1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Cunningham

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 74 (Supplement, 1804) 1251.



In Magherabeg, near Dromore, in Ireland, the self-taught poet William Cunningham; who, while he was a poor weaver-boy, having received the first rudiments of education at one of the Bishop of Dromore's sunday-schools, had, by reading such books as he could borrow, made so considerable a progress, that, in the autumn of 1800, he presented his Lordship with a copy of verses requesting the loan of books. The Bishop, struck with the marks of genius displayed in this poem, rescued him from the loom, and placed him at the diocesan school of Dromore, where his application was so diligent that, in about two years and a half, he had read the principal Latin and Greek Classics. Being thus qualified to superintend the education of youth, which had been the object of his wishes, he was received, early in 1804, as an assistant teacher in the academy of the Rev. Dr. Bruce, of Belfast, where he was distinguished for his diligence and skill in preparing the boys under his care to be examined before the last summer vacation. But, by this time, such strong symptoms of a consumption had appeared in his tall, thin, and slender frame, that he could not any more return to his charge, and his declining health confined him to the house of his poor mother, near the turnpike-gate of Hillsborough and Dromore, where he continued to experience the kindness of his former patron, and was most generously attended by Sir George Atkinson, an eminent physician in Hillsborough; but his case was beyond the reach of medical aid, and terminated fatally. He was interred in Dromore churchyard on the 29th, having nearly completed his 24th year, being born March 19, 1781. — Cunningham, though very unlike, in his bodily frame, to Dr. Goldsmith, who was short and not slender, so strongly resembled him in face, that, when he stood near the profile of the Doctor, his portrait seemed to have been drawn for him. His poetical compositions have often adorned our pages; and we shall refer our readers to vol. LXXI. pp. 1030, 1125; LXXII. pp. 60, 157, &c.