Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lover, Samuel
LOVER, SAMUEL (1797–1868), song-writer, novelist, and painter, born in Dublin on 24 Feb. 1797, was the eldest son of a Dublin stockbroker, and was educated privately in his native city. As a child of extraordinary precocity of talent, which he showed chiefly in his aptitude for music, he was until his nineteenth year the idol of his father. But after he entered his father's office he found the occupation very uncongenial. Frequent quarrels with his father led to a complete rupture, and at the age of seventeen Lover determined to earn his livelihood as a painter. His natural and acquired capacity for art was already considerable, and the judgment of one of his eulogists, after his death, ascribes to him higher artistic than literary talent (Temple Bar, vol. xxiv.) Applying himself industriously to portraiture, especially to miniature-painting, he achieved sufficient success to secure in 1828 election to the Royal Hibernian Academy, a body to which, two years later, he became secretary.
Meantime Lover gave the first evidence of his powers as song-writer and reciter, when, on the occasion of the Moore banquet in 1818, he produced a lively eulogy on Moore, which won for him the friendship of the poet, and the entrée into the liveliest social circles in Dublin. His first effort at prose literature, a paper on ‘Ballads and Singers,’ contributed to the ‘Dublin Literary Gazette,’ showed the bent of his literary taste, and in 1826 he produced the best known of his many ballads, ‘Rory O'More.’ In 1831 he published his first volume—‘Legends and Stories of Ireland’—illustrated by himself, which had an immediate success; but down to 1833 his brush continued his chief occupation and resource. In 1831 he furnished the admirable illustrations to the ‘Irish Horn Book,’ which still make that otherwise ephemeral brochure a prize among collectors. In the following year the visit of Paganini to Dublin gave him the opportunity of producing by far the most successful of his miniatures. This painting, exhibited at the Dublin Academy in 1832, attracted much notice in the Royal Academy in 1833. In the latter year he allied himself more seriously with literature, as one of the founders of the ‘Dublin University Magazine,’ to which he contributed several of his Irish tales. In 1835 he removed to London, where he established himself as a miniature-painter, and became sufficiently the fashion to be employed to paint the ambassador of the king of Oude on his visit to London, and Lord Brougham in his chancellor's robes. Lover soon became as acceptable in London literary and art circles as he had previously been in those of Dublin. He was an habitué of Lady Blessington's receptions, and became known to Dickens and others, with whom he was associated in the founding of ‘Bentley's Miscellany.’ In 1837 he published his first novel, ‘Rory O'More, a National Romance,’ suggested by his song of the same name, and it earned him the praise of Dr. Maginn, who described him as ‘at once a musician, a painter, a novelist, and a poet’ (Blackwood, vol. xli.) To this catalogue of his capacities the title dramatist was soon to be added. His dramatised version of his own novel, with the Irish comedian, Tyrone Power, in the principal part, held the stage at the Adelphi Theatre for over a hundred nights. Lover followed up this success with other dramatic essays: ‘The White Horse of the Peppards,’ ‘The Happy Man,’ ‘The Olympic Premier,’ and ‘The Beau Ideal.’ He also composed a musical drama, ‘The Greek Boy;’ and a burlesque opera, ‘Il Paddy Whack in Italia,’ was produced by Balfe at the English Opera House. Continuing his work in other fields, Lover produced in 1839 his ‘Songs and Ballads;’ the second and best known of his novels, ‘Handy Andy,’ in 1842, and the third, ‘L. S. D.,’ more familiar by its later title of ‘Treasure Trove,’ in 1844.
Lover still found time to paint; but in 1844 failing eyesight obliged him to abandon art. About the same time he was entertained at Grillon's Club by forty Irish members of the House of Commons. To repair the loss of income due to his abandonment of painting, Lover devised an entertainment which he called ‘Irish Evenings,’ and produced it at the Princess's Concert Rooms. The performance, enacted solely by himself, was a varied monologue of songs, recitations, and stories, all of Lover's own invention. In 1846, encouraged by his reception in this country, he repeated the entertainment in America. In Canada and in the United States, except at Boston, he achieved complete success; and while on the tour he composed one of his most successful songs, ‘The Alabama,’ which won him the praise of Washington Irving and the American statesman Clay. In 1848 Lover returned to London, and gave the English public the results of his tour in a new entertainment called ‘Paddy's Portfolio.’ He then resumed his earlier occupations, producing the libretti of two operas for Balfe, and a fresh dramatic piece ‘Sentinels of the Alma.’ After his second marriage in 1852, he mainly devoted himself to song-writing. In 1858 he produced his selection of Irish lyrics; and in 1859 tried his hand as a parodist in ‘Rival Rhymes,’ by ‘Ben Trovato,’ a parallel to ‘Rejected Addresses.’ His imitations of Campbell, Longfellow, and others were not particularly happy. In the same year his ‘Volunteer Songs’ deservedly met with a heartier reception; and as a representative Irishman of letters he responded for Irish poets at the Burns festival. In 1864 his health failed, and thenceforward he ceased to write. He resumed residence in Dublin some years prior to his death, which took place at St. Heliers, whither he had gone on the advice of his physicians, on 6 July 1868. He was buried at Kensal Green.
Lover possessed those typical qualities usually called Irish. As a poet who could set his own verses to music, a painter who could use his art to illustrate novels of his own invention, and the possessor of an imagination sufficiently fertile to evolve from a single theme, ‘Rory O'More,’ a popular ballad, a popular novel, and a popular play, he may be accounted the most versatile man of his day. But he never reached a great height in any department of his many-sided efforts. His songs have been praised as having ‘much of the rich caprice and not a little of the force of passion;’ but, wide as was their vogue, most of them are forgotten. His dramas have failed to hold the stage. His novels will, no doubt, be remembered for their genuine Irish raciness. Despite his talents, his contributions to literature are only those of a second-rate Lever and a third-rate Moore.
Lover married (1) in 1827 a daughter of a Dublin architect named Berrel, who died while he was in America in 1847, and (2) in 1852 the daughter of a Cambridgeshire squire named Wandby.
[Bayle Bernard's Life of Samuel Lover, R.H.A., Artistic, Literary, and Musical, London, 1874, 2 vols.; A. J. Symington's Samuel Lover, a Sketch, London, 1880; Dublin University Magazine, xxxvii. 100; Temple Bar, vol. xxiv.; Blackwood, vol. xli.]