Charlotte Mew's Poetry
Support for studying English GCSE and A Level
Charlotte Mew - Biography
Charlotte Mew was born (London, England) on 15 November 1869 and died on 24 March 1928 (London, England). She was a poet and short story writer.
Mew’s parents were Frederick and Anna. She was the eldest of seven children. Three of her brothers died when she was a child and shortly afterwards another brother and sister were committed to mental institutions. Charlotte and her sister Anne decided to never marry, so that they could not pass on hereditary mental illness. She adopted the role of a dandy for most of her life.
She published her first work during her mid-twenties. Much of Mew’s work deals with themes linked to her traumatic childhood.
Mew’s sister died from cancer in 1927. This led to her going into a deep depression – she was eventually admitted to a nursing home where she committed suicide by drinking a disinfectant (Lysol).
Charlotte Mew - 'The Farmer's Bride' - Annotation
Annotation prompts for Charlotte Mew’s ‘The Farmer’s Bride’.
‘The Farmer’s Bride’ is about a newly married woman. In farming communities, marriages were often organised according to valuable family matches and convenience, rather than love. Why is she described as a “bride” and not a wife? Has the marriage been consummated (have they had sex)? Charlotte Mary Mew (15.11.1869 – 24.03.1928) was an English poet. Her father died in 1898 without providing sufficiently for his family – two of her siblings suffered from mental illness, and were put in institutions. Three of her other siblings died in early childhood, leaving Charlotte, her mother and her sister, Anne. Charlotte and Anne made a pact never to marry for fear of passing on insanity to their children. Many of Charlotte’s poems are in the form of dramatic monologues, and she often wrote from the point of view of a male persona – including this one. Poem first published 1916.
Is this woman representative of all women in society / the famer all men? Is the farm a microcosm of society? Or could it be a mental asylum? Is the woman a patient?
Why is the woman nameless? Is this a statement about male / female relations when written? Is it possible to sympathise with both the man and woman? Mew committed suicide because she suffered from depression (after the death of her sister from cancer – 1927). Mew frequently dressed in male attire (dubbed a ‘dandy’) and some critics argue she was a lesbian.
The annotation prompts are a supportive tool, intended to encourage further poetry analysis and interpretation.