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William Allingham

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Allingham, William I Mr. Allingham, Junr., Allingham, W. Allingham l, 1824-1889, poet and man of letters. Born in Ireland of an English family long settled there. Received limited schooling, but educated himself by study and wide reading. For some twenty years served intermittently as customs official in Ireland and England. Contributed to Howitt's Journal, Leigh Hunt's Journal, Athenaeum, Fraser's, and other periodicals. Appointed subeditor of Fraser's, 1870; editor, 1874-79. Published some fifteen volumes of poetry, many containing revised versions of poems earlier published; also edited anthologies of poems. Varieties in Prose, a collection of his prose writings prepared by him for publication shortly before his death, published by his widow, 1893. In 1864 granted Civil List pension of £60 a year "In consideration of the literary merit of his poetical works"; also a second pension, 1870 (Colles, Literature and the Pension List). 




      AIlingham shared in the general admiration of Dickens. "It seems odd to me now that I never dreamed of the possibility of seeing the great man, much less of making his acquaintance," he wrote in 1870, of an early stay in London. "A glimpse of the author of Nicholas Nickleby would have been bliss too much almost for earth" (Rambles of Patricius Walker, in Varieties in Prose). He later became acquainted with Dickens, recording in Rambles some of his association with him. On the publication of his Laurence Bloomfield in Ireland, Allingham presented a copy to Dickens with the author's "kind respects" (Stonehouse, Catalogue). Allingham held no high opinion of Dickens as a connoisseur of poetry. "No one admires and enjoys Dickens more than I do," he wrote in 1852 to Leigh Hunt, "but I don't believe he cares a rush for Poetry in the stricter sense." Though he became a contributor to H.W. with the first number, Allingham had little liking for Dickens's periodical (Letters to William Allingham, pp. 14-16). 
      Allingham held that his "Lady Alice" [I, 84. April 20, 1850] had been mutilated in the H.W. editorial office (Champneys, Memoirs ... of Coventry Patmore, II, 174-75), but he recorded that payment for the poem was accompanied by "a compliment from Dickens" (Diary, p. 58). Dickens had praise for at least two other of Allingham's contributions: "The Dirty Old Man" [VI, 396-97. Jan. 8, 1853] he thought was "capital" (to Wills, Dec. 29, 1852); "George Levison" [XVI, 562-64. Dec. 12, 1857] he found "mournfully true," writing to Allingham (Nov. 9, 1857) that it had moved him "very much."
      Allingham saw a connection between the two poems and two of Dickens's novels: "The Dirty Old Man" and "The Schoolfellows" (i.e., "George Levison"), he wrote, "I believe had the honour of suggesting to the great novelists something in Great Expectations and in A Tale of Two Cities respectively" (Songs, Ballads, and Stories, p. 334). 
      Dickens invited Allingham to write for the 1853 Christmas number. Whatever he might contribute, Dickens was sure, would "do something to enrich" the number (Sept. 8 [9], 1853). No contribution by Allingham appeared in the number. 
      The H.W. article "Street Minstrelsy" referred to Allingham as a poet "whose muse has long been recognised by critics of the highest rank, for tenderness, grace, and polish," and quoted four stanzas from his "Lovely Mary Donnelly." 
                                                                                                                                                                            D.N.B. suppl. 1901 

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971. 

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

 

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