I visited Charlotte and Anne Mew’s grave in West Hampstead, London during the summer of 2015. Established in the Victorian era, Hampstead Cemetery is the final resting place of many notable figures largely forgotten by time.
It’s also densely populated. If not for a small hand-drawn map of famous graves posted near its front gates, I wouldn’t have found the sisters’ grave among the cemetery’s 60,000 plots.
Despite a photo of the map on my cell phone, the task was challenging. Sensing I was in the right vicinity but overwhelmed by the various sections of graves and their jumble of headstones, many fallen over or placed flat, I told myself to trust the mapmaker and to let Charlotte’s spirit, should it be present, lead me.
Thirty seconds later, having made my way around an imposing tree, I looked to the exact spot the map indicated her grave should be. Lying on its back, a large headstone’s weathered script read: “To the beloved memory of Caroline Frances Anne Mew, who departed this life on June 18th 1927. ’Cast Down the Seed of Weeping and Attend.’ Here also lies her sister Charlotte Mary Mew, who departed this life on March 24th 1928.”
Twenty years earlier, I had found Charlotte Mew’s poetry while searching for the subject of my Master’s thesis. Now, I knelt beside Charlotte and Anne’s grave and placed wild flowers, hastily gathered from a nearby patch of untended grass, on their headstone while chastening myself.
Every event connecting my life with Mew’s had transpired as if fated. Finding her Cemetery poetry. Writing my thesis.
Becoming a poet myself.
Knowing even before finishing my thesis, The Erotic Female Voice of Charlotte Mew, that one day I’d write a play or novel about her life.
Thus, I should have trusted I’d find her grave despite the odds against it, just as I should have brought at least one red rose, a motif in Mew’s poems, to properly memorialize her life and its positive influence on my own.
However, even the red rose wasn’t beyond fate’s reach.
Like Charlotte Mew, I have a beloved sister. Four years after my visit to Hampstead, on her first trip to London and as a surprise for me, my sister found Charlotte and Anne’s grave, and on it she placed a dozen red roses along with a copy of my newly published novel about the Mew sisters’ lives, Bloomsbury’s Late Rose.