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Guyer , Paul and Matthews , Eric. His regular dinner was half a loaf of dry bread and green tea. For weeks on end he spoke to no-one except during the brief exchanges of street and shop. Starting in , Machen wrote eighteen books, including a translation of Casanova in twelve volumes.
What about the wear and tear of mind and heart and that T,e,a,r which is pronounced in another manner? Only newspaper journalism kept him from the workhouse. By comparison with a story like that, Grant Allen did very well indeed. Arthur Machen might have been thinking of him when he contrasted his own early years with those men who were plugged into the network of privilege; the men who belonged to the world where a quiet word in the right ear was effective; the 'others', Machen calls them. In the context of a career such as Machen's, is it not mere posing to speak of yourself as a proletarian when you can afford to winter on the Riviera each year and are enjoying so many other fringe benefits of the trade?
Those benefits were not to be despised, after all. Some of them were vividly described by Anthony Trollope, speaking of the time after he had left the Post Office and therefore in a position to appreciate them the more: There is perhaps no career in life so charming as that of a successful man of letters.
The clergyman, the lawyer, the doctor, the member of Parliament, the clerk in a public office, the tradesman, and even his assistant in the shop, must dress in accordance with certain fixed laws; but the author need sacrifice to no grace, hardly even to Propriety.
He is subject to no bonds such as those which bind other men. Who else is free from all shackle as to hours? The judge must sit at ten, and the attorney-general, who is making his L20, a year, must be there with his bag. The Prime Minister must be in his place on that weary front bench shortly after prayers, and must sit there, either asleep or awake, even though -- or -- should be addressing the House. During all that Sunday which he maintains should be a day of rest, the active clergyman toils like a galley-slave.
The actor, when eight o'clock comes, is bound to his footlights. The Civil Service clerk must sit there from ten till four, -- unless his office be fashionable, when twelve to six is just as heavy on him. The author may do his work at five in the morning when he is fresh from his bed, or at three in the morning before he goes there. And the author wants no capital, and encounters no risks. When once he is afloat, the publisher finds all that; -- and indeed, unless he be rash, finds it whether he be afloat or not.
But it is in the consideration which he enjoys that the successful author finds his richest reward. He is, if not of equal rank, yet of equal standing with the highest; and if he be open to the amenities of society, may choose his own circles. He without money can enter doors which are closed against all but him and the wealthy. When Trollope's confessional account appeared in it described a level of success which Allen could only dream of. Yet by the end of his career he was enjoying all these perquisites in full measure.
He called them the 'incidental consolations'. We have documented how quite sudden socio-economic changes within the world of letters threw up new opportunities, and how quickly new men bounded forward to seize them. A journalist, Raymond Blathwayt, a contemporary and friend of Allen's, records in his autobiography the heady moment when he leapt from obscurity to journalistic fame in a single week. Having lost his job as an East-end curate -- allegedly because in a test he could not give in order the Ten Plagues of Egypt -- the young Blathwayt was forced to share a room with a failed artist and live on penny buns.
He would seek out famous men, starting with writers, and persuade them to do 'interviews', a mode of publicity then barely heard of in Britain. His success was instantaneous and exhilarating. Even from the perspective of thirty years, Blathwayt could hardly believe his luck. It seemed too easy and too good to be true, but the cheque that arrived a few days after soon dispersed any fears I may have entertained as to the reality of my good fortune'. Certainly he was well aware of the uniqueness of that point in the history of journalism: On one Monday I was practically starving; on the following Monday the cheques had begun that delightful flow which they have never altogether ceased ever since.
It was as though I had gone into an oil district and at once started a 'gusher' I reiterate that my success was due, not so much to my own merits, which were feeble enough, as to sheer luck. The moment I started in new papers began to flood the market. Allen started from no such lowly base as Blathwayt, but in a quieter, more restrained and slower maturing way, this was the story of his success too.
His prosperity, indeed his whole career, stemmed from a happy conjunction of the man, milieu and moment. It was made possible through an interaction between his own versatility and productivity, and his fortuitous arrival at exactly the right moment when his kind of talent could find its reward; the moment that the publishing historian Simon Eliot has defined as being the one making the period the 'fleeting golden age for the facile writer of easily-read prose'.
There was the new, expanding, eager readership comprising the first generation of beneficiaries of Forster's Education Act; the rise of the new mass journalism, itself made feasible by the web-fed rotary press and the linotype typesetting machine; the lucrative provincial syndication markets; the new American copyright provisions; the emergence of new kinds of middlemen with useful skills for hire that most authors did not have. Such a career as Allen's, particularly its rewards and concomitant pressures and conflicts, would have been impossible a few decades earlier and few decades later, under the influence of competing media, it would have taken a different course and had a different shape, though it might have been rewarded even better than it was.
Not that it was ill-rewarded. Allen was by no means an average literary jack-of-all-trades, but it is still surprising to notice just how generous the rewards could be for a respected and hardworking, but still fairly minor professional writer in this period. By most standards his productive power and sales sustained an enviable style of life. He benefited from the low cost of living, particularly the cheap cost of labour; for it easy to bandy about figures like a thousand pounds while forgetting what the purchasing power of such a sum actually was.
Nor was it only a matter of income. Let us not underrate the non-financial 'consolations' which were far above the aspirations of most professional men. Many must have sighed as Andrew Chatto did when the Allens invited him to join them for a spring holiday abroad, an offer he had half promised to accept: It was a very pleasant daydream to think so while it lasted, but we are awakening now to the reality that it is impossible for one to leave the business'. Even in his darkest days Allen never knew real hardship except that caused by his invalidity. He worked hard, but he knew no 'shackle as to hours' for most of his writing life.
He had a wide circle of friends, and plenty of Trollope's 'amenities of society', or at least the limited kind of kind of society he wanted. The kind which eyed him askance was the kind for which he cared nothing anyway. Yet, as we have seen repeatedly, his attitude to his material success was typically paradoxical.
He insisted it was important to him, yet it seemed to bring him little satisfaction. Authorship, he was eager to tell anyone who would listen, is: But the same number of painters, barristers, doctors, make L20, a year. For the most part even tolerably successful authors only just pull through somehow.
They can't make fortunes; they seldom even leave their wives and children properly provided for. I don't complain of all this; I don't see how it can be prevented; the profession is overcrowded, and the competition keen; but as you ask me what I think of it compared with other professions I should say distinctly it's an excellent one to keep out of. He knew how hard he worked, and he was not content with his position in life as a thousand-a-year man. Few writers felt the tension between Art and Mammon so acutely as Allen, or at least wrote about with such perspicuity.
He could not escape from the literary life, but he certainly gave thought to the question of why there is such a gulf between the incomes of authors and. Why are the rewards for the first so scanty? Are writers intrinsically worth so much less to society?
He returned repeatedly to this question, twice devoting strong and penetrating essays to it: The first, written when his fortunes were at low ebb and he was fighting for his economic life, is the more bitter and self-punishing; the second, when he was emerging from the ruck and could see a clearer path ahead, is more analytical, witty and dispassionate. Trollope's most notorious comparison was between the novelist's trade and the shoemaker's. Trollope's point was to claim that his honest labours as a novelist were just as socially meritorious as the shoemaker's. Allen inclined to the opposite view.
Watching a shoemaker at work from his study window as he sits plying his own trade of scribbler, he envies that tradesman's undeniably useful result of his day's work compared to his own dubious role in the national economy. What has he done that gives him the right to come to table in response to 'the clanging dinner-bell of collective humanity'? How has his day been spent? How could such work be defended, especially by a man who counts himself a Communist?
And, in particular, what can be said for the freelance journalist -- not the standard news reporter, whose utility is, theoretically, obvious enough, but the mere 'tootler' -- one like Grant Allen, for instance? One answer is that the tootler fills a want; the wants of editors, and behind them the wants of readers. But that is unsatisfying. What troubles Allen is the suspicion that writers like him are simply parasites on the ruling class. Relatively few people produce the really useful goods of the world, like 'bread, meat, clothing, science and poetry'.
Is not the tootler similarly employed? Still, there is a hierarchy of uselessness. One ought to distinguish between harmless labours and 'the nasty, cruel luxuries, like sealskin jackets and Strasburg pie'. People, after all, must be amused; and a skilled hand can inform while entertaining. Allen consoles himself with the thought that he is practising what a later generation would call 'infotainment'. At best then the tootler must be content with negative self-approval: Rather a dusty answer, to be sure.
I have often thought over your problem and have answered it pretty much to my own satisfaction. I cannot think any man blameworthy for making his living in any honest way: The question might arise if one claimed to be a man of genius, capable of moving the world. I am happily quite clear that that is not my vocation. I am certain that I can do much more good by bringing up my children decently than if I reduced them to poverty and ignorance in order that I might try my hand at inventing a new bit of metaphysical moonshine.
I don't flatter myself that it matters two straws to the world whether I write or dig in my garden; but it makes a difference to my own little world, where I can really produce some effect. One wonder how Stephen's well-meant advice, the advice of a veteran of fifty, was received by the younger man. Allen might well have reflected that Stephen's quietism was a pretty self-indulgent philosophy.
Allen would have despised the opinion that it didn't matter 'two straws' to the world whether he wrote or dug his garden. He expected his writing -- the kind of writing he wanted to do -- to matter a great deal. But he could not have thought, by the end, that too much of it really had mattered. Six years later he returned more specifically to the money question in one of his most brilliant essays, 'The Trade of Author'.
This is a survey of problem of earning a living from miscellaneous writing, based on his first full decade of dearly-won experience. Witty, bitter, shrewd and memorably phrased, it is a masterly piece of writing. As we have seen, Allen had an almost neurotic interest in his own earning power, and his opening question goes, as usual, straight to the financial heart. Doctors chat to you with their meter ticking at the rate of twenty-five shillings a minute. Even an unknown water-colourist can ask thirty pounds for a smallish square of painted paper. Only in authorship does breadth of reputation bring no commensurate reward.
How very odd it is, then, muses Allen, that when an admirer seeks out a writer 'known to half the world in a dozen countries', his hero is likely to be found living in a cottage on a twentieth of the income of a professional man who is totally unknown to the wider world. How can this be? The answer, Allen argued, lay in the peculiar disadvantages under which authors labour.
There is the fact that the author does not even benefit, as the artist or sculptor does, from having a unique original to sell. One copy of his work is worth the same as another and the original is usually so much waste paper. More serious still is the effect of the Competition of the Dead. In law or medicine or accountancy or any other service trade, you, the client, are obliged to consult those who are active now, inferior though they may be to their dead predecessors.
But the consumer of literature is under no such handicap. The dead are just as accessible and just as valuable as the living. And the works of the illustrious dead are available for practically nothing, driving down the living writer's price. The most-read authors are the ones whose names have been diffused the most, and who is interested in whether or not whether they are still alive? Writing as he was in , he probably had in mind the plunging prices of publishers' reprint series.
The head-to-head competition between Routledge and Cassell had recently seen a huge range of classic authors become available for a trivial three pence. There the price bottomed out: Matthew Arnold had made Allen's point for him earlier. Old books can be bought for very little, and that is good; but there are good new books too: For the author who manages that, all doors are open.
He may tell the truth at last, and no man will curb him. From its favourites the public will suffer anything.
SEX IN UTOPIA: THE EVOLUTIONARY HEDONISM OF GRANT ALLEN AND OSCAR WILDE
Carlyle gave it abuse, Ruskin gives it nonsense, but it smiles benignly'. Between them, therefore, these two articles suggest why Allen should not sound merely fatuous when he defined himself as a proletarian. It was that economic 'helplessness', to which he refers, the vulnerability of the sweated out-worker to fluctuations in demand, to the insolence of employers, and to strokes of ill-fortune.
Freelance author-journalists like Allen participated in the most primitive economic transaction between capital and labour that it is possible to imagine. In practice, the freelancer was indistinguishable from the day-labourer who stood with his fellows on the dockside each morning in the hope of hiring out his muscle-power one more time.
But even the labourer had his mates to commiserate with in the pub. The freelance was alone as few workers are alone, his alienation total, his wage-slavery manifest. Even Walter Besant, who was sometimes criticised for having too rosy a view of the actual rewards of authorship, had to admit that 'no worker in the world, not even the needlewoman, is more helpless, more ignorant, more cruelly sweated than the author'.
The convention prevailing at the time discouraged personal approaches. The contributor was expected to mail in the product of his labour with nothing but a name and address written discreetly in the corner -- Allen's own MSS show he followed this convention. Then the editor either took it at his price or posted it back with a rejection slip. Rarely was there room for negotiation.
Sometimes there was no human interchange at all for years on end, and even multiple acceptances did not necessarily create any reservoir of good-will or obligation. Under such a regimen Allen passed all his career. It was a gruelling way to make a living, even for the most versatile and accomplished pen.
The truth, however, was that it is the very fact that Allen was an 'index of taste', echoing and defining the preoccupations of the day that gives him his best chance of survival. In another mood he seemed to accept this fate for himself. Allen was indeed a mouthpiece for the Zeitgeist. His interests were so various, his grasp on his own time and its fleeting concerns and tastes so perceptive and lucid, that he will surely continue to command a small audience in each generation.
Despite his repeated gloomy appraisals of his situation, he actually handled his own plight rather well. His own energy protected him from the worst consequences. He always made some time for his own interests. Other writers would have been destroyed or swallowed up by the killing workload which he suffered for years, but he was, in his versatility and flexibility and restless pursuit of the new, not merely the first among equals but unique.
And the work is of surprisingly high quality. He wrote quickly, and had to write too much, but he had no reason to despise his own powers. He was rarely prolix, hardly ever repeated himself, and, rather like George Orwell, nearly always finds a fresh and vivid way of phrasing near-truisms. His best work has a verve, a lightness of touch, a self-delighting play of fancy and information, which quite belies the circumstances under which some of it was produced.
All this added up to a lot more than 'tootles on the penny-trumpet'. Anyone who does more than dip into his work -- into his non-fiction especially -- will be struck by how well, in the end, Grant Allen succeeded in having his cake, and eating it.
With Portraits, and a Preface by Grant Allen. Letterbooks, Outgoing Correspondence. Grant Richards Archives, Archives of British Publishers on Microfilm. With an Introduction by Jerome K. Grant Allen Literary Manuscripts and Correspondence Letters from GA to John Lane. Letterbooks, of A. Privately printed [the Chiswick Press], , p. By the Light of the Glow-worm Lamp.
Grant Richards, , pp. John Lane, , pp. The author is probably W.
- A Below Zero Mentality in the Day of Social Ideals!
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Feminism and the Novel Feminism and Early Modernism. English Feminism and Sexual Morality Gentlemen, Gents, and Working Women. Women Writing First-Wave Feminism. Bulzoni Editore, have broader concerns. Memories of Years Spent Mainly in Publishing, British Library thesis service, DX Victorian Fiction Research Guide Houghton , II, , item But it is certainly by Allen.
Thomas Burleigh, , p. The Bodley Head, ; Wendell V. The Yellow Book and Its Contributors. Kansas Press, ; James G. A View from the Bodley Head. Harvard UP, ; Margaret D. Literary Publishing at the Bodley Head. This is mostly letterbooks of copies of outgoing correspondence business, , but some incoming letters from GA are tipped into the letterbooks.
The rest of the incoming correspondence from GA has not survived in CW. For GA and A. Some other records of the firm of A. Victorian Science in Context. Aspects of English Literary Life Since Allen did join the Fabians in , but the standard history tells no more of him than that bare fact. The comparison with Baring-Gould was drawn in several obituaries. Peter Owen, , pp. This was a second article with the same title. A Record of Events and Opinions.
This is unlikely to be correct. It was almost certainly the ancient foundation renamed in the College Jehan Ango. The handsome building still exists on the Quai as an infant school. The Trustees of the University, , p. Allen's employment at Queen's is extant in the University archives. In a single casual remark in a letter to William James dated 6 April GA mentions that he spent the summer of back in Kingston. According to Oman, he produced nothing at all of substance during his eight years of holding this prestigious appointment.
He died in Little, Brown, , p. His Life and Adventures. An Autobiography with an Introduction by Grant Richards. Richards, reminisces as follows: Many years later, a gossip column in a Jamaican newspaper recorded: Hamilton left for Panama without perpetuating in Jamaica the precious Grant Allen genes, and miscegenation, which had so much to its debit, lost the opportunity of adding the Grant Allen genes to its credit. Sinclair and Laurence R. Rand, McNally , p. A London Magazine , 37 Jan , Unsigned and authorship not quite certain, but GA expressed notions similar to these elsewhere.
David Nutt, , pp. University of London Library, MS, fol. Setting Out the Stall. Bodley Head, , p. Clodd silently omitted this comment when he printed the letter. Edmund Ward, , p. Lang was right in his identification, but a letter to Nellie Allen at the time probably suggests he misrepresents slightly what happened. I hope Mr Allen is convinced that nothing would ever cause me to suspect, or expect, anything but the greatest kindness from him, even if it comes to pitching sacred stones at each other.
The Conservative Weekly Journal , 5 1 Mar , An article by G. Romanes, 23 July A London Magazine , 41 May , University College Library, University of London. Henry James and the Profession of Authorship. From Trollope to Amis. Palgrave, , especially chapter 7. Life in Nineteenth-Century Grub Street. John Heywood, , pp. Covering the Year Review of Reviews, , p. With a Guide for Literary Beginners. A Manual for Beginners and Amateurs.
Upcott Gill, , p. A Pedlar Crying Stuff: This article inspired a poem from the Laureate, Alfred Austin. Macmillan, , II, One of these used a pen-name. A London Magazine , 36 Oct , Harris was formerly a newspaper editor, like the editor in the novel, and may have behaved thus in that capacity, although Allen himself could not have been a victim. Wyllie, and Descriptive Letterpress by G. A Biography Revised with New Material. Ernest Benn, , pp. Leeds also holds a partial typewritten transcript of the diary, which covers the full period of his acquaintance with Allen; but it is highly selective and unreliable.
Many of the MS entries, in tiny handwriting, are unfortunately illegible. The Stock in Trade: The Eclipse of Darwinism: Anti-Darwinian Evolution Theories in the Decades around Johns Hopkins UP, Wallace, for instance, set his face against use-inheritance but was credulous about accepting examples of pre-natal influence, including an absurd case where a pregnant woman nursed a gamekeeper after his arm was amputated, only to produce a baby with a stump for an arm: Wallace found this very convincing indeed. Longmans, Green, , p.
'THE BUSIEST MAN IN ENGLAND: GRANT ALLEN': Book Part 2 - Peter Morton's Website
Gollancz, , II, He seems unaware that it will reach the ground as the same moment as another ball dropped vertically from the same height. The obituary was almost certainly written by the new editor, Arthur Cowper Ranyard, an astronomer. Chatto sent him a cheque for current sales on his first two books as late as The returns from the periodical publications are estimates. The total sum quoted probably errs on the generous side. John Lane, , p. Privately printed [at the Chiswick Press], , p.
He believed this would be recognized some day. In Clodd Correspondence, Leeds. The next largest category was educational works, mostly text-books None of the other identified categories amounted to more than a few hundred each. The Bibliographical Society, , p. Thomas Burleigh, , pp. Series 1 of 5. North Waterloo Academic P. Watt by Various Writers. The Literary Agency, , pp. ALS to Chatto, 9 Oct Chatto did not insist on a deletion, however. Chatto and Windus, , p.
Chatto and Windus, , pp. Clodd, probably correctly, dates the letter to The Prosperous Tradesman Grant Richards, , p. University Press of Virginia, , 5, Even Allen would have jibbed at entering the preceding competition for the best short story: No explanation is offered as to why the letter is being reprinted two years after its appearance in the US. A Victorian Colony among the Surrey Hills. The Croft, renamed and enlarged, still stands as a private house and I am grateful to the owner for allowing me to view the interior.