North American Scholar

ALLEN, George

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1808-12-17
  • Born City: Milton
  • Born State/Country: VT
  • Parents: Heman, a Congressman, & Sarah Prentiss A.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1876-05-28
  • Death City: Worcester
  • Death State/Country: MA
  • Married: Mary Hancock Withington, 7 July 1831.
  • Education:

    A.B., U. of  Vermont, 1827; LL.D., U. of Pennsylvania, 1868.

  • Professional Experience:

    Prof. langs., U. of Vermont, 1828-30; admitted to VT bar, 1831; tchr, Vermont Episcopal Institute; ordained minister Episcopal Church, 1834; rector, St. Luke's Church, St. Albans, VT, 1834-7; prof. langs., Delaware College (now the U. of Delaware), 1837-45; prof. Latin & Greek, U. of Pennsylvania, 1845; became Roman Catholic, 1847; counsel for Pope Pius IX, Philadelphia.

  • Publications:

    "The Study of Works of Genius, &c," (anonymous) New-York Review 1 (March 1837) 161-78; "Reproductive Criticism," (anonymous) New-York Review 2 (January 1838) 49-75; The Remains of William S. Graham... With a Memoir (ed.) (Philadelphia: J.W. Moore, 1849); The Life of Philidor, Musician and Chess-Player (Philadelphia: P. Miller & Son, 1858), expanded by Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Last (Philadelphia: E.H. Butler, 1863); The Question of Shakespeare's Religion. The State of the Question and a Study of the Manuscript Note of Richard Davies "He Dyed a Papist" (Philadelphia: American Catholic Historical Society, 1922).

  • Notes:

    George Allen was better known as the author of a critical theory called "reproductive criticism" than for his classical scholarship. He was influenced early by his teachers at the University of Vermont, the philosopher and lexicographer Noah Porter (1811-92) and the clergyman-philosopher James Marsh (1794-1842), whose interpretations of the work of Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) led Allen to attempt a reconciliation of his Christian beliefs and the Romantic notions of beauty somewhat along the lines of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Allen did not ascribe generic or thematic labels to works; instead he examined them as individual entities. His family was Congregationalist, but Allen became an Episcopalian in 1824 and was ordained a minister a decade later. Though he taught at a Protestant institution, he converted to Catholicism in 1847, largely under the influence of John Henry Newman. In the following years he wrote a lecture claiming that Shakespeare was Catholic. It was not published until 1922. His chief publications owe to his friendship with the Episcopal clergyman and author Caleb Sprague Henry (1804-84), who founded the New-York Review in 1837 and asked Allen to contribute to the first two issues of that journal. Once at Penn he devoted himself to his love of chess and music, which led to his biography of the chess master and composer François-André Danican Philidor (1726-95).

  • Sources:

    WhAmHS 87; Joshua Chamberlain, (ed.) University of Pennsylvania 1 (1901) 326; John W. Rathbun, American Literary Critics and Scholars, 1800-1850, ed. John Wilbert Rathbun & Monica M. Grecu, Dictionary of Literary Biography 59:3-6.