This book is a critical biography of Grant Allen, (1848-1899), the first for a century, based on all the surviving primary sources. Born in Kingston, Ontario, into a cultured and affluent family, Allen was educated in France and England. A mysterious marriage while he was an Oxford undergraduate wrecked his academic career and radicalized his views on sexual and marital questions, as did a three-year teaching stint in Jamaica. Despite his lifelong ill health and short life, Allen was a writer of extraordinary productivity and range. About half - more than 30 books and many hundreds of articles - reflects interests which ran from Darwinian biology to cultural travel guides. His prosperity, however, was underpinned by fiction; more than 30 novels, including The Woman Who Did , which has attracted much recent attention from feminist critics and historians. The Better End of Grub Street uses Allen's career to examine the role and status of the freelance author/journalist in the late-Victorian period. Allen's career delineates what it took to succeed in this notoriously tough profession.
"Remembered today mainly for his best-selling 'sex-problem' novel The Woman Who Did, Grant Allen was the most versatile man of letters in late Victorian London, and one of the most controversial. An outspoken atheist, socialist, evolutionist, sexual radical, and polymath, he was one of the chief shapers of the iconoclastic mentality of the 1890s.
For reasons which have long been mysterious, Allen, from a wealthy Canadian family, was dependent upon the new mass market for popular fiction to keep the wolf from the door. Peter Morton, having combed through dusty archives with the energy of a Sherlock Holmes, has emerged, not only with a solution to the mystery, but also with an unsurpassed knowledge of Grant Allen and his times. His beautifully-written biography - the first for more than a century - of this remarkable and unjustly neglected figure throws a brilliant new light on the entire literary-cultural scene of late nineteenth-century England."-Nicholas Ruddick, University of Regina