LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 7: A Character

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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“He was a man, take him for all in all,
I ne’er shall look upon his like again.”—Shakspeare.
“Detraction’s a hold monster, and fears not
To wound the fame of princes, if it find
But any blemish in their lives to work on.”—Massinger.
“Still to ourselves in every state consigned,
Our own felicity we make or find.”—Goldsmith.

He is a slow fellow, Time; yet, at his slowest, it is wonderful how fast he creeps on. The tortoise overtakes and passes all the speed of this world! and, in the meanwhile, he who sleeps has no care for him who wakes, and so the great globe rolls on with its busy mites and fluttering insects.

To look at it in this light seems to be almost the most natural and wise; for when we fall into the very serious view, it inflicts a reproach upon earnest philanthropy and cosmopolite virtue. We may see the mites and the insects depart without a sigh, but it is grievous to mark the humane efforts and the earthly reward of the truly good. Labouring to be a benefactor to his fellow-creatures, and, perhaps, aspiring to immortality, he struggles, he pants, he gains the portal of the temple of Fame, in self-sacrifice, in legislation, in science, in art, in literature; and lo! Death opens
his bony arms to embrace and wrap him in everlasting darkness.

The Scottish admirers of Burns, the greatest of Scotia’s bards, having proceeded to a promising length with the design for erecting a mausoleum to his memory at Dumfries, I was invited to adopt the cause, which I heartily did, and on the 19th of June addressed the public on the patriotic object. I called the attention of the sons of Scotland in the Metropolis to it, and exhorted them to evince their admiration of their native poet, and attachment to their native land. Much, I said, had the country been reproached with indifference to the fate of her ornament when living; but, without entering into the painful merits or demerits of that question, I deplored any coldness towards the promotion of this last tribute to the dead, when there were no frailties to censure and no errors to condemn, as it would, indeed, be a disgrace to that land of worth and genius. My appeal was warmly responded to; though it was not till the 25th of May ensuing that all the necessary preparations could be completed, and the meeting at the Freemasons’ Tavern, with the Earl of Aberdeen in the chair, carried into effect. Reserving an account of this gratifying transaction for the proper date of its occurrence, I shall not dwell much longer on the circumstances of 1815. Yet, in this year, a coming event cast its shadow before, which had a most essential bearing on all my future life: I allude to the violent quarrel which arose between me and my colleague, Mr. John Taylor,—or, rather, I should say, his quarrel with me; for, in truth, the affair was altogether so irrational, that I could not for a long time bring myself to treat it seriously; and it was only when the consequences began to be ruinous, that I could think of it otherwise than in the ludicrous words of George Colman, when he described the
ambitious David Daw as refusing to play the hind parts in the skins of animals:—
“Of all insides, the town likes me the best;
Over my head no underlings shall jump:
I’ll play you front legs, shoulders, neck, and breast,
But, d— me, if I act your loins and. rump.
“It was the strangest precedent, by far,
In ancient, or in modern story,
Of such a desperate intestine war!
Waged in so small a territory!”—
Sir Robert Peel and Daniel O’Connell would endeavour to fight a duel about the same period—the month of October—it was a bagatelle compared to our feud. Yet, of the former, Mr. Freeling wrote to me, “I am very sorry that the life of two clever, sensible men, like Saxton and Peel, are to be put to hazard in such a case!!!” Desperate as we were, our lives were, fortunately, in no jeopardy; but, if they had been, nobody could truly have said of us that it was a risk of sensible men! It was, really, so like a tale of sound and fury told by an idiot, that its coming to nothing was my long-confirmed idea. Perhaps this was unfortunate; and, if I had maturely considered and weighed matters at first, the results, disastrous as they were to both parties, might have been mitigated or avoided.

As the dispute, however, led to personal consequences of the utmost importance to me, I am obliged to relate the story at some length; and, painful as it was at the time, and distressing in its finale, I will, nevertheless, endeavour to tell it in such a manner that it shall not fatigue nor ennuye my readers. Critical moments of life, so fearful in the approach to them, so agitating in their climax, and so pregnant in their futurity, only require a turn of the hourglass to become no more fearful, no more agitating, and far
less overwhelming; and, turn the glass two or three times more, and you are astonished that you ever feared so much, were ever so strangely agitated, and that the sequel is so different from what you anticipated. There is an excellent axiom ascribed to the first of the wealthy Rothschilds—“Never look back, always look forward,” implying the vanity of useless regrets, and the worldly wisdom of planning for the future, without being disturbed by apprehensions which were equally vain and useless, as they could have no influence on “the event.” Before and After, in a human life point of vision, are almost as distinct as Time and Eternity. Within a very few years I could look back on my troubles in the “
Sun” with complacency; and before he died I had the satisfaction of hearing, and, when in my presence, earnestly endeavouring to stop, my old friend and enemy in his voluble protestations of sorrow that he had ever been so misled and so provoked. And then it was that I took myself to task, and thought if it were to do again, I might have adopted a more conciliatory course.

The “Sun” newspaper had been declining for some time, or, as Mr. Fladgate expressed it, “The Sun was going down, in a very hazy set,” when the proprietors did me the honour to select me from among the press writers, to conduct its editorship, with the hope of improving its condition. I joyfully accepted this advance in station, though not in income; for, as I stated in my former volume, my provincial engagements and reporter’s salary considerably overbalanced any emoluments I could expect from a struggling daily journal. But there was the sanguine temperament of my nature, and the hope that I should be the Phœbus, instead of the Icarus, to drive the God-chariot to a comfortable coachhouse, and so I gave up nearly all else—all that required the expenditure of time and much mind,
and took the reins of that same Phœbus, or, as after a few annual drives turned up, of that same Icarus.

The fact is not to be concealed that Mr. Herriot the original editor and principal proprietor of the journal, Mr. Robert Clarke, my precursor, and a considerable proprietor, did attribute the decline of the paper to Mr. Taylor’s unfitness to take a lead in such a publication, and were anxious to change the system. For this I was sought and brought in; and, always faithful to my own determined independence, I became a partner, receiving one-tenth share, and taking an allowance of between five and six hundred pounds a-year for editing, with uncontrolled and uncontrollable authority; Mr. Herriot retaining five shares, Mr. Clarke three, and Mr. Taylor one, like myself. Thus we went on harmoniously for awhile, till in an unlucky—as far as I was concerned, an injurious moment—Messrs. Herriot and Clarke* thought fit to sell their shares to Mr. Taylor, forgetting that but for their first intention to supersede his deteriorating writings, I would not have been there—and thus making him, to an immense extent, the chief proprietor, and me in that sense, an underling, yet in all else a political and literary despot.

When this apple of discord was thrown in, it may readily be conceived what it must lead to. Taylor, proprietor of nine-tenths of a rising journal, for it had risen several hundreds under my management, presumed that he had a

* Such statements as I make in this way are the undisguised truth. I think I have attained the power to judge of myself as accurately as I would of another person; and I have nothing of this kind to hide. Mr. Robert Clarke, as estimable a man as ever lived, was tired of his office, and of differing from Mr. Taylor. He yielded, to avoid the unpleasantness, and in selling to Taylor, not only preferred his own ease, but forgot that he was putting me, his friend, into a much worse position. I write now with such a witness as Mr. T. Clarke, his very near relative, the solicitor to the Board of Ordnance, in possession of every fact.

right, at once, to annul my contract, insert what he thought fit, and abolish the Dictator!

Such was the origin of our contention. Taylor would write friendly, or what are called puff, notices of parties, so objectionable to my notions of (to say the least) public propriety, that I would not publish them. Whether the immoralities were lofty, dramatic, or peculiar, I resisted, and—let me make a clean breast so far—whatever my own fallings-off might be, I never consented to the promulgation of an opinion or sentiment in the press under my direction, that could deprave the moral obligations of society, or sully the purity of innocence. But before I go on, I must beg leave to sketch a portrait of John Taylor, who was a remarkable individual in his day, and has left behind him memorials, not only of curious, but of lasting interest.

John Taylor was the son, or it may be grandson, of (temporally) a yet more celebrated sire, the Chevalier Taylor, of whom, notwithstanding his fame, I will venture to guess, not one in a thousand of my readers ever heard. Yet he was in his time a glorious quack oculist, or “Opthalmiater,” as he styled himself, though—
Fickle fame
Has blotted from her rolls his name,
And twined round some new minion’s head
The faded wreath for which he bled.
three volumes in one, 8vo, 1761, is so curious, that I will give a brief notice of it.*

John Taylor, of the “Sun,” was a singular character, and known to “all the world:” that is to say, the London world of quidnuncs, playgoers, performers, artists, literati, and the moving ranks of every-day society. He was a very amusing companion, exceedingly facetious, full of anecdote,

* See Appendix E.

and endless in witticisms and puns. Yet mixing, as he did, with men of great information, and hearing, of necessity, much of solid intelligence and instructive observation, his mind was of such a cast that he either wanted perception to appreciate the value of such intercourse, or it made too slight an impression upon him to be remembered. In fact, his whole being was entranced upon the stage, in the theatre and theatrical doings and gossip, and in the actors and actresses, with nearly all of whom he lived in intimacy. Even the foremost of these, it is well understood, are not unsusceptible of flattery, and Taylor knew how to fool them to the top of their bent, and be a mighty favourite in consequence. Of prologues and epilogues he was a most prolific writer, and for versification on all sorts of subjects, he might have said with
Linnaeus, “Nulla dies sine linea;” only for “line” reading “stanza” or “verse.” His facility of composition was enormous. Tell him what you would, and suggest that it was a nice thing for a poem, and off he would rush to his room, get out his rhyming dictionary, and in a very short space of time, present you with the work done, cut and dry, generally, tolerably neat, and occasionally a successful hit. In this way was the clever and justly popular story of “Monsieur Tonson” written, and other tales, such as “Frank Hayman and the Lion,” hardly less entertaining, which will make his name known to succeeding generations. A volume of these effusions was published by John Murray in 1812, and would, in my opinion, be well worthy of a reprint.

In person, my co-partner was as peculiar as in intellect. His features were of a form which resembled an animated death’s head, covered with thin muscles and skin; his body rather tapered from the haunch to the shoulder in the sugar loaf fashion; and below, his limbs were muscular and well built, as his casing in knee-breeches and silk stockings
was properly calculated to display. This embodiment, his frequent associate, the humourous
George Colman, described in his own laughable manner by nicknaming Taylor, “Merry-death” (Meredith, most appropriate to his physiognomy,) and declaring that “Taylor’s body would do for any legs, and his legs for any body!”

It is difficult to portray the mental structure contained in this casket; for it was a congeries of contradictions; which I can only account for by re-stating that Mr. Taylor was a being of the artificial stage, not of the actual living world. He was acute, yet trifling; experienced, yet foolish; knowing in one sense, yet absurdly plotting as in a play; and looking for surprises and denouements, as if the game of life were a comedy or a farce. Over his passions he had no control, and though habitually good humoured, his recurrent phrensies were at once ludicrous and afflicting. At the wildest time of our differences he would cast himself down upon his knees, clasp his hands, gnash his teeth, and imprecate curses on my head for five minutes together, till some one humanely lifted him up and led him away to privacy. This incongenial merriment and outrageous outbreaks of temper alternated, and actions and effects, as in everything else, were redolent of the theatrical element, and had nothing in common with the common sense of mankind. In my case his disorder became a complete monomania. He thought of nothing, he talked of nothing, he wrote of nothing, he dreamed of nothing but my villany and oppression; he worried ministers with them, he distressed friends, he bored the town, he disturbed the office, and he ruined the paper. I know not if I have succeeded in conveying an intelligible idea of the individual with whom it was my luckless lot to be so closely connected. I have truly represented his smartness, his talents, and his ability; nature had not been niggardly towards him; but
his perversion behind the footlights and in the coulisses, had sadly defeated nature, and made him the extraordinary compound I have tried to depict. It will hardly he believed, and I would scarcely dare to state it, but there are many living witnesses to the fact, that Mr. Taylor’s ignorance of matters familiar even to uneducated persons and children was utterly astonishing, and could hardly be believed possible to exist in unison with such faculties as he was in reality blessed with. It was a psychological enigma. On one occasion when we were disputing about some political article, in the presence of
Mr. Clarke (all whose efforts, as well as those of other friends, were employed in vain to reason with Taylor, and procure a temperate compromise), I seriously offered to resign to him the exposition of the Sun politics if he could, at the moment, and without reference to a book on geography, repeat the names of the capitals of the principal nations in Europe. He could no more have done this, as I was quite aware, than he could have flown to them; and, of course, he did not accept the challenge. Another instance of this remarkable discrepancy occurs to me. Mrs. Taylor, an amiable and excellent lady of good family in Scotland, went on a visit to that country, by the usual mode of conveyance, a Leith smack; upon which Mr. Taylor, who be-rhymed almost every incident, wrote as usual a short poem. It commenced—
“Hail, Sister Isles!”*

* Reminding me of a Cornish lady of fortune, who, being desirous of poetic fame, commenced an epic with—

“See orient beams the setting sun.”

I corrected her MS., and the poem was published; with the sunset, as usual, in the west, and a few other matters made more conformable to generally received notions!

And it was with much argument in reference to the map he could be persuaded that England and Scotland were but one island, and that Mrs. Taylor might have gone by land, although she chose to go by sea.

I beg readers to credit me when I declare on my veracity and honour, that I have drawn this curious sketch of character, and recorded these circumstances, with no design to caricature or disparage the original. His idiosyncracy was, as I have said, a perplexing study; and whilst I have attempted to illustrate it, I have not failed, I trust, to preserve a memorial of the superior and laudable qualities with which the irrational and extravagant of his temperament and disposition were (for both our interests) unhappily combined.

Our disputes increased in frequency and bitterness. I refused to insert some of his paragraphs in commendation of parties whose conduct I deemed inconsistent with public decorum, and entertainments which offended public opinion. This he viewed as presumptuous tyranny; a small shareholder domineering over an elder and much larger proprietor; and his rage boiled up into absolute fury, nearly allied to madness. And another interference added fuel to the flames, and heaped up the measure of my flagrant iniquities. One of our mutual friends was Mr. Acheson, famed as the founder, or at least, prominent promoter of the Pitt Club; and it so happened that at this time his private views in regard to the treaty* with America clashed with those of the government. He had

* On the substance of this treaty he wrote to me in a long letter, “cramming” me with his opinions. He says: “On the substance of this treaty, as communicated to the public, I am afraid to trust myself. I look to its publication in detail with fear and trembling.” And so, I was to be induced to fly in the face of the Ministry who concluded this treaty, and whose measures I so zealously supported!

an important interest in the settlement relating to the export and import of Canadian timber; and was anxious to influence the “
Sun” in promoting his objects. To this I was intractable; and his next resource was to work upon the weakness of Mr. Taylor, and aggravate his resentment against me. In this he succeeded but too well. I might have got Taylor to modify the incongenial trifles to which I objected, but there were no means by which I could get the policy of the paper, as required by Acheson, to be consistent with its whole tone and tenor. The obstacles were irremovable, and hence our quarrel was rendered irreconcilable. Taylor in an evil hour linked himself to Acheson, who led him through years of delusion into pecuniary distress; and bitterly did he repent of it, and loudly, towards the close of his life, did he lament the dissension thus exasperated between us, and confess that his conduct towards me was most blameable and indecent. “But for that man,” he one day proclaimed in his excited manner before many wondering witnesses, in the British Institution, “we might both have ridden in our carriages. I pray you to forgive me!” For poor Taylor had been taught suffering, and gave me more pain in the utterance of his sincere apologies than he had done by his imprecations in bygone times. Indeed, he was equally the creature of impulse in both cases; there was, I believe, after all, no permanent malevolence or evil in the heart—the defect was in the head, and the error was in the reason. In his ungovernable ebullitions he was crazed; and by and by he would not have harmed me to the extent of a hair. One week was curses, the next puns, epigrams, and impromptus: strange anomaly! I look back upon the past with strong emotions of grief and pity, and an entire and kindly forgiveness of all that
vexed me so severely at the time, and left me so much cause of regret.

Matters had grown to such a pitch that the business of the journal was essentially injured, and on the 22nd of September, for self-preservation, I felt myself called upon to publish the following “Notice to Correspondents:”—

“All communications for ‘The Sun’ newspaper, must in future be addressed to the sole editor and part proprietor, William Jerdan, No other will be attended to.”

This was repeated the next day, and for a short while the storm appeared to be allayed, and the work of the concern was allowed to be executed without material interruption. But all the while the tempest was brewing, and on the 15th of October, in spite of my remonstrances and prohibition, Mr. Taylor obtained the annexed and rather unintelligible counter manifesto to be inserted:—

“To Correspondents. Mr. John Taylor, the chief and the resident proprietor of ‘The Sun,’ requests that his friends will address all communications intended for insertion, to him only, at this office. Letters in general, to be addressed as usual, to the editor.”

This also was repeated three or four times; and the internecine contest raged with an effect which rapidly deteriorated the property and diminished the circulation of the paper. It was obvious that it could not, and it would not come to good. The persons employed did not know whom to obey, and personal scenes of discreditable squabbling were of daily occurrence. On the 27th of the month my offences were consummated in a poetical wrangle. Under the head of “Original Poetry,”
against my opposing it, there appeared from the pen of
Mr. Taylor a—

Byron whose spells imagination bind,
And storm or soothe the ductile heart at will,
Ah! since the muse can paint, with equal skill,
Each bold or softer trace of human kind.
Rapt in the glowing energy of mind,
Let not the scenes of woe and danger still
’Whelm us with anguish, or with horror chill,
For sure thou now can’st fairer prospects find.
And since benignant Heaven has joined thy fate
To worth and graces all who know admire,
Led by the virtues of thy honoured mate,
Devote to happier themes thy potent lyre,
So may ye share on earth a blissful state
Till both, resigned in age, at once expire. (Signed) T.

I disliked this indifferent composition, not only for its poetical demerits, but for its bad taste, as I conceived, in meddling with private life, and its inconsistency in so highly eulogising, whilst pretending to advise, an individual whose productions had been criticised in a different spirit in the same paper. That I did not act prudently in manifesting this sentiment I am ready to admit, but next day there appeared in a corresponding place at the head of a column, the subjoined—
Byron, whose spells imagination bind,
Strange spells! which turn the silly head at will,
Ah! since thy muse can paint with equal skill,
Thy Prince a “Vice,” or father most unkind;
(Rapt in the glowing energy of mind,)
Let not the plans of rage and faction still
’Whelm us with falsehood, or with rancour chill,
For sure thou now may’st fitter subjects find.
And since the parish priest has joined thy fate,
To one thou must, since all who know admire,
Led by thy nose, pray moderate thy hate,
And tune to loyal themes thy shameful lyre;
So may ye share on earth a safe estate,
And not exalted in the air—expire.
(Signed) W. J. Extempore,
Poet Laureate.
To fight in prose was bad enough, but to fight in doggrel verse was enough to precipitate a climax, and accordingly on the morrow, Mr. Taylor advertised the readers of the “Sun,” under what atrocious circumstances my tasteless and ill-written sonnet had affronted the world:—


Mr. John Taylor, in justice to himself, as the chief proprietor of the ‘Sun’ newspaper, deems it proper for his own credit, and that of the paper, to inform the public, that the attack upon the Right Honourable Lord Byron, which appeared in the ‘Sun’ of yesterday, in the form of a mock sonnet was written by Mr. William Jerdan, of Little Chelsea, late of Old Brompton, and is signed with the initials of his name.

“P.S. The article in question was, of course, inserted without Mr. Taylor’s knowledge, and during his absence.”

With this stinger, and one more agreeable recollection, I must conclude, to me, a very disagreeable chapter; and I only hope my readers will not fall into the mistake of fancying that I have given them too much of a good thing.

Among the friendly intimacies I made in the Sun, I ought not to omit Mr. W. Giffard, the Editor of the Dublin Journal, and a red-hot Tory. On his visits to
London, our intercourse was very cordial and pleasant. His son,
Dr. Giffard,* is now one of the ablest political writers of the age; and, educated under such a father, it is not surprising that he should be as zealous as he is powerful; as is testified by the “Standard” newspaper, and everywhere else where his pen is wielded. Party spirit raged, as it too generally does in Dublin at this time, and was attended by continual duels, in superseding which there is undoubtedly some improvement. It was upon one of those occasions that Giffard, being called out, appeared on the ground with his spectacles on. This was objected to by his adversary’s second, and he was desired to take them off, which he did, exclaiming, “By my soul, this is too bad. I could not see to shoot my own father without them!”

* The late Sir Hardinge Giffard was another distinguished branch of his family, inheriting also very superior abilities.