An article written about Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin books, originally published in London Magazine, and subsequently in the online current affairs/arts magazine Three Monkeys Online
For the full article, click here. Brief extract below:
Even those closest to Allen Lane could never work out how many parts missionary he was to how many parts mercenary. He left Bristol Grammar at sixteen, a thoroughly unpromising pupil, and never read a great deal. He was not specially interested in or clever with money, though he understood its value. Yet he made his name as the greatest public educator of his day, and made a vast fortune at the same time. He was in some ways an unlikely champion of English letters, but the plaque in Vigo Street says his paperbacks changed the reading habits of the English-speaking world, and there is a strong case to be made for that.
His mother was from a family of north Devon farmers, and by ‘farmers’ I mean farmers, not country gentlefolk. She moved to Bristol to marry his father, Samuel Williams, a Welshman, an architect in the Municipal Valuer’s Department there. As a schoolboy Allen spent holidays with his cousins on their farms – this interested him much more than his schoolwork and he remained keenly interested in agriculture all his life, later buying and actively managing two farms of his own, as well as forestry plantations.