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This article is taken from PN Review 166, Volume 32 Number 2, November - December 2005.

Charlotte Mew in America Betty Falkenberg

Ever since Macmillan brought out Saturday Market in America in 1921, Charlotte Mew has had a small but devoted following here. Among the first to acclaim her was that tireless anthologiser of British and American poetry in the first half of the twentieth century, Louis Untermeyer.

It all began in 1920, when Siegfried Sassoon paid a visit to 'these more or less united states', spending quite a bit of time in New York with Louis Untermeyer and his then wife, Jean Starr. One evening after dinner at their house, Sassoon, who was and would forever remain an impassioned admirer of Charlotte Mew, read aloud the whole of the long poem, 'Madeleine in Church', reading, as Untermeyer wrote to Miss Mew, 'with a beauty and poignance that no professional elocutionist could ever attain'.

The spark kindled at once, and Untermeyer went about, in what must have struck some as hyperbolic diction, to proselytise; in his own words, 'insisting that an ignorance of [your] poems in America was little short of criminal!' When Macmillan brought out Saturday Market that same year, Untermeyer felt vindicated and jubilant.

Nor did Louis Untermeyer lose any time putting his own pen to work, reviewing the volume in The New York Evening Post the day after he had written to her. This article would one day be expanded into a well-rounded tribute, and used as an introductory essay to Mew's poems ...


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