Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Allen, Leslie Holdsworth (1879–1964)

by K. C. Wheare

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

This is a shared entry with Carleton Kemp Allen

Sir Leslie Holdsworth Allen (1879-1964) and Sir Carleton Kemp Allen (1887-1966), scholars, were sons of Rev. William Allen (1847-1919) and his wife Martha Jane, née Holdsworth, a teacher. William, whose father was a contractor, migrated to Melbourne in 1852, was educated at Scotch College and trained at the Congregational College of Victoria. In 1871-90 he held pastoral appointments at Sandhurst (Bendigo), Maryborough and Carlton, and in 1885-86 was chairman of the Congregational Union and Mission of Victoria. He was joint-editor for a time of the Victorian Independent, published Random Rhymes (Melbourne, 1886), had a prize-winning cantata performed at the Centennial International Exhibition, and wrote a national anthem, 'God save our austral land', later sung in Queensland schools. In 1890 he moved to Petersham, New South Wales, became a prominent evangelical and ecumenical spokesman in Sydney, and was chairman of the New South Wales Congregational Union in 1894-95. He served at Greenwich from 1908 to 1917 when he retired. He was strongly opposed to the theatre, which several of his four sons and two daughters adopted as an engrossing hobby.

Leslie was born on 21 June 1879 at Maryborough, was educated at state schools and Newington College, Sydney, then studied English and classics at the University of Sydney (B.A., 1904; M.A., 1920). He won a travelling scholarship, and at the University of Leipzig completed in 1907 a doctoral dissertation on the personality of Shelley. After his return to Sydney he lectured part time at the university until appointment in 1911 as senior lecturer in classics and English at the Teachers' College.

On 22 December 1915 at Chatswood, Allen married Dora Bavin, a New Zealander. She was tubercular, and this led him to seek a post in the hills: in 1918 he became professor of English at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. His work was undemanding and allowed him to pursue his wide cultural interests. A friend of (Sir) Lionel Lindsay and an early admirer of Roland Wakelin, he collected works by Australian painters. He produced several plays at Duntroon and for the Canberra Society of Arts and Literature. He published a wide range of scholarly articles, translated German plays for Dent's Everyman's Library, and wrote several volumes of poetry and a book of children's verses.

In 1931 Allen accepted the congenial post of sole lecturer in English and classics at the new Canberra University College. Next year his wife died; their only son had died in childhood. He became a member of the Commonwealth Book Censorship Advisory Committee in 1933, and chaired the Literature Censorship Board from 1937 and later its appeals committee. He died at Moruya, New South Wales, on 5 January 1964, survived by his only daughter. The Haydon-Allen building at the Australian National University is in part named after him. He had made a notable contribution to the cultural life of early Canberra.

Carleton, or 'C.K.' as he came to be known, was born on 7 September 1887 at Carlton, Melbourne. He was 3 when the family moved to Sydney, and was educated at Newington College and the University of Sydney (B.A., 1910) where he read classics and won a scholarship to Oxford. At New College he studied jurisprudence under Vinogradoff, took first-class honours in 1912 and was elected Eldon Law Scholar in 1913.

Allen was a captain in the 13th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, in World War I, was wounded, and was awarded the Military Cross in 1918. Elected Stowell Civil Law Fellow of University College, Oxford, in 1920, he remained a fellow of the college in one capacity or another for the rest of his life. In 1926 he spent a year as Tagore professor at the University of Calcutta and published his lectures there as Law in the Making in 1927; it became an established classic and he completed a seventh edition in 1964. In 1929 he was appointed professor of jurisprudence at Oxford, but in 1931 became the second warden of Rhodes House. He filled this office with great distinction and he and his wife Dorothy Frances, née Halford, whom he had married at Oxford in 1922, won the affection and respect of generations of Rhodes scholars.

Allen wrote in a lucid and lively manner and was always interesting; his depth of scholarship could elude the superficial reader. He expressed his individualist philosophy in Bureaucracy Triumphant (1931); other works included Law and Orders (1945), The Queen's Peace (1953), Law and Disorders (1954) and Aspects of Justice (1958); he also wrote two novels. On his retirement in 1952 he was knighted; he had been elected to the British Academy and appointed K.C. in 1945.

'C. K.' had been a keen amateur actor and cricketer. He was stalwart in appearance, despite a weak heart, with thick white hair and a neat moustache. He died at Oxford on 11 December 1966 and was survived by his second wife, Hilda Mary Grose, whom he had married in 1962, and by a son and daughter of his first marriage. His portrait by James Gunn is in Rhodes House.

Their elder brother Horace William ('Barney') was born at Maryborough on 31 January 1875, was educated in Melbourne at Scotch and Haileybury colleges and the University of Melbourne, where he took honours in classics with T. G. Tucker, and graduated B.A. in 1896 and M.A. in 1898. He tutored in classics from 1897 at Ormond College, University of Melbourne, of which he was vice-master under D. K. Picken from 1915 until his retirement in 1944. Allen was an inspiring and lively teacher; his wit was delightful and never palled. He enlisted in the Australia Imperial Force in 1917, became an honorary captain in the Education Service in 1919, and compiled his university's Record of Active Service 1914-18 (1926). He was president of the Classical Association of Victoria for many years and a keen fly-fisher and ice-skater. He died, unmarried, on 13 August 1949 at Frankston.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • G. E. Hall and A. Cousins (eds), Book of Remembrance 1914-1918 (Syd, 1939)
  • Congregational Union, New South Wales, Yearbook, 1919, 1920
  • Australian Christian World (Sydney), 4 July 1919
  • Congregationalist (Sydney), 1 Aug 1919
  • Town and Country Journal, 27 Oct 1894
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25 June 1919
  • Spinner (Melbourne), 1 Sept 1925
  • Age (Melbourne), 15 Aug 1949
  • Canberra Times, 7 Jan 1964
  • 'Obituary: Sir Carleton Allen', Times (London), 12 Dec 1966, p 12
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

K. C. Wheare, 'Allen, Leslie Holdsworth (1879–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/allen-leslie-holdsworth-5004/text8319, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 28 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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