Although remembered today chiefly as a minor novelist, Samuel Lover in his own day had a reputation as a painter, musician, songwriter, and novelist. Born on February 24, 1797, he was the son of a Dublin stockbroker who hoped that his son would follow the family profession. At the age of twelve, Samuel was sent from Dublin into the countryside to improve his health, and it was then that Lover became acquainted with the rural Irish people who played such a prominent part in his fiction years later. At the age of fifteen he was taken from school to start an apprenticeship in his father’s business, which proved to be uncongenial to a person with Lover’s artistic interests and talent. At the age of seventeen, Samuel Lover struck out on his own and began to support himself as a painter, author, and song writer. By his thirtieth year he had established himself as a portraitist and married Lucy Berrel, daughter of a Dutch architect.
Samuel Lover’s first published book was a collection of tales and Irish legends that had previously appeared in various periodicals. A greater success, although in another realm of art, came in 1835, when Lover’s portrait of Niccolò Paganini was chosen by the Royal Academy for an exhibit in London. That success caused Lover to take up residence in London. His first novel, Rory O’More, was an immediate success, both as a novel and as a play. Trouble with his eyes caused Lover to leave painting for a career as a writer of fiction, and his best-known novel, Handy Andy, appeared in 1842. During the 1840’s Lover added to his income by giving public performances of readings from his writings and renditions of his own songs. Those entertainments and his novels gave him importance as a spokesman for the Irish. He is often credited with changing for the better the popular conception of the Irish in England and in America. His first wife having died, Lover was remarried in 1852 to Mary Jane Wandby. He died at St. Helier, on the isle of Jersey, Channel Islands, on July 6, 1868.