Alwington HouseCharles Grant Blairfindie Allen (Grant Allen), the writer, philosopher, biologist and feminist, was born on Wolfe Island in Ontario (or in Alwington House in Kingston) on February 24 1848. Wolfe Island is a part of the famous Thousand Islands on the Canadian side of the lake. Allen's father was a vicar who emigrated from Ireland and his mother was a Canadian aristocrat. Allen was the third of 7 children, and in his childhood the household was dominated by his younger sisters and his Irish aunt. The family lived at Alwington House after 1844 and at Ardath house from the early 1850s.

Just before the outbreak of the American Civil War the family moved to New England, and when war broke out, they relocated to Europe. Allen went to school in Dieppe in France for a while before the family moved on to Britain. Here Allen attended King Edward's School in Birmingham and Oxford University while his parents moved back to America.

He married early to sick woman, Caroline Ann Bootheway, but remarried a soon after her death. His new wife, Ellen Jerrard, was from Lyme Regis in the south of England. (He used to call her Nellie). She stayed with him the rest of his life and outlived him by many years. They had one son, Jerrard Allen.

At the end of his studies Allen began work as a professor of philosophy at a colonial school in Jamaica. (Here it is rumoured that he fathered an illegitimate child. Click here to read newspaper gossip from Jamaica) On his return to England a few years later, he worked as a teacher before turning to writing. He made contact with the evolutionary philosopher Herbert Spencer, and they began a friendship that would last for the rest of their lives.

Next > > >