Alice Meynell



Though she is most famous for her poetry, Alice Meynell was a prolific essayist and personally believed her strength lie in her prose. She was born in England and raised in France where she and her family converted to Catholicism when Alice was 21. In France she met and married Wilfrid Meynell, and together they worked in editing and publishing The Merry England a Catholic Periodical, for almost two decades. Alice was a regular contributor to almost every major periodical in England and published dozens of books of poetry and prose. Preludes(1875) was her first book of poetry and was met with admiration by readers and critics alike. Among her published essay collections are The Spirit of Place(1898), Ceres' Runaway and Other Essays(1909), and Essays(1914).

(Compiled by Joey Franklin)

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Essays by Alice Meynell

Anima pellegrina!

Do we possess anything here more essentially ours (though we share it with our sister Germany) than our particle “un”? Poor are those living languages that have not our use of so rich a negative.

The colour of life

It is easy to replace man, and it will take no great time, where Nature has lapsed, to replace Nature. It is always to do, by the happily easy way of doing nothing.


Every language is a persuasion, an induced habit, an instrument which receives the note indeed but gives the tone.

The horizon

On the horizon is the sweetest light. Elsewhere colour mars the simplicity of light.

The hours of sleep

Perhaps it will be found that to work all by day or all by night is to miss something of the powers of a complex mind.

The illusion of historic time

There is a long and mysterious moment in long and mysterious childhood, which is the extremest distance known to any human fancy.


Laughter is everywhere and at every moment proclaimed to be the honourable occupation of men, and in some degree distinctive of men, and no mean part of their prerogative and privilege.

The plaid

The plaid is the Scotchman's contribution to the decorative art of the world. Scotland has no other indigenous decoration.


The visible world is etched and engraved with the signs and records of our halting apprehension.

The rhythm of life

If life is not always poetical, it is at least metrical.

Rushes and reeds

Our green country is the better for the grey, soft, cloudy darkness of the sedge.

The sea wall

More candid is the author who has no world, but turns that appeal inwards to his own heart.


Turn sunward from the north, and shadows come to life, and are themselves the life, the action, and the transparence of their day.


There are the multitudes to whom civilization has given little but its reaction, its rebound, its chips, its refuse, its shavings, sawdust and waste, its failures; to them solitude is a right foregone or a luxury unattained.

The spirit of place

The spirit of place, which is to be seen in the shapes of the fields and the manner of the crops, to be felt in a prevalent wind, breathed in the breath of the earth, overheard in a far street-cry or in the tinkle of some black-smith, calls out and peals in the cathedral bells.

The sun

The sun that leaps from a mountain peak is a sun past the dew of his birth; he has walked some way towards the common fires of noon. But on the flat country the uprising is early and fresh, the arc is wide, the career is long.

Symmetry and incident

You find, in Japanese compositions, complete designs in which there is no point of symmetry.

The tow path

If your natural walk is heavy, there is spirit in the tackle to give it life, and if it is buoyant it will be more buoyant under the buoyant burden—the yielding check—than ever before.

The unready

It is true that the movements of young children are quick, but a very little attention would prove how many apparent disconnexions there are between the lively motion and the first impulse; it is not the brain that is quick.

Unstable equilibrium

It is principally for the sake of the leg that a change in the dress of man is so much to be desired.


The search of easy ways to live is not always or everywhere the way to ugliness, but in some countries, at some dates, it is the sure way.

A woman in grey

The woman in grey had a watchful confidence not only in a multitude of men but in a multitude of things. And it is very hard for any untrained human being to practise confidence in things in motion--things full of force, and, what is worse, of forces.
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