Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Love, William Edward

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LOVE, WILLIAM EDWARD (1806–1867), polyphonist, son of a merchant in the city of London, was born in London 6 Feb. 1806, and was educated at Harlow in Essex and at Nelson House Academy, Wimbledon, Surrey. At the age of twelve, while still at school, he commenced imitating the noises occasioned by the action of machinery and inanimate objects, and soon proceeded to mimic the sounds made by musical instruments, beasts, birds, and insects. From about 1820 to 1826 he was connected with London journalism. In the latter year he appeared for a benefit in a solo entertainment, entitled ‘The False Alarm,’ and his success led him to become a public performer. He travelled in 1827 through parts of England and France; in 1828 he came out at the Fishamble Street Theatre, Dublin; and in June 1829 he produced ‘The Peregrinations of a Polyphonist,’ with which he visited the chief towns in England. In this, as in all his later entertainments, he was the sole performer; he represented various characters, making very rapid changes of dress while talking, singing, and displaying his remarkable powers of mimicry and ventriloquism. He went to Scotland in 1830, where he brought out ‘Love in a Labyrinth, or the Adventures of a Day,’ and in 1833 he opened at Oxford with a piece called ‘Ignes Fatui.’ In Lent 1834 he made his first appearance in London, and acted at the City of London Assembly Rooms, Bishopsgate Street, for several months. In September he went to France and had his entertainments translated, delivering one half in French and the other in English. In 1836 he appeared on alternate nights at the St. James's Theatre and in the City. In 1838 he visited the United States, the West Indies, and South America. Returning to England he played at the Strand Theatre, Almack's, Hanover Square Rooms, Store Street Music Hall, Philharmonic Rooms, Crosby Hall, and the Princess's Concert Rooms. On 26 Dec. 1854 he took possession of the Upper Hall, 69 Quadrant, Regent Street, London, where he produced the ‘London Season,’ which was very successful.

The names of other entertainments produced by Love were: ‘Love in all Shapes;’ ‘Love's Labour Lost;’ ‘A Voyage to Hamburg;’ ‘A Reminiscence of Bygone Times;’ ‘Love's Lucubrations;’ ‘Love's Mirror;’ ‘A Traveller's Reminiscences,’ by Charles Forrester; ‘A Christmas Party;’ ‘The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing,’ by H. Ball, and ‘Dinner at Five precisely.’ He played at the Regent Gallery on 8 Feb. 1856, the 300th consecutive night, and this was stated to be his 2,406th performance in London. In 1858 he was seized with permanent paralysis, when a benefit was organised for him at Sadler's Wells. He died at 33 Arundel Street, Strand, London, 16 March 1867.

[Illustrated London News, 25 March 1843, p. 215, with portrait, 27 Jan. 1855, p. 84, with portrait; Memoirs of W. E. Love, 1834; George Smith's Memoirs of Mr. Love, Boston, U.S., 1850; G. Smith's Programmes of Entertainments and Memoir of Mr. Love, 1856; Era, 24 March 1867, p. 10; Ireland's New York Stage, 1867, ii. 273, 317.]

G. C. B.