William Allingham Papers

Scope and Content

Collection of 44 original manuscript letters from the Irish poet, William Allingham (1824-89), to Henry Septimus Sutton (1825-1901). An important collection of letters from one poet to another, the letters provide a unique insight and commentary on the emergence of Allingham as a published author from 1848 to 1855 (one additional letter from 1862 is also to be found). Instigated by Allingham, the letters provide a full and interesting impression of Allingham's development as a writer during these formative years while he was still based in Donegal working as a Custom's Officer. Comments are made on his and Sutton's personal circumstances, their respective works and relations with other writers of the time, in particular their attempts to win support for their writing through relationships with such poets as Coventry Patmore, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) and Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-92). Handwritten versions of some of Allingham's poetry and ballads can also be found throughout the collection. Featured works include: 'The Crucible,' 'Morning,' 'O Were My Love,' 'The Emigrant's Dream,' 'Prize Enigma,' 'Sweet Sunday Bells,' 'Dogmatism,' 'Within a Budding Grove,' 'The Milkmaid,' 'Eolian Harp' and 'The Valley Stream'.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Allingham was born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal on March 19th, 1824. He grew up in Ballyshannon and worked in the bank there and various other towns in Northern Ireland before joining the Customs Service. He finally settled in England, remaining a Civil Servant for twenty five years. He continued to be torn between his love of Ireland and the discomfort he felt there. He was more comfortable in England where he could indulge his cultural interests without being thought odd. In 1874 he married Helen Paterson, a watercolour artist who was almost half his age. His literary career was fairly typical of many Victorian poets. Over a period of 40 years he published in excess of 20 volumes of poetry, criticism, ballads and plays. Tennyson was his idol and he tried to emulate his style in his writings. He was also heavily influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite style of the Rossetti Circle and corresponded with Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Despite his publishing output he is best known for two poems, "The Fairies" and "Four ducks on a pond". His books are in demand primarily for their illustrations and associations with contemporary literary figures. He was part of the Rossetti Circle and intimate with noted figures of the Victorian literary milieu. Yeats described him as his "master in Irish verse". Allingham died on November 18th, 1889.

Access Information

Open to consultation.

Other Finding Aids

Manuscript catalogue entry only (MS1/125) with on-line reference in QCAT to microfilm copy of papers.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopying permitted depending on physical condition of the original and relevant copyright restrictions.

Appraisal Information

This collection would be especially valuable to students of Anglo-Irish Literature and, in particular, those interested in works of the Pre-Raphaelites and the Victorian literary milieu more generally. Allingham's comments on his own work and development as a writer are enlightening as are details of his personal circumstances and relations at the time.

Custodial History

It is unclear how or when the collection came to be held by the Queen's University Library.


Closed, permanent deposit.