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Wilfrid Meynell collection

Collection MS-1986-042: Wilfrid Meynell collection


  • 1881 - 1971
  • Majority of material found within 1893 - 1941

Scope and Contents

The Wilfrid Meynell Collection consists primarily of correspondence, with incoming correspondence from other writers, editors, and publishers, and a significant amount of the outgoing correspondence to Terrence Connolly, SJ, at Boston College. Other correspondents include Hilaire Belloc, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, John Lane, Shane Leslie, Edith Sitwell, and Wilfrid Ward. Some correspondence belonging to other Meynell family members and Meynell's business associates is also included. Of note is a copy of a letter to Everard, Meynell's son, from Arthur Symons.

Also included are royalty notices and receipts, primarily those associated with Francis Thompson for whom Wilfrid sometimes provided finanical assistance; proofs of artices and reviews for Merry England; notes on ecclesiastical events in mid-nineteenth century Rome; and photographs, including one of Shane Leslie delivering a lecture and a group of photographs taken of the Francis Thompson Room at the John J. Burns Library at Boston College.

The collection also contains two signed first edition copies of Wilfrid Meynell's Rhymes with Reasons and an autographed copy of his poem "I die daily."


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical Note

Wilfrid Meynell (1852-1948) was raised as a Quaker and converted to Catholicism at eighteen. He considered becoming a chemist, but he also spent time filling commonplace books, an activity which informed both his writing and his life. Meynell contributed verses to Emily Priestman's Simple Tales (1873) and not long after co-authored Verses by Three Friends. Meynell was brought into the publication trade by Fr. William Lockhart, another convert to Catholicism. Meynell saw Lockhart as a model not only for professional Catholic journalism, but also for Christian charity and patience. Such values were implicit in Meynell's befriending of the long-struggling poet Francis Thompson and in regular charity to the poor and hungry in London.

Wilfrid Meynell married the Catholic poet Alice C. Thompson in 1877. Together, they had seven children. In 1880, the Meynells undertook their first, short-lived, publishing enterprise, The Pen, to which both contributed. Not long after the failure of The Pen, Wilfrid was made editor of The Weekly Register. It was during this period that the couple conceived of Merry England, the liberal Catholic literary magazine that secured their position over the next decade or so. As editor and sole proprietor of Merry England, and as the husband of Alice Meynell, Wilfrid was at the center of a prominent, mainly Catholic, literary circle that included John Lane, Shane Leslie, Coventry Patmore, and Francis Thompson. This circle was extended by Meynell's son, Francis, who was also a publisher (Nonesuch Press), and daughter, the novelist and biographer Viola Meynell.

In later years, Wilfrid resided at the family estate at Greatham, Sussex, which had been purchased with the modest prosperity afforded by the Meynells' literary endeavors. The fact that they were helped along in securing the estate with revenue generated by posthumous editions of Francis Thompson's works was fitting given their support of the poet over the years. Perhaps also fitting was the transatlantic friendship that developed between Wilfrid Meynell and Terrence Connolly, SJ, the Francis Thompson enthusiast responsible for securing the Seymour Adelman collection of Thompson materials for Boston College. Connolly was in correspondence with Meynell for over fifteen years and later credited him for his generosity in filling out the Thompson collection at Boston College.

Wilfrid Meynell died in 1948, at 96 years of age.


Connolly, Terrence. "Special Collections and Catholic Renascence," The Catholic Renascence in a Disintegrating World. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1951.

Meynell, Viola. Francis Thompson and Wilfrid Meynell. London: Hollis and Carter, 1925.


1 Linear Feet (3 containers)

Language of Materials



This collection documents the life of British Catholic author, editor, and publisher Wilfrid Meynell. The bulk is comprised of Meynell's correspondence with writers, editors, publishers, friends, and clergy, including: Hilaire Belloc; Wilfrid Scawen Blunt; Terrence Connolly, SJ; John Lane; Shane Leslie; Edith Sitwell; and Wilfrid Ward. Meynell's poetry is represented by inscribed copies of Rhymes with Reasons and "I die daily." Also included are royalty notices and receipts, proofs for Merry England, a diary, and notes.


The collection is arranged into six series: I. Correspondence; II. Poetry; III. Receipts and royalty notices; IV. Photographs; V. Proofs for Merry England; and VI. Diary and notes.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The sources for the bulk of this material pre-date the establishment of the Burns Library accessioning system in 1986, and are not possible to know exactly. Research in the Special Collections Accession Register (1948-1962) indicates that several letters in this collection were gathered from the Seymour Adelman Collection of Thompson materials (purchased 1937), and other letters were gifts from donors including: Joseph Auslander, John J. Burns, Friends of the Boston College Library, Shane Leslie, M. Paraclita, and Thompson Foundation. The source of the rest of the correspondence may have been either Wilfrid Meynell himself or Viola Meynell.

Processing Information

In 2010, the collections previously known as Wilfrid Meynell Collection and Wilfrid Meynell Correspondence were combined into this iteration of the Wilfrid Meynell Collection. At this time, two folders (originally W. M. Collection box 2, folder 1 and W. M. Correspondence box 1, folder 15) were interfiled within correspondence series.

Wilfrid Meynell Collection
1881-1971 (bulk 1893-1941)
Inventoried by Elizabeth Delaney and David Tennant, 2006. Revised by Amy Braitsch, 2007 and AnneMarie Anderson
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States
617-552-2465 (Fax)