LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 11: Periodical Press

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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Earth’s deepest night from this blest hour,
The night of minds is gone!
“The Press!” all lands shall sing;
The Press, the Press we bring
All lands to bless.—Ebenezer Elliott.

The event I have recorded at the close of the last chapter is always considered to be an epoch in the life of every author, be he versifier, scholar, scribbler, proser, or poet. There is a mystery in print which no logician has ever explained, no philosopher fathomed. You look at your own hand-writing, it is every day stuff, paltry in your petty account book, insignificant in your ordinary notes to tradespeople, and unimportant in your routine letters; but in type the case is altered, and type gives consequence to the veriest trifles. Were it not so, we should not see so many of them printed. My debut was attended with the usual symptoms; I was restless and could not tell what was the matter with me; I pulled the paper out of my pocket every ten minutes, and again and again perused my contribution with an intensity of satisfaction, ever growing—ever new. I had been writing lines to this, and lines on that, and stanzas to * * * * * * or * * * * * * * * or * * * *, and epigrams, and songs, and the first staves of epics and tragedies, ever since I was ten or twelve years old,—but what were they? They were
never blackened with printer’s ink, never impressed and multiplied by a great machine on wetted paper, never published to the wondering world! Now the deed was done which could never be undone, and I was a printed poet! As the boat, that day, did not seem large enough to hold me, I roamed about from post (the Blue Posts) to pillar, could not conceive why every body looked so hard at me, felt in my pouch for fear I should have lost my treasure, and finally stole to my cabin to enjoy the luxury of solitary musing. Well, I may have coloured this picture rather highly, but the tintings are true to nature; and many a time and oft, when I have granted youthful aspirants room for their first lucubrations in the “
Literary Gazette,” I have thought of my lines to Wilberforce, and my emotions on seeing them in print. To say they were much admired by my friends and acquaintances at the time, is but to state an invariable truism; but it is an amusing circumstance to relate, that when I had some intercourse with my subject on taking his house in Brompton more than twenty years after, I showed him the verses when at breakfast with the Dean of Carlisle, he, Wilberforce ipse, and all the company eulogised my first printed essay as a laudable effusion! My uncle, who had sulked a little at my not having made myself celebrated so soon as he had expected up to 1801-2, relaxed somewhat in his saturnine views, but would not furnish the sinews of war, and I was indebted to the affectionate and worthy Lieutenant John Price, for funds to try my fortunes as a literary adventurer, and returned once more to London.

Behold me now about to launch on the untried and treacherous sea of literature, so alluring to the view, so toilsome in the navigation, so uncertain for the weather and tides, so insecure with its harbour at last. It is a remark-
able fact, nevertheless, that no human creature ever yet embarked on it with any expectation but that of a delightful and prosperous voyage, and an utter disbelief in the possibility of disappointment or wreck! The production of a morning newspaper is no slight business, and one of considerable excitement to all concerned,—projectors, proprietors, printers, publishers, reporters, and news-venders. The “
Aurora” was the auspicious title of the journal in which I was destined to make my début as a reporter, and it was got up in good style by a body of men whose influence was calculated to have an immediate and beneficial effect upon the circulation. As the “Morning Advertiser” had prospered as the concern of the numerous class of publicans, so it was thought the “Aurora,” under the auspices of the fashionable hotel-keepers and landlords of principal inns and taverns at the West End of the metropolis, might stand a fair chance of success. It was a pleasant speculation, and the concoction carried on in a very agreeable manner. The hotel proprietors, who took an active part in the arrangements, were, generally speaking, gentlemanly persons. There was meeting after meeting, and consultation after consultation; and they were commonly rounded off with a small party by way of finish, and “to talk the matters over less formally,” at one or other of the best hotels in London, the master thereof presiding and seeing “all right.” In due time the plan was fully organised, and as every body is aware that nothing of a public nature can be efficiently started in this great city without a social entertainment, we had a grand muster on the occasion at the Imperial Hotel, Covent Garden, then kept by a Mr. Kinsey, one of the leading members of the “Aurora” committee. To tell in detail what compliments were lavished, what glowing prospects were held
forth, what toasts were drank, and what songs were sung, might not interest my readers: enough therefore to notice that one of the most applauded poetical lyrics of the fête, was composed and chanted by the editor-elect, and the following the chorus:—
All hail to Aurora, the pride of the day,
Each blessing her progress attends:
The town and the country both welcome her ray,
As onward her footsteps she bends!

Within a few mornings, Guido’s Matin Goddess made her appearance, and a handsome one it was. The paper was of a superior quality, creamy and clear, the typography unimpeachable, and the whole performance such as to justify the gratulations which everybody concerned showered upon everybody else. It was really a reputable and promising dawning.

Raw as I was, I speedily discovered that I had got a queer set of colleagues. They were not bad fellows, but they were old in the trammels, and apt for any manœuvre which would lighten their labours; and the labours of reporting in those days were incomparably far more onerous than the greatest exertions ever called for in the present organisation of the great journals,—the electric telegraph having superseded some of those prodigious efforts to bring up important intelligence from the country to London, for publication within an incredible short space of time. But with regard to Parliamentary reporting, instead of the access to come and go, and relieve each other at all hours, and the gallery allotted to themselves, which reporters now enjoy—in the olden system, nearly the whole staff of every paper, on great occasions, had to wait with the crowd till the doors were opened at noon, force their way with great struggle into the gallery, and secure as well as they could the
back seat, not only as the best for hearing but as having no neighbours behind them to help the motion of their pencils with their knees and elbows. From twelve o’clock till four when the business began, the position thus occupied had to be secured; and it was only when the outer gallery door was locked against farther admissions, that those who had not the first two hours’ (not, as now, thirty or forty minutes) duty to discharge, could venture to steal up stairs to the coffee-room and recruit the physical man for his turn at the wheel. And as a relic of former customs, I may note that the place appropriated for the refection of strangers was outside of the room set apart for members, and that on the landing at the top of the stairs, on a small table, they could have the most excellent cold beef and beetroot salad for three shillings and sixpence, whilst the luxurious legislators within, might indulge in veal pies, and the most admirable miniature steaks and chops, brought to them hot and hot from the gridiron before their eyes. There was an oddity and piquancy about this, which made a dinner here exceedingly popular; and the conversion of the accommodations since into a common-place tavern cuisine and attendance, must be declared to be an ill-advised inroad upon parliamentary usages and the ancient constitution of the realm! I might add also upon the chance gratification of the lieges, when I state in proof, that on one evening of my early reporting career, when the outer hole happened to be full, and individuals known to the servants were sometimes permitted to pass inside, as if by accident, I sat at the same small table with the
Marquis of Wellesley, then glorious from India, the Duke of Wellington, then (I think) an indifferent orator, and Secretary for Ireland, and Mr. Canning, in after-life my idolised friend, who were paying their devoirs to the tiny chops aforesaid.


But to return to my “Aurora” companions; they were nearly all characters, and to show how capable they were of the “dodge” practice to which I have alluded, I need only state that to save themselves the trouble, they contrived to throw the Chancellor’s speech in bringing in the budget on me, whose experience did not extend to even easy debates, and a pretty budget I made of it! But the fourth estate was not then so enormously potential as now, and my budget passed wonderfully without much opposition or censure. Our editor was originally intended for the Kirk, and was a well-informed person; but to see him at or after midnight in his official chair, a-writing his “leader,” was a treat for a philosopher. With the slips of paper before him, a pot of porter close at hand, and a pipe of tobacco in his mouth, or casually laid down, he proceeded secundum artem. The head hung with the chin on his collar-bone, as in deep thought.—a whiff—another—a tug at the beer—and a line and a half, or two lines committed to the blotted paper.

By this process, repeated with singular regularity, he would contrive, between the hours of twelve and three, to produce as decent a newspaper column as the ignorant public required. Among my other coadjutors were Mr. Robinson, also educated for the Kirk, and a quiet man, Mr. Cooper, the author of a volume of poetry, which procured him the countenance of the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire; and Mark Supple, an Irish eccentric of the first water; he it was, who, waking out of an intoxicated doze, and seeing Mr. Abbot on the treasury bench (the house being in committee), called out “Master Speaker, as you seem to have nothing to do, I call upon you for a song if ye plaze.” The fierce indignation of the Chair rose hotly against this breach of privilege, and the Serjeant-at-Arms was sent up to the gallery to take the offender into custody; but Supple
adroitly escaped by pointing out a peaceful quaker, sitting two or three seats below him, as the culprit, and the affair assumed so ludicrous an aspect, that it ended in the worthy broadbrim being turned out in spite of his protestations of innocence, and without having fees to pay. Mark was, indeed, the licensed wag of the gallery, and to my apprehension and recollection possessed more of the humour of a
Dean Swift, without acerbity or ill-nature, than any individual perhaps that has lived since his date. His drollery was truly Swiftish, and the muddling, snuffling, quaint way with which he drawled it out, imparted an extra laughable originality all his own. Decorous people ought not to laugh at funerals, or the anecdotes of Supple related in the mourning coaches which followed his hearse, would, much as he was really regretted, have convulsed Niobe all tears.