James Lane Allen

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James Lane Allen.

James Lane Allen (December 21, 1849 – February 18, 1925) was an American novelist and short story writer whose work, including the novel A Kentucky Cardinal, often depicted the culture and dialects of his native Kentucky. His work is characteristic of the late-19th century local color era, when writers sought to capture the vernacular in their fiction. Allen has been described as "Kentucky's first important novelist."

Early life and education[edit]

James Lane Allen was born near Lexington, Kentucky to Richard and Helen Jane (Foster) Allen on December 21, 1849.[1] Allen, the youngest child in the family, had four sisters Lydia, May, Sally, and Annie, and two brothers, John and Henry.[1] Allen lived at the Scarlet Gate estate in Lexington in the late 1800s until age 22 years.[2] Allen spent his youth in Lexington during the Antebellum era, the American Civil War, and the Reconstruction periods.[1] His childhood experience heavily influenced his writing. He described living at Scarlet Gate in the introduction to A Kentucky Cardinal.[2]

Career in New York[edit]

In 1893 Allen moved to New York City, where he lived until his death. He was a contributor to Harper's Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and other popular magazines of the time. His novels include The Choir Invisible, which was a very popular best seller in 1897.[3][4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Allen is buried in Lexington Cemetery. At the northern edge of Gratz Park in Lexington is the "Fountain of Youth", built in memory of Allen using proceeds willed to the city by him.[5]

James Lane Allen School, an elementary school off Alexandria Drive in Lexington, Kentucky is named in his honor.


Works published by Allen include:

  • Flute and Violin (1891) (compilation of previously published stories)
  • The Blue-Grass Region of Kentucky (1892) (second compilation)
  • John Gray (1893)
  • A Kentucky Cardinal (1894)
  • Aftermath (1895) (sequel to A Kentucky Cardinal)
  • Summer in Arcady (1896)
  • The Choir Invisible (1897)
  • Two Gentlemen of Kentucky (1899)
  • The Increasing Purpose (1900)
  • The Reign of Law (1900)
  • The Mettle of the Pasture (1903)
  • The Bride of the Mistletoe (1909)
  • The Doctor's Christmas Eve (1910)
  • The Heroine in Bronze (1912)
  • The Last Christmas Tree (1914)
  • The Sword of Youth (1915)
  • A Cathedral Singer (1916)
  • The Kentucky Warbler (1918)
  • The Emblems of Fidelity (1919)
  • The Alabaster Box (1923)
  • The Landmark (1925)


  1. ^ a b c Knght, Grant (December 2012). "James Lane Allen and the Genteel Tradition". uncpress.unc.edu. The University of North Carolina at Chapel. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  2. ^ a b "The Lexington School buys neighboring James Lane Allen estate". kentucky. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  3. ^ (6 October 1946). Fifty Years of Best Sellers, compiled in Popular Culture
  4. ^ (19 February 1925). James Lane Allen, Author, Dies at 76: Creator of "The Choir Invisible" Collapses In Roosevelt Hospital From Chronic Insommnia, The New York Times
  5. ^ Gratz Park Historic District, Lexington, Kentucky -- National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary at www.cr.nps.gov

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]