This Rare Spirit: A Life of Charlotte Mew

Kathryn Hughes at The Guardian:

Whenever someone mentions Charlotte Mew, they feel obliged to add context. The fact that Thomas Hardy said she was the “greatest poetess” he knew, or that Siegfried Sassoon maintained she was “the only poet who can give me a lump in my throat”. Even Virginia Woolf conceded that Mew, who wrote short stories and essays as well as verse, was “very good and interesting and quite unlike anyone else”. Walter de la Mare, trying hard to define the source of Mew’s power, ventured “she just knows humanity”.

The reason why any account of Mew, including this fine biography by Julia Copus, feels obliged to begin by bigging her up is precisely because she has so often been done down. Even during her lifetime Mew’s name was familiar only to those who lived and breathed contemporary literature, the kind of people who frequented the Poetry Bookshop in Bloomsbury and waited impatiently for the next issue of the Poetry Review.

more here.