Viola Meynell

Viola Meynell

Viola Meynell Dallyn (1885 – 1956) was an English writer, novelist and poet. She wrote around 20 books, but was best-known for her short stories and novels.

Her parents were Wilfrid and Alice Meynell. Her father was a publisher of note (Burnes and Oates) and her mother, whose maiden name was Thompson, was the sister of the well known artist Lady Butler, (Charge of the Greys).

Her parents had a chaotic and busy literary household in Palace Court, Nottinghill Gate, London. There was a constant stream of visitors such as Robert Browning, Stevenson, Henley, Coventry Patmore, George Meredith, Francis Thompson, Stephen Phillips, W. B. Yeats, G. K. Chesterton, Sir Shane Leslie, Sir Ronald Storrs and others more or less renowned.

Her brother Francis Meynell was the driving force of The Nonesuch Press, with whom in the pre-war days she made home made books on the kitchen table, dyeing with onion skins and typing her verse to be stitched by hand into the pages.

They had a second home in the country at Greatham, Sussex where Viola married local farmer, John Dallyn, and had her only child, a son, John Jacob ("Jake") Dallyn (b. 1922).

She was romantically linked to Maitland Radford, Bill Stabb an artist who illustrated her novel "Cross in Hand Farm" and Martin Secker the publisher .

She was an early supporter of D. H. Lawrence, offering practical help in the way of typing his manuscripts and accommodation, by way of a room in her home at Greatham. She was also a champion of Herman Melville at a time when he was unfashionable. She engineered the first publishing of Moby-Dick in England.

During Lawrence's stay at Greatham he wrote England My England, a thinly disguised and unpleasant jab at her family. Greatham became its own centre with visitors as varied as Eric Gill, Hilaire Belloc, and Cynthia Asquith,

Her books sold well, many of them being republished both in England and in America. She had a large circle of literary friends and correspondents, including Katherine Mansfield, Compton Mackenzie and T. H. White.

She is buried in Houghton Catholic Church cemetery near Greatham.


  • Martha Vane (1910) - published anonymously
  • Cross in Hand Farm (1911)
  • Lot Barrow (1913)
  • Modern Lovers (1914)
  • Columbine (1915)
  • Narcissus (1916)
  • Julian Grenfell (1917)
  • Second Marriage (1918)
  • Verses (1919)
  • Antonia (1921)
  • Young Mrs. Cruise (1924)
  • A Girl Adoring (1927)
  • Alice Meynell (1929)
  • The Frozen Ocean (1930) Poetry.
  • Follow Thy Fair Sun (1935)
  • Kissing The Rod (1937)
  • An Anthology of Nature Poetry (1942)
  • Letters of J. M. Barrie (1943; editor)
  • Lovers (1944)
  • First Love and Other Stories (1947)
  • Ophelia (1951)
  • Francis Thompson and Wilfrid Meynell (1952)
  • Louise and Other Stories (1954)
  • The Best of Friends: Further Letters to Sydney Carlyle Cockerell (1956) editor
  • Collected Stories (1957)

Other works

  • Eyes of Youth (1910) - a collection of poems by friends and family
  • George Eliot (1913)
  • Introduction to Romola: George Eliot (1913)
  • Introduction to Felix Holt: The Radical (1913)
  • Introduction to Moby Dick: Herman Melville (1925)


  • A Critical Biography of English Novelist, Viola Meynell, 1885-1956 (2002) by Raymond N. MacKenzie

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