Tracy Seeley takes another tack, reading Meynell’s familiar essays against the grain to identify their active and outwardly-oriented impulses.
She argues that although Meynell is rarely openly polemical, she “reshapes the familiar essay to promote feminist ends” (106).
Ana Parejo Vadillo, discussing Meynell’s locodescriptive essay collection , presents Meynell’s withdrawal as the situation of one ensconced in a train, separated from the world by the pane of window glass.
Vadillo argues that Meynell struggles to justify this spectatorial subject position, which Vadillo presents as privileged and detached (102).
Criticism on Meynell’s essays tends to present Meynell in different forms of transport.
Vadillo imagines Meynell as a privileged, detached train passenger, separated from the realities of life by the glass of the train window.
She was famed for her reticence, abstraction, and asceticism: her social manner was characterized by silence, privacy was a watchword in her relationships, her absent-mindedness was a joke among her children, and Meynell was self-denying in her spending and austere in the running of her house (Badeni, 129, 143–5, 211).1 Meynell’s contemporaries often described her either by using the word “ascetic,” or by resorting to a rubric of monasticism. and yet not of it”; he declared that there was “the charm of a beautiful abbess about her” (Badeni, 145). She published her poetry through the Aesthetic publisher John Lane, and her essays in periodicals and collections, some of which were also brought out by John Lane.
Richard Le Gallienne observed a “touch of exquisite asceticism about her,” of “one quite humanly and simply in this world. Tracy Seeley outlines Meynell’s work as an essayist: , where Meynell’s weekly column, “The Wares of Autolycus,” appeared from 1893–1898, secured her extraordinary fame as an essayist.
Ten volumes of her collected essays appeared during her lifetime and several came after, including an Oxford collection of her literary criticism, , which is specifically about children—miscellaneous or occasional in content.
They are mostly compiled from essays that Meynell had previously published in periodicals, and they discuss many and varied objects, including plants and other natural phenomena, historical figures, places, landscapes, and architecture, social mores, incidents seen and heard, children, childhood, and parenting, and literature.