Cunningham, Allan (1784–1842)

Poet, songwriter, and periodical writer. Cunningham, the son of a Dumfriesshire factor, was immersed in the literary culture of the Scottish borders. As a youth, he heard Robert Burns (1759–1796; DNB) recite and later walked in Burns’ funeral procession; visited James Hogg (who became a friend); and walked to Edinburgh to catch sight of Walter Scott. The Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song (1811), whose ‘old’ poems were actually modern compositions by Cunningham, attracted attention. It was followed by a series of volumes, including Songs, Chiefly in the Rural Language of Scotland (1813), Traditional Tales of the English and Scottish Peasantry (1822), The Songs of Scotland, Ancient and Modern (1825), The Maid of Elvar (1833) and Lord Roldon (1836). He also published the Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (1829–1833) and the Works of Robert Burns; with His Life (1834). He contributed to Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, the London Magazine, and the Athenaeum, and in 1829 produced an annual, The Anniversary. From 1814–1841, his literary work was fitted around his position as secretary to the sculptor Francis Chantrey (1781–1841; DNB). Southey and Cunningham held one another in mutual high regard. They met socially, corresponded and, in 1829, the Poet Laureate contributed an ‘Epistle from Robert Southey, Esq. to Allan Cunningham’ to The Anniversary.