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Certainly the family home in Broad Street, in the centre of the town, must have been congenial enough for the Oxonian brothers-in-law, because both the Allen and Richards families spent a good deal of time there. Allen loved the Lyme area and wrote a good deal about its topography and remarkable palaeontology. Such an eager anticipation of a regime of communistic puritanism would seem odd in almost any young man.

The negative reviews, though memorably and insultingly phrased in a few cases, were hardly representative of most readers’ opinion of this masterpiece. It was followed by ‘Sarah Grand’s’ The Heavenly Twins (1893); ‘George Egerton’s’ Keynotes and Discords (1893, 1894); ‘Iota’s’ A Yellow Aster (1894); and Mona Caird’s The Daughters of Danaus (1894). Very few of the reviewers of Moore’s painfully grey Esther Waters (1894) struck a sour note. Meredith’s Lord Ormont and His Aminta (1894) was criticized rather severely but not on moral grounds, even though its subject is adultery sympathetically treated.

The typical John Bull! pig-headed, ignorant, brutal.

He went back to Alwington as a mature man probably only twice, once on a flying visit mentioned above, in 1875 or 1876; and again during a tour of eastern North America in the summer of 1886. In many ways, which we will be considering later, Allen was a renegade and an outsider, and like many other expatriate writers was fiercely critical of British institutions, which caused some animosity. For example, his views on sexual and marital relations were partly formed, as he said himself, by the rather freer mores of the New World. Some of his stories and essays turn on this point.

Such views, reinforced by his reading of Spencer’s Sociology, formed early in Allen’s life and he retained them to the end. ] The pompous sub-title to the collection, Reminiscences of Excursions round the Base of Helicon, Undertaken for the Most Part in Early Manhood is a typical piece of mock self-disparagement. When exactly the poems were written is unknown.


  • ‘[287] Since young women graduates were now being fed the same diet, it’s not surprising that he detected, and portrayed, a Jane Bull type as well.
  • Romanes’ father had been an academic in Canada but when he inherited a fortune, soon after George’s birth, he moved the family to England.
  • If he had links with people in any branch of the movement they remain invisible.

There are plenty more soldiers where those came from’. Later we hear that ‘it vexed her righteous Girtonian soul’ to ‘harp for ever on a single human life, when population tends always to increase in a geometrical ratio beyond the means of subsistence’.?

Had he lived a normal span, Jefferies might have been another example of how the higher journalism padded out with some reasonably marketable novels could be a good living. But tuberculosis put paid to that, and Jefferies and his family were charity cases before the end. They would have gone to the workhouse had they not received a Royal Literary Fund grant (L100 a year) and the income from a fund set up by Longman, his publisher, and the Pall Mall Gazette, which raised L1000. All that lay in the future when Allen fell so ill for the first time, but he could very easily have ended the same way, and he needed no precognitive powers to know it.

Are we really such immense successes ourselves that we must needs perpetuate the mould that warped us? ‘[287] Since young women graduates were now being fed the same diet, it’s not surprising that he detected, and portrayed, a Jane Bull type as well. He drew such a one in Ida Mansel, of Dumaresq’s Daughter. Mrs. Mansel is an icily rational young matron who voices ferocious sentiments like ‘war’s an outlet for our surplus population. It replaces the plagues of the Middle Ages.

Readers may wonder why, in a book which deals so much with money, I have made so little attempt to indicate its modern purchasing power. Inflation tables readily show, for example, that Allen’s L1000 literary prize in 1891 is equivalent to L64,341 in 2004 British pounds. But as a guide to what such a sum ‘meant’ in terms of what it would buy, such a conversion is wholly misleading.

Other characters include Lady Hilda Tregellis, a bold and bored young aristocrat eager to marry someone ‘different’, and Arthur Berkeley, a composer of comic operas and the first in the long line of Allen’s self-sacrificing heroes who decorously love another man’s wife from afar. By the time this withering exercise was written Allen’s touchstone of scenic and architectural excellence had become Italy. But his love affair with rural England came first; and now, as his freelancing life got under way, he had the chance to consummate it and escape London for good. The family lived first in Hastings and Lyme and then in 1881 they shifted to the small market town of Dorking, in Surrey.

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