LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch 5: Criticisms

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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Pure is the happiness of authorship: I glorify mine office;
Albeit lightly having sipped the cup of its lowest pleasures.
For it is to feel with a father’s heart, when he yearneth on the child of his affections;
To rejoice in a man’s own miniature world; gladdened by its rare arrangement.
The poem, is it not a fabric of the mind? We love what we create.

One of my friendly reviewers has paid me the extreme compliment of saying that my performance in the biography line well deserves to be placed on the literary shelf by the side of Boswell’s Johnson, so redolent does he esteem it to be of “personal anecdote and literary gossip”—(vile phrase). This is very flattering; and I am sensible enough of the difference, to take it with a large allowance of salt: but, if I am to believe in the voluntary assurances of many letters I have received, and the tolerably concordant testimony of the contemporaries who have done me the honour to remark on my volumes, there is in the public rather a relish for, than a dislike of, the self-revelations I have deemed essential to my life-story, and the lesser traits of character in the individuals with whom I have
come into contact, and whose more prominent features have so much attracted the attention of the world as to render the slighter touches acceptable to literary readers.

Thus encouraged, I pursue my now less doubtful though devious course. The anecdote in my preceding volume of the clergyman refusing to make the register right, though he had baptised the child Peter instead of Peto, as showing the unwillingness of the clergy to amend a mistake, has brought me the following remarks from a correspondent, whose running commentary upon me has been as useful in criticism as pleasing in commendation. He observes, on the subject, that the objection to put the matter right shows that “they (the clergy) do not understand what they are doing. They do not give the name. The father gives it; and the parson must ask, before he can proceed, ‘What is the child’s name?’ They do not name the child; they baptise. They merely baptise, i.e., symbolically introduce into the Christian community a child already named; and did the blockheads, in blessing food, specify fish when it was fowl, that error certainly would not make the fowl fish. It is just as absurd to refuse to alter any other blunder, and I think you must see it. [I did; and it was to expose the fallacy I related the fact.]

“A country laird, the Knight of Edingight, was requested, at a grand public meeting, to return thanks, and, in his confusion, he began, ‘For what we are going to receive—’ But did he go on? No; in his own manner he hastily exclaimed ‘Eh! Eh! G—d curse! I forgot! De’il care! Amen!’ Thus you see, at once, correcting himself, in a northern laird fashion. According to your story, a clergyman, apparently, would have insisted that his grace must be abided by,—that, having blessed the meat as before dinner, they must dine again! Let us hope the laity are
more rational, and would conform themselves to what is repeated in Scotland as ‘Edingight’s grace!’”

Reserving a retrospect of a few matters which mingle with sequels of their own, I step into another year—the “Gazette,” a little unsteady from internal causes, but strengthening itself, and prospering in public opinion. The contributions thrown into the literary novelty by volunteers of eminence in the world, and letters and essays by the rising genius of the day, were striking and effective, differing so entirely as they did from the established “Monthly Review” and Magazine system, upon which the “Weekly Journal” had impinged; and the principles on which it was edited had also considerable influence; for while it stood alone, truthful criticism, administered with gentleness, and without asperity to show off the talents of the critic, was exceedingly well received, and a good price paid for it (a shilling a number): and, indeed, it had its much-applauded reign, till cheap underselling and cantankerous bitterness made their way more in popular acceptation. It is a question with me, whether, as society is now constituted, the self-interest of a man is most promoted by being loved or feared. I do not know what it may be in other walks of life: but I seem to incline to the opinion that, in the paths of literature, more is gained, and more immediately too, by making yourself feared rather than loved. A loving article, like love itself, makes no noise; an abusive philippic is talked about and heard of in all quarters, and curiosity does the rest. Besides, there is no disguising the fact, that there is a very prevalent feeling in human nature which leads a vast number of our species to take delight in morbid excitements—capital and other punishments—perilous exhibitions, where great risks are run by performers—casual accidents, where dangers are narrowly escaped—contests where the events are some time
uncertain—all the high seasonings of life taking it out of the even tenor of its way, even to the job of a tearing or venomous literary “cutting up,” have their attractions, and serve their purpose. To hold a candle to the (Printer’s) Devil is a very common practice; and the Evil Principle has not only more priests, but a greater number of worshippers, than the Good!

The Persian mythology was a correct prototype of this. Ormuzd, the good principle, was not so generally worshipped as Ahriman, the evil principle. Plutarch calls them Oromasdes and Arimanes; but being in Greek makes no difference in the almost universal truth that Darkness is often preferred to Light, and that the Destroyer has more knees bent to him than the Preserver. Inferior natures are more susceptible of the ignoble than the noble passions; and to crouch and cower before a tyrant is far more common than to feel for a benefactor the gushing devotedness of ardent affection.

And, to return to the critical theme, the incompetent are frequently, for the multitude, the foremost of councillors and critics after all. Like the Ass, which decided that the Cuckoo’s notes (or note) were far more brilliant than the song of the Lark—

The Ass was so intoxicated
And shallow pated,
That ever since
He’s got a fancy in his skull
That he’s a commission from his Prince
(Dated when the moon’s at full)
To summon every soul,
Every Ass, and Ass’s foal,
To try the quick and dull;
Trumpeting through the fields and streets,
Stopping and judging all he meets;
Pronouncing with the air
Of one pronouncing from the chair,
“That’s a beauty”—“this is new”—
“That’s passing false”—“that there is true”—
Just like the [blank] Review!

No year of a life, perhaps, passes away without producing changes of great consequence in their bearing upon the future, though the individual may be, and in most cases is, perfectly unconscious of the circumstances at the time. We fancy we can see a long way; but we are blind to less than a minute of the passing hour. The loss of my friend, George Henry Harlow, was a distressing stroke to me. He landed from his Italian tour, in which he so triumphantly sustained the claim of the British school of Arts, on the 13th of January, and within a few days of his return to London, panting for the fame and glory (re-echoing the honours lavished upon him in Rome, Florence, and Naples, &c.) which certainly awaited him, he was seized by the fatal malady which, being neglected, terminated in his death, at the age of thirty-two, on the 4th of February, 1819. I deplored his death with brotherly affections; for I knew him intimately for years, and had seen under the singular affectation of almost frivolity, with which he often cloaked his devotion to the arts and lofty aims, as if he were ashamed of exhibiting these ennobling feelings before a world of emptiness and pretence, which he despised. These assumptions were sometimes carried to a pilch of laughable absurdity, and caused the real character of the artist to be utterly mistaken. I remember his gravely assuring some consequential goose that “Shakspeare was really a clever man. Upon my word he was; really a very clever fellow;” and then laughing in his sleeve at the jest he had played off, and forgetting that he had left upon his auditors a pretty strong impression of his own folly!* I have seen the same sort of masking in other and very able

* He reminded me always of the character of Hamlet “putting an antic disposition on,” whilst his soul was engrossed with the one great design of acquiring, as he told his mother, “not riches but fame and glory” by his paintings.

individuals. Indeed, it is not uncommon where there is extreme sensibility—more sensibility than strength of mind.

In the art his memory was almost incredible. His producing a posthumous portrait of Mr. Hare,* the friend of Mr. Fox, from seeing him only once casually in the street, was a remarkable instance; but I can vouch for another still more astonishing. When I was sitting to him for my portrait, he one day kept me waiting some time, and on coming in made his apology and begged I would excuse him a little longer, for he had been to the British Institution and seen a Rubens’ landscape, which had enchanted him so much that he was desirous of having a memorandum of it. To make this whilst the subject was fresh upon his mind, he sat down, and, to my wonder, produced a landscape which he affirmed to be a tolerable copy of the original. I treated the matter as more of joke than earnest; but I had afterwards the opportunity to compare the two works together; and not only in every form, but in every shade of colour, the copy could not have been more faithful had the copyist spent hours and days, with the Rubens before him, upon his extraordinary production. I may add the remark, that in most of the eminent artists whom I have known, this quality of memory, more or less modified, has been conspicuous in them all; and where it is wanting, I have found the parties nearly allied to the drudge and servile school.†

At this period commenced my acquaintance with Mrs. Hemans—an acquaintance which ripened into friendship and led to a delightful literary intercourse, till the gifted

* Respecting whom, as the story goes, the bailiff was asked, “Are you Hare-hunting or Fox-hunting this morning?”

† See Appendix D. for an anecdote of Harlow’s landlord and attached friend, Mr. Tompkisson, the pianoforte-maker, to whom his last letter from Italy was addressed.

poetess was taken from an admiring world. My first introduction arose out of a letter from her husband,
Capt. Hemans, dated “Warwick-street, Cockspur-street, Thursday, 4th of May, 1819,” in which he requested “an early notice of a volume of Poems, just published (by Mr. Murray), entitled ‘Tales and Historic Scenes,’ by Felicia Hemans, and likewise a collection of ‘Translations from Camoens and other Poets by the same Author;’” and my review, in reply, entered into an examination of the poems, pointed out certain defects, and concluded that Mrs. Hemans was “truly and purely poetical.” In her earlier productions, as appears to me, there was too much of a certain coldness and correctness, allied to the marbly classic subjects of her choice, though mixed with occasional bursts of the appalling and pathetic; and that she did not impart that tone of natural warmth and powerful expression to her poetry till after she witnessed the public effect of the first publication of L. E. L. From that date a new light and glow was spread over her canvas; the suggestion of the girlish debutante was enough to kindle and inspire her genius, and whoever will bestow the pains of comparison between her first and second styles (the third and last being more of a moral and religious nature), will find the difference I have pointed out, altogether very marked and striking, and, further, readily traceable to the source I have indicated.*

Mrs. Hemans having returned to Bronwhylfa, her native place, near St. Asaph, it was several years before I enjoyed the gratification of personally cementing that esteem which frequent and interesting correspondence had nourished; for, as will be mentioned soon, I had it in my power to render her some slight services upon which she set a far

* See Appendix E.

too grateful value, and in acknowledgment of which she enriched the “
Gazette” with some of her most beautiful compositions. One topic of playful sadness was twice or thrice discussed between us, on my proposing an early affair of the heart for poetical treatment. Young, and as it turned out not happily, as she was married, I had discovered that a dear friend of mine, when a youthful soldier with little beyond his commission and hopes, had been desperately in love with the lovely Felicia Browne, not yet beyond her sixteenth summer; and it was not improbable that if he had then possessed the large fortune to which he afterwards succeeded, he would have laid himself and it at the feet of his idol, and not been spurned. This boy and girl passion, for it was no older, left nevertheless an impression which was manifested through many a year in the affectionate interest which they continued to feel for each other, though they never met again; and which sort of attachment I was too well-disposed and good-natured not to cultivate whenever opportunity offered with either for jocular rallying.

Southey contributed one piece this year—a dire and bitter diatribe upon John Southey, who (see Life and Works of the Laureate, Longmans,) disappointed the just expectation of his nearest relatives in the disposition of his wealth, and prompted the Laureate to show that a Laureate could be a good hater.—Ecce signum.

So thou art gone at last, old John,
And hast left all from me.
God give thee rest among the blest!
I lay no blame on thee.
Nor marvel I,—for though one blood
Through both our veins was flowing,
Full well I knew, old Man, no love
From thee to me was owing:
Thou hadst no anxious cares for me
In the winning years of infancy,
No joy in my up-growing;
And when from the world’s beaten way
I twined through rugged paths, as if astray,
No fears where I was going.
It touched not thee, if Envy’s voice
Was busy with my name;
Nor did it make thy heart rejoice
To hear of my fair fame.
Old Man! thou liest upon thy bier,
And none for thee will shed a tear.
They’ll give thee a stately funeral,
With coach, and hearse, and plume, and pall;
But they that follow will grieve no more
Than the Mutes who pace with their staves before.
With a light heart and a cheerful face
Will they put mourning on,
And bespeak thee a marble monument,
And think nothing more of Old John.
An enviable death is his,
Who, leaving none to deplore him,
Has yet a joy in his passing hour,
Because all he loved have died before him.
The Monk, too, hath a joyful end,
And well may welcome death as a friend,
When he piously crosses his hands on his breast,
And a crucifix close to his heart is prest,
And the brethren sing round him and sing him to rest;
And tell him, as surely he thinks, that anon
Receiving his crown, he shall sit on his throne,
And sing in the choir of the blest.
But a hopeless sorrow it strikes to the heart,
To think how men like thee depart!
Unloving and joyless was thy life,
Unlamented was thine end—
And neither in this world, nor in the next,
Hadst thou a single friend—
None to weep for thee on earth,
None to greet thee in Heaven’s Hall!—
Father and mother,—sister and brother,
Thy heart has been dead to them all!—
Alas! Old Man, that this should be!
One brother had raised up seed to thee;
And hadst thou in their hour of need
Cherished that dead brother’s seed,
Thrown wide thy doors, and called them in,
How happy thine old age had been!
Thou wert a withered tree, around whose trunk,
Needing support, our tendrils should have clung.
Then had thy sapless boughs
With buds of hope and genial leaves been hung,
Yea, with undying wreaths, and flowers for ever young.

Inasmuch as its literary objects were concerned, the “Gazette” continued to hold its sway and improve in circulation. Many public societies and academies, for the first time in periodical publication, opened their doors to reporters, and in some cases felt that it would be beneficial to themselves to volunteer reports of their proceedings through their secretaries or other zealous members. This, so general now, was then a great step of advance in the right direction for supplying public information. The British Institution, among others, had its stores of science made known; and the lectures of Millington, Brande, and (later) Faraday were carefully analysed as they were delivered. Dr. Clement Hue, Sir W. J. Hooker, then Mr. Hooker, of Halesworth, Capel Lofft, Mr. Laird, Mr. Singer, M. Bœttiger, Capt. Blaquiere, Mr. Muloch, Mr. Hoffman, Mr. Barrett, Mr. Brockedon, Mr. Maunder, and others, swelled the rank of useful contributors; and the work was still supplied with every kind of foreign intelligence, through extensive research and able translations. The Fine Arts, for the first time in journalist history, had a space regularly assigned to them worthy of their importance; and the poetical department fully maintained its popularity. M. Buonaiuti, an elegant Italian scholar, librarian to Lord Holland, and the introducer of the dahlia into English floriculture, also deserves my honourable mention; and I have among my papers,
I trust for another page, an original and beautiful sonnet in the Italian language, presented to me by M. Buonaiuti, and written by
Charles James Fox. I subjoin a characteristic literary note from my old friend and helper in Italian criticisms:—

“Tuesday Even.
Dear Sir,

“I am fully competent to give you every account of Forteguerri and his Ricciardetto; I only want to know how soon you want it, that I may consult my time.

Lord Holland has been long (fourteen days) afflicted by the gout: now he is without pain, and keeping him company at the Company’s dinner-time, I will enter again on conversation about the letters.

“These letters are a correspondence between him and me on the subject of my criticism on some of his Italian verses, which he amused himself to write in the time of his recess from Parliament; I received corrections in answer; I approved or objected again, &c., &c.

“I do not know how far the letters are worthy to be printed; but the poetry, certainly it is. The late Monk Lewis printed some songs, but very badly, because he did not send me the proofs, and did not attend to my advice, which he agreed.

“Dear Sir,
“Yours most truly.”

My friendship with Mr. Blackwood was cemented by the interchange of constant courtesies and our relative productions—contemporaneous in their commencement, and both going on successfully. Scott, Mackenzie, Wilson, and Lockhart, other literary magnates, were enow to secure him the
support he sought; and I had the pleasure of recommending other allies to him, whose writings were no discredit to his famous magazine.
Mr. P. G. Patmore and Mr. Thelwall were, as Moore’s Almanack used to say, “now about,” offerings for “Literary Gazette;” and Tom Moore himself, in an “Epistle” to himself in nearly six columns of my No. 137, may be consulted for curiosity’s sake.

But alas! (there is always a “but”) grave accidents attended the closing months of the year, and did not serve to advance the fortunes of the editor. On Saturday, June 26, Mr. Bentley’s printing-office, including the house in which Johnson had resided, was destroyed by fire, so far luckily, that the impression for that day had been nearly all delivered to the publisher and newsmen before the flames broke out. But a considerable portion of my past labour (besides manuscripts, &c.), was consumed: some confusion was created; and the expense of reprinting the lost stock amounted to a comparatively heavy drawback. Messrs. Valpy, who were the first printers of the “Gazette” till Messrs. Pinnock and Maunder’s connection with Mr. Bentley led to a change, kindly helped us out of our dilemma till a new printer was obtained in Mr. Pople, of Chancery-lane, who carried on the work for a considerable period.

But the forced change of printer was not so disastrous as the forced change of publishers which followed. In consequence of the speculative mania of Mr. Pinnock, and in spite of the prudence and talents of his relative and partner Maunder, their affairs became hopelessly involved. On the 6th of November, No. 146, their names disappeared from the imprint, and Mr. Colburn and I had to seek a new agent and another office as a temporary make-shift; and it was not till the January in next year that I procured my old “Sun” publisher, Mr. Scripps, to undertake this duty,
which he continued to discharge for more than a quarter of a century.

“Thus bad begins, but worse remains behind.”

In the perplexities of the hour, and the state of the “Literary Gazette” funds (my readers understanding that even a very flourishing literary or political periodical, with its startling expenditure, leeway to make up, and current expenses, must always be unprofitable, and requiring great sacrifices or a sufficient capital to trade upon), Mr. Colburn and myself were brought nearly to our wits’ end, if we had any? A nearly three years’ trial without return for his moneys expended, frightened him from farther advances; and my hard work for almost the same term without remuneration above a porter’s wages, encouraged by the statu quo, and, sanguine as I always was, induced me earnestly to wish for an improvement, somehow or other. I wrote to Mr. C., expressing my desire to relinquish my concern with the journal, as an employment at the starvation point.* He wrote to me that “all was doubt and conjecture” in consequence of the condition of Pinnock and Maunder’s account; that he thought any idea of secession incomprehensible, and liberally and honourably promised that if the state of affairs on examination offered any prospect of profits, I should reap the benefit of it. Nothing could be more fair; but to me an arrangement was of critical importance, whilst to my colleague it was only a small item in a large business-system, and of little, if any, immediate or proximate consequence. And so we corresponded, and negotiated, and postponed—I proposing to sell or to buy (for a promising concern can find allies when a poor fellow, who is its Atlas, cannot)—and Mr. Colburn unable to make up his mind either one way or other.

* Appendix F.


In this strait I resolved on laying the circumstances before one of the partners of Messrs. Longman’s house, Mr. Orme, with whom I had long been in very friendly habits, and getting him to put me in a right course, if possible, and the thing were worth pushing on. The annexed letter will show the result:—

“Dear Sir,

Mr. Orme being out of town, we have opened your letter addressed to him, which we only received late on Saturday evening, and beg to say, that the moment we are put into full possession of share, stock, &c., we will pay the remainder of the purchase money. It is also necessary to be satisfied as to profits, stock, &c., from the time our share commenced.

“With regard to Mr. Colburn, it might be as well, as he will not at once decide to sell, that you inform him that your object was to get the whole concern into your own hands, and that with this view you had purchased Maunder’s share, but that, as he would not sell, you had disposed of that share to Longman & Co., which you conceived he would feel to be a great advantage to the property, and that you doubted not that all parties would make a point of improving the publication to the utmost. The management of the sale, accounts, &c, would fall to Messrs. Longman & Co.

“We are, dear Sir,
“Yours faithfully,

I closed with the great house in the Row, and was put in a position to pay Pinnock and Maunder a handsome douceur for what I had given them gratuitously a year
before, to substitute Messrs.
Longmans in their place as third proprietors, and (after a funny reference to arbitration, from my friend Colburn taking it into his head that he had a right to some of the advantages of the contracts his indecision had forced upon my responsibility, and in which he was floored in principle, and mulcted in all costs—they were not serious) the “Literary Gazette” was firmly established in a tripartite partnership, more solid and improvable than had ever as yet been contemplated.

And now, as I sufficiently explained pecuniary circumstances in my preceding volumes, to afford a true view of myself and my path in life, as consistent with the declared autobiographical design of this work, I shall dwell no more on these links in the chain.

I shall only say that all my literary pursuits being pleasant, there can be no wonder if I loved them; and all my worldly affairs being irksome, there can be no wonder if I hated them. I clung to the one, and I shirked the other.

The literary man is doubly worse off than the soldier. Marshal Ney said contemptuously to the Swiss General Bachman, “We fight for honour! You for money.” “Yes, Marshal,” replied the Swiss, “we both fight for what we have not got!”

The infatuated author has to fight for both.