1839 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Allan Cunningham

Thomas Hood, in "Reminiscences of Thomas Hood" Hood's Own (1839) 557.



The Brobdignagian next to Clare, overtopping him by the whole head and shoulders — a physical "Colossus of Literature," the grenadier of our corps — is Allan, not Allan Ramsay, "no, nor Barbara Allan neither," but Allan Cunningham, — "a credit," quoth Sir Walter Scott (he might have said a long credit) "to Caledonia." He is often called "honest Allan," to distinguish him, perhaps, from one Allan-a-Dale, who was apt to mistake his neighbour's goods for his own — sometimes, between ourselves, yclept the "C. of Solway," in allusion to that favourite "Allan Water," the Solway Sea. There is something of the true moody poetical weather observable in the barometer of his face, alternating from Variable to Showery, from Stormy to Set Fair. At times he looks gloomy and earnest and traditional — a little like a Covenanter — but he suddenly clears up and laughs a hearty laugh that lifts him an inch or two from his chair, for he rises at a joke when he sees one, like a trout at a fly, and finishes with a smart rubbing of his ample palms. He has store, too, of broad Scotch stories, and shrewd sayings; and he writes — no, he wrote rare old-new or new-old ballads. Why not now? Has his Pegasus, as he once related of his pony, run from under him? Has the Mermaid of Galloway left no little ones? Is Bonnie Lady Ann married, or May Morison dead? Thou wast formed for a poet, Allan, by nature, and by stature too, according to Pope — "To snatch a grace beyond the reach of Art." And are there not Longman, or Tallboys, for thy Publishers? But alas! we are fallen on evil days for Bards and Bardling, and nine tailors do more for a man than the Nine Muses. The only Lay likely to answer now-a-days would be an Ode (with the proper testimonials) to the Literary Fund!