Biography Alice Alice Meynell

Alice Alice Meynell

photo of Alice Alice Meynell
  • Time Period1847 - 1922
  • PlaceLondon
  • CountryEngland

Poet Biography

Alice Meynell was born in 1847 to Thomas and Christiana (nee Weller) Thompson. Her only sibling, Elizabeth, was born a year earlier. Elizabeth, whom everyone called Mimi, was later to become Lady Elizabeth Butler, the celebrated painter. Mimi and Alice spent much of their childhood in Italy with their rather bohemian parents; Alice spoke fluent Genoese dialect to the end of her life, and was immensely proud of it. Throughout her childhood and adolescence she was plagued with often alarmingly ill health, and all through her life she suffered from migraine headaches, which she referred to as "wheels."

Alice Meynell's literary gifts charmed and inspired the greatest minds of her generation. Her protégé Francis Thompson wrote admiringly: "It is something to have won the admiration of men like Rossetti, Ruskin, Rossetti's bosom friend Theodore Watts, and, shall I add, the immortal Oscar Wilde." Coventry Patmore wrote that her poetry contained "that rarest of graces -- unsuperfluousness"; Ruskin called her work "perfectly heavenly"; she counted Aubrey de Vere and Lionel Johnson amongst her friends and Chesterton and de la Mare amongst her admirers.

She was for most of her adult life a journalist and essayist of prolific output and critical acclaim. Many of her essays, “Terse of Phraseology” and, “Limpid of Thought” still hold fascination for a modern audience. Her best known essay remains "The Rhythm of Life."

Her poetry spanned two centuries and has since fallen away from critical attention. Disciplined in expression.

Very frail in her last years, Alice Meynell died on the 27th of November, 1922, after a series of illnesses. She kept writing to the end of her life. In her own estimation her essays were of superior quality to her poems, and many of them are both penetrating and eloquent, but her husband never wavered in his belief that her poems were incomparable, and many others, from Tennyson to Chesterton to Walter de la Mare, have agreed.