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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

X. Burns

§ 29. Allan Cunningham

Allan Cunningham, a native of Dumfriesshire—who, though of middle-class descent, became a stonemason, but, later, was secretary to the sculptor Chantrey, and combined with his secretarial duties miscellaneous literary work for the magazines and publishers—supplied Robert Hartley Cromek with most of the pieces and information contained in his Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song (1810); its poetic contents being mainly fabricated by him, though, in some cases, he merely modified traditional versions of old songs. In 1820, he published a drama, Sir Marmaduke, which, though praised by Scott as poetry, did not find acceptance on the stage; and, in 1833, The Maid of Elvar, a rustic epic in twelve parts. His Songs of Scotland Ancient and Modern (four volumes, 1825), include some of his own compositions. In his imitations of the older minstrelsy, Cunningham showed varied dexterity, his attempts including traditional ballads, love lyrics, Jacobite songs and plaintively pious covenanting effusions, though their fictitious character becomes evident enough on a careful perusal. The Young Maxwell, for example, is too much a mere echo of ballads in general; Hame, Hame, Hame is too prettily sentimental for an original Jacobite song; She’s Gane to dwell in Heaven is far too elaborately refined in expression to express the sentiments of the average pious peasant; and the heroine of Bonie Lady Anne, evidently, never had any existence in Nithsdale or elsewhere. Several, however, both of his acknowledged and unacknowledged pieces, enjoy a wide popularity—among them the humorous John Grumlie, a condensed revision of The Wyfe of Auchtirmwychty; the funnily vituperative, if not very witty, Wee, Wee German Lairdie; My Nannie O, a kind of modified version of the song by Burns and quite as good as the original, and the classic sea-song A Wet Sheet and a Flowing Sea.