William Allingham was an Irish poet and civil servant. His father was a shipping merchant. The eldest of five children, his mother died when he was aged nine. Allingham married the watercolourist Helen Paterson in 1874.
He began his career aged fourteen, working in a bank but quit in 1846 to join the Customs Office. Visiting London in 1847, he became acquainted with the poet Leigh Hunt and in 1849 with Coventry Patmore. In 1850 his first book of poems was dedicated to Leigh Hunt. From 1850-53 he became friends with Thomas Carlyle, Alfred Tennyson, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. His chief correspondents throughout his life were Rossetti and Henry Sutton, a young poet journalist in Nottingham.
In 1855 Allingham's Day and Night Songs was published with nine illustrations by Rossetti, John Everett Millais and Arthur Hughes, cut by the Dalziel brothers. His poetry, which was influenced by the tradition of Border Ballads, was close to that of Rossetti and William Morris. In 1865 his Fifty Modern Poems was published, and in 1877 an anthology of his work, Songs, Ballads and Stories.
In 1870, through Carlyle's influence, Allingham became sub-editor of Fraser's Magazine, and then in 1874 he succeeded the historian J. A. Froude as editor, holding this post for five years. As well as JW, he was the friend of such prominent artists and writers as Edward Burne-Jones, Charles Dickens and the Brownings.
Hill, George Birkbeck (ed.), Letters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti to William Allingham 1854-1870, London, 1897; Allingham, William, William Allingham: a Diary, H. Allingham & Radford, D., (eds.) London 1907; H. Allingham and E. Baumer Williams (eds.), Letters to William Allingham, London, 1911.