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The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 1: Introductory

Vol. I. Front Matter
‣ Ch. 1: Introductory
Ch. 2: Childhood
Ch. 3: Boyhood
Ch. 4: London
Ch. 5: Companions
Ch. 6: The Cypher
Ch. 7: Edinburgh
Ch. 8: Edinburgh
Ch. 9: Excursion
Ch. 10: Naval Services
Ch. 11: Periodical Press
Ch. 12: Periodical Press
Ch. 13: Past Times
Ch. 14: Past Times
Ch. 15: Literary
Ch. 16: War & Jubilees
Ch. 17: The Criminal
Ch. 18: Mr. Perceval
Ch. 19: Poets
Ch. 20: The Sun
Ch. 21: Sun Anecdotes
Ch. 22: Paris in 1814
Ch. 23: Paris in 1814
Ch. 24: Byron
Vol. I. Appendices
Scott Anecdote
Burns Anecdote
Life of Thomson
John Stuart Jerdan
Scottish Lawyers
Sleepless Woman
Canning Anecdote
Southey in The Sun
Hood’s Lamia
Murder of Perceval
Vol. II. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Literary
Ch. 2: Mr. Canning
Ch. 3: The Sun
Ch. 4: Amusements
Ch. 5: Misfortune
Ch. 6: Shreds & Patches
Ch. 7: A Character
Ch. 8: Varieties
Ch. 9: Ingratitude
Ch. 10: Robert Burns
Ch. 11: Canning
Ch. 12: Litigation
Ch. 13: The Sun
Ch. 14: Literary Gazette
Ch. 15: Literary Gazette
Ch. 16: John Trotter
Ch. 17: Contributors
Ch. 18: Poets
Ch 19: Peter Pindar
Ch 20: Lord Munster
Ch 21: My Writings
Vol. II. Appendices
The Satirist.
Authors and Artists.
The Treasury
Morning Chronicle
Chevalier Taylor
Foreign Journals
Vol. III. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Literary Pursuits
Ch. 2: Literary Labour
Ch. 3: Poetry
Ch. 4: Coleridge
Ch 5: Criticisms
Ch. 6: Wm Gifford
Ch. 7: W. H. Pyne
Ch. 8: Bernard Barton
Ch. 9: Insanity
Ch. 10: The R.S.L.
Ch. 11: The R.S.L.
Ch. 12: L.E.L.
Ch. 13: L.E.L.
Ch. 14: The Past
Ch. 15: Literati
Ch. 16: A. Conway
Ch. 17: Wellesleys
Ch. 18: Literary Gazette
Ch. 19: James Perry
Ch. 20: Personal Affairs
Vol. III. Appendices
Literary Poverty
Ismael Fitzadam
Mr. Tompkisson
Mrs. Hemans
A New Review
Debrett’s Peerage
Procter’s Poems
Poems by Others
Poems by Jerdan
Vol. IV. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Critical Glances
Ch. 2: Personal Notes
Ch. 3: Fresh Start
Ch. 4: Thomas Hunt
Ch. 5: On Life
Ch. 6: Periodical Press
Ch. 7: Quarterly Review
Ch. 8: My Own Life
Ch. 9: Mr. Canning
Ch. 10: Anecdotes
Ch. 11: Bulwer-Lytton
Ch. 12: G. P. R. James
Ch. 13: Finance
Ch. 14: Private Life
Ch. 15: Learned Societies
Ch. 16: British Association
Ch. 17: Literary Characters
Ch. 18: Literary List
Ch. 19: Club Law
Ch. 20: Conclusion
Vol. IV. Appendix
Gerald Griffin
W. H. Ainsworth
James Weddell
The Last Bottle
N. T. Carrington
The Literary Fund
Letter from L.E.L.
Geographical Society
Baby, a Memoir
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For many a lad I knew is dead,
And many a lass grown old;
And when I think upon the past
My weary heart is cold.—Captain Morris.

Biography! Memoirs of Self! The I substituted for the We, during so many years my familiar and protective critical plural, is a change of more importance than I could have expected.

I have had, it is true, some practice and experience in biographical writing, and was well acquainted with the difficulties with which it was beset; but, until I took the pen in hand for my autobiography, I had not the faintest conception of the embarrassments and obstacles which stood in the way of a satisfactory performance of the altered task. The consideration and reserve due to others, the candour and veracity due to the public, and the fairness and justice due to myself, formed a combination of elements not easily to be reconciled
in a Whole, which should fulfil the useful purposes of such a work. Above all, the almost uninterrupted style of egoism—and being, indeed, of necessity, the hero of my own history—filled me with such feelings of repugnance, that I again and again abandoned the design; and it is only the force of circumstances which I shall offer as an apology for commencing, with the hope of completing it.

Still I have to plead several other inducements, including the ancient barefaced one,—of the earnest request of friends, who have thought that my varied career, intimately mixed up with every prominent class of society during the period of half a century, must furnish materials for a pleasant and instructive production. I am myself more than half persuaded of the truth of this; and if memory and talent do not fail me, I ambitiously trust to leave a few volumes behind me, which may be a more enduring monument than could be raised from any multitude of my efforts dispersed in periodical literature, which seldom can be analysed and condensed to the credit of even the most gifted contributor, who has not adopted more solid forms for the exercise of his abilities. Were this likely or possible, I should be willing to rest my name, for a short era, and yet as much as I could expect of posthumous remembrance, upon my numerous essays in various esteemed publications, and, especially, upon my labours in the “Literary Gazette” for thirty-four years; but as there is no chance of such a distinct separation of the wheat from the chaff, I am the better inclined to the endeavour to connect my pathway and doings in the world with matters of general interest, and persons respecting whom their country must long desire to learn as much as can be told. When I state that my juvenile associates numbered among others not unknown to fame, such individuals as the late Lord High Chancellor
of England,
Lord Truro, and the Lord Chief Baron; that years of my middle life were past in confidential intercourse with the statesmen of the day, such as Lord Farnborough, Huskisson, Arbuthnot, Cooke, and still later, with many of the eminent characters who have held high places in the government of the country; and that, both in the preceding and later periods of my course, I enjoyed the friendship and unreserved intimacy of George Canning, and the regard and familiar acquaintance of almost every person of celebrity in the land—political, scientific, artistic, literary, or otherwise remarkable,—it may not be too much to predicate that I have a great deal to communicate worthy of popular and even national acceptation. Without presumption, I can truly assert that my stores are very considerable both in variety and value, and I hope to make a good use of my materials.

With regard to that perplexing subject, myself, I should certainly have avoided it more than I shall do, had I not a great object in view, and, as I feel, a paramount duty to perform, in executing the purpose I have undertaken. My life has been one of much vicissitude, of infinite struggle, and latterly of very grave misfortune. On looking back from the harassed, would it were the calm untroubled goal of three-score and ten years, I can trace with a faithful pencil much that has been owing to mistakes, to errors, to faults, and to improvidence on my own side; and more to misconceptions, injustice, wrongs, and persecutions, unprovoked by any act of mine, on the part of others. I believe that the retrospect may be very serviceable to my fellow-creatures, and most signally so to those who have embarked, or are disposed to embark, in the pursuits of literature as a provision for the wants of life. Of all the multitude I have known who leant upon this crutch as a sole support, I could not specify ten who ever attained
anything like a desirable status either in fortune or society. On the contrary, the entire class may be assured that although felony may be more hazardous, literature is, of the two, by far the most unprofitable profession.

What I have done and undergone may teach a lesson of pointed instruction; and if I rescue even a few from the too certain fate, I shall not regret where I have confessed my transgressions and opened my heart for their guidance. I am conscious that productions of this kind are rarely more than popular for a limited period; and then are to be found in libraries for future references, perhaps, by authors who may be investigating portions of the literary history of past times. In this way they are occasionally and partially revived again and again, and are so far useful; but even within my own experience of noticing autobiographical memoirs in the “Literary Gazette,” it is but poor encouragement to confess that I do not remember any example of one of the class creating aught beyond a temporary sensation. In fact very few biographies, and only of important personages, do last long enough to have any effect upon succeeding generations. It seems as if the good and the evil were barely sufficient for their own date; and that whatever grandchildren might attempt to teach their grandmothers, they are quite inapt to receive instruction from their venerable progenitors of either sex.

My small hope to prolong my vitality and memory a little farther, rests on the foundation of my having known and been associated, as I have stated, with many memorable persons, and having been concerned in some remarkable events, such as rarely occur within the sphere of individuals of my station, besides being entrusted with the confidence of others, so as, I think, to enable me to throw some new lights on some very interesting topics. But for these con-
siderations, I believe that I should have been deterred from my task by the whimsical canon of my lamented friend
Hood, who, in his Death’s Ramble, informs me that He (Death)
——found an author writing his life,
But he let him write no further—
For Death, who strikes whenever he likes,
Is jealous of all self murther.

And this quotation leads me to state in this prefatory chapter, that I foresee my narrative must be of a very mixed, and almost incongruous character: for the grave and gay have alternated so rapidly with me, that I never can keep them far asunder. With Gay I would not state (especially on a tombstone) that Life was a jest: but I am free to affirm, that even amidst its most grievous afflictions and deepest tragedies, there always runs a series of accompaniments allied to the jocular and ridiculous, which would almost create laughter under the ribs of Death. For myself I can say that not many men have enjoyed so much of pleasure and endured so much of pain as I have done. I have drained the Circe-cup to the lees, but I still gratefully acknowledge the enchanting draught of its exquisite and transporting sweetness, in spite of the emptiness of its froth, and the bitterness of its dregs.

Yet is there much of sadness in the reflection of bygone years, protracted to the span which mine have now reached. In looking back, it appears to me as if I had gone through circles of society, and cycles of events. I look around and ask, Where are they who began their hopeful career with me? Where are they? Oh, how few have threaded the trying path, and are now among the living! How many have perished and are forgotten; or, at most, but momentarily recalled by the converse of old friends, who are so shortly to follow them into a like oblivion! No need have
I, or men of the same period of life, to go, like
Hervey, among the Tombs for Meditations. Every bustling street and teeming thoroughfare, every home visit and social meeting, every private party and public occasion utter silent voices which speak mournfully of the absent, and trumpet-tongued of the dead. Friend after friend has departed, and when struck by misfortune, by trouble, by sickness, in vain do we look around for the succour that relieved, the sympathy that supported, the love that consoled; all, or nearly all, are gone, and we are left alone—alone!

In this melancholy mood I stop to ask myself who will be the readers, who the judges and critics, of what I am about to record? Will even those who have known me find interest in the re-awakened memories of scenes which we have shared together. Will those to whom the writer is but a name, bestow a thought or a care upon his joys and sorrows, for the sake of analogous joys and sorrows of their own, which his narrative may recall. I shall resolve, however, that such themes must occupy no more than a small portion of it. For it may be that the former have grown too old, or cold, and too much changed for the emotion; and that the latter will be too little touched by what is strange to, and does not concern them, to lend a listening ear to so simple and so universal a tale. The vicissitudes of the literary man have no striking points to attract the world’s attention; he has no incidents, like those of the warrior, to fix the sense on perils, wonderful escapes, and dreadful catastrophes. His perils and catastrophes run on a dead level; and the only wonder would be how he could ever have any escape. Feelingly do I find it written by L. E. L. (in 1833): “The Poet may lament the flower that blows unseen in the desert, or the gem that is covered in the unfathomed caverns of ocean; but it is man himself
that crushes the flower and buries the gem to an extent unimagined in our philosophy. What glorious blossoms would expand, filling the earth with odours?—what brilliant jewels would be set on high, dazzling with light and lustre, were they not nipped in the bud, and destroyed in the mine, by the harsh, rude influence of the living world? Who lifts the fallen—who cherishes the desponding—who animates the weary—who encourages the fainting—who pities and solaces the unfortunate—who sustains the enthusiastic—who is the friend of talent—who the idolator of genius? One of a thousand? No. The censorious detractor, the scoffer, the oppressor, the unfeeling, the selfish, the apathetic, all cross their paths and lay the weight of doom upon their aspirations. We are, indeed, but shadows, and the very shadows we pursue are placed beyond our reach by our fellowcreatures, who are engaged in the pursuit of similar phantoms, and have only time on their way, to baulk, and impede, and throw down others, till the scene of life presents but one mass of hope ending in disappointment, of struggle and defeat.”

Nevertheless the sufferers long to unburden memory of its load, as the ill in health fly to a physician, or the sick in soul to a confessor.

In my own case I seek neither medicine nor absolution. What my own hand is now writing may not, in human probability, meet the eye of the friendly, the unknown, or the inimical (if any such remain after the grave has closed), till the author is alike unconscious of the blessing of sympathy, the coldness of apathy, or the injustice of enmity. The eulogy, the neutrality and the insult will be of equal value to him, and only of some importance to those near and dear to him who inherit his blood and cherish his memory.