Born of an old Yorkshire family on his father's side, he was related to a family of distinguished Quakers on his mother's side: his grandfather was Samuel Tuke, and James Hack Tuke and Daniel Hack Tuke were uncles.
In 1870, aged 18, Meynell became a convert to Roman Catholicism. He married the writer Alice Thompson in 1877. The pair's first effort at periodical publishing was The Pen, a short-lived critical monthly review. In 1881 he accepted Cardinal Manning's invitation to edit the Catholic Weekly Register, and continued to do so until 1899. Meynell later founded and edited (1883–94) the magazine Merry England, in which he discovered and sponsored the poet Francis Thompson.
Meynell wrote biographies of Manning, John Henry Newman and Pope Leo XIII. He contributed to a wide range of periodicals including the Contemporary Review, The Art Journal, The Magazine of Art, Athenaeum, the Academy, the Saturday Review, the Pall Mall Budget, Illustrated London News, the Daily Chronicle and the Nineteenth Century. During March 1906, The Windsor Magazine published an article entitled Politics - Second Series that was coauthored by Meynell and Bertram Fletcher Robinson. This article was recently republished in a book entitled The World of Vanity Fair that was edited by Paul Spiring.
Wilfrid and Alice Meynell had eight children, including the writer Viola Meynell, and the founder of The Nonesuch Press, Francis Meynell. After his wife's death in 1922, Meynell lived out the last 25 years of his life mainly at Humphrey's Homestead, Greatham, near Pulborough in West Sussex. He was appointed CBE in the 1943 Birthday Honours for services to literature.
- Obituary, The Times, 22 October 1948, p.7.
- Men and women of the time, 15th ed., 1899. The Catholic who's who and year book, 1910.
- BFRonline.BIZ - A list of Bertram Fletcher Robinson publications & republications
- 'Birthday Honours List', The Times, 2 June 1943, p.4.
- "Archival material relating to Wilfrid Meynell". UK National Archives.
- Works by Wilfrid Meynell at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Wilfrid Meynell at Internet Archive
- Wilfrid Meynell collection at Boston College
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