Birthday: December 7, 1784
Died At Age: 57
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Born in: Dalswinton, Scotland
Famous as: Poet, Author
Spouse/Ex-: Jean Walker
siblings: James Cunningham, Peter Miller Cunningham, Thomas Mounsey Cunningham
children: Alexander Cunningham, Francis Cunningham, Joseph Davey Cunningham, Peter Cunningham
Died on: October 30, 1842
place of death: London
Allan Cunningham didn’t have access to great education unlike many of his other contemporaries yet he authored some of the finest works of Scottish literature. Though most of Allan’s books were written in the early years of the 19th Century, the author’s works continue to impress readers even till date. Even while working to support his living expenses, Allan utilized his leisure time in reading and understanding other great works of Scottish literature, mainly ballads. Cunningham’s work had impressed some of the best Scottish writers of his time such as James Hogg. Even the critics of the modern times can’t stop singing praises of the man’s writing skills. One famous writer of his times was quoted saying “M. Allan Cunningham once again demonstrates he is one of the bravest and most talented novelists today. His prose sings with a rare kind of poetry, even as the story sweeps you along with its dark mystery and heart-breaking tension”.
Childhood & Early Life
Allan was born on December 7, 1784 at a small village called Dalswinton, located to the south of Scotland. His father stayed next to the residence of Robert Burns, who is considered to be the national poet of Scotland. Allan and his brother James were close friends of the renowned Scottish poet and novelist, James Hogg.
Allan became an apprentice to a stonemason at a young age. Allan focussed on his literary interests during his leisure time.
Allan’s abilities were first noticed in 1809 when he sent few of his own poems and a collection of Scottish ballads to then noted Editor Robert Hartley Cromek. Allan’s work grabbed the attention of the famous Scottish writer Walter Scott.
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Allan moved to London in 1810, where he worked as a journalist and parliamentary reporter for the next four years.
After his tenure as a journalist, Allan started working in the studio of portrait sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey as a clerk. He continued working with Sir Chantrey till the latter passed away in 1841.
Even while working as a clerk, Allan published many literary works. Notable among these were ‘Traditional Tales of the English and Scottish Peasantry’ and ‘The Songs of Scotland, Ancient and Modern’.
During the period 1829 to 1833, Allan published 6 volumes of ‘The Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors, and Architects’ which went on to become one of his notable works.
Allan paid tribute to the noted Scottish writer Robert Burns by editing a book based on the latter’s literary works. This book titled ‘The Works of Robert Burns’ was released in 1834, with a preface inserted at the start. The preface was more like a biography of Robert Burns which Allan had penned himself.
Other than writing novels, Allan also penned famous plays such as ‘Sir Marmaduke Maxwell’ and ‘The King of The Peak’. Allan’s second play dealt with the life of Sir George Vernon and his daughter’s controversial life. Vernon’s daughter Dorothy’s elopement was the main highlight of the play.
Personal Life & Legacy
Cunningham had two older brothers other than James. While his brother Peter Miller Cunningham was a naval surgeon, Thomas Mounsey Cunningham went on to become a poet, just like Allan.
Cunningham tied the knot with his servant Jean Walker. The couple became parents to 6 children, five sons and a daughter. Some of his kids even inherited the writing skills of their father.
He died on 30 October 1842, in London, at the age of 57.
Though Allan is considered to be one of the greatest names of Scottish literature, his works were also known for not being as ‘classy’ as a true ballad. However, the rhythm of his poems was well appreciated, and earned him fame.