Samuel Lover

Born 1797
Died 1878
Place of Birth Dublin
Place of Death Clear View, St Lawrence Valley, Jersey
Gender Male
Biographical Notes From the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Miniature painter and author, was born in Dublin on 24 February 1797, the eldest son of William Frederick Lover (d. 1833) and his wife, Abigail Maher (d. c.1810). His father was a stockbroker and had various other commercial interests. His mother was an accomplished singer and musician, who encouraged the young Samuel's artistic and musical interests, in particular an appreciation of Irish poetry and songs. As a child Lover suffered from poor health and at the age of twelve he was sent for a rest-cure to a farm in co. Wicklow. There he was introduced to the customs and traditions of country people. Despite his artistic interests and against his will, Lover was sent to work in his father's office and in 1814 he went to London to work in another business house. Lover thrived on the artistic atmosphere of London and on his return to Dublin there was a family disagreement and Lover left home to pursue a career as an artist. It was probably at this time that Lover attended the Dublin Society's drawing schools: his presence there is recorded by James Dowling Herbert (1762/3–1837) in his memoirs. Lover supported himself by painting marine views and landscapes, copying music, and teaching drawing. He became a pupil of the prolific miniaturist John Comerford, and as a result of his influence Lover turned to miniature painting and adopted his master's meticulous technique. Lover had learned to draw at the Dublin Society schools and he combined this skill with painting in watercolour on ivory to produce extremely accomplished portraits. His work gradually became larger and he relished the details of theatrical props and fancy dress which he included in much of his work. His portraits are posed and he often painted his sitters singing or reading, as may be seen in the many examples of his work in the National Gallery of Ireland. Lover passed on his skill as a miniaturist to his pupil Frederic William Burton. However, it was as a songwriter that Lover was first celebrated. In 1818 he composed a musical tribute to Thomas Moore which he performed at a banquet held in Dublin for the poet. In the song, entitled ‘Election of a Poet Laureate for Olympus’, Venus and the Graces vote for their favourite, Moore, who of course wins the award. Lover's connection with Moore and Moore's family proved useful: he drew on Moore's work for inspiration for his pictures, such as Flow on thou Shining River (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin) from Moore's Irish Melodies (1807), and many of his early commissions were from people in the musical, literary, and theatrical world. His artistic and social accomplishments obtained for him an entrée into Dublin society. His friend and patroness Lady Morgan, the art historian and novelist, was the doyenne of literary and musical society. She encouraged him to paint and to write musical comedy; he produced several portraits of her (National Gallery of Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin). Lover was also introduced to the LeFanu family and their intellectual circle. Lover began publishing and illustrating stories about Ireland in the leading literary journals of the 1820s and 1830s such as the Dublin Penny Journal, the Dublin Literary Gazette, the Irish Penny Magazine, and the Dublin University Magazine; with Charles Lever, George Petrie, and William Carleton he was joint founder of the last of these publications, an anti-nationalist journal which was something of an innovation in its commitment to serialized fiction. He was a member of a number of convivial clubs in Dublin, and the official portrait painter of the Burschenschaft Club, founded by Lever; Lover was also a prominent member of the Dublin Glee Club. In 1826 Lover wrote his most famous ballad, ‘Rory O'More’, and in 1827 he composed his first musical drama, Grana Uile, based on the story of Grace O'Malley, the pirate queen. In that year he married Lucy (d. 1847), the daughter of a Dublin architect, John Berrel. In 1817, 1819, and 1823 Lover exhibited drawings at the Artists of Ireland exhibitions. He began to exhibit at the Royal Hibernian Academy at its first exhibition in 1826. In 1828 he was elected an associate of the academy, becoming a full academician in 1829; he was appointed trustee and secretary in 1831. Between that first exhibition and 1863 he exhibited 115 pictures at the Royal Hibernian Academy. In 1831 Lover was commissioned to paint a portrait of the violinist Paganini when he came to Dublin. The portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1832 and at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1833. This important commission led to requests from other well-known sitters. He was offered a commission to paint Princess Victoria, but this never materialized because family circumstances prevented him from travelling to England. In the early 1830s Lover developed a new talent for humorous political caricature, a medium that had become very popular due to the skill of John Doyle, the principal exponent of the genre at the time. The Parson's Horn Book, a satire on religion, was published in 1830: Lover contributed the illustrations and much of its literary content. The book gained notoriety as a result of a crown prosecution. In 1832 Lover published a less contentious work, Legends and Stories of Ireland, which he also illustrated. This drew on his knowledge of rural Ireland, its customs, and characters. Through his writings and the success of his portrait painting—such as the Paganini portrait—Lover had become known in London. In 1835 he went to live there permanently and he quickly established himself as a miniaturist. He became a member of the Garrick Club and part of London-Irish literary, musical, and artistic society. Among his friends were Father Mahony, who wrote under the pseudonym Father Prout; Michael Banim; John Banim; and Anna Jameson, the art historian and daughter of the miniaturist Denis Brownell Murphy. Through the literary patroness Lady Blessington, Lover became a friend of Charles Dickens, with whom he was associated in founding Bentley's Miscellany; he made an important contribution to the design of the journal, which was characterized by an effective combination of text and image. In 1837 Lover published his first novel, Rory O'More: a National Romance, set at the time of the 1798 rebellion. This he successfully dramatized, but it was just one of a series of plays: The Beau Ideal (1835), The White Horse of the Peppards (1838), and The Happy Man (1839). He subsequently composed a musical drama, The Greek Boy (1840), and a burlesque opera, Il Paddy Whack in Italia (1841), which was produced by Michael William Balfe in the Lyceum Theatre. In 1842 he published Handy Andy, his most significant novel and the vehicle for a hero who has been described as ‘the great, amiable, awkward, moronic lout of Irish literature’ (Hogan, 725); in 1844 he published Treasure Trove. In 1844 Lover abandoned miniature painting as a result of failing eyesight but continued to paint and exhibit landscapes. He invented a new form of entertainment which he called Irish Evenings, a monologue of songs, recitations, and stories, all of his own composition. These he performed at the Princess's Concert Rooms, London. Lover spent the years 1846–8 touring North America with a theatrical company, performing his Irish Evenings with great success, and painting landscapes and views such as The Cabildo, New Orleans (British Museum, London). He composed his best-known song ‘The Alabama’ there. Back in London, he continued to perform his Irish Evenings, which he renamed Paddy's Portfolio, and wrote the drama The Sentinel of Alva (1854) for the Haymarket Theatre; he also composed two librettos for Balfe. While Lover was in the United States his wife died and on his return in 1848 his daughter, Meta, died. On 1 January 1852 he married Mary Jane Wandby from Cambridgeshire, and in 1856 was granted a civil-list pension of £300 p.a. in recognition of his services to art and literature. In 1858 he published The Lyrics of Ireland with biographical and musical notes. In 1860 the London Irish rifle volunteers was formed and Lover took an active part, writing songs which were published in Original Songs for the Rifle Volunteers. He fell ill in February 1864 and in 1865 he went to live in the Isle of Wight and then in St Helier, Jersey. He died at Clear View, St Lawrence Valley, Jersey, on 6 July 1868 and was survived by his second wife, Mary. Lover was buried in Kensal Green cemetery, London, on 15 July. His memory is commemorated on a tablet in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. Lover's career as artist, writer, and composer reflects his versatile talent; as a painter he produced not only miniatures but also landscapes and literary and historical genre paintings. His wide-ranging productivity has attracted the criticism that he spread his talents too thinly: his biographer in the Dictionary of National Biography comments that he ‘never reached a great height in any department of his many-sided efforts’ and describes his literary works rather harshly as ‘only those of a second-rate Lever and a third-rate Moore’. His novels made an important contribution to the development of Anglo-Irish literature, and recently his artworks have deservedly attracted more attention (although his miniatures can vary in quality). He belonged to an important generation of Irish literary and artistic figures who achieved success in England and America in the early nineteenth century.

Paul Caffrey, ‘Lover, Samuel (1797–1868)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 4 June 2013]



Killing a Salmon (Draughtsman)

Dubh Lough, County Mayo (Author of travel text)