LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 3: The Sun

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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How much an Editor would lose, if he,
Abandoning mysterious incogs,
Wrote little “I” instead of mighty “We!”
For when a man the public memory jogs
In a tremendous, slashing “leading article,”
To stamp upon the thunderbolt “Tim Scroggs!”
Would spoil its efficacy no small particle!
There is much wisdom in that same plurality,
It neutralises personal rascality,
And shrouds from scorn his individuality!
The Dutch have ta’en Holland!
The French thieves are flying,
Who have beat the whole world
Both in Running and Lying.

The review of a long life, my friends, is a grave business, and if treated in the sombre colours which too largely overshadow it, would be exceedingly dull. I have therefore endeavoured to mingle the amusing with the serious, and the light with the solid; and I have cause to rejoice that, so far as I have gone, my attempt has met with such general approbation. Some remarks have, nevertheless, been made on the desultory character of my composition, and the jumble of dates and topics, instead of proceeding regularly in due order of time, or following out particular subjects to the end. But the truth is that, from the nature
of the work, such a course was impossible. Many events connect themselves after the lapse of years, and many persons appear at different periods under entirely different aspects, and altogether different circumstances. In the one case there would be such a leaping backward and forward as would be ludicrously confusing; and in the other my Autobiography would be nothing but a bundle of episodes. For these reasons I must beg leave to go on according to my own fashion—the only way in which I can go on—and to ask indulgence for unavoidable incongruities and apparent looseness in the chain, though not without a plan. To arrange all my materials, big and little, in a perfectly systematic order, would defy the ingenuity of the most exigent of my critics. Portraits and anecdotes do not depend on exact dates; but are good for the 1st of April in the year One, or for Christmas day, a.d. 50.

But to my critics, with one foul personal exception too contemptible for notice, I have nothing but thanks to return. My first volume (as acknowledged in a preceding introductory chapter, though written after this,) has passed favourably enough through its trial, the verdict reminding me somewhat of that on the other old woman, who was arraigned for stealing a pair of boots, in the home county famous for calves, but found “Not Guilty” by the Jury; and admonished by the Bench to go away, and take care that she did not do the like again! Yet here I am at the Book, which is much worse than the Boot affair, once more.

The “Sun,” as I have stated, was a strenuous Pitt and high Tory journal; but it would be a very fallacious idea to believe it to have been the mere obsequious tool of any man or body of men. It gave and received support upon principles thus truly enunciated by me on the 21st October, 1814:—“Our diurnal publications, of which there are
fifteen, eight morning and seven evening, may be divided into three sorts:—1. The Ministerial, or such as generally support the measures of Government; 2. The Opposition, or such as generally arraign them; and 3. The Neutral, or such as proceed upon a declaration that they belong to no party. To begin with the last: they are scarcely to be distinguished; for in this country, where the extremes of opinion are not always enforced, and men lean occasionally, more or less, from the side of the cause they commonly espouse, to commend or condemn particular acts, it is not easy to steer a middle course, which shall be remarkable enough to merit a classification per se. Thus the independent papers, as they call themselves, are only publications a little more or a little less warm in their attachment to Ministers, or to their Opponents.

“The ministerial papers (as they are called) are confined to, at most, one-third of the fifteen; their names it would be unbecoming in us to particularise. Their nature is precisely this. Ministers do not control a single opinion they contain, nor are they dictated to one iota either in their general conduct or in their sentiments upon special occasions. The connection existing between these papers and the government is natural, and in no instance, we believe, corrupt. Newspapers which have, from principle, advocated, and continue to maintain, the excellency of that system upon which the present administration, following the footsteps of the immortal Pitt, conduct the affairs of the country, receive no reward for that independent support, if that is not considered a reward which consists in occasional information, which enables them at once to gratify the public, and more effectually to do justice to all in the accuracy of their statements.”

Such in truth was the condition of the London periodical
press at the period referred to; and I am inclined to think that it is pretty much the same now, though more divided into organs of various parties. My own labour was a labour of love; but Tory as I was, my pen never ceased to exert its dearest efforts to promote the comforts of the people—the “masses” as they are now termed,—and so soon as grim-visaged war had smoothed his wrinkled front, my predilection for literature and the arts was shown by my commencing a regular literary review of new publications in the pages of the “
Sun” (a pattern at length followed in every quarter); and being one of the boldest and earliest, if not the very earliest, champion for cheap bread, cheap food, and cheap clothing for the poorer classes, and the downfall of war prices, which enriched only one class, the agricultural, including landlords and tenants!

At the present day I may be excused for boasting of this consistency. In alliance with Ministers or free, in connection with the book-trade or on my own footing, wherever the press was in my hands I never compromised its sacred functions, but endeavoured with all my might so to
Play the enchanter’s part
And scatter bliss around;
That not a tear nor aching heart
Should in the world be found.

I trust I may be permitted to offer proof of this; by reference to my writings eight-and-thirty years ago. George the Third was reluctant to sanction the appointment of Sir James Macintosh to Bombay, and when the Premier represented to his Majesty that Sir James’ politics had been greatly moderated, the King quaintly and sagaciously observed, “Aye, aye, an honest man may change his Opinions, aye, more than once—but mark me, never his
Principles.” I cordially assent to this truth, and though it is so long since I mixed in the political melée, I look back with satisfaction to those efforts which were invariably addressed to ensure the welfare of the many throughout the millions of population and every industrious class of the community. Thus, at the period alluded to, when the Corn Laws were discussed, and it was endeavoured in Parliament to keep up the exorbitant rate to which grain, butcher’s meat, and every other article of consumption had arisen, I appealed, and wrote from day to day in the following strain:—

“Every link in the chain of high prices obtains a little more than is exactly just, in order completely to cover loss. The importer sells sugar at 70s. which should be only 50s.; and so on throughout every species of internal produce, or external acquisition, which can be named. Thus A. B. pays 5l. for a coat, 5l. for colonial produce, and 5l. for linen, which were corn cheap he might severally obtain for little more than half these sums. There can be no doubt that the price of all kinds of labour is regulated by the price of sustenance—the workmen at the loom, in the field, in the warehouse, must live—their families must be supported. If corn is dear, wages must of necessity be high, and this state of things is felt in every branch and ramification of our manufactures, every effort of industry, every particle of produce, and every commodity imported. It is confessed that we cannot raise provisions at so low a rate as our continental competitors; but are we therefore, of our own accord, to fix them so madly high as to render it equally impossible for us to enjoy the advantage of our superior skill and machinery, and meet them in the market with our staple woollens, our Birmingham and Sheffield wares, our wrought and unwrought ores, our cottons, and
all our productions of mechanical process and well-applied industry. Such would ensue from the proposed measures required by the mistaken men who are attempting to make us believe, contrary to sense and reason, that bread at 1s. 3d. the quartern loaf is necessary to our national salvation. We dare not trust ourselves to follow out this subject, nor do we desire it, for we are convinced that the object in view can never be realised. Were it realised the fate of Great Britain would be sealed, and her greatness annihilated. The country could not survive the shock. Soon would we be driven from every market on earth, and our commerce would be nipped and perish in the bud. At home people could not live, and emigration to foreign lands, or disorders in our own, must inevitably ensue. Then, when too late, the Land Owner would discover that it would have been well for him, and happy for his country, had he suffered the prime necessary of life, like all other things, to find its natural level, and as nearly as possible flow back to that wholesome bound which existed before this tremendous war raised him at the expense of his fellow citizens.”—
The Sun, September 24th, 1814.

“We lament every accession of price put upon the necessaries of life.”—Idem, September 26th.

“The people deserve to be considered in everything, and their welfare is paramount to the enjoyment of luxuries, either by Land Owner or Merchant. Let them, we say, have bread and every other article of consumption as cheap as possible; by this our wages will be lowered, and, of consequence, our manufactures enabled to meet all competition at the fair of Leipsic, or any other fair. We shall meet and undersell our rivals at their own doors—the people will be better able to pay the taxes which a heavy debt and great expenditure demand—and the picture which our croakers
delight to draw will be entirely reversed. But if everything is to be alike burthensome; if we are indeed to have our war taxes continued; our Corn Laws established, so that bread can never be cheap; and our Warehousing Acts perpetuated for ever, so that all merchandise shall retain its exorbitant rate, then adieu to Britain’s prosperity and glory, and we may paint a state of being as gloomy as any sham patriot can desire.”—Idem, November 11th.

And lastly—“Our sole object is the good of the nation; and we shall be equally ready hereafter to protect to the utmost of our humble abilities, the Agricultural against any encroachments of the Commercial interests, as we have been zealously anxious at this time to guard against what we held to be unjustifiable pretensions of the former. We want to have the produce of both at a cheap rate for the People, and we know that manufactures cannot be cheap, either for Home or Foreign consumption, if Corn be dear. We want to descend gradually, and in a ratio consistent with the burdens of the country, to a safe and healthful state of prices in the body politic. Therefore we oppose the perpetuation of the Corn War Charges.”*

I assure my readers that I am neither quoting Mr. Cobden nor Mr. Bright, nor Mr. Wilson, nor Mr. Fox, but the dicta of the writer of this little book, before the party cry of Free Trade was invented, or Protection had assumed that title.

But, in my vocation, I was not the less Tory editor

* And how steady these principles were, will be seen by the annexed brief extract from a leading article on the Property Tax, in the following year, viz: Nov. 18, 1815:—

“The Editor of the Sun is convinced that a well-modified Property Tax is the most advisable measure of finance which can be adopted for this nation in peace or in war, and is most anxious to see a right scale devised for levying it; a scale not descending too low to oppress the humble, nor taxing casual profits like certain proceeds of real property; but, in short, combining all the advantages which a happy theory can suggest.”

because I was a friend to the people. In that position I argued, and fought, and squibbed, and abused, with the hottest of my contemporaries. Poor
Matthews’s severe accident, Charles Dibdin’s death, the famous Stock Exchange hoax, the débût of Miss O’Neill, Byron’s marriage; nay, the war in America and the grand Congress at Vienna, were all seasoned with diatribes and jokes in prose and verse, as occasion served; and the “Sun” shone blithely over the Island.

Thus, during the splendid Peace Jubilee, when rejoicings and festivities were at their height, the following ballad of mine was added to the merry score, August 5th:—

Tune.—Maggy Lauder.
An Engineer-Lieutenant I;
At Brienne educated;
Learnt love and trigonometry,
And a shrewd chap was rated.
Without a livre in my purse,
Want, close to work made me fix;
And I, for better and for worse,
Was Ubicumque Felix!
Ubicumque, Ubicumque, Ubicumque Felix,
Ubicumque, Ubicumque, Ubicumque Felix,
Ubicumque, Ubicumque, Ubicumque Felix,
Ubi, Ubi, Ubi, Ubi, Ubicumque Felix!
At Paris, then, I took my way,
No scoundrel e’er went further,
And revell’d nobly, night and day,
In rapine, blood, and murther;

* A month previous to this, however, the intrigues going on at Elba were more than suspected, though their real character and actual object could not be fathomed.

For when the Jacobins began
Their Revolution Free tricks,
They found I was their very man,
And Ubicumque Felix!
Ubicumque, &c.
In Italy, some fine campaigns
I fought, and gathered glory;
A wife got, to reward my pains,
From Barras’ Directo-ry.
I plundered—pillaged—church and shrine
And stole the Pope’s crucifix;
And then in Paris made a shine,
As Ubicumque Felix!
Ubicumque, &c.
To Egypt, next, I went, so brave,
To conquer every Acre;
But Smith would only yield a grave
Of ground: d—d undertaker!
I Mufti turn’d—all wouldn’t do,
And so I off to sea risks,
And safely steer’d the English through,
Oh, Ubicumque Felix!
Ubicumque, &c.
First Consul, Emperor and King,
With crowns and sceptres play’d I—
With titles graced each low-born thing
And made each Joan* a lady.
I thump’d the Continent about
With war and grand poli-tics,
And thrash’d each sovereign so stout,
Like Ubicumque Felix!
Ubicumque, &c.
My old dame, now, I cast adrift,
To work a princess’ thraldom;
To get an heir I made a shift,
And King of Rome I call’d him.

* It is not so delicate in the original; but tempora mutantur, et nos, &c.

United thus with royalty,
Good luck to favour me sticks,
And I deem the world the property
Of Ubicumque Felix!
Ubicumque, &c.
My brothers all I Monarchs made,
And Queens my sister harlots;
But Joseph found it a bad trade,
And Spaniards cursed varlets.
’Gainst Moscow, too, I urged my force,
Where fortune first at me kicks,
Yet back to France I shape my course,
Still Ubicumque Felix!
Ubicumque, &c.
Now, Wellington, and Russ, and Pruss,
Began to pluck the Phœnix;
I sorely fear’d they would me truss,
And send me over the Styx.
They used me better—took my wife,
And conscience never me pricks;
In Elba I enjoy my life—
Imp. Ubicumque Felix!”
Ubicumque, &c.

Only the day before, August 4th, so incited had become my rhyming faculties, I had perpetrated the annexed piece; but really, all the Pitt school were half-crazed at this season, with the success which had carried that policy through, the disappointment of which preyed upon him, and laid him in his tomb in Westminster Abbey years before the triumph which awaited his arduous patriotism. I deliver here no opinion upon the right or th« wrong of the policy pursued; that is not for the newspapers of the day, nor autobiographists, but for history; and so, only for its temporary application, here is my song:—

I served, my boys, you must know,
On board the Undaunted Frigate,
When from Fréjus with Boney in tow,
To Elba we forced him to jig it.
Cried Jack, from the Launch, to me,
As we was sailing past—
“So, you’ve got Nap safe I see;”
Yes, we’ve caught the fellow at last.
Right, tight, tol de rol la!
Boney he stood on deck the while,
Shamming not to know our patter;
But he gave a grin for a smile
When he heard our curious chatter.
As Jack, from the Launch, to me,
Called out as we went past—
“So, you’ve got Nap safe, I see;”
Yes! we’ve caught the fellow at last.
Tol de rol.

Another verse applies to the fancy fleet on the Serpentine, in Hyde Park, and is not worth repeating—if the others are? In this place, also, I may as well attach my own value to productions like these; and I think my practice of judgment is such, that I can weigh them quite as fairly as if they had been written by Somebody else. They are smart enough for their immediate purpose, and display, a cleverness and talent well fitted for the small ready change of temporary currency; but they seldom possess the sterling even for future curiosity, and could, therefore, chiefly be defended in a personal light, as forming parts of the life of an individual who imagined his biography worthy of public acceptance; yet, as miscellaneous reading, in our run-a-head days, they may also revive already forgotten memories, obliterated by recent events, more or less important, which
occupy the attention of the living generation.
Napoleon and Alexander, “turned to clay,” are now nearly in the same category; and dead lions are not brutes to lecture on for asses kicking their way, alike regardless of the past and blind to the future. I must at the same time state, that for one jeu de circonstance which I repeat, I shall in compassion for my readers leave a great number of the excess to their deserved repose.

Till near the close of the year, my letters descriptive of Paris continued to appear as opportunity suited, and the whole number, between thirty and forty, were popular at the time. Paris had so long been sealed up, that they possessed much novelty, and the generally attractive tone of light anecdote contributed to this result. For instance the whim of the people struck me in the name of an Hotel in one of the inferior streets, the “Hôtel des Milords ci-devant,” the Tavern for Would-be-great folks. I do not recollect so sarcastic an inn in all England. It seemed, however, to be well frequented, from which I presume that the Would-be’s there, as elsewhere, were by no means the most limited class in society. The Jolly Beggars is probably our nearest approach to this sign; but the company under that name are almost always great folks, if not absolutely royal, before they depart. With another of my Parisian trifles I shall conclude this chapter.

In Elba is placed (an appropriate station!)
Napoleon, once able—once feared by each nation;
Now stript of his empire, his legions dispersed,
His real situation is able reversed.