David Love: Working Life By Iona Scanlan and Elizabeth Rigby

David Love’s life often lacked extra curricular activities such as hobbies or relaxing. This is because from a young age, the writer’s life revolved around working, whether it be in the mines, as a horse carer, in the fencible army, or most famously, as a writer. This is why David’s life makes for such a great story to learn about, and the perfect example of a working class writer. 

David Love started out with his father forcing himself and his family to work in the mines, to fund his fathers drinking and gambling addictions. Being forced into work at such a young age instilled feelings of protection for Love, especially towards his mother and siblings.. Love even said when his father received money, ‘which he loved so much’ (Love, 1823, 3) he always took it from his family and ‘never more returned’. It is evident here that Love’s experience with such an unforgivable thing, forced him to be untrusting of people. Despite this, Love’s tragic experiences taught him a strong work ethic and to be business minded. Love acknowledges his life living on the breadline, after his mother became blind and the family were forced to beg. In his memoir he writes, ‘The uncharitable man is anything rather than a christian, for christianity is the perfection of charity.’ (1823, 4). Love’s working class attitude is suggested here, as he acknowledges the wealthiest in society are careless towards the poor. 

Two men who fought for the Fencible Army in Scotland, otherwise known as the ‘forgotten army’ https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/the-tartan-line-of-defence-the-northern-or-gordon-fencibles-1778-1783/

In his memoir Love states after putting himself out of ‘country service’, he was: ‘at a loss what method to take’ (1823, 7) to earn a living. One of David Love’s first work ventures was caring for horses, which earned him ‘nine shillings each week.’ (1823, 9). He came to the realisation he could make an adequate income through book selling, and soon became what he describes as a ‘master’ (1823, 7) at his craft.

Love joined the fencible army in his later working life, otherwise known as the ‘forgotten army’ (University of Kent, 2019, npg). Love was able to travel during his time in the army, an element key to his personality. However, this came at a time when he had a family at home, making the hectic travelling lifestyle increasingly difficult. Love therefore applied for furlough, to reunite with his family, and was given three months paid leave. Furthermore, Love’s career in the army grew tiresome as the years went on. He was offered a ‘discharge’ (1823, 63), which he was consequently denied. Due to a fatal arm injury growing worse, Love was deemed ‘unfit for duty’ (1823, 63) by the doctor. This injury put an end to Love’s career in the fencible army, but catapulted him into doing what he truly loved, writing and selling his literature. 

It is evident throughout Love’s memoir that his work and passion for literature played a part in who he was as a person. Working class writers such as Love faced many challenges, and were undermined because of their self taught nature. This treatment underlines the class system which was ever present in Britain during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. John Goodridge states that some working class poets were examples of the ‘virtues of hard work and self reliance’, whereas others were seen as ‘novelty acts’ (Goodridge, 2003, 13). This exemplifies how much perseverance working class poets had to have to succeed at their chosen career, as David Love did throughout his life. 


Butcher, R. 2019. Edinburgh and the Fencible Regiments. The University of Kent.

Goodridge, J. 2003. Eighteenth Century English Labouring Class Poets, 1700-1800. Pickering and Chatto. London.

Love, D. 1823. The Life, Experiences and Adventures of David Love. Sutton and Son. Nottingham.

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