Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh, Allegheny County
Author of the hit adventure novel Anthony Adverse (1933), Hervey Allen was born in Pittsburgh.
Hervey Allen was born on December 8, 1889, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He did not finish high school, but instead went off to fight in World War I. He later graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and became a Professor of English there. While teaching he met Annette Andrews, one of his students. After Annette graduated, they married. This was considered a great scandal because she was 19 years younger than Allen, so they moved to Bermuda to escape scrutiny. Allen was best known for his novel Anthony Adverse, which was released in 1933. Then the Allen family suddenly found themselves rich. The family moved to New York and then Maryland before finally settling down in Miami, Florida. Allen made his living by writing novels, short stories, and poetry. Allen died suddenly of a heart attack in 1949 while in the shower where he was found by his wife. Because he served in the war, he was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.
Born on December 8, 1889, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Hervey Allen would grow up to be a very successful writer and poet. Allen was the son of Hervey Allen Sr., an entrepreneur and inventor, and the former Helen Eby Meyers. Choosing to drop out of high school, Allen received an appointment to the US Naval Academy in 1913. At the Academy, he was injured in an athletic contest and honorably discharged. Nonetheless, Allen served in the Pennsylvania National Guard and saw service in France during World War I. Allen graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Economics and later attended Harvard University for graduate work.
Allen went back to his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, and became a Professor of English. He also lectured on American Literature at Columbia University and was a lecturer on modern poetry at Vassar College. While teaching he met Annette Andrews, one of his students. After Annette graduated, they later got married. This was considered a great scandal because of their previous teacher-student relationship and also because Annette was 19 years younger than Allen. Allen began writing poetry and published his first collection Ballads of the Border in 1916. Upon returning from the war, he wrote “war poetry that was both sober and disillusioning,” in the words of profiler Stuart Knee. One such poem was 1919’s “The Blindman,” in which a young narrator guides a blind man to the school where he had sent his child in a futile attempt at safety. Allen would later travel south to Charleston and collaborate with DuBose Heyward on a volume of poems about the contemporary South rather than its nostalgic past, titled Carolina Chansons (1922). Allen was also well-known for his 1926 biography of Edgar Allan Poe called Israfel. Wilton Eckley writes that, despite criticism for its romantic portrayal of Poe, it remains “one of the best accounts of Poe.”
He continued writing poetry throughout his career but he is most famous for his novel Anthony Adverse (1933). The structure of this novel is gargantuan, composed of three sets of three books each. It is a picaresque novel in form, a series of adventures focused on one central figure, in the tradition of Don Quixote and Roderick Random. Anthony Adverse is the tale of a young man born in unfortunate circumstances and raised by a Jesuit priest. The novel tracks him from 1775 in the French region of Auvergne to 1825 and the American West. Allen wrote about the dreariest times during the Great Depression, though setting the novel in the Napoleonic past, and a man who struggled to be a complete human being while life looked bleak. New York Times critic Peter Monro Jack summarized his views of the novel: “Anthony Adverse is essentially a story and a very great story, but it gathers up so much wit and wisdom by the way that Mr. Allen is revealed on every page as that rare thing nowadays, a creative humanist;...We should not be surprised and we could not be anything but pleased if his Anthony Adverse became the best-loved book of our time.”
The New York Times would later credit Anthony Adverse with starting the Depression Era trend that “furnished several weeks of entertainment for only $3 or thereabouts.” The novel was made into a film by Warner Brothers in 1936.
Allen decided to move with his family to Florida because he developed a strong love for the Everglades. He kept a residence at the Glades, in Dade County, where he worked during the last years of his life. Allen died in his home at the very end of 1949, just weeks before his 60th birthday. He died from a heart attack while in the shower and was found by his wife Annette. At the time of his death he was reportedly working on the fourth volume of his series of novels on colonial America, tentatively titled “The City in the Dawn.” Though Allen passed away, his books are reprinted and sold throughout the world today. Surviving him were his widow, Annette, and three children, Marcia Andrews, Mary Ann, and Richard Francis Allen.
Ballads of the Border. El Paso: privately printed, 1916.
Wampum and Old Gold. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1921.
Earth Moods and Other Poems. New York: Harper, 1925
Toward the Flame. New York: Doran, 1926.
Israfel. New York: Doran, 1926.
Songs for Annette. New York: W.E. Rudge, 1929
New Legends and Poems. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1929.
Anthony Adverse. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1933.
Action at Aquila. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1938
It was Like This: Two Stories of the Great War. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, Inc., 1940.
The Forest and the Fort. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1943
Bedford Village. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1944.
Toward the Morning. New York: Rinehart and Company, 1948.