Setting out the Stall (1876–1880)

  • Peter Morton


Back in England in the cheerless autumn of 1876, Allen must surely have wondered where his life was going. He was jobless, poor, married with a dependent wife, and his thirtieth birthday was on the horizon. He did continue, on and off, with private coaching work at Oxford for four more years. But the job of dinning the same foolish round of Horace and Livy and Latin elegiacs in the heads of useless, eat-all, do-nothing young fellows (as he put it)— fellows who should have been apprenticed to a useful trade years earlier— appealed no longer.


Daily News Periodical Market Decent Living Monthly Magazine Saturday Review 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 6.
    GA, “My Lares and Penates,” American Magazine, 6 (October 1887), 721. Sir William Wilson Hunter’s Imperial Gazetteer of India was published by Trübner in 1881 in nine volumes. In his Preface, Hunter thanks Allen for his help; they remained on good terms because he was one of Allen’s informants for The Colour-Sense. J.S. Cotton of the Academy, who much later would write the entry on Allen in the DNB, worked on the same project. GA called Hunter a “literary whitewasher” in an undated letter to A.R. Wallace, partially quoted in the latter’s My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions, Chapman & Hall, 1905,11,263.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    So described by Richard Le Gallienne, quoted in Roger Lancelyn Green, Andrew Lang, Bodley Head, 1962, 31.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Saintsbury’s amusements are described in Dorothy Richardson Jones, “King of Critics”: George Saintsbury, 1845–1933, Critic, Journalist, Historian, Professor, University of Michigan Press, 1992, 17.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Andrew Lang, “Grant Allen,” Argosy, 71 (August 1900), 412; emphases added. He describes Allen’s scientific interests as “stinks” in an undated letter to Clodd [dated “1900” in another hand]. Clodd silently omitted this comment when he printed the letter, Leeds.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    These are the figures quoted in Roger Lancelyn Green, Andrew Lang: A Critical Biography, Leicester: Edmund Ward, 1946, x.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    GA, “The ‘Diversions of Priestley,’” London, 4 (November 2, 1878), 422–423; (November 9, 1878), 447–448; (November 16, 1878), 471–472; unsigned.Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    GA, “The Philosophy of Drawing-Rooms,” Cornhill Magazine, 41 (March 1880), 312–326;Google Scholar
  8. GA, “Cimabue and Coal-scuttles,” Cornhill Magazine, 42 (July 1880), 61–76;Google Scholar
  9. GA, “Decorative Decorations,” Cornhill Magazine, 42 (November 1880), 590–600;Google Scholar
  10. Alison Adburgham, Shops and Shopping 1800–1914, 2nd ed., Barrie & Jenkins, 1981.Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    GA’s income was in the top 1% judging from the income tables in Harold Perkin, The Rise of Professional Society: England Since 1880, Routledge, 1989, 29–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. An article by G.S. Layard, “How to Live on £700 a Year,” Nineteenth Century, 23 (February 1888), 239–244 describes such a lifestyle.Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    GA, “Some New BooksFortnightly Review, 32 (July 1879), 154.Google Scholar
  14. 22.
    GA, Philistia, new ed., Chatto & Windus, 1895, 270–271.Google Scholar
  15. 25.
    GA, “Wintering in Hyères,” Belgravia: A London Magazine, 41 (May 1880), 46; signed “J. Arbuthnot Wilson.”Google Scholar
  16. 27.
    GA, “Monaco and Monte Carlo,” Belgravia, 43 (January 1881), 324; signed “J. Arbuthnot Wilson.”Google Scholar
  17. 33.
    Walter Besant, The Pen and the Book, Thomas Burleigh, 1899, 30.Google Scholar
  18. 34.
    Authorship as an occupation, ca. 1880: census figures quoted by Richard D. Altick, “The Sociology of Authorship: The Social Origins, Education, and Occupations of 1,100 British Writers, 1800–1935,” Bulletin of the New York Public Library, 66 (June 1962), 400.Google Scholar
  19. Altick warns against taking them entirely at face value, for reasons that we need not pursue here. Perkin, The Rise of Professional Society, 80, gives slightly lower figures for the category “authors, journalists,” but these include male workers only. The other estimate is Walter Besant’s, as quoted in Richard D. Altick, “Publishing,” in A Companion to Victorian Literature and Culture, ed. Herbert F. Tucker, Oxford: Blackwell, 1999, 297.Google Scholar
  20. 35.
    Quoted in James Hepburn, The Author’s Empty Purse and the Rise of the Literary Agent, Oxford University Press, 1968, 15.Google Scholar
  21. 36.
    For Henry James’s earnings over the period of GA’s career see Michael Anesko, “Friction with the Market”: Henry James and the Profession of Authorship, Oxford University Press, 1986. Anesko’s meticulous work allows this figure to be derived from his Table 1 (176) for the period 1877–1899, converted at the rate of $4.85 to the pound sterling.Google Scholar
  22. 37.
    Saintsbury’s earnings as reviewer are detailed in John Gross, The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters: Aspects of English Literary Life Since 1800, Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1973, 158.Google Scholar
  23. 38.
    J.W. Saunders, The Profession of English Letters. Routledge/University of Toronto Press, 1964, 175. For a broader sampling of Victorian authors of note who were insulated in one way or another from the market forces see Valentine Cunningham’s witty “Unto Him (or Her) That Hath’: How Victorian Writers Made Ends Meet,” Times Literary Supplement, September 11, 1998, 12–13.Google Scholar
  24. 39.
    The quotations from Conrad are all drawn from Peter D. McDonald, British Literary Culture and Publishing Practice 1880–1914, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, 22, 24, 26.Google Scholar
  25. 43.
    Margaret Beetham, “Towards a Theory of the Periodical as a Publishing Genre,” Investigating Victorian Journalism, ed. Laurel Brake et al., Macmillan, 1990, 19–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 44.
    This and the other epithets are drawn from Kelly J. Mays, “The Disease of Reading and Victorian Periodicals,” in Literature in the Marketplace: Nineteenth-Century British Publishing and Reading Practices, ed. John O. Jordan and Robert L. Patten, Cambridge University Press, 1995, 176.Google Scholar
  27. 52.
    John Oldcastle [i.e. Wilfred Meynell], Journals and Journalism: With a Guide for Literary Beginners, Field and Tuer, 1880, 41–42.Google Scholar
  28. 54.
    Walter Besant, “Literature as a Career,” The Forum, 13 (August 1892), 702–703.Google Scholar
  29. 56.
    GA, “Depression,” Westminster Gazette, 5 (January 19, 1895), 1–2.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Peter Morton 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Morton

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations