a lesbian’, Copus notes, including by Penelope Fitzgerald in Charlotte Mew and Her Friends (1984). There is also a rumour that Mew ‘conducted an illicit affair with Thomas Hardy’.