Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cunningham, Peter (1816-1869)

CUNNINGHAM, PETER (1816–1869), author and critic, third son of Allan Cunningham (1784–1842) [q. v.], was born at Pimlico on 1 April 1816. He was educated at Christ's Hospital, London, and in 1834, through Sir Robert Peel, obtained a position in the audit office, in which he rose to be chief clerk. He retired from the audit office in 1860, and died at St. Albans on 18 May 1869. The work by which he chiefly deserves to be remembered is his ‘Handbook of London,’ 2 vols., 1849; 2nd edition in one volume, 1850, containing in small compass an immense amount of original information about places of interest in London, illustrated by quotations from distinguished authors whose lives have been associated with them. All subsequent works on London have been more or less indebted to Cunningham's ‘Handbook.’ For the Shakespeare Society, of which he was treasurer, Cunningham edited ‘Extracts from the accounts of the Revels at Court in the reigns of Elizabeth and James I,’ 1842, and wrote a life of Inigo Jones, 1848. For the Percy Society he edited ‘The Honestie of this Age’ and ‘a poem to the memory of Congreve.’ Cunningham's collected edition of Horace Walpole's ‘Letters,’ 1857, is a valuable work. He was the author of ‘Handbook of Westminster Abbey,’ 1842; ‘Modern London,’ 1851, 3rd edition, 1854; and ‘Story of Nell Gwynn,’ 1852. He also edited the works of Drummond of Hawthornden, with a life, 1833; ‘Songs of England and Scotland,’ 1835; ‘Specimens of the British Poets,’ 1841; ‘Works of Oliver Goldsmith,’ 1854, and Johnson's ‘Lives of the Poets,’ 1854, for Murray's ‘Library of British Classics;’ and Pope's ‘Works.’ He was a contributor to ‘Fraser's Magazine,’ ‘Household Words,’ the ‘Athenæum,’ the ‘Illustrated London News,’ and the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ to which he contributed in 1851 some valuable notes for a new biographical dictionary.

[Men of the Time, 7th edition; Athenæum, May 1869; Additional MS. 28509; Egerton MS. 1787.]

T. F. H.