Samuel Lover

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Lover, Samuel, "poet, novelist, dramatist, painter, etcher, and composer," was born in Dublin, 24th February 1797. He was the eldest son of a member of the Stock Exchange. He was a delicate and sensitive child, possessing, however, "life's first good — a good mother." Almost before he could reach the keyboard of a piano, he exhibited extraordinary aptitude for music and composition. The scenes of bloodshed and violence, consequent on the military government of Ireland after the Union, left an indelible impression on his mind. At thirteen he entered his father's office, all his leisure being spent in drawing, music, and theatrical entertainments, a course that was strongly objected to by his father, who considered that the lad's whole energies should be devoted to money-making.

At eighteen the differences between father and son culminated, and young Lover went out into the world to make his own way. Three years he spent in obscurity, living as best he could, probably on slender donations from his mother. He studied painting and music, largely assisted by the friendship of Comerford, then amongst the first portrait painters of the day. Lover's delicate and finished miniatures soon attracted attention at the annual exhibitions of the Hibernian Academy, and won for him the patronage of the Marquis Wellesley, the Duke of Leinster, Lord Cloncurry, and other leaders in Dublin society. At the same period he commenced contributing to the Dublin magazines some of his inimitable tales and legends. His personal qualities, his talents as a story-teller, and the drollery and pathos he was enabled to throw into a naturally poor and feeble voice, gained for him an entrance into the best drawing-rooms in Dublin, and he soon became one of the recognized lions and diners-out of the metropolis, ranking with Brophy the State dentist, Butler the architect, and Jones the sculptor.

His song of "Rory O'More," written at the suggestion of Lady Morgan, and wedded to an old Irish tune, made his name well-known on both sides of the channel. About forty songs of much the same class, such as "Widow Machree," and "Molly Carew," followed, combining a certain arch humour and feeling with a rollicking dash. In 1827 he married a Miss Berrel; "home became the anchorage which enabled him to ride in safety through many a sudden gust of trouble and many a swaying tide of passion, and it is certainly one of the most striking, as it is one of the best traits of his character, that he should have been able to unite qualities which are so rarely found compatible — such a devotion to his home, and such a strong love of society."

In 1828 he was appointed Secretary to the Royal Hibernian Academy. His miniature of Paganini, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1833, brought him prominently as an artist before the English public. For many years he had looked to London as the true arena for the exhibition of his talents; and accordingly removed thither in 1834. It was, however, as a song-writer and novelist, not as a painter, that he became popular. His reception in the leading literary and artistic circles was most flattering.

He commenced novel-writing in 1836, his first work being Rory O'More, his second Handy Andy. The latter, though somewhat coarse, is incomparably the best and most brilliant of its class. It contains his most touching song "What will you do, love?" The close of 1835 he commenced writing dramas, with his Olympic Picnic. An adaptation of Rory O'More followed, succeeded by The White Horse of the Peppers, The Happy Man, and others now less known. Artist, author, and composer, Lover next became a public entertainer; and in 1846 he carried his "Irish Evenings" from the United Kingdom to America, where he made money, but damaged his health. On his return he again reverted to art, taking a deeper delight in the delineation of nature than he had ever done before. His wife having died, he married a second time in 1852.

His last painting, "The Kerry Post on Valentine's Day," was exhibited in 1862. In 1858 he edited a well-selected collection of Irish Lyrics. Failing health marked his latter days; and a Civil List pension of £100 was settled upon him. The last four years of his life were spent in retirement in Jersey; and there he died 6th July 1868. He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, in the grave with his two daughters. "He was lightly and neatly built, had the dark grey, mirthful eyes so characteristic of his countrymen, good teeth, a kindly mouth, and an open, honest, frank expression."

The Athenaeum says: "Lover was one of those unfortunately qualified men who do everything well, but fail to be pre-eminent in anything. He was a clever miniature painter, but he could no more have made a fortune by that pursuit than he could as a vocalist. Lover had far more success as a song-writer, but his lyrics, beautiful as some of them are, never made capital for him, as worse lyrics for song-writers not to be compared with him, have done in later days. As an author of stories, Lover was at his very best in Rory O'More. On that subject he founded a triple glory, and Lover's Rory O'More in story, song, and drama was the greatest success of the day. It was altogether only a 'little day,' but a bright little day' all the same; and Lover passed so softly and unassumingly along the various paths of life trodden by him that nobody was offended; and as he trod on nobody's heels, and no one had especially to get out of his way, he created no jealousy. He seemed to communicate his own sweet temperament to all around him, and 'Sam Lover' had no enemy, secretly or publicly."

Sources

15. Athenaeum, The—Principally referred to under No. 233.

218. Lover, Samuel, Life: Bayle Bernard. 2 vols. London, 1874.

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