Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cunningham, Timothy

CUNNINGHAM, TIMOTHY (d. 1789), founder of the Cunningham prize in the Royal Irish Academy, was a member of the Middle Temple, and lived in chambers at Gray's Inn during upwards of thirty years. He was probably a native of Ireland. In 1759 he solicited employment as copyist at the British Museum from Dr. John Burton (1697–1771) [q. v.] the antiquary. His terms, however, of twopence a sheet for foreign languages, with some small extra allowance for preliminary researches, seem to have been thought too high (Nichols, Illustr. of Lit. iii. 384–6). It may be presumed that his circumstances improved later, as he was the author or compiler of numerous legal and antiquarian books. Among them may be mentioned: ‘A New Treatise on the Laws concerning Tithes,’ 3rd ed. 1748, 4th ed. 1777; ‘The Practice of a Justice of Peace,’ 1762; ‘A New and Complete Law Dictionary,’ 2 vols. fol. 1764–5, 3rd ed. 1782–3, 4to; ‘The History of the Customs, Aids, Subsidies, National Debts, and Taxes of England,’ 1764, 3rd ed. 1778; ‘History and Antiquities of the Inns of Court and Chancery,’ 1780 and 1790; ‘An Historical Account of the Rights of Election,’ 1783, &c.

Cunningham was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries on 29 Jan. 1761, and a testimonial for his admission to the Royal Society was signed in the same year by the Bishop of Ossory, by Dr. Morton, and others, but remained without effect (Addit. MS. 28536, f. 133). He died at Gray's Inn in April 1789, leaving a legacy of 1,000l. to the Royal Irish Academy for the encouragement of learning in Ireland by the bestowal of prizes on literary or scientific works of distinguished merit. The council made every effort to secure a portrait or bust of their benefactor, but none existed.

[Proc. R. Irish Acad. vii. 50; Gent. Mag. lix. i. 574; Europ. Mag. xv. 504; Monthly Review, xxvii. 153, xxxvii. 233, lxviii. 89 (1st series); Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

A. M. C.