The Prosperous Tradesman (1890–1895)

  • Peter Morton


Grant Allen in his prosperous years—in his last decade, that is to say; from 1890 onward—was a familiar figure in all the haunts of literary and scientific London: a neat, slightly built man in his forties, with a long, keen, bony, Scotch face, whitening sandy hair, a reddish-grey goatee beard and pale blue eyes. The gossiping journalist Douglas Sladen said that Allen reminded him of the gaunt, red-bearded figures one sees on French tapestries of the fifteenth century, as he had the same spare figure and the same habit of arching his back.1 Another described him at this time as “all sugar, and seems to be a pleasant and gentle person; tall and thin, with plenty of grey or whitish hair and a pointed beard; light eyes, with a boyish look in them, a small and mincing mouth, and a nose that seems to have grown much longer than was at first intended, arched, thin, and pliant, giving him a somewhat foxy look…. He has a lot to say, and says it well; is more tolerant of contradiction than most …must have done a lot of various work in his time.”2 His manner was normally quiet, gentle, and confiding. Informal social occasions drew out the best in him, and then his conversation could be animated, energetic and, at times, acerbic and paradoxical. While he spoke, he constantly twirled the pocket lens which he kept in readiness for the examination of some flower or insect. Frank Harris noted his “air of clean alertness and vivacity,” and thought that his constant walking exercise and moderate habits compensated for his physical ailments.3


Fifteenth Century Whitish Hair Sexual Double Standard Physical Ailment Familiar Figure 
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  1. 1.
    Douglas Sladen, Twenty Tears of My Life, Constable, 1915, 258.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Henry W. Nevinson, Changes and Chances, Nisbet, 1923, 85.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    GA, “To Dorking by Coach,” The Magazine of Art, 10 (July 1887), 284–285.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    For more information on the Allen circle at Hindhead, see Derek Hudson, “English Switzerland in Surrey,” Country Life (May 10, 1973), 1310–1311; and W.R. Trotter, The Hilltop Writers: A Victorian Colony among the Surrey Hills, Lewes: The Book Guild, 1996, although the account of GA’s time there has minor errors.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Netta Syrett, The Sheltering Tree: An Autobiography, Geoffrey Bles, 1939, 46–47.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Morley Roberts, The Private Life of Henry Maitland. A Portrait of George Gissing, ed. Morchard Bishop, Richards, 1958, 90. The article that Roberts remembered Gissing alluding to with “angry amusement” was perhaps “My Lares and Penates,” although that referred to the Dorking house.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Richard Le Gallienne, “Grant Allen” in Attitudes and Avowals with Some Retrospective Reviews, John Lane, 1910, 179.Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    Richard Le Gallienne, “[Review of] Post-Prandial Philosophy,” in Retrospective Reviews: A Literary Log, II (1893–1895), John Lane, 1896, 93.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    GA, “A Point of Criticism,” Westminster Gazette, 3 (January 30, 1894), 1–2; reprinted in Post-Prandial Philosophy, Chatto & Windus, 1894, 207–208.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    GA, “Individualism and Socialism,” Contemporary Review, 55 (May 1889), 730–741.Google Scholar

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© Peter Morton 2005

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  • Peter Morton

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