William Allingham

Alan Warner

1975
87 pages
ISBN 0-8387-7899-2
Contemporary Irish Writers

William Allingham is another contribution to the Irish Writers Series. These monographs have been designed to treat in individual volumes the significant Anglo-Irish writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. When complete the series will constitute a significant history of modern Anglo-Irish literature, encompass discussions of nearly 40 writers.

The present volume examines the career of William Allingham, whose claim to attention rests on a real achievement in three fields. First, there is his long narrative poem on the Irish land troubles of the eighteen-sixties, Laurence Bloomfield in Ireland. Geoffrey Taylor rightly claims that it is "a minor classic." Second, there is Allingham's achievement as a lyric poet and writer of ballads and songs. His best ballads belong to a folk tradition. Although his songs for children are probably the best known and most anthologized of all his writings-songs such as "The Fairies," "Robin Redbreast," and "Wishing"-his more personal lyrics are his best. Many of these have not only a musical charm and sweetness, but they subtly evoke moods and feelings that lie deeper than charm.

Third, Allingham wrote a good deal of prose that shows real powers of observation, imagination, and reflection. Foremost is his Diary, which reveals a sharp eye and ear for detail. He also published a series of Rambles under the pseudonym of Patricius Walker in 1873. Perhaps his most interesting observations are to be found in his "Irish Sketches." His account of Irish ballad singers and street ballads is full of interest, and he records folk customs and traditional celebrations with an accurate and sympathetic eye.

About the author:

Alan Warner is Professor of English at the New University of Ulster in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. He was born in Warwickshire, England, but his parents both came from Ireland. His great-grandfather was a saddle-maker in Skibbereen. He was educated at Christ's Hospital School and Cambridge University and he has taught at universities in South and East Africa. He was the first professor of English at Makerere University College in Uganda. Since 1961, when he moved to Magee University College, Londonderry, he has lived in the north of Ireland and become increasingly interested in Anglo-Irish literature. He has published A Short Guide to English Style and Clay is the Word, a study of the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh.

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