Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Allen, William (1793-1864)

ALLEN, WILLIAM (1793–1864), naval officer, was born at Weymouth in 1793, entered the navy as a volunteer in 1805, and, as midshipman, was present at the passage of the Dardanelles in 1807. Allen was promoted lieutenant in 1815, commander 1836, and captain 1842. He look part in the Niger expedition of Richard Lander and Oldfield, 1832; but is best known as having commanded the Wilberforce in the elaborately equipped but disastrous expedition under Captain Trotter to the same river in 1841–2. Though Allen cannot be blamed for any of the misfortunes of this expedition, he was on his return placed on half-pay, and retired from the service, as rear-admiral, in 1862, dying at Weymouth 23 Jan. 1864. In 1848, Allen, along with Dr. T. R. H. Thomson, the surgeon, published, in two volumes, ‘A Narrative of the Expedition sent by H.M.'s Government to the River Niger in 1841.’ In 1849 he travelled through Syria and Palestine, and published the results in two volumes (1855) under the title of ‘The Dead Sea, a New Route to India, with other Fragments and Gleanings in the East,’ in which he advocated the construction of a canal between the Mediterranean and Red Sea by the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea, entering into elaborate comparison between that route and the proposed Suez Canal by the Nile. In 1846 he published a pamphlet on ‘Mutual Improvement,’ advocating the institution of good-conduct prizes to be awarded by ballot by the community divided for the purpose into small groups; and in 1849 a ‘Plan for the immediate Extinction of the Slave Trade, for the Relief of the West India Colonies, and for the Diffusion of Civilisation and Christianity in Africa by the co-operation of Mammon with Philanthropy,’ a chimerical scheme of compulsory ‘apprenticeship,’ or ‘temporary bondage.’ Allen also brought out two volumes of ‘Picturesque Views’ on the island of Ascension (1838) and the Niger (1840), and papers by him will be found in the ‘Journal of the Royal Geographical Society,’ vols. vii. viii. xiii. and xxiii. He was a fellow of the Royal Society, and an accomplished musician; some of his landscape paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1828 to 1847 (Graves's Catalogue).

[O'Byrne's Naval Biography, and Allen's publications; Gent. Mag. 1864, i. 659.]

J. S. K.