LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 3: Fresh Start

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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So, by the sleep of many a human heart
The crowd of men may bear their busy part,
Where wither’d, or forgotten, or subdued,
Its noisy passions have left solitude:—
Ah! little can they trace the hidden truth,’
What waves have moved it in the vale of youth!
And little can its broken chords avow
How once they sounded.—All is silent, now!
Anon. On an old Water-wheel.

The weighty affairs of 1826 arranged, there was something like new life, and a new start. After the storm, the world began to look up again among my old friends and associates, and energy and enterprise were again awakened in the public generally. I felt my full share in the impulse, and zealously took my part in the revived order of things. I became a member of the Society of Antiquaries, being proposed (as I see by a note from Sir H. Ellis) by Mr. Gwilt, Mr. Woodfall, Mr. P. Vere, Dr. Thomas Rees, &c.; and for some time I felt much interest in the society. But I contributed only two communications: one on a golden
grasshopper, found in a very ancient Greek tomb; and the other, on the forms of money of all ages and nations, such as shells, ring-money, perforated money, links of chains, hook-shaped, weighed, round, &c. &c., as adapted to the habits and costumes of the people; a subject which, in my opinion, would furnish curious matter for much research, and an essay far longer than could be presented to any learned body. As years accrued, I found that my eight guineas entrance, and four guineas per annum subscription, met with no adequate return, or inducement to continue a member; for not having time to hunt him up, I never could get papers or volumes of the “
Archæology” from the then fat, contented, and rosy official, of the name of Martin, and I therefore discontinued my attendance; and, as the Quakers say, was “read out,” or ceased to belong, though still procuring the reports of the meetings for insertion in the “Gazette,” and otherwise supporting the institution by all means in my power.

Among the incidents connected with this event, was the formation of a social club of F.S.A.’s, who found the transactions of the parent society as little attractive as I did, and who adopted the illustrious Roman name of Noviomagians, in honour of the lost city of Noviomagus, which they asserted they had identified near Bromley in Kent, and close to the rural retreat so much enjoyed by the illustrious William Pitt. Thither, in commencing our career, we went to dig and dine, and certainly turned up a few bits of broken pottery on the spot; but whether actually taken from the bosom of the earth, or carried there by some humourist of the party, I am as unable to determine as any original inhabitant of the city, if now called on, would be. For, in fact, though united under a sonorous title, and pertaining to a very grave association, this offshoot of the Antiquaries was any thing but
solid and serious. On the contrary, all the members assumed heterogeneous offices, and with Lord High Presidents, Lord High Constables, Lord Keepers, Lord Treasurers, Father Confessors, Poet-Laureates, Keepers of Records, &c, &c, the monthly meetings were full of fun, and, sometimes, practical jokes, conducive to great merriment. But in the midst of these high-jink enjoyments, it must not be thought that the real business of Archaeological inquiry and science was quite neglected. Papers of rare interest were communicated at almost every meeting; valuable antiquities, recently discovered, were submitted for judgment; and inscriptions, seals, instruments, ancient documents, coins, &c. &c., were carefully inspected and made out. To say that these productions were infinitely superior to those, contemporaneously, of the National Society, is saying very little in their favour. They were, independently of squibs and crackers of every description, often exceedingly instructive, and always entertaining; and sometimes not the less so from being of a character unfit for public reading or discussion. So good were many of the Evenings, that I should not be surprised if, at some future day, a history, and specimens of them, should appear in print for the gratification of the outer world. I think the idea originated with
Mr. R. Balmanno, at the time so intimately concerned in the promotion of the Fine Arts and Institutions for the benefit of Artists, and his early companions comprehended the late Mr. R. Lemon, of the State Paper Office (gorged with remarkable pieces of information), Mr. A. J. Kempe, the Roman antiquary; Mr. Newman, of London-bridge celebrity; Mr. G. P. Corner, of Southwark, an able archaeologist; Mr. T. C. Croker, who has made his name known by writing on local Irish remains; Mr. Windus (with his fine museum); Mr. Rosser, Mr. Brandreth, all
assiduous and noted archaeologists; two or three of whom, I believe, yet keep up the tone of the Noviomagians, in union with younger blood filling the ranks of the dead, and of elder members, who grieved too much for the departed friends of their jests and hilarity, to be able to enjoy the same spirit with fresh levies in recruited combinations, where—
A narrower circle seems to meet
Around the board—each vacant seat
A dark and sad remembrance brings.

I have known few comrades whose loss I more deeply mourned than those of Lemon, Kempe, Brandreth, and Rosser, each of whom was warm in personal attachment, and valuable contributors to the “Literary Gazette.” Boon, kindly-natured, and full of intelligence, the light of their wonted places became dark to me.

In other societies I took an earnest part. From 1821 I was a member of the Horticultural; a steward at two of its festivals, whilst the “Gazette” was an efficient organ for making known and accelerating its progress. To the Artists’ Fund, and the Artists’ Benevolent Fund, I rendered similar homage during all my literary time, besides being a constant subscriber to them. In truth, there was not a benevolent institution in London to which I did not contribute with pen and purse; and, above all, the Literary Fund was an object of my zealous and ceaseless exertion, and in the recollection of the few of its remaining best friends, I will add that I devoted more time, and did more for it in bringing in new supporters and liberal subscriptions than any individual that ever took an interest in its administration. Only the founder Mr. Williams, the Earl of Chichester, who obtained the charter, Sir Benjamin Hobhouse, whose efforts never failed, and, from his position,
were productive of great benefits, could compete with me for utility and productiveness; though there were then other warm and feeling allies, whose cordiality and humanity partook not of the coldness, and statistical economics of the present day. The
Rev. Dr. Yates, the soul of goodness and charity, was secretary; and after the business of the monthly meetings was over, a majority of the leading vice-presidents and members of the council and committee, were accustomed to dine together at the adjacent Freemasons’ Tavern; Sir B. Hobhouse, even after gout seemed to defy him, generally taking the chair, and promoting, together with the sociality of its official friends, the utmost pecuniary resources and beneficent purposes of this, at any rate, kindly apology for the debt due to literature, and almost repudiated by the British nation. To these dinners, men of rank, fortune, and influence were invited by individuals, and, by the end of the season, so pleasant had their system of recruiting been, there was hardly a steward to seek for the ensuing anniversary, and already had a generous amount of subscriptions been secured. By such means was the Literary Fund raised, and enabled to exalt its head on high; endowed with a large realisation of capital, and made so far independent of the aid to be derived from the anniversary celebrations. In this good work, I call to mind, with affectionate regard, the earnest and valuable co-operation of such individuals as the late Mr. Christie, by whom I was introduced to the society, Mr. William Tooke, Mr. Britton, and other warm-hearted friends of suffering authors. With me it was a favourite custom, when any money was inadvertently or ignorantly sent to the “Gazette” for illegitimate purposes (any which could not be returned), to impound it for the Fund; and from this source frequent and considerable subscriptions were derived. From the
Marquis of Normanby, on one literary occasion, I acquired 501, and from Mr. G. P. R. James, on another, 67l., by negotiating the sale of manuscripts confided to me for publication, and handing over the proceeds; and one curious accident procured a pleasing addition. In one of my walks near Grove House, I met a feeble old man, poorly clothed, and appearing as if he had seen better days. Touched by the circumstance, I spoke with him, and made an offer of a small sum of silver, half-a-crown, which he gratefully declined. To my surprise, I discovered that he was the wealthy father-in-law of the wife of a friend of mine, who happened to know me personally, and told of our encounter with a good laugh at my intended charity. The result, however, was 20l. by J. A., through W. Jerdan, to the Literary Fund, as published in the subscription lists for years, till I was disconnected with the administration. And this I notice as a just cause of complaint from a leading benefactor. The above and other contributions ought never to have been obliterated from these records, were it only for the encouragement of others; but they have been dropped out; and it is nowhere publicly intimated that such a person as W. J. ever successfully exerted himself to advance the prosperity of this excellent institution. A dislike to new principles in the grants, a cabal, and a paltry insult, which I thought the official authorities ought to have taken up, caused me to retire from it; yet with every warm wish for its increase and liberal and humane management. There have been some vexatious quarrels and difficulties since, but I trust the charity has not only not been permanently injured by them, and that, being got over, it is steering its way according to the compass of its launch and early voyage, succouring the helpless and sinking, without too much fine-drawing about their cases and claims,
and accumulating more and more means by which this succour may be more and more extended. I should think it right to insist that, as in the olden times, the humbler labourers in the literary field have as just a claim to proportionate relief from the fund, as their more eminent brethren whom adversity has thrown upon its bounty. It was never created for officers alone; but also, and equally, for privates in the ranks—which distinction was lost sight of, but has I hope been revived.

The Guild of Literature now so generously supported, and, with the aid of its popular dramatic adjuncts, making its prosperous way, is an enlarged and probably more skilfully modelled adoption of a plan proposed by me to the Literary Fund, about which I was very sanguine for several years. The promise of Crown-lands, free, in Essex, and some powerful co-operation, including a list of donations, amounting to above 1000l., induced me to believe that augmented subscriptions and the volunteer gift of MSS. for publication, would enable us to found quiet and pleasing retreats for the reception of unsuccessful and worn out authors—upon whom house-rent is generally the most grievous of their burdens—but a party in the committee of management opposed the design, and to my great regret I was foiled in my earnest endeavour to carry this favourite project into execution.

In truth I was intensely devoted to the interests of the Fund, and exerted myself in every way to enrich it, as well as to see to the sympathising administration of the succours it afforded; which is one of its most irresistible claims to universal support. It was in the personal distribution of many of these grants that I witnessed so much of the utter miseries of able and accomplished men of the literary class, as filled me with the deepest sorrow at the time, and has
left that impression on my mind, of the too frequent wretchedness and helplessness incident to the pursuit of literature, which cannot he effaced, and has perhaps grown into almost a morbid feeling.

It may be, I trust, some apology for that feeling, and some recommendation of the Literary Fund, to more of the public support than in spite of its deserving it has ever under any circumstances received, to glance at two or three cases in which I was requested by my considerate coadjutors to see to the most prompt and beneficial application of the relief. In one instance, a poor “low” case, for which, with the disposition to which I have alluded to afford no help except to writers somewhat distinguished, there was some difficulty in obtaining a vote of 10l., I went to the address, not far from my residence in Brompton, and found, in a single apartment, a broker’s man in possession on an execution for rent, a dead child of two or three years of age on a rug in a corner, a living mother and a living baby on the semblance of a bed, covered with a horse-cloth, on the floor, and the “Literary Man,” who had really written some creditable productions, sitting stupified, like an impersonation of Apathy, on a broken chair. Good God! let any one trust their imagination to this heart-breaking scene. I was a “literary man” too, but in ostensible wealth, and certainly with every enjoyment of life in Grove House, within three minutes’ walk of my unhappy contemporary. Well, immediate necessities were supplied by the agency of the assistant broker, who took my word for the settlement of his charge, and partook, I believe, of the supper he brought in, before he departed; the corpse was buried, and, as the landlord fell within the range of my numerous acquaintances, I had influence enough to compromise all matters, and release my hapless client with a few pounds in
his pocket. I will yield the truth for the argument of my adversaries in the Fund, the relief was only temporary and ineffectual; but it did change the chamber of ruin and mortality, as I have stated, and it entailed on myself a claim for trifling assistance which I answered, for years, till I lost sight of the poor author, who in one of his applications writes thus: “I almost despair of your calling the circumstances to mind. [I never could forget them.] Since that period my ills have multiplied tenfold. Penury, illness, almost madness have made me their sport by turns, and I am even more like a spectre than a man.” He then tells me of Tales for which he had received a Minerva press price, after twelve visits to the city, viz., ten shillings! and adds some acknowledgment for my having cheered him in sickness and sorrow.

I am not boasting of such things, for they have been a portion of my nature and life. I could not help them. And yet I instance them with an approving conscience, to point the way to consolatory reflections in later years, to those who, in connection with the Fund and the press, are treading in my footsteps. Towards the end, in prosperity or misfortune, they will assuredly he made sensible of the difference between having employed their power (small or great) in assisting or depressing, in cherishing or crushing their fellow strugglers. For be they as proud and self-confident as they may, I need not inform them it is, or has been, a struggle with them all, from penny-a-liners, through all gradations, to the crack favourites of the time.

An almost similar case led me, entrusted with a larger aid, to meet the exigencies of an author of much higher character—one indeed of the ornaments of our national literature, and it so happened that I could not fulfil my mission till late on the Saturday;—between evening and
night at Pentonville. The letter I had received spoke, it is true of an “afflicted situation,” which as regarded the writer he should have esteemed a trifle; but his “family commanded immediate assistance.” I was not prepared for a condition, if possible more wretched than the preceding;—far more wretched, for there had been penurious respectability, appearances to keep up, gentility to preserve, and sensibilities more acutely affected by these accidental misfortunes. I do not think that distress is always aggravated by the mere difference of position, for in the depths of woe there is great equality between the lower and the upper orders; but there is something in the humiliation of those who have stood high which affects the minds of the spectator with more of pity, and must add some degree of poignancy to the sufferings of the unhappy. In the instance to which I am alluding, I encountered a situation, if possible more deplorable from the contrast and unexpected extent of the affliction, than the former. There too was death, bare walls in consequence of the removal of furniture under a distress, and absolute want. The Saturday night had come, not only without a provision for the Sabbath morrow, but without a meal for pressing hunger. It was dreadful. I almost cursed myself for not having hurried up on the Friday, which I might have done but for my indispensable editorial duties; and I hastened to do myself, as well as I could, what the broker’s man had shown me the way to do. I believe that I sent in as much meat from the butcher’s shop as would have subsisted the inhabitants for a fortnight, and a tolerable supply from the baker’s and the tavern, and (finding the warehouse open) something like a dozen of blankets, and a counterpane or two. This occupied me several hours, and when I got back, my friend, as he was for all his after life, had returned from a useless excursion
into the money land; and so I supped with him and his wife about eleven o’clock and approaching the small hours, was so elevated that I was glad of a cab to carry me from Pentonville to Brompton. If my weight was as light as my heart, the horse had little to draw; which, however, made no difference in the driver’s drawing as usual upon my good nature and hatred of dispute.

Prisons and hospitals presented appeals no less appalling. It was fearful to contemplate the degradation and torture to which men of intellectual endowments and talentwere reduced by the enthusiasm of their natures and the incertitude of their efforts, their fallacious devotedness and too common defeat. The authors of “Wine and Walnuts,” and “The Hermit in London,” which were so popular in the “Literary Gazette,” could not, with all their exertions, resist the appointed fate. Old age, penury, and neglect withered and sank them in the grave. Imagine the pang of having an application for a sovereign made from an individual of literary note with whom you have met for years on terms of social intimacy, and to be thanked for averting starvation, with the apology, “I would not otherwise have appealed to you, knowing that one of your benevolent constitution, even at the best of times accustomed to think so little of Self, at such a period as this would not fail when let into the secret of my troubles, and my utter destitution of means. But I was taken unprepared, and my last shilling engulfed in the vortex of that bottomless gulf which I fear will for ever remain open, to the terror and misery of those circumstanced like myself.” He was by this time lodged in gaol; one of the most ingenious men of the day, both with pen and pencil.

I might multiply these melancholy tales* through a

* Some of the inferior order, but still exhibiting abilities which, in any

whole volume, and the simple narratives would need no attempt at pathos to point the sad varieties of human sufferings which they involved; but, deplorable as my evidence would be, I will rather prefer the corroborative testimony of other witnesses, whose sentiments on the subject of literary distress and the futile nature of literary pursuits will not, perhaps, be so angrily impugned as, in certain quarters, mine have been.
Bernard Barton, probably influenced by Charles Lamb’s half querulous, half sportive complaints of the “slavery of the desk,” to which he was pinned in the India House, talked of giving up his situation in the Bank, in order to devote himself entirely to letters; and what wrote the amiable Elia in answer to this intimation?

“Throw yourself on the world without any rational plan of support beyond what the chance employ of booksellers would afford you!

“Throw yourself rather, my dear sir, from the Tarpeian Rock, slap down headlong upon iron spikes. If you have but five consolatory minutes between the desk and the bed, make much of them, and live a century in them, rather than turn slave to the booksellers. They are Turks and Tartars when they have poor authors at their beck. * * * Come not within their grasp. I have known many authors want for bread, some repining, others enjoying the blessed security of a spunging-house, all agreeing they had rather have been tailors, weavers, what not, rather than the things they were. I have known some starved, some to go mad, one dear friend literally died in a workhouse. * * * Oh, you know not, may you never know, the miseries of sub-

other employment, would have procured bread, have not clothes to stir out of their den or even paper to write upon, and solicit the smallest sums. I know that I may be told that such as these have no right or title to be ranked with or aided as literary men; but they were so, notwithstanding.—W. J.

sisting by authorship! ’Tis a pretty appendage to a situation like yours or mine; but a slavery worse than all slavery to be a bookseller’s dependent, to drudge your brains for pots of ale and breasts of mutton. * * * The booksellers hate us. * * * Keep to your bank, and your bank will keep you. Trust not to the public; you may hang, starve, drown yourself, for anything that worthy personage cares,” &c. &c.—See vol. ii. “
Life of Charles Lamb,” by Sir T. Talfourd.

And from a very different source our worthy Quaker poet received a like warning; for Byron, after speaking highly of his talents and productions, tells him—

“You know what ills the author’s life assail;
Toil, envy, want, the patron and the jail.

“Do not renounce writing, but never trust entirely to authorship.”

There are just enow of exceptions to prove the universality of the rule in England. The calling of literature, like the old state lotteries, has a tempting prize for every thousand blanks.

A letter from Mr. Canning, whom I had prevailed upon to preside at one of the anniversary celebrations of the Literary Fund, will, I am sure, be interesting to every reader.

“Gloucester Lodge, May 4, 1822.
Dear Sir,

“I hope you will have considered the prompt communication (through Mr. Backhouse) of my willingness to accept the invitation of the Committee of the Literary Fund, as a proof of my disposition to do anything agreeable to you. But, I am sorry to say, my acceptance has involved me in great difficulties. It has not ‘rained, but poured’
similar invitations, not to dinner indeed, but to morning meetings, for the last week or ten days. I decline all; having long ago made up my mind not to figure on the ‘platform’ (as the blue and red tickets inclosed to me suggest) of any of those institutions. But my one acceptance embarrasses my refusal, and destroys the roundness of my assertion, that I do not frequent such meetings.

“Have you signified my acceptance—and, if not, can you delay doing so?

“I am, dear Sir,
“Your obedient and faithful servant,

“I trust I need not tell you that I felt sensibly for your misfortune in India.” [The reported death of a near relative.]

When the dinner took place, agreeably to the annexed letter,* five years later, it was one of the most memorable ever witnessed. Mr. Canning was accompanied by the famed M. de Chateaubriand, who, on his health being drunk, nobly acknowledged that he had been succoured by the Fund when he fled in distress from the guillotine of the French Revolution, and now requited the benefit by a donation of fifty pounds!†

As I shall have a chapter to devote to my illustrious and lamented friend, I shall only notice in connection with my


“Sir,—Mr. Canning has at last found time to read the letter which you addressed to me on the 21st inst.

Mr. Canning consents to become a member of the Royal Society of Literature, and consents to preside at the Literary Fund next May.

I am, sir, yours respectfully,

† See Appendix F.

present subject, that
Mr. Stapleton’s letter indicates a matter of high literary importance and unavailing literary regret. In frequent conversations with the patriot Minister he spoke to me of his determination to exert his utmost power for the elevation of the authors and literature of the Empire; and it was simply an initiative step in this direction which authorised me, even without previous directions, to place him in any position which could contribute to the progress of this glorious object. What he would have done, had God spared him to an idolising people, is now but the vision of a shadowy dream to me; but to this I can bear witness, that his purpose was earnest, comprehensive, and exalting, and that the literary classes of England have deep cause to rue the day they lost so sincere and warm a champion.