Alice Christina Gertrude Meynell

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Alice Christina Gertrude Meynell (Thompson)

Birthplace: Barnes, Surry, England
Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Thomas James Thompson and Christina J. Thompson
Wife of Wilfred Meynell
Mother of Sebastian Meynell; Monica Meynell; Madeline Meynell; Viola Meynell; Oliva Meynell and 3 others
Sister of Elizabeth Southerden Thompson, Lady Butler
Half sister of Matilda T. Thompson

Occupation: poet and essyest
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Alice Christina Gertrude Meynell

Alice Christiana Gertrude Thompson Meynell (22 September 1847 - 27 November 1922) was an English writer, editor, critic, and suffragist, now remembered mainly as a poet.


Meynell was born in Barnes, London, to Thomas James and Christiana (née Weller) Thompson. The family moved around England, Switzerland, and France, but she was brought up mostly in Italy, where a daughter of Thomas from his first marriage had settled. Her father was a friend of Charles Dickens.

Preludes (1875) was her first poetry collection, illustrated by her elder sister Elizabeth (the artist Lady Elizabeth Butler, 1850–1933, whose husband was Sir William Francis Butler). The work was warmly praised by Ruskin, although it received little public notice. Ruskin especially singled out the sonnet Renunciation for its beauty and delicacy.

After Alice, the entire Thompson family converted to the Roman Catholic Church (1868 to 1880), and her writings migrated to subjects of religious matters. This eventually led her to the Catholic newspaper publisher and editor Wilfrid Meynell (1852–1948) in 1876. A year later (1877) she married Meynell, and they settled in Kensington. They became proprietor and editor of The Pen, the Weekly Register, Merry England, and other magazines. Alice and Wilfrid had a family of eight children, Sebastian, Monica, Everard, Madeleine, Viola, Vivian (who died at three months), Olivia, and Francis. Viola Meynell (1885–1956) became an author in her own right, and the youngest child Francis Meynell (1891–1975) was the poet and printer at the Nonesuch Press.

Alice was much involved in editorial work on publications with her husband, and in her own writing, poetry and prose. She wrote regularly for The World, The Spectator, The Magazine of Art, The Scots Observer, The Tablet, The Art Journal, the National Observer, edited by W. E. Henley the Pall Mall Gazette, and The Saturday Review.

The British poet Francis Thompson, down and out in London and trying to recover from the opium addiction that had overtaken him, sent the couple a manuscript. His poems were first published in Wilfred's Merrie England, and the Meynells became a supporter of Thompson. His 1893 book Poems was a Meynell production and initiative. Another supporter of Thompson was the poet Coventry Patmore. Alice had a deep friendship with Patmore, lasting several years, which led to his becoming obsessed with her, forcing her to break with him.

At the end of the nineteenth century, in conjunction with uprisings against the British (among them the Indians', the Zulus', the Boxer Rebellion, and the Muslim revolt led by Muhammad Ahmed in the Sudan), many European scholars, writers, and artists, especially Catholics, began to question Europe’s colonial imperialism, and its attempt to rule the world. This led Alice, Wilfrid, Elizabeth, and others in their circle to speak out for the oppressed. Alice became a leading figure in the Women Writers' Suffrage League, which was founded by Cicely Hamilton and active 1908 to 1919.

Her prose essays were remarkable for fineness of culture and peculiar restraint of style. After a series of illnesses, including migraine and depression, she died 27 November 1922. She is buried at Kensal Green Catholic Cemetery, London, England.

There is a London Borough Council commemorative Blue Plaque on the front wall of the property at 47 Palace Court, London, W2, where she and her husband Wilfrid once lived.


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Alice Christina Gertrude Meynell's Timeline

October 11, 1847
Age 29
Age 30
Age 32
Age 37
Age 37
Age 42
Age 43
November 22, 1922
Age 75