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‘Williffe Cunliam’ was the pen name of the Burnley blacksmith and poet, William Cunliffe (1833-94). During his brief but productive poetic career Cunliffe published fifty-four poems in his local newspaper, the Burnley Free Press and General Advertiser (which became the Burnley Gazette) between 1863 and 1866. The poems lay in the holdings of Burnley Central Library for 150 years, before they were recovered during research for the AHRC-funded Poetry of the Lancashire Cotton Famine project in 2015. The project, led by the University of Exeter’s Professor Simon Rennie, published a few of these poems amongst 398 pieces relating to the Lancashire Cotton Famine on a publicly accessible database, but Cunliffe’s wider work is remarkably varied in its topics and styles, with dialect and standard English works providing a unique insight into working-class northern English culture in the 1860s.


The exceptional quality of dialect poems including ‘Settling th’ War’, ‘Hoamly Chat’, and ‘Th’ Petched Shirt’ have now been recognised by literary critics, journalists, and the general public, and Cunliffe’s work has been quoted in the Guardian, the Sunday Times, the Times, and on BBC Radio. Now, however, for the first time in a century-and-a-half, the complete known work of this extraordinary working-class Victorian poet can be read by everyone. This volume includes all fifty-four poems published by ‘Williffe Cunliam’, an introduction on the literary and historical contexts of the work, and notes on each of the poems.



'The Collected Poems of Williffe Cunliam', edited by Simon Rennie (108 pages)


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