Homepage‎ > ‎



Updated April 18

Charles Grant Blairfindie Allen

Miscellaneous Writer

Born 'Alwington', Kingston, Ontario, Canada 24 February 1848 

Died Hindhead, Surrey, 25 October 1899

These pages provide information about Grant Allen, including a bibliography of GA's writings, and writings about him. Most of the important entries are annotated. The bibliography confirms Allen's almost incredible productivity during a career that lasted barely 22 years. My rough estimate is that these bibliographies understate Allen's actual output of writing by about 15%, as most of his reviewing work is lost forever, and other new items are still turning up regularly. It is his range of interests, his versatility, which marks him out distinctively from other Victorian athletes of the pen. I accumulated this documentation in the course of writing THE BUSIEST MAN IN ENGLAND.

'Naturalist, anthropologist, physicist, historian, poet, novelist, essayist, critic -- what place is to be assigned to this versatile, well-equipped worker? Time . . . will alone determine what, if any, of Allen's writings will survive.'
                    Edward Clodd, Grant Allen: A Memoir

'He could be described with more 'ists' than anyone else I ever saw. He was an atheist and pacifist and socialist, a botanist and zoologist and optimist, a chemist and physicist, a scientist of scientists, a monist, meliorist and hedonist . . . . A walk with him was an education in botany and zoology, and he had no whimsies or quirks; he was always reasonable, good-tempered, vivacious, bright, and interested in every human interest. . . .He was, also, astonishingly articulate; a super-journalist; he wrote excellent prose, and could turn you out a first-rate article on almost any subject from the growth of the idea of God to the habits of the caterpillar, at a moment's notice, and without perceptible exertion. I used to say his typewriter disturbed no one, for it went in one long even click.'

                            Frank Harris, 'Grant Allen'

'a rare literary gift exercising itself not merely with expository skill, but also artistically, upon difficult new material. More than clearness of statement was needed. Some of the dullest of writers are as clear as they are dry. Grant Allen's individual clearness came of imagination, as his charm came of an illustrative fancy, and a gay humanity applied to subjects . . . . What an amazing talker he was! No pose-talk, but talk easily born of his knowledge and love of the subject that at the moment occupied him. No more brilliant generaliser can ever have lived. Present him with the most unexpected fact, or the most complex set of circumstances (as it might seem to you), and he had his theory in an instant, and was making it as clear, by the aid of his marvellously copious and exact vocabulary, as though he had drawn it on the air.'
                               Richard Le Gallienne, 'Grant Allen'.
'Mr Grant Allen was a great talker, and he would sit up, quite late at night, in the beautiful house he had built at Hindhead, eating endless biscuits out of a tin and discoursing on every topic, including politics, sex, and botany. It was literally impossible to get a word in. After we had left, we heard that he had remarked: "The Miss Hepworth Dixons would be such charming girls, if only they didn't talk so much!"'
                                Ella Hepworth Dixon, As I Knew Them, 1930.

NON-FICTION 1869-1889: Updated Jan 12.
NON-FICTION 1890 Onwards: Updated Jan 12.

FICTION 1869-1889:Updated April 13.
FICTION 1890 Onwards:Updated Jan 15.

My bibliographic monograph Grant Allen: Victorian Fiction Research Guide #31 (Brisbane: Victorian Fiction Research Unit, University of Queensland, 2002), ISBN 1-86499-5866, contains an introduction to GA's fiction followed by most of the contents of this section. However, it is already out of date: this site is now the fullest source of information.

I have given up listing URLs of GA items on the net in the form of ebooks, in digitised runs of journals, etc. More and more is available in this way, however.
There is also a complete check-list, based on the above, listing the first publication only of all of Allen's work, arranged in chronological order.

Both sections above contain a list of unresolved problems, and I would very much like to hear from anyone who can resolve any of those, or provide any clues. According to the Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals 1800-1900, 15 (People Index A-D), Grant Allen’s work appeared in the following publications from which few or no items figure in these bibliographies:

Album (1896-6)
Daily News (1846-1912)
Daily Despatch (1955-1960)
Daily News and Leader (1912-1928)
Daily News and Westminster Gazette (1928-1930)
English Illustrated (1888-1890)
Erasmic Annual (1898)
Fortnightly (1924-1954)
News Chronicle (1930-1955)
Outlook, for Men and Women (1929)
Outlook in Politics, Life, Letters (1898-1928)
Plain English (1914-1922)
Review of the Week (1899-1901)
West End (1897)
West-End: an Illustrated Weekly (1899)
West End Review: a Monthly Illustrated (1897-99)
World Review (1936-1953)

Any information about these contributions will be most welcome.


  • PRIMARY SOURCES of Grant Allen & members of his circle: letters, unpublished MSS. etc. These are in collections scattered across Britain, Canada and the United States. This section offers annotations and transcripts of the more interesting items. Note that the single largest collection of GA primary material is held at Pennsylvania State University and is thoroughly indexed online at http://www.libraries.psu.edu/dam/psul/up/digital/findingaids/2282.htm

  • BIBLIOGRAPHICAL, BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL MATERIALS. This section only includes bibliographical and biographical items which offer reliable information or are in some other way significant. Nearly all the biographical accounts of Grant Allen have factual errors, which have been copied from one to another ever since Clodd's Memoir. The critical section aims to list everything of consequence published on Allen over the last century. Suggestions for additions will be gratefully received.
  • REVIEWS OF GA's WORKThis section has a selective list of contemporary short reviews and notices of Allen's books.
  • 'A SCRIBBLER'S APOLOGY'. A splendidly self-lacerating piece about the true social worth of the journeyman writer's life, particularly the worth (if any) of the kind of 'tootler' which Allen represents himself as being. Published in the Cornhill in May 1883.
  • 'THE TRADE OF AUTHOR'. This remarkable article, published in the Fortnightly Review in 1889, has just been identified as by GA. (It is not attributed in the Wellesley Index.) It is a brilliant analysis of the professional writer's plight at the time, worthy to be set against Gissing's New Grub Street.
  • 'REMINISCENCES OF HERBERT SPENCER'. This article was written in 1894, with instructions for it not to be published until Spencer was dead. It eventually appeared in the Forum (New York), 35 (Apr 1904), 610-628. It's an appreciation of Spencer as a human being, and it is very curious how well GA sees and indeed reinforces the general perception that Spencer was a rather absurd person. Nevertheless, Allen clung on to his hero worship of the Master to the end.
  • RHYMING LETTER FROM JAMAICA. This poem-letter, written from Spanish Town, Jamaica probably in 1874, gives a vivid account of his life teaching there.
  • 'THE WOMAN WHO WOULDN'T DO'. Cruel but amusing parody from Punch, 30 March 1895, written by someone well acquainted with Allen's private and public views.
  • SIX RARE STORIES BY GRANT ALLEN . Retrieved from obscure periodical publication by Victor Berch.
  • AN INTERVIEW WITH GRANT ALLEN IN 1889. The fullest interview with GA in mid-career, in the Pall Mall Gazette. Recently recovered thanks to Michael Wynn.
  • GRANT ALLEN IN AN ODD INTRIGUE. In 1896 Allen was briefly involved in an odd incident which included a literary suicide in Paris. Or was it suicide? At any rate, the newspapers of the day were less than candid when a lady's reputation was concerned. The truth was more sordid, and is now revealed.
  • GRANT ALLEN WRITES ON "HOW IT FEELS TO DIE". Allen nearly drowned when he fell through the ice while skating as a boy in Canada, and wrote the experience up for the Pall Mall Gazette in 1892. He claimed to have been "as dead as he ever can be or will be" and that he had no "after death" experiences. This suited his atheistic position, of course. In fact he was not "dead" at all; just unconscious, and he was quickly revived by brandy and massage.

GRANT ALLEN PHOTO GALLERY (more photos are available on the Sidebar).

4. Trinity Church, Wolfe Island, Ontario, where Allen's father's parish was located. GA spent much of his childhood on the island.

5. Alwington House, Kingston, Ontario, from the front: the grand house of the Grant/Allen families. (Now destroyed.)

7. The High Street of Dorking, Surrey, around the time when GA lived there for about 12 years.

8. The refectory of the Imperial College at Dieppe, which GA attended. Also an exterior view with the pupils leaving, and a classroom scene. (Judging by the clothes, all the photos were probably taken c.1890-1900).

9. The cemetery on Wolfe Island, Ontario where GA's mother is buried.

10. The plaque on the site of "Alwington", near Kingston, GA's family home in his young years.

11. The library on Wolfe Island has a mural on an outside wall of GA, done by local artists.

12. A close-up of the mural.

13. "Alwington" had one face to the St Lawrence River, presumably with a jetty and private boat over to Wolfe Island. This photo of the site, now a small park, shows the area. The house was demolished after a fire in the 1950s.

The French school which GA attended as a youth, before going to King Edward's School, Birmingham. His parents enrolled him here during their 'grand tour'.


William Sharp ('Fiona Mcleod') walks over from George Meredith's house to visit GA at 'The Nook' on a Sunday morning.

The largest collection of GA primary materials -- all fully itemised & described -- is at Pennsylvania State University Library.

A full online version of Edward Clodd's memoir Grant Allen (1900) is available.

Fourteen of GA's articles (page images) from the Cornhill and the Fortnightly on science, empire & women are online at this U. Minnesota site. Nearly all of GA's novels, and most of his non-fiction books, are available now on various Internet sites, especially the Internet Archive.

The site http://grantallen.org/ by Michael Wynn used to have a good deal of extra information about GA's biography, etc including details of films made from his books, a family tree, and some rare and interesting photographs. Wynn's researches have also revealed that GA's work was translated into many European languages, and he gives an extensive list of these, with the original titles in most cases. Only a few of these translations are listed in the bibliographies on my site. Unfortunately this site seems to have disappeared as it's no longer indexed by Google.  


The best critical work on aspects of Grant Allen is Grant Allen: Literature and Cultural Politics at the Fin de Siecle, edited by William Greenslade and Terence Rodgers. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005.

    My study of Grant Allen and the freelance writers' milieu (The Busiest Man in England) is published by Palgrave-Macmillan NY. See http://www.palgrave.com/products/Catalogue.aspx?is=1403966265. Reviewers have been kind enough to describe it as a “beautifully-written biography [which] throws a brilliant new light on the entire literary-cultural scene of late nineteenth-century England” and “by any standards a distinguished contribution to late Victorian studies”.
This book was awarded half of an inaugural Robert Colby Scholarly Book Prize for "a work published in the preceding year which has made a significant contribution to the study of nineteenth-century periodicals". The prize is administered by the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals and was awarded in New York at the CUNY Graduate Centre in September 2006.

Any information about Allen, particularly about source materials, or members of his family, will be welcome. I would like to hear from any relatives of GA's son and only child, Jerrard Grant Allen (born July 1878), a theatrical agent/manager. He married (c.1903) a comedienne, Violet Englefield (born c.1880), the daughter of a bandmaster. She played, for instance, in a musical The Girl Behind the Counter, at Wyndham's Theatre on 21 April 1906. There is another picture of her on this site. They had a son, Reggie (Reginald Grant Allen), born 22 February 1910. He died in 1985.
Violet Englefield, Grant Allen's daughter in law, c.1910.

From a private photo album.
Used by permission of June Green.
In March 1904 Jerrard Allen and Leonard Buttress, a London stage manager, published an article (or story) in Pearson's Magazine (US) called "Bird Babies".
On 1 Oct 1916 Jerrard and Violet Allen left Liverpool on the Cameronia for New York. Their small son did not leave England until 27 Jan 1917. His ship, the St. Paul, did not arrive until 5 Feb, three days late, which must have caused anxiety in the wartime conditions.
By 1920 the Allen family were living at 119 E. 82nd St, New York. Jerrard Allen was listed as 41, Violet 36 and Reggie 15. Violet Englefield played in a Broadway musical, Sky High, in March 1925 but retired from the stage that year. In 1930 the family was living at 186 Gregory Boulevard, Norwalk, Connecticut. The senior Allens were registered US citizens by this date. Jerrard was listed as a 'publicity director' and his son as a 'manager'. In 1938 Jerrard was a promoter of Eva Le Gallienne's Repertory Theatre. She was the daughter of GA's intimate friend Richard Le Gallienne.
Around 1939 Jerrard and Violet retired to Lake Worth, Florida. Violet died in West Palm Beach on 22 March 1946 and Jerrard in Palm Beach in March 1964. Reggie died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on 19 March 1985. Whether Reggie had any children is unknown. It has not been possible to trace the line further.
Grant Allen had six siblings: five sisters and an elder brother who predeceased him. His sisters were Mary Gertrude (unmarried; 1854-1897) and Carolina Elizabeth (married John Maule Machar in 1879: he was one of the founders of Queen's University), both of Kingston; Edith Harriet (unmarried, lived in Scotland); Dora Maud Violet (wife of Robert Arklay Fergusson of Ethiebeaton, Scotland); and Fredericka Blanche (wife of Henry Rushton Fairclough, d.1927). Little is known of any of these except Henry Fairclough. He was a Classics academic at Stanford University, author of an autobiography Warming Both Hands, but it contains little of interest on GA or his family. Any information on GA memorabilia held by relatives of these people will be welcome.
Thanks to the Pennsylvania State University Special Collections Library and to several others for generously supplying photos. Many thanks also to Victor Berch of Brandeis University who recovered all the details here of the Allens' lives in America. And finally thanks to Mike Dufresne in Canada, who has unearthed a number of photos of GA in his younger days and of members of his family.

Subpages (24): View All