LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 13: Past Times

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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What is experience but the sum
Of incidents and trifles that escape
The heedless eye. But being marked, with care
And conduct, make the thoughtful man a sage.

In running over two of my early newspaper engagements, I have stepped beyond the dates of several matters of a personal nature, which merely require notice in an autobiographical work.

A narrow escape from an ignoble death occurred to me at the time the grand theatrical question between Kemble and Cooke divided public opinion, and filled Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres every night. The rival Richards was a grand theme; but on the occasion to which I allude, the competition was between the cast of the comedy of “Every Man in his Humour;” both, indeed, performed in a superlative manner, almost every character being a pattern of dramatic skill and effect. Mr. D. Pollock and I were on our way to the theatre, and waiting opposite the narrow passage in Drury Lane which leads to the house, till a waggon passed by; a post-office light cart galloped up, and endeavouring to clear the waggon, caught the wheel, and was violently upset. The arm alighted on my head, and from that hour (near seven o’clock) to long past midnight, all medical efforts to restore sensibility were tried
in vain. The sedulous applications of Mr. Cartwright, one of the occasional visitors, as I have mentioned, at our literary meetings in Elm Court, at last succeeded in bringing me back to life; but I was many weeks confined to chambers in a confused and pitiable state. I have mentioned the name of my surgical friend for the sake of recording one of those coincidences which have always struck me as having, perhaps, more in them than is dreamt of in our philosophy, though in the present case not so remarkable as to induce one to ponder over it; but it happened only last year that I was run down by a cab hurrying to the railway station, and though not much hurt, it might have been Drury Lane over again and all over with me, yet it was strange that on getting into an omnibus, who should I meet but Mr. Cartwright, my saviour some half century ago, and whom I had not encountered thrice during the intervening time! I confess, however, to having met with many coincidences, which I view with a certain tinge of superstition.

Another of my exploits was a walk from London to Edinburgh. The fancy took me; and pretending a wager, to preclude the idea of poverty, I equipped myself very lightly for the journey, and started early on a Monday morning. I had taken a farewell dinner with Mr. Kerr, in Golden Square, on the Saturday, and, curiously enough, met Sir D. Carnegie, who was about to set out for Scotland with his lady and two children (I think) on the following day. We, laughingly, said we should see each other on the road; and it turned out that, after Tuesday, there was not a day that we did not pass and repass each other several times. His carriage, and led horse, were no match for my pedestrian activity; and yet we arrived at the Pilgrim Inn, Newcastle, on the same night (Saturday).
Now that railroads have intersected the island with their network, it would be of little use to preach upon the amount of information which can only be obtained by a tour of this kind, mixing with all comers, and seeking intelligence from the highest to the lowest, especially from the latter. After the first day, when I was somewhat footsore with a march of forty miles, I never stopped for the night without being easy and fresh enough to proceed another stage had I liked, and this was a fair boast, after reaching Newcastle at the rate of between forty and fifty miles a day. My plan was a stage before breakfast—a good country breakfast, another stage, a mere morsel for mid-day refection; and then the long stretch, becoming ever more and more agreeable as the cool of the evening prevailed, till the appointed place of rest was attained, with sure provision for a nice bit of supper, and a comfortable bed. Whilst at breakfast Sir D. Carnegie’s equipage used to pass my inn, and when they were at dinner I used to pass them; the good lady always pitying my fatigue, and begging me so kindly to ride part of the way in the carriage, that I had great difficulty in winning my (imaginary) wager.

I talked with everybody on the road, especially the lower orders of my fellow-travellers on foot; and to this day I have not forgotten the remarkable amount of new intelligence which I gathered. At our first social meeting at the Pilgrim, on Saturday, I perfectly astonished Sir D. Carnegie with the excess of my information over his; as he had been flattering himself with the extent of his inquiries and acquisitions on horseback. To learn what is worth knowing about any country, it may be relied upon that there is nothing like a well-arranged and properly-supported humble walk.


From Newcastle, after seeing the then famous glass-works at Shields, I wandered by Durham and Alnwick, and the delightful Coquet, with its memorable hermit’s cave—
“Turn, Angelina, ever dear, &c.”
into Bamborough-shire, into the plentiful luxuries of which—its Cheviot muttons, its leaping fish, of salt and fresh water attributes, its poultry of every kind, its game, and its eider-down beds, in which any small person might be lost for awhile (Heaven grant that the prosperity of those I remember may be perpetuated in their descendants there!)—into the pleasant luxuries of which, I repeat, if ever an Angelina found her way, neither she nor her gentle hermit would ever dream of going back to the cave.

One of the melancholy recollections of this period is that of my first visit to an East Indiaman, a splendid ship, in which I spent several very happy days. It was the ill-fated Abergavenny, wrecked a week afterwards on the Portland Race, when Captain Wordsworth, a brother of the poet and Dr. Wordsworth, perished with some as noble fellows as ever it was my hap to meet on their own element, and full of every hopeful prospect and generous feeling. One of them, after saving two females, was drowned in attempting to rescue a third from the watery grave he shared with her, when but a stroke or two of his sinewy arms would have oared him to safety.

Another painful incident arose from my finding at the bottom of the ballusters, in Elm Court, a pocket-book, on examining which I discovered that it belonged to a letter-carrier. I wrote to a friend in the Post Office to ascertain the owner; but dreadful was the event to him. His pocket had been picked on his “beat” in Whitehall, and the book, after being rifled, deposited where I found it. The
unfortunate issue was, that it led to the unhappy man’s detection of having betrayed his trust, and abstracted money from the letters he had to deliver. Shocked with the prospect of having any share in a capital prosecution, I intimated to
Mr. Parkins, the Post Office Solicitor, that I was very ill, and must go to the north*, in reply to which I received another subpœna, and a message by the officer, that if I left London I should be brought back by legal compulsion.

The trial came duly on, and the poor criminal—as decent and respectable-looking a person as I ever saw, was found guilty, condemned, and executed. He was a German, of the name of Nicolai. After the trial, the parties concerned in it, barristers, solicitors, witnesses, &c, adjourned to Lovegrove’s Hotel, in Doctors’ Commons, and spent a convivial evening. I was young then, and thought all the while of the miserable being in the condemned cell.
“But some must laugh and some must weep,
So wags the world away.”

In enumerating misfortunes, I will close this chapter with the publication of banns, and the commission of matrimony; which, belonging rather to private affairs, need not be obtruded on my readers, especially to the bachelor class:

“Who, dull to every finer tie,
To every soft affection cold,
Live on in cheerless apathy,
And in their very youth seem old.”