LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 11: Canning

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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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH

For all my notions being genuine gold,
Beat out beneath the hammer, and expand
And multiply themselves a thousand fold,
Beyond the first idea that I plann’d:
Besides—this present volume must be sold;
Besides—I promised Murray t’other day,
To let him have it by the tenth of May.*

Mr. Canning returned home in June, having been feted at Bordeaux on his way, and was immediately appointed President of the Board of Control. In consequence of this he stood a contested election—an election ridiculously contested, but which afforded him opportunities for those brilliant displays of eloquence, commingling every beauty of oratory, including pungent ridicule and biting sarcasm, which rendered him so feared and hated an antagonist by those who were opposed to him. His terrible hits, dealt by logical reasoning on profound data, but seasoned with so much wit, and made memorable by such flights of poetry, were “tolerable and not to be endured;” and, I think Canning alone was exposed to more misrepresentation and

* Erratum.—For the last two lines in verse, to read in prose: I promised Hall, Virtue, and Co., to let them have it for the 1st of August.—Jerdan.

abuse, than any half-dozen political men or ministers I can call to mind, even including
Lord Castlereagh, with all the vituperation of Ireland upon his head.

The playfulness of his conversation was equally felicitous, and so gentle and unobtrusive, that one was surprised at the end of an hour or two at recalling, or rather endeavouring to recall, so many pleasantries which had passed unnoticed at the moment of their utterance. The fact is, that in seasons of familiar and social intercourse, the whole was such a flow of quiet humour that, like a placid stream, you hardly noticed the current, and it was only when some salient point, not the best, but the most observable, from the ripple it made, excited greater attention, that a small portion of his gifts in this way could be recalled to memory, or were susceptible of repetition. Thus, when my worthy compatriot, Joseph Hume, was making his strongest retrenching and popular efforts in Parliament, Mr. Canning observed, “Hume is an extraordinary ordinary man;” that could be repeated, but the finest essence of the accompanying discourse never could be expressed: it melted into thin air, and was delicious to breathe. The same may also be said of his jocular mot, on hearing Mr. Fitzgerald recite a poem at the Literary Fund Anniversary, “Poeta nascitur non Fitz,” with which Fitz. himself was excessively pleased. I may remark that pure wit is the most evanescent of intellectual productions, and it is only when mixed with a portion, more or less, of earthly dross, that it can be made palpable. At the end of a joyous and delightful party, you cannot describe what made it so charming; you can only tell two or three, perhaps, of the most material and least etherial jests, or sayings, which floated on the surface of the deeper feast of reason. Ideas abounded: language was only occasionally pointed.


The death of Mr. Sheridan cast a gloom over many of his associates, and I may say, the public in general; though they were amused with Yorick jests, probably invented for him, to exhibit the strength of the ruling passion. His wit was just the opposite of what I have endeavoured to explain as the wit of Canning. Its highest flavour consisted of the more palpable spirit of which the other left a smaller quantity to be carried off. Thus the mot ascribed to him, when seated at the window a few days before his death, and seeing a hearse go by, he exclaimed, “Ah, that is the carriage after all!” was in everybody’s mouth, and compared with the slow-coach joke of Rogers, who, when told that it was called the “Regulator,” remarked, “I thought so, for all the others go by it.” Another of Mr. Sheridan’s, at this sad period, was more likely to be true. His complaint was understood to have arisen originally from a tumour, for which an operation was advised that might have saved his life, but to which he refused to submit, observing that he had suffered two operations in his time, and would not submit to a third. On being asked what they were, as they had not been heard of before, he replied, “that he had had his hair cut, and sat for his picture!”* Poor reminiscences these of the man of such marvellous talent, that it is told of him, on the same night when he made one of his brilliant speeches in Parliament, the “Duenna” was performed at one, and the “Rivals” played at the other national theatre. But there have been now live generations of his family distinguished by great and hereditary talent. Mr. Sheridan’s funeral

* I find a curious memorandum among my papers, I know not on what authority, that a Mrs. Kirkman and Miss Sheldon, who long resided at Edmonton, and kept a large ladies’ boarding school opposite the sign of the renowned “Johnny Gilpin,” were the originals of two of the leading characters in the “School for Scandal.”

was splendid, and realised his own lines, so as to render them prophetic of himself: for there were
The splendid sorrows that adorned his hearse,
The throng that pressed as their dead favourite past—
The graced respect that claimed him to the last!

Sheridan was a type, a fortunate and exalted one, of a numerous tribe, who had better opportunities in those days than in ours. The display of superior abilities, which promised to he useful to Parliamentary parties, opened, in comparison with parliament now, a broad path to emulation, and there was often a competition between Whig and Tory to secure the attachment and co-operation of youths who were distinguished at public schools and the universities.

Meanwhile the “Sun” dragged on a wearisome and declining existence. The disputes of partners are sure to be ruinous to any concern, and more irresistibly fatal to one of a public nature. Instead of spirit and energy, cheered by hope, my heart sickened with the task of just doing the work which was absolutely necessary, and no more, and knowing that all I could do was unavailing. Injunctions in Chancery and suits for relief at law put an end to some of the annoyances, but gave the mind and pen sufficient occupation with other vexations. Perhaps this disposition of affairs relieved our more saturnine readers from the infliction of a number of indifferent puns and jeux d’esprit. I do not think I perpetrated three in six months, and even Taylor ceased, comparatively, to utter his complimentary impromptus and epigrams to his friends and associates, whom he rather overpaid by terrible complaints of me and my tyranny. Sir Matthew Wood’s being elected Lord Mayor for a second year, was the most prolific subject, on which many squibs and crackers flew about,
Dr. Parr’s marriage to Miss Eyre hardly behind it. Witness these—

Napoleon’s city friends, it seems,
Are of their Favourite’s mood;
And since they can’t his empire have,
They’ll do with his Long-Wood.
The City Giants that so long have stood,
At length we see removed by Brother Wood;
Such is the spirit of Reform, we find,
For novelty ’twill sacrifice its kind.

Gog. Pray, Magog, why should we withdraw—
Old Guardians of the Seat of Law?
Magog. Dear Gog, the reason thou hast told—
It is because that we are Old:
Art thou to learn the new Lord Mayor
Of former times will little spare?
He’s a Reformer, Gog, and so
Things can’t remain in statu quo
Not to know this, why, brother Gog,
Thou’rt quite of Wood another log!
The next is more whimsical:—
Gog. (loquitur). We three
Loggerheads be,
With Wood enough to spare.
I am Gog,
He’s Magog,
And who, sir, is the other Log-
gerhead?—Ask the Lord Mayor!

Two or three of the jokes upon Dr. Parr—for I dare say there were fifty—I only quote for the sake of their signature:—

This match is late. No, state it fairly;
It could not have been made more Eyre-ly.
With his pipe* and his bride, though the people may stare,
The Doctor will look like a Justice in Eyre.
Let scoffers mock, what need he care,
He’s not too old to take the Air.
Oh such a Pair were never seen,
Since Ida’s Mount so far is;
For is not Eyre his Venus sheen,
And surely he her Parr-is!
For equal bridals all declare,
Who steer by Wisdom’s star;
Then Damsels all be taught by Eyre,
And learn to wed at Par.


When maiden Eyre
Preferred her prayer
To Heaven relief to gain;
These words alone
Her wants made known,
Parr-donnez moi”—Amen.
Heaven heard the prayer
Of Virgin Eyre,
A prayer hard to be hard on—
And for sins past,
And to the last,
Has granted her her Parr-done.—W. J. André.

It was under the same anagram of my name that I published my poem on the Jubilee in 1809 (of which I wish I had a copy?), and one of the most heinous crimes with which Mr. Taylor charged me was, that I had gone by a false alias, and it was to show my contempt for the accusation, that I appended it to these doggerel lines, and sometimes instead of Teutha, or no signature, to such trifles as the following:—

Acting Sir Pandarus of Troy, now Boney fills the scena;
And well performs the Go-between from Paris to Helena.

* Dr. Parr was a most inveterate smoker, in which recreation, as well as in other ways, he suffered not a few tricks when Tom Sheridan was his pupil.

Sweetest, sweetest, prithee say.
Is it night, of is it day?
Ask not, ask not, sweetest, pray,
For ’tis very hard to say.*

The return to peace was a period of very turbulent transition, and riots and revolutionary meetings pervaded the country. Among the latter, Hunt’s famous Spa Fields demonstration (the prototype of the Chartists at Kennington) was the most conspicuous, and at the time, Sir Francis Burdett, Cobbett, Dr. Watson, and others were playing demagogue very closely upon the borders of treason. And though the Adelphi of the “Sun” were, as I have hinted, in too sombre a condition to be lively, the paper was not without an occasional sparkle of humour and vivacity. Mr. Mulock, a gentleman of rare talent, contributed a series of reports and bulletins, on the assumed ground that Hunt had been committed to Bedlam as a lunatic, and these gave an account of his aberrations when visitors were admitted, which would not have been unworthy of Dean Swift. Though so long ago, I feel confident that a few extracts will not fail to be acceptable to the lovers of fine satire. Mr. M., after stating Hunt’s having fallen into the pitiable condition of incurable mental derangement, and acknowledging how much the “Sun” had reprobated his previous proceedings, goes on to say, “We protest most solemnly that we should have preferred hearing that Mr. Hunt had been hanged, rather than that he should have been visited with the intellectual infliction which now

* There were others merry endugh to create a smile or laugh at the season, but too insignificant to look back upon at a distance; and that is a good reason why I should fancy the few that I have copied quite sufficient as samples.

so horribly humiliates him. In order to secure the sympathy of the Public, we shall now proceed to communicate the details which have been supplied us respecting the lamentable progress of Mr. Hunt’s disorder. On the morning of Friday, it was observed by some friends who called upon Mr. Hunt, in order to accompany him to the meeting in Spa Fields, that there was a more than usual incoherence in his conduct, language, and manners. Contrary to the earnest exhortations of his compatriots, he dressed himself for the meeting, and betrayed in his whole deportment an aristocratic foppery, which very considerably tended to weaken the regards of his staunchest adherents. It was remarked, too, that Mr. Hunt’s oaths were more refined and classical than he had been accustomed to use in his quality of popular blasphemer. As a conclusive indicant of some portentous change, it was noticed that Mr. Hunt assumed a lofty and condescending air towards his former companions, which, however well-meant, was certainly very ill-taken.” Hunt’s speech is then mentioned as affording palpable proofs of alienation of mind, but “it was reserved for the critical vigilance of his immediate friends to detect more infallible symptoms of derangement in certain eccentricities of his conduct. For example, Mr. Hunt quitted his Plebeian elevation on a hackney coach, and addressed the people from one of the windows of the ‘Loyal Volunteer,’ and thus screened from the winds without, and warmed with good brandy placed providentially within, he declaimed his two hours to the undrammed and unsheltered multitude. In the course of his speech too, Mr. Hunt wandered into episodes which were little relished by the friends of equality. A passage, accusing
Mr. Canning of being ‘a new man,’ utterly unable to trace a long line of noble ancestors, gave particular umbrage to the ‘green-coated orator’ (Mr. Dyall),
who remarked, with much fairness and not less asperity, that ‘Reformers had no business to talk of jinney-ologies, as no man had a natural right to have ancestors to the prejudice of other worthy citizens.’” The description of Hunt’s increasing madness, and fancying himself a monarch, with palaces, households, &c., till he arrived at Cooper’s Hotel, is very racy; and the introduction of Cobbett puffing his “
Political Register” no less so; but at length Hunt is taken to Bedlam. “Sir Francis Burdett called at Bedlam in the course of Sunday, and from a plausible misapprehension of the officers of the hospital, was, for some time, detained in a cell adjoining that of Mr. Hunt, November 18th.” The first bulletin is as follows:—

“New Bedlam, Monday, noon.

“In answer to the countless inquiries that have been made during the last twenty-four hours respecting the health of Citizen Hunt, we lament to say that the unhappy sufferer’s malady continues as violent as ever. The medical officers of the hospital being of opinion that the visitors introduced to Citizen Hunt have materially contributed to exasperate his disorder, Sir Francis Burdett and Mr. Cobbett are excluded from Bedlam for the present.

(Signed) JOHN DYALL, G.C.O.

Tuesday’s bulletin reports him insisting on a royalty sturgeon and imperial pop; and other bulletins and papers contain much more of the same entertaining description, but I shall only copy a portion of the interview at last obtained by Sir F. Burdett. “It seems that Sir Francis,
having been shown into a gallery in which a number of persons were striding up and down, their hands tied somewhat rigidly behind their backs, the worthy baronet, shocked at these visible signs of tyranny, declaimed with great energy against strait-waistcoats. Some of the myrmidons of the hospital endeavouring to allay the ‘whirlwind and tempest’ of his unseasonable oratory, Sir Francis pulled out his old copy of Magna Charta, and read it with such vehemence to the kindling crowd, that two of the ‘marshals of the palace,’ as
Mr. Hunt had styled them, dragged the senator, without delay, into a very dark and narrow cell, where he remained in durance vile until the surgeon went his evening round. Mr. Hunt was in a sitting posture when Sir Francis was introduced, and he deigned to notice the baronet only by a slight inclination of the head. The miserable maniac’s brows were shaded with straws, fantastically wreathed into ‘the likeness of a kingly crown.’ A small piece of well-twisted rope hung round his neck, from which depended a bored half-crown. A striped purple-checked handkerchief, with which Pat Corcoran (the Irish chairman who brought him in) had fastened Mr. Hunt’s wrists, now furnished a garter to encircle his ‘manly leg.’ In short, no madhouse mimicry of royalty ever exhibited so much melancholy accuracy as the pitiable affectations of Mr. Hunt. Sir Francis Burdett at length asked him ‘how he felt himself?’ to which he replied, with a touching simplicity, not unmixed with dignity, that ‘he felt himself quite at home.’ Mr. Hunt added something, though indistinctly expressed, about appointing Sir Francis, Lieutenant of the Tower, a situation for which the worthy baronet’s local knowledge tended, he said, eminently to qualify him! ‘Hunt,’ exclaimed Sir Francis, ‘recollect yourself! We, you well know, are bound to acknowledge
no sovereign but our Sovereign the Majesty of the People.’ ‘A fig for the people,’ rejoined Citizen Hunt; ‘born for my use, they live but to obey me.’ Hunt’s frenzy augments till he proclaims himself every inch a king, and mutters something about having execution done on Cawdor, which ‘so startled Burdett that the patriotic baronet retreated with the utmost precipitation, leaving part of his baggage and artillery,—namely, Magna Charta and
Paine’sRights of Man,’ in the hands of Citizen Hunt.”

The scene with Cobbett is equally rich and pertinent to the time; but as that time has gone by, I will rest satisfied with this brief specimen of Mr. Mulock, who has since distinguished himself by much able and animated writing; and, though I have lost sight of him for awhile, is yet, I trust, in the land of the living and in the full enjoyment of his fine faculties. He, like myself, was very faithfully attached to Mr. Canning, and that the latter took an interest in his enthusiastic admirer, the annexed note to me from Mr. Backhouse respecting these sportive effusions will show:—

“India Board, December 7, 1816.

Mr. Backhouse presents his compliments to Mr. Jerdan, and requests to be informed whether it is possible now to obtain a copy of each of those two numbers of the ‘Sun’ which contain Mr. Mulock’s excellent quiz on Hunt; viz., his committal to Bedlam, and Cobbett’s visit. They are for Mr. Canning’s perusal; these papers, which Mr. Backhouse sent to Mr. Canning in France, having crossed him on the road and gone on to Paris.

“If copies of them are not to be obtained at this late period, would it be in Mr. Jerdan’s power to favour
Mr. Backhouse with the loan of those particular numbers for the above purpose? They should be punctually returned.”

A note from Mr. Canning himself, three days after, relating to some other papers I had submitted to him, is yet more deserving of a place, as characteristic of his chivalrous spirit:—

“Gloucester Lodge, Tuesday morning, Dec. 10, 1816.

Mr. Canning returns the papers which Mr. Jerdan has been so good as to send to him, with many thanks for the opportunity of reading them.

“The paragraph, which Mr. J. incloses, may be safely left to itself; it is obviously nonsense, and could not be made sense, but by a breach of private confidence which even example cannot justify. I saw the lady in question frequently—so far is true—but a woman’s name should never be mentioned with rebuke, and therefore I beg that you will say nothing (on my account) about her.”

Not being a dog, I am loth to return to my theme of the “Sun” and its troubles; but it was so important a crisis in my career, that I must yet devote some pages to it; and among my miscellaneous remembrances of this period, only mention the palmy days of the New Lanark Establishment, under Mr. Owen, before his ideas got so wild and chimerical; and the intrigue by which Lord Byron and Mr. Kinnaird were hoisted out of the Committee of Drury Lane management.

It was about six months before that I had provoked the ire of the noble lord, as related in my first volume, by my
remarks in the “
Sun” upon his unworthy “Sketch from Private Life,”
Born in a garret, in the kitchen bred,
Promoted thence to deck her mistress’ head.
The observations which stung him were thus worded:—

“What, in truth, had the public to do with the unhappy fate of Lady and Lord Byron. What had they to do with his folly, or his madness, or his vice? With the charge of mercilessness urged against his unfortunate wife? With the insinuations of such misconduct on the part of her Mother as placed her within the power of a wicked confidante? or with the character of that domestic! One might say—
Rest, perturbed Spirit, rest!
But alas, for such a genius as
Lord Byron’s, there seems to be allied to the fine essence which forms the immortal bard, a sad, desolate, and weary principle which deforms the man.”

Then Mr. Owen came to London with his schemes for parallelogram settlements. I was one of the few to whom he communicated them, and consulted; and, from the first, I pointed out their impracticability, and showed him the rock on which he would split. But at that time he did not go a tenth of the length to which he has since gone.