Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cunningham, Peter (d.1805)

CUNNINGHAM, PETER (d. 1805), poet, son of a naval officer, was ordained by Dr. Drummond, archbishop of York, without a university education, in 1772. He first served the curacy of Almondbury, near Huddersfield, where he was favourably noticed by Lord Dartmouth, and in 1775 he became curate to the Rev. T. Seward, father of Anna Seward, at Eyam, near the Peak. He became very popular there, and is frequently mentioned in Anna Seward's correspondence. While at Eyam he published two poems, ‘Britannia's Naval Triumph’ and the ‘Russian Prophecy.’ These poems are not in the British Museum Library, but the first of them is noticed in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ lv. 212. When he left Eyam is not certain, possibly not till Mr. Seward's death in 1790. In a letter to the Rev. T. Wilson in 1788, published in Mr. Raine's ‘Memoirs and Correspondence of Rev. T. Wilson,’ he says that he has become reconciled to obscurity, and had refused Lord Rodney's offer of an introduction to the Duke of Rutland, then lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and also the chaplaincy at Smyrna. He may possibly have left Eyam in 1788 for Chertsey, his last curacy, for in 1789 he published a poem, ‘Leith Hill,’ in imitation of Denham's ‘Cooper's Hill,’ which shows an intimate acquaintance with the neighbourhood. In 1800 he published his best known descriptive poem, ‘St. Anne's Hill’ at Chertsey, which has been twice reprinted, and in July 1805 he died suddenly at the annual dinner of the Chertsey Friendly Society, to which he had been in the habit of preaching a sermon every year.

[Nichols's Illustrations of Literature, vi. 47–67, where are printed three letters of his and a sermon upon him by the Rev. T. Seward; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. viii. 259, where his letter to the Rev. T. Wilson is reprinted; Anna Seward's Correspondence.]

H. M. S.