‘THE BUSIEST MAN IN ENGLAND: GRANT ALLEN’: Book Part 1

————-LONDON BETTING.

There was more severe condemnation, some of it very nasty, and its effect on Hardy himself is notorious; but neither Hardy nor his publisher incurred the displeasure of the law. At the time, however, Allen took Chatto’s advice and put it aside. He tried no other publisher.

Outbreaks of cholera and typhus in the slum quarters filled mass graves which had to be dug along the waterfront, and violent feuds among the Irish immigrants, arising from distinctions of class and religion, marked the early years of Allen’s childhood. The most comparable name that comes to mind at once is Allen’s colleague and sparring-partner Andrew Lang (1844-1912). But Lang’s range was mostly literary-historical. Essentially he was a belle-lettrist; in fact, the very archetype of that species.

] But most of the time they preserved a chaffing, joking relationship. They bickered endlessly over Darwinism and psychical research, but they kept away from personalities in their reviews of each other’s work. Literary London, or at least their sector of it, was not so large a place, and each man was influential enough to cause the other serious damage; it suited both to be tactful and supportive as far as they could.

Not that Allen would have grudged him the profits. He thought that publishers existed to make money for themselves. Certainly this particular transaction was good business for all the parties concerned. Wells was only twenty-nine, and his career was just starting.

People of discernibly Afro-European descent were the ones usually called ‘creoles’ at the time in England, although in the West Indies the term simply denoted anyone, of any ancestry, who had been born in the islands. This time the wedding was no hole in the corner affair. Due regard was taken of all the Victorian niceties. They married at St Michael’s, the parish church at Lyme, by the Rev. Richard Pope, Allen’s Oxford friend.

It is easy to forget just how quickly the limits of toleration in literature were being extended in the first half of the nineties. As early as 1883 Olive Schreiner, in The Story of an African Farm, had published an attack on marriage quite as vigorous as anything Allen had to say. During the years when Allen was working on and trying to publish The Woman Who Did, ‘Lucas Malet’s’ The Wages of Sin (1891) had appeared, and the journalist H.D.

—-_–I JOHN COOKSEY’S “CAUTION”…

So began an odd relationship which had its ups and downs but somehow held together to the day of Allen’s death. Very soon they were on good terms, and met frequently during the short period when Allen was living in London.

The Scallywag was filmed as late as 1921, the contract with Chatto & Windus calling for the author’s name to follow the title in an easily-readable typeface — an indication that Allen’s name still had some drawing-power at that date. Under Sealed Orders, a tale of espionage and terrorism, did even better and reflects the sphere he was moving into by this point in his career. ( Its British publication was in 1895, so it must have been one of the last in the long line of three-deckers.) Andrew Chatto paid him L800 — a splendid price indeed — for all the rights, and then recouped, after some misadventures, L300 from The People and another L298 from P. F. Collier for an American edition. So Chatto paid only L202 for the novel before selling any of the three-decker edition, and the far bigger sales of the one-volume edition of 1896 were pure icing.

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