John Cunningham

Life
1729-1773; b. Dublin; successful play, Love in a Mist at 17; son of a Dublin wine-cooper, wrote farce, Love in a Mist (1747), successful in Dublin; went to England with a group of travelling players, little acting talent; wrote pastoral verse imitative of Gray and Shenstone (Poems Chiefly Pastoral, 1766). d. Newcastle upon Tyne. CAB PI DIW OCEL OCIL

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Works
Love in a Mist, now acting at City Theatre, Dublin, with Great Applause (Dublin MDDCCXLVII [1747]); Wells copies London rep.; [Dublin] Prologue ibid., ‘The Muse cries out, such sad examples taught her,/No bard can thrive-unless he cross the water./Severe decree-no homeborn muse delights/Nothing shall please-but what a Stranger writes’. The play however involves a dramatis personae and plot concerning ‘philandering poyoung Lords’ come ‘from Oxford to London’, and a lesson learnt, ‘../And thy uncertain Sex allow thy Merit/Did each, like thee, with so much Ease inherit/A wondrous stock of beauty, wit, and spirit;/No more should fickle man be fond of raging/But every youth be fixed, beyond power of Changing.’

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References
D. J. O’Donoghue, The Poets of Ireland: A Biographical Dictionary (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co 1912); Day, and Other Pastorals (Edin 1761), An Elegy on A Pile of Ruins (Lon 1761), Love in A Mist, a farce (1747), The Poetical Works of J.C. with life (Lon 1795) b. Dublin 1729, actor, d. Newcastle 1773; highly regarded pastoral poet, works in several eds.

Belfast Public Library holds Poetical Works (n.d.)

Charles A. Read, The Cabinet of Irish Literature, [1876-78]; wrote songs at 12, published in Dublin papers, and still occasionally sung by the lower classes in Dublin and neighbourhood; makes comparison with Shenstone and says that he died after protracted suffering, 18 Sept; his poems better known than the name of the author; quotes Johnson, ‘his poems have peculiar sweetness and elegance; his sentiments are generally natural, and his language simple and appropriate to his subject’; selections Morning [‘In the barn the tenant cock,/Close to Parlet perched on hgh/Briskly corws (the shepherd’s clock/Jocund that the morning’s nigh’]; Noon [‘fervid on the glitt’ring flood,/Now the noontide radiance glows’]; Evening ‘O’er the heath the heifer strays,/Free; -the furrow’d task is done/Now the village windows blaze,/Burnished by the setting sun’]; the ant and the Caterpillar; the Holiday Gown [female, ‘In holiday gown and new-fangled hat/Last Monday I tript to the fair/I held up my head, and I’ll tell you for what,/Brisk Roger I guess’d would be there’]; A Pastoral; Newcastle beer [‘There’s freedom and health in our Newcastle Beer’]; and an Epigram [in which a lord passes a tinker (sic), ‘But Sawney shall receive the praise/His lordship would parade for;/One’s debtor for his dapple grays/And t’other’s shoes are paid for.’]

Peter Kavanagh, Irish Theatre (1946), John Cunningham (1729-73); a farce at Capel St. entitled Love in a Mist, written at 18, provided some elements for Garrick’s Lying Valet. See ‘Life of Cunningham’, prefixed to Bell’s ed. of Poets of Great Britain, Cunningham’s Poetical Works (1781). Ftn. Genest says it appeared at Crow St., which only opened however on Oct. 22 1758 (p.275)

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