LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 12: Litigation

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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What dire malignant planet sheds,
Ye bards, his influence on your heads?
Lawyers, by endless controversies,
Consume unthinking clients’ purses,
As Pharaoh’s kine, which strange and odd is,
Devoured the plump and well-fed bodies.—Broome.

I must preface this painful chapter by declaring my belief that if Mr. Taylor had had anything of the knave in him, or been imbued with a moderate quantum of worldly wisdom, our disputes might have been accommodated; but he was truly, as I have depicted him, a man of the stage, and would not be reasoned with or advised. H1s conduct was throughout so irrational, that to the very last I never could divest myself of the idea that he was only acting; and, in stating this case, I rejoice that I have approached so much nearer our own date, that there are many living witnesses of the highest character who can attest the perfect truth of my statements respecting this miserable miscarriage and wreck of fortune. His son, now living, is, I am informed, an estimable man, and I doubt not his young reminiscences are yet taxed with some of the scenes he could not help witnessing, but, with all his filial affections, I believe he must assent to the perfect truth of my narrative; and, as I have said nothing to affect his father’s moral
worth, but the reverse, I trust that no word I have written can displease or pain him. Mr. Taylor had also a brother, an oculist, as he himself had been, and a sister, and both were a little eccentric in character.

It has been said, “you had better have dealings with a rogue than a fool;” since a rogue can at any rate be convinced to act for his own interest. In this matter I can certainly ascribe (and I am thankful I can do so) my loss and vexation to a weak judgment and not to a bad heart.

Early in the disagreement, mutual friends on all sides were anxious to prevent the evils they foresaw, and from memoranda I have before me, I find that Mr. Thomas Clarke (of the firm of Fynmore and Clarke, Mr. Taylor’s solicitors), had proposed, on the part of Mr. Taylor, that we should refer our differences to arbitration, so that we might go on together on pacific terms. Previously to this I had taken the opinion of counsel, as copied in a preceding chapter, upon the point of bringing an action against him for slander; and if this proceeding was to be stopped by a reference, I insisted, as a preliminary, that he should disavow in writing the “knowledge of any thing which could militate against my reputation as an honest man, or my honour as a gentleman,” as the “only grounds on which he could resume an amicable connection with credit to himself;” and my letter to Mr. Clarke added—

“It is needless to observe that after what has passed, some time of good faith and regulated intercourse must elapse, and mutual proofs of a determination to act properly together must be given, before anything like a cordial reconciliation takes place. What sacrifices are made now, are made to interest and not to affection. That I am not of a vindictive disposition, I presume Mr. Taylor’s experience of
me will acknowledge, and the legal course I have resorted to will confirm. I could have harassed Mr. Taylor with lawsuits, which, though not sufficient for my purpose, would have exposed him to great expenses (I speak as advised by eminent counsel). I have not done this: finding obstacles in the way of full self-vindication, I dropped all proceedings, which could only have gratified revenge. The steps I have taken are merely calculated to define our mutual rights. This, I imagine, is the object proposed by a reference. Perhaps it might, with the preliminary before stated, be attained by agreement even without the latter expense. Shortly, then, will Mr. Taylor write the letter I demand, and state his willingness to go on amicably with me? If he at once adopts this just and salutary course, I am not afraid but he will endeavour to repair the bitter injuries he has done me in all quarters. As passion led him to endeavour to blast the hopes of a fellow creature, a better feeling will induce him to employ stronger efforts to eradicate the evil he has planted.

“It will then be requisite to state precisely what he wishes to have referred. I have nothing to gain by this but peace, and a co-operation, more for his own advantage than mine, and I will yield to it only on these grounds; for, after the opinions I have had of the first lawyers, I am not at all apprehensive but that I can very summarily establish all the pretensions which I set up.

“Your immediate answer to this letter, written in the spirit of conciliation, is requested, as, if satisfactory, I may pause in incurring heavy expenses.

“Yours truly, &c.,
“W. J.”

The legal difficulties above alluded to will be readily
comprehended by those who are aware of the technicalities which shut out the truths of the whole of any case being allowed to be brought out in a court of justice. This and that are out of the record, or something or another of that sort is sure to prevent the disclosure or proof of circumstances which parties may consider most material; but which are, perhaps necessarily, excluded as not directly bearing upon the issue in question, and opening too wide a field for the established system of forensic investigation. The legal opinions I have quoted will illustrate this. But meanwhile I find the next mention of
Mr. Taylor, is a proposition about the sale of his share in the property, or the purchase of all. My letter to Messrs. Fynmore and Clarke will show how this was received:—

“Little Chelsea, Feb. 8th, 1816.

“I confess that while so important a part of our correspondence as my letter of the 20th ult., is lying unnoticed, I was surprised by your note of yesterday, requiring ‘an early and definite answer.’ The purport of that note, besides this indecorum, I do not clearly apprehend. Sure I am, that you would not be the conscious instruments of a design to entrap me into unwary concessions, and your client has no claim for any voluntary facilities towards his speculations to be afforded on my part. If he purchase, or if he sell, it must be at his own responsibility; I absolve myself from interference with, and still more distinctly from sanctioning, either.

“I inclose two letters for your client, open, that you may be aware of their contents. My object in calling for a settlement of accounts is that I may receive the salary due to me, a current expense, and such as ought surely to be
paid without putting me to the trouble of taking harassing legal measures to enforce it, and expose what ought to be kept secret. The other matter is more personal, and explains itself. Be assured that it is most painful to me to find myself drawn into so unpleasant a predicament, but constant insults and injuries admit of no medium course, and have determined me to hold no measures with a person unceasingly on the watch to turn every transaction to my prejudice.

“I am, Gentlemen,
“With sincere esteem and regard,
“Your obedient servant,
Messrs. Fynmore and Clarke.”

The meaning of this is explained by the following letter from Mr. Gray, my solicitor, whose sudden and recent death has caused me, as already noticed, to lament the loss of another old and intimate friend, added to the dark list of half a century.

“Dear Sir,

“I have been to Westminster Hall the whole morning, and have not had time to call upon you.

“Yourself v. Taylor for breach of covenant. The defendant has pleaded that he never executed the deed of partnership; on this plea, therefore, there is no doubt but you must have a verdict, and the only question will be the amount of damages. This is a curious plea, after all his vapouring. Archdall kept the appointment, and gave his note of hand for 33l. 13s., payable at a guinea-and-a-half per month.”

This last piece of information deserves a note, illustrative
of the law of Dr. and Cr. in those days, and the practices to which they led.
Archdall was the son-in-law of Mr. Lane, the editor of the “Globe” while I was engaged on that journal. Archdall, unlike the porter-quaffing and pipe-smoking nightly editor of the Aurora, described in my first volume, being only a reporter, prolonged his indulgences throughout the day, and was, in short, a quiet, large, guzzling native of the Emerald Isle, who would have been fresh and good-looking but for the reddening splashes on his countenance, and especially on his nose, occasioned by habitual intemperance. Having good credit as the editor’s son, he got into some debt for the vivres and tipple, for which he was suddenly called to account; on which occasion I consented to be one of his bail, my fellow-surety for the production of his portly and port-filled person when legal occasion required, being a man who kept a convenient tavern somewhere behind the Admiralty, whence he dispensed chops, with stout (Pale Ale not yet having become so popular) and other condiments, to clerks in the adjacent government offices, and responsible newspaper reporters. This Boniface, being also a considerable creditor, kindly consented to save the now hampered consumer of what hampers held, from durance vile. Well, I heard no more of the business, and thought little or nothing about it after; supposing that our friend had settled the disagreeable affair, and “there an end.” But it was not so; and never could I forget a fine summer evening, when I was sauntering up the Strand, with some notes of a slight Parliamentary debate in my pocket, a civil gentleman at the top of Cecil-street, endeavoured to get me into a little private conversation. I told him I had not leisure to attend to him; and then he appeared to wish to show me something, which I, fancying it was a rich India shawl, or some
beautiful smuggled handkerchiefs, refused to look at. But the smuggler was persevering, and intimated to me that a Mr. Heinrich, or Henrich, whom I knew by name as a member of the Eccentric Society, and an attorney, had something very particular to say to me down the street, where he lived. Of course I turned down, to ascertain what this interesting communication might be; and had not proceeded many steps when my new acquaintance tapped me on the shoulder, and arrested me, in the name of some terrible judge, intimating, at the same time, that he expected I would remember his civility in not exposing me to capture in the more public Strand. The attorney who played this unhandsome trick, did reside a few houses down the street; but my otherwise accommodating companion, who was soon joined by another friend, would not accompany me thither. I had been joint-bail for a debt of about 20l., the loss of half of which I thought could not hurt me, but I was, unwarned and unapprised, in custody for between 60l. and 70l., as the writ too clearly witnessed, under somebody’s hand or hands with which I was not familiar. I was accordingly sorely perplexed, but the bailiff consented, for a promised consideration, to go with me to the “
Morning Post” office, where I fortunately found my friend Mr. Byrne, and, though past banking hours, we contrived to satisfy the demand, with the few guineas annexed for the delicacy with which the commission was executed, and the accommodation. I was repaid the balance mentioned in Mr. Gray’s note, in the manner arranged; but the poor innkeeper had also been taken, notoriously, from the midst of his business, and the blight upon his credit led to his ruin. The law is bad enough yet, but it is much amended since then, and must, now the country is awakened to its oppressions, be quickly amended much more.


Poor Archdall, he was truly ashamed of plunging me into such a scrape. Witness the annexed,—

“127, Strand.
My Dear Sir,—

“If you will allow me to call you by that appellation, I would request that you would meet my other creditors to-morrow evening at Hillyard’s (Oliver’s Coffee-house), tomorrow evening (sic) at six o’clock. Thirteen weeks have occurred since I commenced my first payment, and it is necessary that a dividend should he made. Believe me, I should have seen you before this, but have been ashamed of apparent ill-conduct, which I trust on a personal communication with you, I shall be able to prove was not intentional. Have the goodness to bring the amount of your demand with you.

“Your sincere and obliged friend,

This however was a momentary and an amusing scratch, while the consuming sore ripened in the “Sun.” Further counsel was sought, and every effort, and abstinence from effort, tried in vain to bring about an accommodation which might avert the consequences of the mad warfare now waging. Another letter from my solicitor, Mr. Gray, will explain some new features in the case.

“October 28th, 1816.
Dear Sir,—

“I had an interview for above an hour to-day with Mr. Frederick Pollock, and the inclination of his opinion is very strongly in favour of leaving all matters in difference to some mutual friend. I represented to him
Mr. Heriot and Mr. Clarke had been successively named and refused by Taylor, and that he had offered an arbitration only on some particular points, which, of course, could not be accepted. Mr. P. says, he thinks you stand at present in a more imposing position than ever, from having obtained the judgment against Taylor, and he does not seem to be very sanguine as to large damages. Though he admits, if even moderate damages were obtained, it would go a great way to settle with Taylor. He says as you have received no special damage by the speaking of the words, the damages will not be very great, but they would either stop his mouth, or pave the way to a much larger sum on a second offence. He discourages an indictment for perjury, and says it will utterly preclude, in his opinion, any arrangements, as a defendant in such a case generally answers to such a proposition, you have an indictment pending over me, and until that be fixed or settled some way or other, I cannot treat with you at all.

“My father and myself are to see Mr. Pollock to-morrow. If you could conveniently previously have an interview with my father (say two o’clock precisely) it would be quite as well.

“I communicated to my father the result of my consultation with Mr. Pollock, with whom he does not quite agree.

“I am, dear Sir, yours truly,
W. Jerdan, Esq.”

I had thought that a reference to the former proprietors of the paper, Messrs. Heriot and Clarke, must have been satisfactory: nothing would do but idle negotiations and changeable propositions. Every day the “Sun” rose
dismally and set in murky, unilluminated clouds.
Mr. Lewis Goldsmith, the editor of the “Antijacobin” newspaper, and Mr. Swift of the Regalia Office in the Tower, were proposed as arbiters to arrange the dispute; but all to no purpose. Mr. Goldsmith fancied that he had brought the affair to an amicable adjustment; but he was not aware of the mutability of the party who had apparently acquiesced in his arrangement, and assured him that he “intended forthwith to go to prepare arbitration bonds for that purpose.”

Instead of this issue, the petty squabbles and more serious annoyances were continued with unabated fury. But I will not be tempted to prolong this wretched history much more; only as I have related it my way, I deem it fair to let the reader know the full extent of my opponent’s allegations against me. The paper had commenced the year 1817 without the customary address, and no wonder, for the following is one of my colleague’s elaborated letters, not exactly in the style of Junius:—

Sun Office, 112, Strand, Feb. 8th, 1817.

“You might well apologise to Mrs. Taylor for your brutal insolence to her husband, but she despises you too much to care for your manners. She only wants you to do justice to her husband. You complain of provocation!!! Is not your absolute tyranny over my property a continued provocation to me? Is your conduct to be reconciled to any principle of justice, or any feeling of shame? You know you acquired your power by accident. You never paid a farthing towards it, but have drained it of a large sum. You know it is justly my own paper, yet will you permit me to have the least control over it? Do not you monopolise power in all directions? Might not I, living in
the house, if I had a fair and just authority, he of the utmost service in forwarding the paper, when you, perhaps, are not out of your bed. Might not
Mr. Carstairs, if any discretionary power were entrusted to him, prepare for publication early, render important service to the paper, and in doubtful cases should not I be at hand to assist him? People will not believe that any man could tyrannise over another man’s property, as you do over mine? Have you not, in many instances, brought discredit upon the paper? Must not everything that I write be submitted to your inspection, and, in spite of all the animosities which the practice has occasioned, to your additions or alterations? Sir, it is insolent to alter even the position of a comma of my writing. Do you not garble the productions of official correspondents, and set your narrow judgment and scanty knowledge against those who have official information? If this be not the most horrible provocation, what is? Yet you complain of provocation. You call me a beggar. You are then a beggar’s dependent, and live upon the credit of a beggar’s property. But beggar, as you call me, if I had not forborne to take my salary for two years, and Mr. Heriot for the same period, how would you have gained the 800l. which you took out of the concern, and which, according to a statement, which has been made out, you owe to the property at this moment, besides 131l. 5s. for French papers which you never procured, and 116l. for the law expenses occasioned by your breach of covenant in trespassing upon my department, in hiring writers without my permission? Have you not brought a man who received nothing but kindness from me, and from whom I have received written acknowledgments to that purpose—have you not brought him to insult me at the office? After coming shamefully late to the office, do you not make it often as a coffee-room
and a gossiping mart, to the delay of publication, and to the injury, and nearly destruction, of the paper? Yet you presume to tell Mrs. Taylor of provocation. I most heartily pity your poor wife, for her afflictions must be heightened by the consideration that you bring all that she suffers on yourself by your conduct towards me. While you were responsible to others you seemed to have some plea, but you now are to be considered as responsible to me only. Is not your conduct arrogant, insolent, and oppressive to the highest degree? As you never could suppose that the arbitrators would confirm your assumed power, it might have been expected that you would have abated of your sovereignty by degrees. But have you relaxed at all? Thank God, I could never commit such conduct, or I should be as callous as you are to the opinions of mankind. If you had conducted yourself with any regard to my just rights, and like a gentleman, matters might have been harmoniously arranged between us. People who have known me all my life, know that I am far from being of a quarrelsome or unkind disposition; but they know that I am firm in the maintenance of my rights. I have a wife and son to support, and you are ruining the property which I hoped to be able to bequeath to them. Can you offer any one plea in favour of your conduct, or rather in palliation or excuse for it? and living upon the credit of my property as you do, and not permitting me to have any share in the management of it, dare you talk of provocation! Sir, do not give me much more provocation, for if you do, I will make a brief but emphatic statement to the world, and then I believe your right will soon be at an end. Reflect upon this letter before it is too late, and reform, otherwise, the Lord have mercy upon you.

Mr. William Jerdan.”

One might fancy such a setting down enough, but not so my indefatigable correspondent. Within a few days he followed up his charges with more artillery, of which the annexed is an example—


“I have seen your answer to my note to Mr. Carstairs, and I still say that I do not believe a syllable you say or write, Your treatment of me is revolting to the feelings of everybody who hears of it, but your own wretched sycophants, who can be bribed to your cause by the play-house freedoms, which you find so useful. You told me, before Mr. Owen, that Mr. Canning ‘despised me for attempting to lessen your credit with him,’ and you told Mr. Owen that you had had a kind and friendly letter from Mr. Canning. I shall endeavour to ascertain both of these points, though I believe neither. When I told you that I should advise Mr. Freeling to return the manuscript which you took from Bellingham, and which ought to have been surrendered to the law, or to the widow, you said, ‘Mr. Freeling would laugh at me.’* If so, I shall certainly put him into a jocular mood, but I believe that he will not

* The annexed note on the subject will dispose of this foolery.

think that he has reason to rejoice in having sacrificed a friend whom he had known nearly thirty years, for a person with whom he casually became acquainted, because that person dedicated a sneaking, fawning address to him in a work to which he singly put his name as translator, though he was assisted by two others. I have made a minute of everything relating to your conduct, since you came to this place, and have most, if not all, of everything you have written to me. All shall in due time be promulged, and then it will be seen if you are a proper object for government protection. You know what I mean. I shall certainly file a bill in chancery against you, to require a knowledge of all you have received, if you have received anything, on account of the paper. I have made you several liberal proposals, which I have been told I was mad in offering, and you more mad in declining. You have never proposed a modification of your accidentally obtained and ill-exercised power, and your proposals to quit the concern have been so extravagant as to excite laughter. I once more ask you what sum you will take to abandon your connection with the paper? I expect your answer on Monday. But you must not regulate it by your estimate of ‘the patronage of the paper,’ which you have sometimes rated at three thousand, and sometimes at five thousand, pounds. This estimate will be a strong point in my account of your proceedings. You have often accused me of attempting to undermine your character—your character!!! I have stated nothing but facts, which can be proved by others, and God forbid that I should resort to needless and wanton exaggerations. Remember, I shall on Monday resort to you to know what sum you require to relinquish all connection with a property which you have nearly ruined.


With a few lines of mine in general reply to the foregoing, and fifty equally agreeable epistles, I shall relieve my readers of a correspondence, the publication of at least a portion of which was indispensable to my biography.

“Old Brompton.”

“In answer to your note, I will accept one thousand pounds in full for salary (being now between five and six hundred pounds in arrear) and profits as a proprietor of the ‘Sun,’ and a well-secured annuity of two hundred pounds for my life. Upon these terms I will surrender all the rights I have in the ‘Sun’ newspaper. This letter is without prejudice to pending proceedings.

“I am, Gentlemen,
“Your most obedient Servant,
Messrs. Fynmore and Clarke.”
“7th March, Sun Office, afternoon.
Mr. Taylor, Sir,

“It is very painful to be forced day after day to reply to the same sort of letters, especially after declining so positively as I have done the inconveniencies of your correspondence, and stating how decisively I had made up my mind to the line of conduct which it had become imperative on me to pursue. On the subject of the paper be assured I will notice no communication; and with regard to offers of purchase, sale, or reference, Mr. Gray will from this date be the proper organ. I have nothing to add but that I do not value your offer of an annuity while the ‘Sun’ is published, at 20l., and have no alteration to notice in my sentiments respecting the life annuity,
in which, if you were sincere in what you said, I was accepting your own proposal.


The best commentary upon the pecuniary assertions contained in the first broadside, will be found in the terms of my letter, when so badgered and plagued, that I had agreed to sell my interest; and will demonstrate the heavy loss at which I got out of this senseless and disgraceful squabble; in which, not to espouse the cause of my infuriate vituperator, was to be guilty of a heinous offence: witness the following, addressed to a gentleman of the highest character, who had peremptorily refused his adhesion, as all others did, either in that manner or by shunning intercourse.

“31st October, 1816, Sun Office, 112, Strand.
Dear Sir,—

“When I had the pleasure of meeting you sometime ago in the Argyle Booms, and complained to you of the treatment which I experienced from your friend, Mr. Jerdan, you said you thought he was right, and that in the same situation you should act in the same manner. Now as I shall ‘be glad to learn of abler men,’ I should esteem it a great favour if you would let me know upon what principle of morality and common justice, to say nothing of religion, you would justify such treatment, from one who is not the proprietor of a single share of the ‘Sun’ newspaper, to one who is the proprietor of nine-tenths,

“I beg leave to thank you for your recent critique on ‘Coriolanus;’ but I fear it is much too sublime and poetical for ordinary readers, and may be misconstrued into bombast and turgidity by the vulgar—‘Caviare to the million.’


“I forgot, I fear, to tell you that I in vain attempted to obtain a written acknowledgment from Mr. Jerdan of your claim upon him for letters written from Paris, though, as I learned from you, he had repeatedly promised to give one. But this is one of the features of his conduct which shall be properly noticed in due time and place.

“I am, dear Sir, sincerely yours,
The Rev. George Croly.”