David Love: Travelling By Iona Scanlan and Elizabeth Rigby

Throughout his life, David Love was a devout traveller, venturing through the North and the South of the United Kingdom. He mentions that after he had put himself out of ‘country service’ (Love, 1823, 7), he was at a loss as to how he was to make a substantial living to support himself. He then began knocking on doors, selling what little possessions he had for a few shillings, which ensured he did not go hungry. David Love continued with this method of selling until he became ‘completely master’ (1823, 8) of his business. This offered him enough money to fund his initial travelling experience. Following on from this, his short career over-seeing coal-pit workers, where he earned nine shillings per week, enabled Love to live. He was also persuaded to teach reading and writing in a school; however, he quickly realised the wages were ill-paid and therefore only lasted five months in this profession before turning back to his ‘old trade of travelling’ (1823, 14). 

Initially, Love mentions how he began travelling through the chief parts of Scotland, where he was born, still enquiring about his absent father as he went. It was then through his travelling and avid book selling that he came to a country village and subsequently fell deeply in love with his first wife. After marrying his first wife in Scotland, whereby David Love explains how different the wedding ceremonies were, David Love explains how it caused him a ‘great pain for [him] to think if travelling, to leave her;’ (1823, 29). In failing to make ends meet for his wife and now children, travelled to Edinburgh, as the American war broke out, and joined the fencible army. His long career in the army led him then to the city of Glasgow, in which he describes ‘outlives all of the towns in Scotland, (except the new town of Edinburgh,) for beauty and regularity.’ (1823, 63). However, with his time in the army coming to an end as he was deemed unfit for work, David Love ‘set out [his] old trade’ (1823, 64), of buying and selling. By this point in his life, Love had begun to have some of his poems and ballads published which he profited from also. He began his route through Berwick-on-Tweed, going as far as Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and along the way, he traded in Yorkshire and Lancashire, yet he desired to be in London. By much persuasion, Love had his wife agree to travel alongside him. She left behind their three children in the care of her sister and finally settled with Love in Gosport. It was here that Love began to gain popularity for his work, selling ‘a thousand of them at fourpence each on common paper and sixpence on fine paper.’ (1823, 65). Ultimately, however, David Love longed to reside in London, as he knew this is where he would gain his readership and therefore sell most of his work. Despite enjoying his time in London, he and his wife ventured to Bristol, where they lived for a whole year. It was here that he reconciled with his estranged father, who died shortly after this encounter. 

David Love’s book began to gain adequate readership, to which he was now printing and selling in high demand.  As Bridget Keegan mentions in her article ‘Lambs to the Slaughter: Leisure and Labouring-Class Poetry’ (2002): ‘Early-eighteenth-century laboring-class poets depicted nature as primarily the object of labor, a predominantly georgic realm, rarely representing it as the space for possible pleasure and leisure.’ (3) To summarise, David Love’s constant relocating is to earn money. He rarely mentions a time of any happiness or pleasure. This may have been due to the fact his readership may have not been as passionate if he did not share the hardships of his working-class life. His working-class struggles, therefore, served for more relatable content for his readership. His first wife became incredibly ill, causing them to settle in Rugby, Warwickshire, where she later died aged 51. Once Love had paid for her funeral costs, he endeavored to Leicester, where he composed more ballads and poems to sell. Upon entering a heavy state of grief after the loss of his first wife, David Love travelled to Nottingham where he devoured his time to religion, eventually meeting his second wife. They married in Derbyshire, leading the newly-weds to travel amongst Stafford, Staffordshire and Northumberland. After being accused of robbery in Durham, Love was seized and placed in a prison cell. Upon release the following morning, David Love and his wife were ordered never to return to the town, forcing them to venture further south to Hull and York where he performed and sold his ballads. 

Following settling happily in Nottingham with his wife and children, establishing a source of income became difficult for Love, his written work failing to sell as well as it previously had, therefore he uprooted his family back to Scotland. However, following the birth of their fifth child together, his wife became critically ill and begged to return to Nottingham. With her condition worsening and being too weak to feed, their baby tragically died. The couple and their children finally resolved in Nottingham, where David Love spent his final days.


Love, David. 1823. The Life, Adventures and Experience of David Love. Sutton and Son: Nottingham.


Keegan, Bridget. 2002. ‘Lambs to the Slaughter: Leisure and Labouring-Class Poetry’. Romanticism on the Net. Accessed Online: 27.04.21. https://ronjournal.org/articles/n27/lambs-to-the-slaughter-leisure-and-laboring-class-poetry/


Road Map of an 1800’s United Kingdom. https://britishheritage.com/travel/travel-englands-coaching-inns

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