LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 19: Poets

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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Genius is of no country, her pure ray
Spreads all around as genial as the day;
Foe to restraint, from place to place she flies,
And may hereafter e’en in Holland rise.
Why should we then abroad for judges roam,
When abler judges we may find at home?—Churchill.

From these dark themes will my readers allow me to seek refuge for myself and them, by disregarding the order of dates, and offering them a foretaste of the correspondence with which I hope to make my work more interesting to them, and the literary world at large, when I come to busier times and the distinguished individuals with whom they brought me into contact. In serious Opera, I have generally observed the audience pleased with the Divertissement between the acts; and I trust my interlude will be equally well received.

Peter Pindar was a comical animal, and not easily to be over-reached, however clever he might be in the way of over-reaching; of which a notable instance is related when he “took in” all the astute combination of London publishers. A meeting was convened (as I have heard described), at which Dr. Wolcot was to treat for the sale of his copyrights to this united body, which in those days
acted in concert with regard to important new productions, and the joint purchase of established publications. This was “the Trade;” a name of wealth and might. The Doctor had previously been unwell, but the booksellers had received no intimation how extremely ill he was. They were almost shocked to negotiate with a person who had one foot, if not both, in the grave. Peter was pale and worn, and afflicted with a cough so dry and hollow that it went to the heart to hear it. It was of little consequence to him what bargain was struck; in his dying condition he would prefer a considerable sum down at once, to dispose of as he thought proper: on the other side an annuity was suggested, they hoped he would speedily recover, and enjoy it for many years to come in ease and independence. Peter had no idea of what possible value an annuity could be to him; but, to cut the business short, after a good deal of haggling and a great deal more of fearful coughing, which threatened to choke him on the spot and put an end to the treaty, he consented to take an annual allowance more apportioned to his evanescent state, than to the real worth of the wares he sold. The contract was engrossed and signed, and the forlorn recipient no sooner put it in his pocket, than he wiped the chalk off his face, dropt all practice of his hectic and killing cough, and in a lively manner wished his customers good bye, as he danced out of the room, laughing at the success with which he had gulled them.
Tom Campbell used to say, he greatly admired Buonaparte because he had shot a bookseller (the heroic and unfortunate Palm): had he been here in the same ironical mood, he must have worshipped Pindar.

He escaped, poor old gentleman, as well out of his famous crim. con. case, where it was endeavoured to entrap
him into damages, for doing nothing but teach the wife of his lodging-house host to spout tragedy, as he assured her she would be as great as
Mrs. Siddons on the stage. To bare her breast, and throw about her arms, let down her disheveled hair, were the natural parts of this dramatic tuition, and so the jury thought and found a verdict for the defendant.

Of his negociation with government I can give an authentic account, which for the sake of all poets, I am sorry to remark did not redound to the credit of the satirist. His writings had a wide range, and great popular effect; and his absurd pictures of the King, tended to make nearly the whole country believe that his Majesty was little better than a simpleton or a fool. Some of these squibs annoyed the monarch, or at any rate his family, and most attached and loyal servants; and when it pleased God to visit him with the sore affliction of wandering reason, his ministers felt a laudable anxiety to guard against any chance of vexation from the venomous pen of this modern Thersites. I was interested enough to inquire into this matter, and the explanation I received from the most authentic source was as follows:—

“All I can recollect of the point to which you refer is that the gentleman in question (P. P.) proposed through a friend to lend his literary assistance in support of the measures of government, at the time referred to, with the expectation of some reward for such services. He did nothing, and then claimed a remuneration for silence, and for not having continued those attacks which he had been in the habit of making. This claim was, of course, rejected, and he took his line accordingly, ridiculing and slandering as before.”


Tremendous was Gifford’s denunciation of him:—
“But what is he that with a Mohawk’s air,
Cries havoc and lets slip the dogs of war?
A bloated mass, a gross, blood-boltered clod,
A foe to man, a renegade from God;
From noxious childhood to pernicious age,
Separate to infamy in every stage.”

The account of the rather uncommon transaction annexed (would it were otherwise) will, I am sure, he read with interest by every literary person and admirer of the justly famed Ettrick Shepherd. The first letter, signed C. D., I received with the Sheffield post-mark upon it, and never knew more of the generous writer, who or what he was. I bought a bank post bill with it, and remitted it to the owner.


“The enclosed Bank of England Note, value twenty pounds, is sent for Hogg, the poet, by his very true friend,

“C. D.”

I have, for the moment, mislaid the Shepherd’s acknowledgment of this liberal tribute to his genius, but will endeavour to supply its place by another letter from him, when I had also the good fortune to be the medium for forwarding a still more substantial token of the esteem in which his honest heart and original talent were held. The acknowledgment is very characteristic.

“Mount Bangor by Selkirk.
Dear Sir,

“I received your’s, containing the valuable present, with no little astonishment; indeed ‘I could hardly believe my ain een,’ as we say, when I opened it. I now see what hitherto I have sparingly believed, that it is not those who
make the most glowing expressions of esteem and admiration, &c, that are most to be depended on. I was three days with
Sir W. Scott, at Abbotsford, last month, and among the first things he inquired was, if I had written to you, and of your answer. I told him your’s was a friendly letter, but cherished no hopes whatever. He said he was sorry for that, for whatever you took by the end you generally made a point of carrying, and he heard there was, or soon to be, a pecuniary vacancy, and no more passed. I am yet at a loss whether it is the same society which we corresponded about, or another one, to whom I am indebted for this most timely and welcome relief, but, at all events, I am sure you were the moving spring of the grateful act. I shall speak of it to no man save Sir W. Scott, and for your credit I cannot but mention it to him. My circumstances are, at present, such that, in spite of the spirit of independence natural to a Scotsman, I gladly accept of the proffered boon, although I would fain hope only as a loan. And after the deep interest you have taken in me, it is proper you should know that it is not my own family concerns that have straitened me most, but those of others; the whole weight of three families, with their expenses, having fallen on me, and just at a time when both farming and literature were standing with their backs at the wa’, and my means quite inadequate to the charge. For four of these individuals I expect remuneration in whole or in part, at some future period, but at present it is wanting. My father-in-law is removed from this stage of existence since I wrote you,—an excellent old man, reduced from great affluence to a total dependence on me. My frail mother-in-law, with her attendants, are now incorporated with our own family, so that, in that respect too, my expenses will be greatly shortened, and upon the whole I
hope to get over my present difficulties. I have a good many MSS. lying by me, for which I can get no conditions for the present whatever, and the whole of my works (save the last poem) are, I believe, out of print. If there are any you could advise me to republish, with a little furbishing up, I should be very glad of your advice. I have been thinking of two neat vols, of ‘
The Shepherd’s Callander,’ never yet published by itself, but have tried nobody. If you were to announce it, it might give it some éclat. But I am wearying you, my dear sir, with selfish considerations, for I am really so proud at finding that I have a real and sterling literary friend which to my fondest estimations has hitherto proved rather equivocal, that I hardly know what I am saying. Be so kind as return my grateful thanks to the benevolent society that sent me this timely aid, and not mine only, but those of the aged and infirm, as well as the young and the destitute, and believe me ever,

“Your’s most truly,

That all the letters addressed to journalists are not so flattering or pleasant will be seen by the following very pithy and brief epistle, which I have pulled out of a large bundle for the present, as a specimen of the class.

“Shepton Mallett.

“As an editor of a paper stil’d the ‘Sun,’ I would have you confined to a word called truth, and not tell the public that the present harvest is prosperous, which you have followed up thick and thin. No doubt but you are paid for your rascally information to the public; and were I to be with you I would tell you the difference. Come here and see, you villain, to insert such a lie.


“You ought to be dam’d, and those that gave you the information.


From such rubbish I will transport the reader to a letter from Mr. Lisle Bowles, in which, besides the too kind estimate of me, there is a poetical illustration of general interest.

My dear Sir,

“I have finished my ‘Last Saxon,’ and probably my last poem. It is sent to you for your candid perusal. If it should awaken any interest in the mind of the most accurate and most unprejudiced critic of the age, I shall be indeed gratified. What is said in the preface, I think, will be sufficient to show my design. The introductory canto alludes to the various foreign subjects for poetry, whilst our history is comparatively neglected; and this canto contains also the principal characters, as in shadowy view, presented at the funeral of Harold.

“I could not well introduce the Conqueror here, but enough is said to prepare for his appearance in the second canto.

“I trust you will think all the poetic and supernatural circumstances in the poem are in consonance (I should say ‘keeping’) with his character, as I have tried to sketch it.

“Some allowance must be made for the difficulty of sustaining his dignity in the situation described, but I hope I have not entirely failed. The circumstances and character of Editha are new, I believe, to English poetry, though it is singular that such a fact as her finding the body of Harold, and this interesting portion of our history, should never have found a poet. I wish it had found one more able than
myself; but whether your critical opinion, after a candid perusal, be favourable or not,

“I remain, with sincere respect, dear sir, very truly,

“P.S.—I think I may venture to say, that in the diction you will find all ‘Cockneyisms’ carefully avoided. William will have a better coat on Monday, but I was willing he should be introduced to you directly.”

Well, the critic did his duty, and the following letter is the result, with which I beg to close this miscellaneous chapter.

My dear Sir,

“I have just read the gratifying support your eloquent pen has given to my ‘Last Saxon,’ and I cannot delay cordially thanking you. I am the more gratified as you have pointed out so clearly, what appeared to me obvious, that the introduction of the ‘Witches’ was not needless, but in strict consonance with the cast and character given to William, and with the storms and earthquake, &c, as well as for poetical light and shade, which beings of this description give to poetical narrative. One of the critical school of Etourdi asked me, Cui inserviunt?

“Your observations on the divided interest in the last book, are most accurate and judicious. If I have a second edition, which I think your account sufficient to promise, this will be obviated,—by detaching Marcus from that scene entirely, and if I had had the advantage of consulting any one so judicious, or indeed had myself considered it, I could not only have prevented this conflict of sympathies, in this place, but have given additional effect to the narrative, by letting Marcus stay, where history places him,
in a convent at Lewes, making the brothers and sisters pass that way to see the plain of battle, making there the discovery of their brother,—reserving the discovery of Editha for the place where it stands—Marcus chiefly distracts the interest. When I read your objections, the obvious beauty, without going from historical truth, I might have introduced, struck me so forcibly that I almost exclaimed
“Oh! te Bowleane, cerebri!”
How could I miss it?

“You are equally right, I think, after consideration, in what you say of the songs of Editha, not being in character. In fact, a pastoral air was designedly given to them, as relief to the storm, darkness, and supernatural ideas. I thought there was ‘something too much of this,’ and that it wanted ‘breaking,’ and the songs are supposed to be reminiscences of happier days. I hope to have an opportunity of showing my respect for your opinion by altering the cast of character in them.

“With respect to the line you marked as not musical, it certainly was made as it stands designedly; a more obvious melody would be
“Toiling, from corse to corse, they trod in blood.”
But would this express the action, the toil, the difficulty? I dissent in this instance only from your remarks, but with hesitation, and indeed when you consider the numerous examples of this kind of verse, you will see, I think, the propriety of it, and if not of its individual, of its relative harmony.

“The part which I myself considered the most effective in the poem, was the introduction of William in the abbey,
and his discovery. I had never heard a syllable of the French poem on the subject.

“I am now in the corner
“Mihi me reddentis agel—” (broken off by the seal).
and all my village girls and boys in their best cloaks, are greeting our return.* Could I, can I, shall I, persuade you and
Croly, and my friend Watts, to come down for a week? Nares is coming the beginning of July. Do pray turn it in your thoughts, and believe me,

“Dear sir, most sincerely your obedient servant,


“Except, when I wrote a poem anonymously, I have never had a warm word from any critic in my life, but my little boat, somehow or other, has got on, in defiance of cockney-taste or cockney-animosity, and the guarded silence of the Duo fulmina, the ‘Quarterly, and Edinburgh.’ This I attribute to the steadiness with which I hope I have steered between the Scylla and Charybdis of modern taste, false simplicity, and affected tawdriness of ornament, with eye never removed from the models of the Greek έπιγραμματα, which I first proposed to myself as the only examples. I am prepared for something vindictive in the ‘Quarterly,’ of which D’Israeli of the ‘golden-silvery-diamond-eye’ firing ‘silver-circled-silver-shining’ style is the

* Mr. and Mrs. Bowles educated and clothed nearly all the poorer class of children in the parish of Bremhill. It was a most gratifying sight to see them fêted on the lawn in front of the beautiful mansion on a fine summer day. At a very short distance the Marchioness of Lansdowne was earnestly fulfilling a similar charity for the children around Bowood; and Tom Moore, at Sloperton, between the two, thus had visions of a more bountiful and better world than he had painted in his biting satires.—W. J.

Coryphœus: I hope, however, the editor will be above this revenge.”

I will finish this epistolary chapter with a playful letter respecting Holland, by the author of ‘Catiline’ and many other excellent productions, a distinguished poet and an eloquent divine, who must not disapprove of one of the livelier sketches of earlier years being preserved to embellish the biography of a friend.

“Hague, Holland, 154, Noorde Ende.”
Dear Jerdan,

“I suspect you of Jesuitism, enough to forge at least a date; and that, like Bonaparte and his decrees, you manufactured a 7th of January to suit your own purposes. Take this upon your own conscience; but upon mine, the gentlest oath that can be sworn in a cold climate, I believe you to be among the worst depositaries of correspondence to be found anywhere, from this to Berwick, or forward and upward to Inverness. You absolutely kept some of my epistles—that is, epistles to me—a month, and have afflicted some of my she-friends with all the horrors of being forgotten by me. May I trust you again? I was actually beginning to have my fears for yourself; and as a typhus fever, or a St. Vitus’s dance, might seize upon a man of genius, and six feet altitude, as well as upon the diminutives of this world, I did not know but I might have been called on to write your epitaph. However, let me intreat you to sin no more on this subject, and, in consideration of your reform, I shall trouble you with sundry commissions in future. Thank you for your arrangements with the flageolet-maker—bring it with you; but don’t stir till the wind has been steadily fair for some time. You may come in twelve hours. You may be kicked about, starved
and sickened to within an hour or two of giving up the ghost by setting off, as I did, whether the wind would or not. You traitor!—this I use merely in tenderness—you say nothing about the poem which I must have done, but must see while it is doing in proofs. Holland is now in its glory; it has got new importation of tobacco, and a new fall of snow. They both have the effect of blinding me, and I at this instant write to you almost with one eye relieving the other. But the landscape, with all its flatness, is bright; the sun, to my astonishment and adoration, perpetually brilliant—a grand orb of fire and gold. The frost is severe; but exercise, clear air, and a kind of scorn of the Hollanders, who are all wrapped up to the snouts, like porcupines, in thick furs, make me never care about the cold while I can move. After all, spring is the finest time for movement here, as everywhere else; but spring here is like the people—slow, sulky, and takes a long time to consider about what might be better done at once, and what must be done, in some way or other, at last. And yet to think of having, in such a climate, drawing-rooms built without a chimney! This is my unhappy case at this moment. I am promised a chimney, made on the best authorities, with a grate with bars, and contrivance for letting the blaze be seen; but while the frost lasts, the architect cannot work, and in the meantime I am forced to eat, drink, dress myself—nay, even sleep in my bed-chamber. I am glad of the recruits coming, and request you to give my best respects to the Accouchée, or, as it is phrased in the classical tongue of this country, ‘De Kramm Frow.’ Apropos of Mr. F., let my letters lie open, and let him read them if he can; but I wish his powers were a little more extensive. Your enclosure (i.e., mine) has just cost me six shillings, English.”


In another letter, near the same date, the writer (who, by-the-by, was not far, as a looker-on, from the hottest of the fire in the north of Germany when Hamburgh was fought for) says, “I have been for some days (February 8) unblest with a sight of the sky. There are ‘storms upon the winds and oceans in the air,’ and if this wretched country is not blown clean away, it is only that it may stay to be drowned. But spring will do something kind for it again, and then you must exhibit here.”

In another part he speaks thus eloquently of Malesherbes, of whose life an excellent translation had just been published:—“It is peculiarly appropriate to the moment when the world wants to be reminded of the ancient honour and nobleness that was to be found in France. Malesherbes is more like a patriot of antiquity—a great, manly, mistaken character, full of vigorous talent, and high resolution, and venerable virtue, than a Frenchman; and if the people of that country are ever to rise to their earlier rank among nations, it must be by the memory and the example of such men.”