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Alice Meynell: An Impressionist in Kensington

  • Ana Parejo Vadillo
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)

Abstract

Describing the publication of Alice Meynell’s latest work and the ‘royal’ reception she and her work received from both the masses and the literary establishment, Max Beerbohm wrote:

A great crowd lines the pavement by the park, in the expectation of a rare sight. A loyal thrill and murmur pervade it, when, at length, a mounted policeman dashes down the road. All eyes dilate to the distance and discern already, through the trees, the moving glitter of cuirasses. The cavalcade comes! Comes a bevy of bright guardsmen, after whom is drawn a homely carriage with a lady in it; behind her, in the rumble, a brace of stalwart Highlanders; lastly another bevy of bright guardsmen. Through cheers and genuflexions, waved hats and handkerchiefs, trots this cavalcade. Then the crowd ‘passes along’.

This is not merely a description of a scene occasional in London. It is also a parable. The crowd is the reading public. The mounted policeman is Mr. John Lane. The guardsmen are the literary critics. The lady is Mrs. Meynell. The homely carriage is her new book. The Stalwart Highlanders are Mr. Coventry Patmore and Mr. George Meredith.4

Keywords

Urban Space Department Store Royal Academy Urban Life Consumer Culture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Alice Meynell, ‘Unstable Equilibrium’ in Essays by Alice Meynell (London: Burns & Oates, 1914), 159.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Quoted in June Badeni, The Slender Tree: A Life of Alice Meynell (Cornwall: Tabb House, 1981), 140–1.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    This rather well–known quote was frequently used by Meynell’s publishers as a selling point. See for example Alice Meynell, Collected Poems of Alice Meynell (London: Burns & Oates, 1913).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Coventry Patmore, ‘Mrs. Meynell, Poet and Essayist’ in The Fortnightly Review 52 (1892): 762.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    ‘I write regularly for several of the papers and magazines, chiefly reviews; but sometimes causerie, sometimes serious articles, the latter of which appear mostly in The National Observer, which for a long time has taken anything I like to send.’ Mrs. Roscoe Mullines, ‘A Chat with Mrs. Meynell’ in Sylvia’s Journal, ed. Graham R. Tomson (October 1893): 549. Quoted in Hughes, ‘My Sister, My Self’, 15.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    See Alice Meynell, The Colour of Life and Other Essays on Things Seen and Heard (London: John Lane, 1896) and The Children (London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1897). In the first edition of The Children, facing the title page (which was designed by Charles Robinson), the Bodley Head advertised the fourth edition of her Poems (1893), The Rhythm of Life (1893), and The Colour of Life (1896). By the third edition of The Children, the Bodley Head was advertising the fifth edition of all of these volumes.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    ‘Your mother will read this to you, and so I write for her, that more of the Alicia Coerulea are on the way to her because they fear the rains will ruin them by tomorrow; and she is their Queen, for whom henceforth they grow.’ Meredith named irises Alicia Coerulea in honour of Alice Meynell. See Meredith, Letters from George Meredith to Alice Meynell with Annotations Thereto 1896–1907 (London: Nonesuch Press, 1923), 20.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    See Karl Beckson, London in the 1890s: A Cultural History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1992), 105. She was again proposed for Poet Laureate in 1913.Google Scholar
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  10. 11.
    Armstrong, Victorian Poetry, 482–3. Angela Leighton, ‘Alice Meynell’ in Victorian Women Poets: Writing Against the Heart, 244–65. F. Elizabeth Gray, ‘Making Christ: Alice Meynell, Poetry, and the Eucharist’ in Christianity and Literature 52:2 (Winter 2003): 159–79. John S. Anson, ‘“The Wind is Blind”: Power and Constraint in the Poetry of Alice Meynell’ in Studia Mystica 9:1 (Spring 1986): 37–50.Google Scholar
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  12. Kathleen Anderson, ‘“I make the whole world answer to my art”: Alice Meynell’s Poetic Identity’ in Victorian Poetry 41:2 (Summer 2003): 259–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  14. Yopie Prins, ‘Patmore’s Laws, Meynell’s Rhythm’ in The Fin-de-Siècle Poem ed. by Joseph Bristow (Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    See, for example, Tracy Seeley, ‘Alice Meynell, Essayist: Taking Life “Greatly to Heart”’ in Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 27:2 (1998): 105–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    See, for example, Jude Badeni’s biography of Alice Meynell The Slender Tree, or Viola Meynell, Alice Meynell: A Memoir (London: Jonathan Cape, 1929). See also George Meredith, Letters from George Meredith to Alice Meynell, andGoogle Scholar
  17. Agnes Tobin, Agnes Tobin: Letters, Translations, Poems, With Some Account of Her Life (San Francisco: Grabhorn Press, 1958).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Alice Meynell, ‘Solitude’ in The Spirit of Place and Other Essays (London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1899), 16–22. She later revised it and changed its title to ‘Solitudes’ for Wayfaring (1928; London: The Travellers Library, Jonathan Cape, 1929), 163–8, and reprinted in Prose and Poetry: Centenary Volume, intro. Vita Sackville–West (London: Jonathan Cape, 1947), 272–6. Here I will be using the revised version as it appears in Prose and Poetry. ‘To A Poet’ in Alice C. Thompson (afterwards Meynell), Preludes (London: Henry S. King, 1875) 5–7.Google Scholar
  19. 26.
    Edmund Clarence Stedman, The Nature and Elements of Poetry (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1892), 58.Google Scholar
  20. 29.
    Wolfgang Iser, Walter Pater: The Aesthetic Movement. Trans. by David Henry Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 18, 19.Google Scholar
  21. 30.
    F. H. Pritchard (ed.), Essays of To-Day (London: George G. Harrap, 1923), 12.Google Scholar
  22. 39.
    See Giles Walkley, Artists’ Houses in London, 1764–1914 (Aldershot: Scholar Press, 1994), 72.Google Scholar
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    See Rayburn S. Moore (ed.), The Correspondence of Henry James and the House of Macmillan, 1877–1914 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993), 120, n.1 (letter 147); and 122, n.1 (letter 151).Google Scholar
  24. See also Philip Home (ed.), Henry James: A Life in Letters (Harmondsworth: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1999), 182.Google Scholar
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    A. C. Benson, Walter Pater (London: Macmillan, 1906), 117.Google Scholar
  26. 46.
    [W. S. Clark], The Suburban Homes of London: A Residential Guide (London: Chatto and Windus, 1881), 282.Google Scholar
  27. 47.
    See Richard Stanton Lambert, The Universal Provider: A Study of William Whiteley and the Rise of the London Department Store (London: George G. Harrap & Co., 1938).Google Scholar
  28. 50.
    Katharine Tynan, Memories (London: Eveleigh Nash and Grayson, 1924), 34.Google Scholar
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    Sally Ledger, The New Woman: Fiction, Feminism at the Fin de Siècle (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997), 178–9.Google Scholar
  30. See also Eileen Bigland, Marie Corelli: The Woman and the Legend. A Biography (London: Jarrolds, 1953), 58–185.Google Scholar
  31. 65.
    Alice Meynell, The Wares of Autolycus: Selected Literary Essays of Alice Meynell, Chosen and Introduced by P. M. Fraser (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), 51–2.Google Scholar
  32. 66.
    Tynan scholars have commented on Tynan’s financial difficulties and her position as the real breadwinner of the family. See W. B. Yeats, The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats, ed. John Kelly and Eric Domville, Vol. 1, 1865–1895 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), 517. These difficulties would eventually force her to leave poetry for a better–paid career as a prolific journalist and a sensationalist novelist. Her financial difficulties, however, did not end and she was forced to sell many of the letters and manuscripts of poets and writers that she owned. Perhaps the most notorious was the sale of W. B. Yeats’ letters in 1920. See Carolyn Holdsworth, ‘“Shelley Plain”: Yeats and Katharine Tynan’ Yeats Annual 2, ed. Richard J. Finneran (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1983), 59–92.Google Scholar
  33. 68.
    See Barbara Belford, Violet: The Story of the Irrepressible Violet Hunt and Her Circle of Lovers and Friends — Ford Madox Ford, H.G. Wells, Somerset Maugham, and Henry James (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990), 31, 113. One Tor Villas (later 10 Tor Gardens), where Violet Hunt resided between 1866 and 1896, had been previously occupied by the painter Holman Hunt.Google Scholar
  34. 70.
    Elizabeth Robins Pennell, Nights: Rome, Venice, London, Paris (London: Heinemann, 1916), 129.Google Scholar
  35. 76.
    See Cora Kaplan, ‘Alice Meynell’ in Cora Kaplan (ed.), Salt and Bitter and Good: Three Centuries of English and American Women Poets (London: Paddington Press, 1975), 182.Google Scholar
  36. 82.
    For further information on Francis Thompson and the Meynells, see Everard Meynell, The Life of Francis Thompson (London: Burns & Oates, 1913).Google Scholar
  37. 84.
    Francis Thompson, Poems (London: Elkin Mathews & John Lane, 1893).Google Scholar
  38. 98.
    The Academy, 12 January 1897; quoted in Anne Kimball Tuell, Mrs. Meynell and Her Literary Generation (New York: Dutton, 1925), 40.Google Scholar
  39. 102.
    Kenneth McConkey, Impressionism in Britain (London: Yale University Press in association with Barbican Art Gallery, 1995), 193.Google Scholar
  40. 104.
    Meynell, ‘The Point of Honour’ in The Rhythm of Life and Other Essays (London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1893), 50.Google Scholar
  41. 105.
    Meynell, ‘Sonnet’ in Poems (London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1893), 55.Google Scholar
  42. 114.
    Meynell, ‘The Wares of Autolycus’ in Pall Mall Gazette (15 September 1893): 5.Google Scholar
  43. 116.
    E. H. Gombrich, The Story of Art (London: Phaidon, 1966, new edn), 395.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ana Parejo Vadillo 2005

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  • Ana Parejo Vadillo

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