David Love: Purpose and Audience By Iona Scanlan and Elizabeth Rigby – Writing Lives

David Love: Purpose and Audience By Iona Scanlan and Elizabeth Rigby

David Love’s memoir identifies the trials and tribulations he witnessed throughout his life. It seems that Love did not have an obvious inspiration for his writing, nor did he choose to dedicate the memoir to anybody specifically. For example, below the name of the publishers ‘Sutton and Son’, the memoir reads: ‘For The Author’. This may be an acknowledgment that Love decided to dedicate the memoir to himself, which proves interesting as he had such a large family. 

Furthermore, it could be suggested that due to Love’s background in literature and ballad writing, a publisher may have approached him and requested he write a memoir. On account of the lack of reference to any leisurely activities, we as readers may assume his time was dedicated solely to his writing and traveling. His content achieved favorable success and was published multiple times on subscription. As a result, David Love’s work remains to be read and enjoyed today. Many of the final pages of Love’s text are made up of the poems and ballads he wrote, however, it is not made clear when Love initially began to write his memoir and over what period he finished it.  

As it is unclear as to when Love wrote his memoir, it is difficult to understand whether the time he took to write it may have influenced his writing. As he gained extensive readership, it begs the question as to whether began to write for the pleasure of his audience. Namely, it proves interesting that the third edition of his memoir was released in 1823, just three years before his death, and therefore this would demonstrate that the text is a realistic account of Love’s life.  

A screenshot from The Life, Adventures and Experiences of David Love. (1823, 1).

David Love was a well-connected, well-accustomed man. The motivation behind the writing and production of his memoir was, undoubtedly, to entice his readers with the progression of his prosperous life. Although the majority of Love’s memoir was written informally, sharing personal ballads and verses reflecting on difficult times within his life, the continuous selling of his work to make a profit may suggest he wrote for a public audience or public intent. His subscribers paid one penny per fortnightly chapters of his work upon delivery. Despite some poems acting as a coping mechanism for Love through dark times, the death of his first wife, for example, he quickly learned that this form of content attracted a wider readership. The introductory page of Love’s novel reads: ‘This first Number is printed as a specimen of the Paper and Type: to go on register when he has got a sufficient number of Subscribers to defray the printing charges.’ (Love, 1823, 1). Therefore, this would insinuate that Love did in fact hope to make money from the memoir’s sale if he had to personally fund any printing charges. As Paula McDowell mentions in her essay “The Manufacture and Lingua-facture of Ballad-Making Broadside Ballads in Long Eighteenth-Century Ballad Discourse”: ‘The eighteenth century saw the vast expansion of the print trades throughout Britain. It also saw the emergence of a substantial printed discourse about ballads.’ (2006, 151). His memoir was printed by ‘Sutton and Son’, in Nottingham.  

Image of a 17th Century Iron Press. https://www.prepressure.com/printing/history/1800-1849

After entering life as a working-class boy, throughout his narrative we learn how David Love supported himself by selling his work and venturing a short career in the fencible army. However, the success of his memoir caused him to progress on the social stratification ladder. It is presumed however that Love’s subscribers were from a working-class background and therefore the memoir may have acted as an inspiration to his readers. Love’s writing coincided with Britain’s ‘Industrial Revolution’, whereby standards of living and an adequate income were becoming more accessible. Society’s way of life was continuously changing, and Love’s novel reflected this notion of working hard to achieve results. By the intimate tone of the memoir, it seems that David Love’s intention was to entertain his readership, as opposed to a warning or teaching them. Namely, Love mentions how he relied heavily upon his religious faith throughout his life however, this does not seem an effort to convert his audience in any way. Love’s use of religious language was not uncommon for working-class writers of the time. As shown in Bridget Keegan’s text ‘Mysticisms and Mystifications: The Demands of The Laboring-Class Religious Poetry’ she notes: ‘the religious sensibility articulated in a good deal of laboring-class poetry typically runs counter to the class consciousness and critique of social injustice that modern critics prefer to celebrate.’ (Keegan, 2005, 472). This implies that with any projection of hurt and betrayal, Love was able to cleverly convert into writing as a coping mechanism. Additionally, Love speaks of himself as an individual throughout his memoir, as opposed to on behalf of any group or organisation. He does, however, speak in aid of his family, especially his mother and his deceased wives.   

In comparison to other working-class memoir writers, the life experiences of David Love differ drastically; his financial status, family ties, and busy lifestyle tending to occupy his time. Love himself was a writer by craft, an alternative to the more physically demanding careers popular during eighteen hundred, a bricklayer, carpenter, or farmer for example. This may mean his memoir could be written, and therefore understood, in a far more articulate way.  

It is important to focus on David Love’s aims when writing his memoir. It may be suggested that Love intended to bring further attention to other works of his, such as his hymns, ballads, and poems. Documenting his work as a personal memoir allowed Love to store all his work in one place for his audience to enjoy and appreciate.  

Love’s persona throughout the memoir seems to be rather allusive. As his memoir progresses at such a rapid pace, this tends to leave gaps in the readers’ knowledge regarding his life. Implementing ballads in conjunction with the text creates a poetic sense throughout. For example, he criticises his father and exerts a great deal of blame towards him. He communicates this hurt into a beautiful ballad. Despite this, however, it does not seem that Love had any ulterior motives whilst writing his memoir, except simply to tell his life story along with the hope of his other works reaching further audiences.  

Keegan, Bridget. 2005. Mysticisms and Mystifications: The Demands of Laboring-Class Religious Poetry. Criticism, 47(4), pp.471–492. Accessed Online: 25.03.21 

McDowell, Paula. 2006. ‘The Manufacture and Lingua-facture of Ballad-Making”: Broadside Ballads in Long Eighteenth-Century Ballad Discourse’. The Eighteenth Century, Vol. 47, No. 2/3, Ballads and Songs in the Eighteenth Century151-178. Accessed Online: 25. 03.21.  


Love, David. 1823. The Life, Adventures and Experiences of David Love. Sutton and Son: Nottingham. Accessed Online: 25.03.21. https://books.googleusercontent.com/books/content?req=AKW5QaeOJtBngXdOEMpJMgl-oL0Vrz-1HuIlq_ESu3v4x8y-SJIINZ753C3Ctt-W6el8JVuC6W-PpdSLOY74HjgOwxv7GPUfKMUcLHbcGgLqHIgjzzeU30zTIemC2nyLNSSY-OkwDpIzpm4V-o-a28DowMc7644P9h6rpZ3aUCTxJHUF0RNyVFUODQibV6pKEIgT44-0cBCSPBIS3mqkz0yhVYkBl9V6nV0Q02u0G6CoCrZzWKqLPAeeFgsV4OpLXTn40Y-CqXtjNAZaD4LO82ExLOD9340p3tK_hLWjVJjkcPiMY-9h2ig

Image: 17th Century Iron Press. https://www.prepressure.com/printing/history/1800-1849. Accessed Online: 25.03.21.

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