LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Charles Westmacott, Dedication of The Blow Fly, a Portrait

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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“To hear an open Slander is a curse,
But not to find an answer is a worse.”

“In dedicating to you the following Satire, I have two motives—first, to attract attention to your name, and, secondly, to display both your name and character in its true light; dedications are, thanks to the independence of modern authors, out of fashion: the singularity of this will, therefore, I trust, obtain for you that notoriety to which your peculiar qualifications have so eminently entitled you.

“You would be thought the censor of the press, the magnus
apollo of criticism and literature, the judge upon whose fiat hangs the fate of genius. In your own conception there is no subject too lofty or profound for a display of your erudite skill, and liberal use of the dissecting knife; so also you think no trifle too mean to escape mangling by the dexterous use of your literary hatchet.

“Sir, you are a slaughterman of reputation, and can flay poor authors with as much facility, and something less of feeling, than a carcase butcher does the bleating lamb; nor do you confine your criticisms to authors alone, but, ‘labouring in your vocation,’ spread your pestilential breathings over the whole arena of genius, arts, and science.

“If to all these superlative qualifications (got God knows how) for the office of a public critic I could add that of honesty,* I would teach my tongue submission to your sapient judgment, and bow with becoming meekness to the Mohawk of Paternoster Row.—

“But I know ye, Sirrah, know all your paltry tricks, your devious windings, quirks, and shiftinga, and will uncase ye to the world.”

“You have placed yourself (in defiance to propriety) upon the pedestal of detraction, and are surrounded by satellites as malignant as the demoniac planet in whose orbit they move. Be it my office to expose the one and crush the other; first, then, to measure your altitude, and with my gray goose quill disjoint the pilfered fragments that compose your colossal self; which, like the idol of modern barbarians, disgraces the classic base where once was seen the splendid

* “I have heard, this critic boasts of his intimacy with such distinguished patrons of the arts as Sir John Fleming Leicester and the Marquis of Stafford: if they ever do suffer him into their presence, it can only be to laugh at his presumption, ignorance, and folly.”—The Blow-fly.

statues of
Phidias or Praxiteles. Could the gulph of death disgorge the mighty of the children of genius, what would Johnson, Warburton, Pope, or Harris think of the boasted refinement of the present age, to find the throne of criticism usurped by such a nameless thing in literature as William Jerdan?* I know not of what base materials you imagine modern authors to be composed, that you think they will meanly succumb to a self-elected critic, the hired oracle of an anti-literary faction, who (if he has the ability) has never yet found the courage to put his name to anything of equal magnitude with a sixpenny pamphlet. In all other arts and sciences, save that of literature, the judge must have toiled through a probationary course, and given sterling proofs of his superior claims to genius and perfection, before he is permitted to pronounce sentence upon the acts of others.† You have impudently thrust yourself into the judgment seat without the shadow of a qualification, and feeling your own lack of originality, seek to overcloud the glimmering hope which streaks with golden hue the opening morn of genius. Nor is it envy alone that guides your poisonous shaft, the bow is strung by interest, and the itching palm of the critic archer directs the arrow with a force proportioned to the bribe he takes.

* “Take the opinion of the editor of ‘The Examiner’ on his (Jerdan’s) abuse of Lord Byron:—“This is certainly the most ‘gracious fooling’ Master Jerdan has treated the town with, since he abused the finest passages in ‘Heaven and Earth,’ as the merest ‘tol-de-rol buffoonery’ (I quote his own words). The editor of the Literary Gazette grudging a shilling for three Cantos of Don Juan! What does he imagine the public think of eightpence for sixteen pages of little else than a mass of unconnected extracts from about a dozen books? ‘When a true genius appears in the world,’ says Swift, ’you may know him by this sign—that the dunces are in confederacy against him.’”

† “It is a national disgrace that any common pick-fault who would experience a difficulty in stringing together three original sentences, should be permitted to set himself up for a critic, and mutilate what he cannot comprehend.”


“Revenge and fear, by turns, display their power over your jaundiced mind, and every line you write is impregnated with the sulphurous spirit of the author. I need not travel far through your absurdities for damning proof. Almost every page teems with some obnoxious sarcasm levelled at those (both male and female) who have not paid tribute to the Mohawk chieftain of the Cockney literati. For myself, you well know ‘I am not to be terrified by abuse, or bullied by reviewers with or without arms.’ The malignity of your attack upon a trifle of mine has defeated itself, while the approving voice of every other paper, and the flattering sale of the book offers the best reply to your slanders, and is a sure criterion of your critical abilities. Here I might safely waive all personal feelings but those of contempt; but I have undertaken to expose the system upon which you and your employers act, for the benefit of others, and I will fearlessly do my duty. Your arm is raised against every independent author.

“It is disgraceful to this age, that any publication so connected and so conducted, should be supported; and I am satisfied that it only requires to be generally known to meet universal condemnation.”