LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 20: Personal Affairs

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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Who can discern
The infirmities they share in? Being blind,
We cannot see thy blindness: being weak,
We cannot feel thy weakness; being unwise,
We cannot understand thine idiocy!

To conclude this volume, I will return a little to the business department. I committed an error in purchasing the lease of Grove House from Mr. Wilberforce; for though I was then in the enjoyment of a large income, I had not completely cleared off old scores. But I had enough for any degree of moderate and rational credit, and I expended a considerable amount in the purchase, furnishing, and other expenses. And my going into this mansion was owing to one of those freaks of fortune which have happened to toss me to and fro. It was agreed to be taken by Mr. Alfred Twining, partner in the rich house of that name, and something occurred to change his mind; when his brother, George Twining, with whom I was on terms of most friendly intimacy, warmly advised me to become the tenant. I frankly stated that I had not the ready means for such an undertaking; but this was soon overruled. The Messrs. Twining had recently begun their Banking Establishment, and I had it in my power to influence some valuable depositors to carry their accounts to it; and to evince their sense of these
services, George said to me, “Do you take Grove House—such a position will promote the fortunes of your publication*—and you will find a thousand pounds account opened in your name in our bank.” I do not describe all this matter at length—it was an affair of consultation and hesitation—but the bank credit smoothed all difficulties, and it was also one of irresistible temptation to me, and I left my very small cottage for this very spacious and delightful abode. The drawing-room had been built by
Sir John Macpherson to entertain the Prince Regent; but the whole place was fit for studious work and literary intercourse and every way desirable. One heir-loom of the “Gentle Giant,” as Sir John was called, had been removed, and I was sorry that I could never trace and recover it. It was a table in the library at which Sir John, David Hume, the historian, and John Home, the author of “Douglas,” were wont to sit and enjoy their wine, and their names were inscribed on the board where they sat.

I entered at Christmas, when it was an unfit time to move wines, and Mr. Wilberforce, who had laid out several hundred pounds in putting the house into perfect order for his abode, though he hardly occupied it at all, requested the favour of me to let one of the cellars be appropriated to him till the seasonable weather in spring. And I mention these little things, because I did not expect the residence of a gentleman so pre-eminent in the religious world to be fitted up and replenished as Grove House was. The patent kitchen-range for cooking cost above a hundred pounds, and would have done honour to the cuisine of a Ude or a Soyer, to provide for fifty or more persons every day. And the cellar was literally a curiosity for the variety of its contents, though not in excessive

* Which it did very considerably: worldly appearances go a great way in promoting success! What is a Physician without a carriage?

quantities. There were vintages of fine antiquity, and some remarkable bottles temp.
Caroli Secundi; but, perhaps, the most uncommon portion of the stowage consisted of West India produce—presents that had been showered upon Mr. Wilberforce in consequence of bis slave-abolition toils and exertions—and I never saw such a museum of gourds, calabashes, nut-shells, and other strange-looking vessels, nor tasted such liquids as some of them contained—not to ignore old rum, and solids, spices, and odd matters, which would have puzzled George Robins to catalogue.

I had no previous idea that the “Saints” (as the section was called, at the head of which Mr. Wilberforce stood,) had so many of the good things of this world to enjoy; but I found from the respectable, Scotch-like breakfasts at the Dean of Carlisle’s in Kensington Gore, where I frequently met Mr. W. afterwards, that fasting, after the fashion of rigid Romanists during Lent, or Moslem during the Ramadan, is not considered absolutely necessary by truly pious and exemplary Protestant Christians. I must acknowledge that it would be difficult to convert me from my unchangeable belief in the wisdom and virtue of the latter creed and practice. I never could assent to the ascetic notions of those who would induce us to treat all the abundance and delights of earth as if they were traps for sin to be eschewed and abominated: my religious view is more consistent with the idea of a sweet flame of gratitude ever burning and throwing incense up to Heaven for bounties and the blessings lavished upon man. To enjoy, temperately and wisely, is to live. To sneak away from temptation is neither so safe nor so laudable as to meet it bravely and vanquish it. As in secular affairs, Tertullian’s rule (I think) is far preferable to Mennes’ coward axiom of “he who fights and runs away”—pulchrior est miles in pugnæ prœlio omissus, quam in fugá salvus.


But I must not be betrayed so near the casual ending of a volume into subjects of so grave a nature. I will indulge in the hope that fitter opportunity may offer for the little I may wish to say on such matters hereafter; and truly I can assure the reader, from my experience, that Hope is very excellent for such as have spirits to bear it! which is about the extent of my present temperament, tired with the work of producing what I have desired to be autobiographical no farther than is needful to illustrate my declared object, and so replenished with literary intelligence and anecdotes as to be of public interest now and for many years to come.

That the task becomes more onerous as I get more within the living circle of my contemporaries will be readily understood; but even the past has been so difficult that I feel grateful to those brethren of the press who have cheered me on, and neither misunderstood nor misrepresented me, nor abused their own legitimate functions. I am informed, but have not yet seen it, that the “Westminster Review” has taken me severely to task; and it certainly appears to me to be exceedingly perverse in any critic to charge me with depreciating the literary character and occupation or profession of literature, my whole life having been spent in asserting the one and upholding the other. Justly has Sir Thomas Talfourd remarked (Essay on John Dennis’s works in American reprint of “Talfourd’s Miscellanies”*): “It may be urged that criticism is useful in putting down the pretensions of those who aspire, without just claim, to the honours of genius. This, indeed, in so far as is unfavourable, is its chief object in modern times.”

* The benevolent and right-minded judge, in my opinion, owes his country a revised and enlarged collection of his writings. They belong to the best class and spirit of literature, and win my admiration even where I differ most from their amiable and enlightened author.—W. J.

“The motto of its decrees, ‘Judex damnatur eùm nocens absolvitur;’ assuming that to publish a dull book is a crime, which the public good requires should be exposed, whatever laceration of the inmost soul may be inflicted on the offender in the process.” Against this “damnatory process” the writer triumphantly protests; but I refrain from the argument, to find room for a few words on the executioners of such sentences as these reprehended by the learned Judge. The proprietor or chief of a review or a magazine, like the colonel of a regiment, or a police magistrate, can order the infliction of punishment upon some unfortunate who may have been guilty of publishing what he disapproves, either as namby-pamby, personally disagreeable, or unpleasant to the party or school of which he is a member. In taking this course, he may or may not be justifiable, but his power is supreme (I belonged to the crew myself so long that I know what We can do, and though I bore my faculties rather meekly, I have had some twinges of repentance since), and the sentence is pronounced. And then appear the drummer for the triangle, and the under-hangman for the cart’s-tail; and though it is quite matter of opinion whether the upper authorities are right or wrong; there is no human being who admires the drummer and his lacerating duties, or is not disgusted with the odious executioner of the law with his venal scourge and shameful office. The poor drummer is forced by discipline, and the wretched turnkey can hardly help himself; but the critic, hired to do a dirty or a vile Job, is a voluntary hangman, and when legal functionaries are despised and hated throughout the realms of civilisation, what ought to be, and is the scorn and detestation felt by every honest and honourable mind towards such ignominious scavengers to literature as these!*

* I have since read the article in the “Westminster Review,” and


The name of an individual has been communicated to me by good-natured friends, as being the writer of several malignant articles against me, not against my book, in more than one periodical. I never sought the information, nor would have gone three steps out of my way to acquire it; but if it be true, it shall be my business to gibbet the worthless ingrate for public infamy; and show, from papers in my possession, that his own early career was cherished by me, that his own family and his nearest relatives by marriage are under great obligations to me, and that even bis later introduction to the literary connection he has thus abused was my act. When I was told of these scurrilities and advised to prosecute them, my answer was, it must be some base fellow I have benefited too much, and no enemy; and as for prosecution, I have always considered it the worst mode of vindication, and not to be resorted to by any one who can so conduct himself as to defy calumny. To punish slanderers may be another consideration.

Reverting for a moment to the question mooted, and I am glad to see much (as it will be much more) discussed, respecting my view of the literary position and system in this country, I have great satisfaction in quoting the following true and accurate judgment on my first two volumes, from an able and impartial critic, in a well-written and well-conducted Irish journal, the “Wexford Independent,” of September 29th:—

perceive it to be furnished by the same individual who has got his pay for the same matter in other quarters. Upon the false allegation that I represent myself as a martyr to the literary profession, and thence the argumentum ad hominem that I was only too fortunate in it, the whole diatribe proceeds, and, with the inveterate inconsistency of conceding all my argument whilst abusing myself, on grounds which no human being has a right to assume against another, especially in the braggard style of this ubiquarian hangman reviewer. I must have been poor game to him, after Dickens!—but he is not a Tory in the “Westminster”!


“There is one subject on which Mr. Jordan has been most eloquent—the difficulties, struggles, misfortunes, poverty, ill-treatment of authors and literary men. The deep sympathy for his brothers of the pen, manifested throughout his Autobiography, his sage advice to authors commencing their career, and his noble vindication of their position, so often misunderstood even by the amiable and good, and so often rudely treated and basely misrepresented by the heartless and mere material portion (a large one!) of mankind, must render him an object of veneration to that sorrowful class, which he so worthily represents.”

At least I can declare that this is what I have all my life endeavoured to be and do; and to be censured as disparaging my own class is simply the grossest of absurdities. But I love truth, and abhor falsehood; and, if provoked, the natural indolence of my age may be raised into an active principle—strenua nos exercet inertia—and some may feel that I can yet strike a blow, and leave a lasting mark. Ingratitude, says the old Scotch proverb, is worse than the sin of witchcraft; and I have had so much of it in my day, that it would be but justice to exhibit the burning shame.*

But I will not part with my friends except in good humour. The last page of a book is like a farewell to the stage, or the more solemn farewell to life, when angry passions and threats should be subdued. So I, more catholic than the Highland chief, will forgive my enemies, and not

* This heroic writer, after depreciating me as much as his talent could devise and his vocabulary express, accuses me of being mercenary! and asks in the Ercles vein if there are not nobler aims for literature than mere cash; fame,—honour,—&c, &c., &c., such, I presume, being to be accredited as his objects, whom the worldly only knows as an anonymous nameless, scribbler of defamation at the wages of so much per page, or so much per sheet. This is the magnanimous critic and pure author who dare not avow himself, but, mystery of mysteries, writes only for glory.

bequeath clan vengeance in everlasting feud to those who come after me. My readers, I daresay, know the tale. When the laird was brought to a proper sense of his situation, and exhorted to this Christian act, he called his eldest son to his bed-side, and thus spoke his last—“Donald, you see what a pass I hae come to, and I am told that I must forgie my enemies, and especially the MacTavish; and, for my soul’s sake, I do forgie him accordingly. But, Donald, ma dear son, if ever ye forgie the MacTavish, or ony o’ his infernal name, may ma curse rest on ye for ever and ever. Amen!”

P.S. In winding up the materials for this volume, I have fallen in with a letter from Sir David Wilkie, on the subject of the Burns’ fête, described in my preceding volume, which is so full of his methodical character and of interest to me, that I cannot find in my heart to postpone it. I would that the suggestions it contains were yet taken up by some national, patriotic, and hearty fellows for the honour and benefit of old Scotland.

“Kensington, May 31, 1816.
My Dear Sir,

“You will find subjoined an account of the monies for which I held myself debtor to the stewards, for tickets and subscriptions. I regret the number of tickets I have disposed of should, after all, have been so few; but except two, these are all that I have yet had accounted for as being made use of.

“In case there should be a meeting of stewards to wind up the business, I beg that you would take the opportunity of recommending a proposition to them, which I have heard recommended, both by those who were at the dinner, and by those who have to regret that they were not; it is, that the lively feeling which a festival in honour of Burns would
at all times call forth among Scotchmen, should he taken advantage of on a future occasion in benefiting his family, and that the stewards should, before separating, make some provision for the recurrence of a meeting which would be looked forward to, even for its own sake, with delight by every lover of his country and of its genius.

“From the very handsome manner in which the last meeting was conducted, I think that any future meeting of the kind could not be better arranged than by yourself, to whom, in my opinion, the chief merit of the conduct of the last is due. I am, dear Sir, Yours very truly,


“You will please to receive the enclosed 14l. 3s., and to send me a note to say you have received it.

“D. W.
W. Jerdan, Esq.

Tickets given out to the following persons:—

    £ s. d.
James Stodart    1 0 0
Wm. Stodart    1 0 0
Andrew Robertson    1 0 0
Geo. Collender    1 0 0
Capt. Ritchie.    1 0 0
John Burnet    1 0 0
William Scott    1 0 0
and Friend    1 0 0
Capt. Curnigie    1 0 0
Davd. Wilkie    1 0 0
    10 0 0
Subscription from Miss Johnston    1 0 0
Do. from D. Wilkie    3 3 0
  £14 3 0

“N.B. The tickets Mr. Thomas Wilkie had for his friends will be accounted for by himself.”