We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Allies, Mary Helen Agnes (1852–1927), historian and translator, was born possibly at St John's Wood, London, on 2 February 1852, the eldest daughter of and his wife, Eliza Hall (d. 1902), second daughter of Thomas Harding Newman of Nelmes, Essex. Allies and his wife were recent converts to Roman Catholicism, and at the time of their daughter's birth Allies was serving as the secretary of the Catholic poor school committee. With her five brothers and one sister, Mary Allies grew up in the family home at St John's Wood, and then Portman Square, London. In 1859 she was sent to school at the Convent of the Holy Child, at St Leonards, and then to the Visitation Convent in the rue d'Enfer, Paris.

Mary Allies was influenced and guided by her father: after her sister married in 1883, she alone was left at home to ‘feed on the marrow of his mind’ (Allies, 164). Her first published work, The Life of Pius VII (1875), a sympathetic portrait of the pope persecuted by Napoleon I, reflects her father's ultramontane sympathies and his opposition to state control of the Roman Catholic church. Based on a wide range of printed sources in German, French, and Italian, the Life, still the only English biography of Pius VII, remains a standard work. An abbreviated version was published in 1897.

Mary Allies's next publication was the Three Catholic Reformers of the Fifteenth Century (1878), which contained sketches of the lives of three religious: Vincent Ferrier, Bernardino of Siena, and John Capistran. It was a lightweight and uncritical work of piety: Allies seems to have heeded the advice of Newman, who warned her in 1876 of the dangers of writing about the religious orders and exhorted her to concentrate on presenting ‘pictures of saintliness, of spiritual beautifulness, and winning heroism’ (Letters and Diaries, 28.130). Her next works were collections of extracts from Augustine (1886) and John Chrysostom (1889), which were followed by Letters of St Augustine (1890). The History of the Church in England (1892–7) was a readable and vehemently Catholic account of the English church before 1603. However, Allies dealt cannily with the legends of the early saints, and the survey of the devotional practices which closed the first volume is an original and striking piece of religious sociology. Later works included a translation from Greek of part of John of Damascus's De fide orthodoxa (1898) and a biography of her father (1907). She also contributed articles to the Catholic World and the Dublin Review.

In 1890 the Allies family moved back to St John's Wood. After the death of her parents, Mary Allies, who never married, looked after her brother's children. She died at home at Berkeley Lodge, 7 Melina Place, St John's Wood, on 27 January 1927.

Rosemary Mitchell

Sources  

The letters and diaries of John Henry Newman, ed. C. S. Dessain and others, [31 vols.] (1961–) · WWW · M. H. Allies, Thomas William Allies (1907) · F. C. Burnand, ed., The Catholic who's who and yearbook (1909) · Allibone, Dict. · d. cert. · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1927)

Wealth at death  

£36,300 8s. 0d.: resworn probate, 16 March 1927, CGPLA Eng. & Wales