Woodson Research Center, Rice University

Guide to the Allan Cunningham papers, 1815-1841 MS 320

creator Cunningham, Allan
Title: Allan Cunningham papers
Dates: 1815-1841
Abstract: The bulk of this collection is comprised of correspondence to and from art historian Allan Cunningham. The correspondence largley concerns matters connected with Cunningham's numerous publishing projects, including his Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, which appeared between 1829 and 1833. Also included in the collection are three Mss. poems--one perhaps by the Rev. J. Judkins and two by Cunningham.
Identification: MS 320
Identification: 166
Quantity: 0.1 Linear Feet1 folder
Language: English
Repository: Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas

Biographical Note

Born on 7 December, 1784 at Keir, Dumfriesshire, Allan Cunningham was one of nine children. He attended a dame's school briefly, before being apprenticed to his brother James, a stonemason in Dalwinton, at age 11. Bookish from an early age, Cunningham read avidly in his spare time and soon began experimenting with his own poetry. Some poems signed 'Hidallan' were published in the 'Literary Recreations' (1807) edited by Eugenius Roche.

In 1809 R.H. Cromek met Cunningham while touring Scotland looking for indigenous songs and ballads. Cunningham showed him his work and the result was that Cromek persuaded Cunningham to move to London and try his hand at literature as a living. That was in April, 1810. A volume entitled Remains of Nithdale and Galloway Song was published under Cromek's aegis which featured some of Cunningham's work.

In London, following a period of intermittent employment as a journalist and newspaper poet, Cunningham made the acquaintance of the sculptor Sir Francis Chancery. Sir Francis agreed to employ the struggling writer as his superintendent of the works in 1814. From then on he resided at 27 Lower Belgrave Place, Pimlico - the address which appears on most of the letters in the following collection. Cunningham's position was that of Chancery's secretary; he conducted his correspondence, represented him during his absence, and perhaps advised him artistically.

In his spare time Cunningham continued to write. He contributed a series called 'Recollections of Mark Macrabin' to Blackwood's Magazine from 1819 - 1821, later giving up Blackwood's for the London Magazine. In 1822 there appeared his two volume Traditional Tales of the English and Scottish Peasantry, and in 1825 he produced a four volume collection entitled The Songs of Scotland, Ancient and Modern. In both 1829 and 1830 Mr. Cunningham edited a poetical 'Anniversary', references to which appear in some of the following letters, which contained contributions from such contemporaries as Southey, Lockhart, Hogg, Wilson, Croker, and Proctor. Between 1829 and 1833 Cunningham also produced his six volume work, Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors and Architects, which benefitted greatly from the author's personal connection and intimacy with many of his subjects. The last work to appear in his lifetime was a biography of Robert Burns, published in 1834. A biography of Sir David Wilkie, composed during the last years of Cunningham's life appeared posthumously.

Allan Cunningham was married to Jean Walker in Southwark on 1 July, 1811. His marriage remained stable and happy until his death in 1842. His widow succeeded him by 22 years. Their union produced five sons and a daughter, the two eldest sons being awarded cadetships in the Indian service as a result of the influence of Sir Walter Scott whom Cunningham had met via Sir Francis Chancery. In 1831 Cunningham received the freedom of Dumfries as well as the praise of Thomas Carlyle, by whom he was referred to as 'the solid Dumfries stonemason'. He was generally known as 'honest Allan Cunningham', a stalwart, hearty, prolific and kindly man with 'a tag of rusticity to the last'. He lies buried at Kensal Green. (Excerpted from the.

Scope & Contents

The collection comprises 19 items in total: thirteen letters addressed either to or from Allan Cunningham form its bulk. The correspondence largley concerns matters connected with Cunningham's numerous publishing projects, including his Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, which appeared between 1829 and 1833. Also included in the collection are three Mss. poems--one perhaps by the Rev. J. Judkins and two by Cunningham.

This collection comprises 19 items in total: 13 letters either to or from Mr. Cunningham; 3 poems, one perhaps by the Rev. J. Judkins and two by Cunningham; a single printed item - a biographical sketch of Sir Walter Scott perhaps composed by Mr. Cunningham; finally, there are two reproductions of engravings of Mr. Cunningham both autographed by the subject.


The collection is divided into two series, housed within one folder. Series I: Letters, dating from 1815 to 1841, are arranged chronologically in the first section. Series II: Poems and Published Materials, contains the poems in chronological order, and the printed article and engravings of Cunningham.


Access Restrictions

This material is open for research.

Conditions Governing Access

Stored onsite at the Woodson Research Center.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish material from the Allan Cunningham Papers must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library.

Index Terms

Art -- History -- Sources
Art historians -- Great Britain

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Allan Cunningham Papers, 1815-1841, MS 320, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.

Acquisition Information

Purchased 1955 through the Friends of Fondren Library.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series I: Letters, 1815-1841

1 ALS Allan Cunningham to 'Author of Theresa' The recipient of this latter remains unidentified. A letter informing someone of Cunningham's favourable first impressions of a book they had written and sent to him. 10 May 1815
ALS Allan Cunningham to 'My dear friend' The recipient of this letter is believed to be John Taylor, Esq. A letter sending a traditional version of The Romance of Fair Annie of Lochragan for the new issue of 'the mag.' Also includes the first sheet of his proof of 'the introduction' for the benefit of Mr. Taylor's reading. 2 November 1824
ALS Allan Cunningham to Rev. J. Judkins (?) This letter is addressed to 'My dear friend'. Declining an invitation to visit the Rev. owing to his children's illness. 5 April 1828
ALS Allan Cunningham to Rev. J. Judkins Letter saying he did not remember promising to send a book but that he did recall saying he would go there to dine. Also containing an appeal for assistance relating to Bonington, Lawrence and Gwen. (?) undated
ALS Allan Cunningham to Rev. J. Judkins Decling an invitation to dine owing to his own illness. Says that he is overworked, but that if he could find time he would see Judkins. 7 August 1829
ALS Allan Cunningham to J. Nichols, Esq. Thanking him for some Hogarth material he had used, and explaining briefly how and why he had done so. 25 February 1830
ALS J. Nichols to Allan Cunningham A response to Cunningham's note of thanks February 1830
ALS Allan Cunningham to John Murray, Esq. Letter referring to the accumulation of materials necessary for a study of the life of Inigo Jones. 12 July 1830
ALS Allan Cunningham to Rev. James Wills Thanking him for a poem he had sent, and praising its merits. 14 April 1832
ALS Allan Cunningham to John Key Thanking him for a letter, written by Key on his behalf, which he (Cunningham) Describes as 'judicious and to the point.' 12 September 1833
ALS Allan Cunningham to James Cochrane A letter saying that he does not wish to move and cannot see what good his presence would do. However, if Cochrane is certain that his presence would 'make the troubled waters smooth' he will meet with him at 8 o'clock that evening. 5 August 1834
ALS Allan Cunningham to S. Waagen A letter of introduction for Mr. George Darley. 1 May 1837
ALS Allan Cunningham to Mr. Brown A letter asking on behalf of Sir Francis Chantrey for the preparation of some stone for a 'monument'. (Chantrey was a sculptor). 27 August 1839
ALS Allan Cunningham to William Scrope 'Sorry you were unable to attend the Wilkie Statue Meeting'; 'it opened a little stormy but the fine, commanding spirit of Sir Robert Peel calmed down the waters of strife'. 2 September 1841

Series II: Poems and Published Materials, 1832, n.d.

1 AMsS Dayburgh Abbey A prose poem (presumed to have been) sent to Cunningham by Rev. J. Judkins. (?) 6 October 1832
AMsS O Were My Peggy A poem by Allan Cunningham
Poem, n.d. AMsS The Pirates Song A poem by Allan Cunningham
The monthly supplement of "The Penny Magazine." A biographical sketch of the life and works of Sir Walter Scott perhaps written by Allan Cunningham. 29 September-31 October 1832
General note
The last two items of this collection are autographed engravings of Allan Cunningham.