The Stock in Trade: Light Fiction

  • Peter Morton


Grant Allen, author of more than thirty novels and much short fiction, was notorious for his derogatory opinion of that important part of his trade. He wrote fiction for money, he said, and nothing more. “I suppose no man ever took by choice to the pursuit of fiction,” he wrote in the self-punishing tone, which, in one mood, was habitual with him:

Fellows drift into it under stress of circumstances, because that is the particular ware most specially required by the market at the moment …the literary aspirations of an educated man generally lead quite elsewhere. It is only the stern laws of supply and demand that compel him in the end to turn aside from the Lord’s work to serve tables for his daily sustenance.1


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  1. 1.
    GA, “The Trade of Author,” Fortnightly Review, 51/45 (February 1889), 268.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Richard Le Gallienne, “Grant Allen,” Attitudes and Avowals with Some Retrospective Reviews, John Lane, 1910, 197.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Frederic Harrison, Grant Allen, 1848–1899; an Address Delivered at Woking on October 27, 1899, privately printed [at the Chiswick Press], 1899, 8. Allen’s widow would not have liked hearing that, however. She told Clodd that her husband “really had a much higher idea of his novels than many people had, and used to say how much thought and work he had put into his later ones. He believed this would be recognized some day.” ALS, “April 9th” [1900] to Edward Clodd, Clodd Correspondence, Leeds.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    John Oldcastle [i.e. Wilfred Meynell], Journals and Journalism: With a Guide for Literary Beginners, Field & Tuer, 1880.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Walter Besant, The Pen and the Book, Thomas Burleigh, 1899, 137, 143.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    GA, “The Romance of the Clash of Races,” Westminster Gazette, 1 (March 15, 1893), 4; reprinted in Post-Prandial Philosophy, Chatto & Windus, 1894, 75.Google Scholar
  7. 25.
    GA, “Science in Education,” Westminster Gazette, 1 (February 11, 1893), 4; reprinted in Post-Prandial Philosophy, Chatto & Windus, 1894, 25–26.Google Scholar

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© Peter Morton 2005

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  • Peter Morton

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