Papers of Walter Allen

Scope and Content

Literary and personal papers of Walter Ernest Allen, comprising manuscripts of published novels; manuscripts of unpublished novels; manuscripts of other published works; copies of published articles; reviews and broadcasts; poetry; other writings; contracts and correspondence with publishers, publishers' agents and other institutions.

Administrative / Biographical History

Walter Allen, born in Birmingham in 1911, was the fourth son of Charles Allen and his wife, Annie. He was educated at King Edward's Grammar School, Aston and then at Birmingham University. After graduation he became a freelance writer and during the course of his career was a prolific contributor to all kinds of publications. Allen was one of a small group of novelists, which included John Hampson, Henry Green and Leslie Halward, working in Birmingham in the later 1930s. His first novel, Innocence is Drowned , was published in 1938, and this was shortly followed by Blind Man's Ditch , (1939) and Living Space , (1940). He subsequently went on to publish four more novels; All in a Lifetime , published in 1959 is considered his finest. Allen is perhaps better known for his works of literary criticism, particularly for his two studies of the novel, The English Novel: A Short Critical History (1954) and Tradition and Dream: The English and American Novel from the Twenties to Our Time (1964). Other critical works included studies of Arnold Bennett (1948) and George Eliot (1964) and he also published his autobiography in 1981 under the title As I Walked Down New Grub Street . As a literary journalist, Allen was employed as features editor for Cater's News Agency, Birmingham, 1935-37 and he was also a reviewer for the New Statesman in the later 1940s and 1950s, becoming Assistant Literary, then Literary Editor for the period 1959-61. He also held various teaching posts and visiting professorships, particularly in North America, and from 1967 until 1973, he was Professor of English at the New University of Ulster, Coleraine. Walter Allen married Peggy Joy in 1944, by whom he had two sons and two daughters. He died on 28 February 1995, aged 84.

Reference: University of Birmingham, Special Collections Department, Online Archive Catalogue ( ). Accessed May 2002.


The papers are arranged into seven series: manuscripts of unpublished novels, manuscripts of published novels, manuscripts of other published works, copies of published articles, reviews, and broadcasts, poetry, other writings, and contracts and correspondence with publishers, publishers' agents and other institutions.

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Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Other Finding Aids

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Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.