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This portrait of James Allen, a poet and eccentric, was completed by John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) about 1768-1770.
James Allen was born in Boston in 1739. Allen attended, but did not graduate from, Harvard College. A dilettante poet, he published "Lines on the Massacre" in 1772 but never carried his other works to publication, and lived on the proceeds of his family's real estate holdings. In 1797 William Dunlap, the playwright and painter, described him as "odd in his manners & appearance & very slovenly . . . he is an Atheist & the popular report is that he keeps his Coffin in his bed chamber & sometimes sleeps in it." James Allen died unmarried in Boston in 1808.