LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 2: Childhood

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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Time rolls her ceaseless course! The race of yore
That danced our infancy upon their knee,
And told our marvelling boyhood legends store
Of their strange ventures happed by land or sea;
How are they blotted from the things that be!—Scott.
There is a place in childhood that I remember well.—Lover.

Although my birth, parentage, and education cannot pretend to public interest, yet as they are requisite for the development of my design, I claim excuse for devoting a space to them; and if I then hasten more in medias res for the sake of later affairs, it will not be without an intention of retracing my steps at a future period, should circumstances attendant upon this publication warrant the retrospect. At present, perhaps, some critics may fancy I have said more than enough on the subject: but it illustrates more than “Sixty years ago.”

I was born on the 16th of April, 1782, being the third son and seventh child of John Jerdan and Agnes Stuart, both of Kelso, in the county of Roxburgh, Scotland. If the spot of birth could implant a love of the beautiful in nature and perfection of pastoral scenery, that love must have been inherent in me, for I first saw the light in a room which hung over the Tweed, opposite to its junction with the Teviot, and certainly one of the sweetest rural localities
upon the face of the earth. The mansion itself was one of those large old-fashioned houses, with the pressure of two centuries resting upon its roof, and with apartments large enough—after the family moved into a modern cottage residence, built closely adjoining in a pretty garden off the river—to be converted into places for town meetings, dancing schools, ball-rooms, and warehouses. It rejoiced in the name of “Lang Linkie,” and is still, I believe, in existence as a distillery, and no ornament to the site. The new cottage was also most beautifully situated on the banks of the Tweed, opposite a lovely island, or “Ana,” on the fork between the rivers. Old Roxburgh Castle was just beyond, Fleurs, the magnificent seat of the
Duke of Roxburgh, up the river on the right; and the Eildon Hills in the distance. There was a sweet garden, high brick wall, and fine fruits, not common elsewhere. Close by was the old family residence of “Lang Linkie,” the gable end of which was washed by the river, as was the garden wall of the new abode, with the cheerful town-mill immediately below, with a picturesque “cauld” or weir.

My father was an only son, and descended from a long line of respectable landowners, of small estate. They held their property in feu, as deeds ranging over three hundred years bear witness, and appear to have been always ranked among the leading inhabitants of their native place. Desirous of improving, though, in fact, his easy temper and large family ultimately led to his diminishing his inheritance, he obtained the appointment of purser to an East Indiaman when a young man, and proceeded to London to enter upon his duties. But these were not the days of railroads or rapid intelligence, and whether the only son was indulged too long in his outfitting by maternal fondness and fears or not, certain it is that he did not arrive at his destination
till too late to sail with the vessel on its voyage to India. To return home would have been to become a laughing-stock, and therefore, having the means, he resolved on a volunteer voyage, and after some stay in London, about 1760-61, took that trip, instead of the grand tour, and visited the East as a private gentleman, when such expeditions were, indeed, exceedingly rare. The late eminent merchant,
Mr. John Tunno, was an officer in the ship in which he went, and he not only formed a friendship with that gentleman, but with Mr. Kerr, afterwards of Kippilaw, and Governor of Bombay, which was marked by a cadetcy to my eldest brother, and lasted to the end of their lives. On his return he sought no farther active life, though a person of excellent abilities, and, in after years, of great reading and solid information, but settled indolently down, the laird of a few fields, producing a revenue which, in our statistical day, would be thought no very satisfactory provision for the marriage state and its consequences. Marry, however, he did, and one of the best of wives that ever fell to the lot of man. She was handsome and possessed of very superior talents; and as there can be few families in Scotland without some pretence to lofty lineage, her progenitors claimed descent from a no less exalted and improper ancestor than a certain(?) Abbot of Melrose, and the natural son of a certain (?) King James! How this was made out I cannot tell, but the supposition was sustained by several remarkable* resemblances between branches of her family and portraits of the royal

* My own dear and lamented second daughter, Mary, the late Mrs. Power, was so like Mr. Traill’s portrait of Mary Queen of Scots, that when it was brought to London and exhibited in St. George’s Hospital, she was frequently invited thither for the sake of the comparison, and much playful amusement derived from the circumstance. In a fancy-ball dress at Sir William Beechey’s, the resemblance was observed to be still more striking.

race, thus said to be consigned to plebeian perpetuation. At all events her father entertained
Prince Charles and his Staff in the Forty-five, and would have been hanged for his pains, but that the father of her future husband was equally strong on the Hanoverian side, and had influence enough to save his townsman and friend from Jacobite martyrdom.

Noticing this legendary genealogy for all it is worth, and that is not more than a sample of very common Scottish nationality and aspiration to distinguished descent, I proceed to my earliest recollection of my father, who was then Baron Baillie of the township of Kelso and neighbourhood, a feudal office of consideration and magisterial authority, before the division of the country into county jurisdictions, with separate sheriffs, deputes, and sessions for the determination of civil suits and the trial of criminal or other offenders. The Duke of Roxburgh, as feudal lord, was thus represented and his powers exercised in the holding of weekly courts, sitting in the town hall, and administering justice with great simplicity of forms and investigation. As a picture not yet sixty years old, I may describe this somewhat primitive semicircular bench: raised on a dais at the upper end of the hall, the centre occupied by the Baillie, and about three yards from him, one end equally distinguished as the invariable seat of a harmless, tolerated idiot or person of weak intellect, named from the place of his birth Willy Hawick, and unquestionably the original of Walter Scott’s Goose Gibby. I am confirmed in this opinion not only by the vraisemblance of the portraits, but by the circumstance that when Scott resided, in his holiday boyhood and later youth, with his relation, Captain Scott of Rosebank, close to Kelso, both were frequent visitors at our cottage home, where Hawick was a
licensed intrusionist, and must have attracted the notice of the great painter of Scottish life.* This character was, it is strange to say, almost natural and general in the country towns and villages; and Willy was so largely indulged by everybody, old and young, that his worst vagaries were tolerated and laughed at. Thus he often loudly expressed his approbation of the judge’s decisions, to the constant amusement of tho court and its president; and I remember one occasion when he smashed two very large and valuable China mandarins, brought home by my father and set on high in the parlour, because they nodded and made faces at him, having stolen unobserved from the kitchen into their location!

Mr. Scott’s intimacy with the family continued for a number of years whenever he visited this part of the country, and there was even an early flirtation between him and my eldest sister, who did not like the “lame laddie.” But a more interesting proof of intimate acquaintance than boy and girl fancies, whether real or conjectural, is contained in a letter from the mighty minstrel to myself, in recommending his son Charles to my cicerone-attentions when he came to London, in which he tells me that my father was “the first person who encouraged his love of poetry!” My father, indeed, in his limited provincial sphere, stood almost alone for a genuine and cultivated taste for literature; and when, at a few years later than the time of Scott, I, either from disposition or imitation, entered upon an ardent boyish research into Ballad and Border lore, my indulgent parent warmly fanned the flame, and took me to many an old weaver, cobbler, and aged crone, from whom I learnt many scraps of traditional song and legend, out of which, even now in advanced years, I could

* See Appendix A.

recollect enough to make a curious collection, reviving bits that I have never seen quoted in any publication.

My father was much respected and beloved. The lower classes looked to him as an indulgent friend, and from his position, though of barely competent income, he associated with the principal persons of the county: among these were John the “Book” Duke of Roxburgh, whose judicial substitute he was, and with whom I had the honour of taking my second day’s dinner in London, and being shown his noble library, now the resort of the Windham Club in St. James’s Square;—Sir George Douglas, of Springwood Park, the county member, from whom I also received much hospitable attention on my debut in town;—Mr. Kerr, the inheritor of Kippilaw, an eminent Scottish solicitor and parliamentary agent, residing in Golden Square, and one of my earliest and kindest friends. I well remember also Admiral William Elliot of Monteviot, the vanquisher of Thurot, Admiral William Dickson of Sydenham, and other Scotts, Elliots, and Dicksons; including General Dickson, the Admiral’s brother, whose admirable good-nature is engraven on my mind for ever, as a frequent visitor to our cottage, and delighting the young brood by the sweetest performance on the Irish pipe, and enjoying the pleasure he so kindly communicated. It might be that a favourite cat, apparently a fanatico per la musico, added to the attractions; for no sooner did the General commence playing, than it jumped upon his knee and sat there till every note was exhausted: and it may be mentioned as a curious anecdote in natural history, that the animal was so enamoured of the piping, as when taken from it into the garden as a test, it leapt through and broke a pane of glass in the parlour window, in order to regain its curious station. In fact, it realised the ancient sign of the Cat and Bagpipes; which
probably was not a grotesque invention, but sprung from some similar feline attachment to the instrument.

Of my venerated parent I shall say little more. He died suddenly, in the night-time, after retiring to rest, in the autumn of 1796, when I was thirteen years old; and his funeral was attended by fifty or sixty of the most respectable inhabitants of the place and neighbourhood. I was at the time on a country visit, exploring the gipsy haunts of Yetholm and the legendary den of the Worm of Wormielaw.

He was, as I have observed, much beloved and respected; a gentleman of fine abilities thrown away in the indolence of a small provincial town, where he was the chief. Had he been called into the wide and busy world, he was well calculated to shine in it; but his habits were stirred by no stimulus. His residence was hospitably open to strangers, and particularly to the officers of regiments, then moving into quarters throughout the land. Those of English County regiments, such as the Sussex, were especially welcome, and I remember the first view the officers of this corps had from our garden, of the mode of washing by stoutlimbed lasses trampling on the clothes in tubs by the river side. Their surprise at the novelty in Scottish customs, was very entertaining; and their astonishment and shouts of laughter, so long-continued and vehement, that they would hardly let them come in to dinner.

The Mid Lothian Cavalry and the 21st or Royal Scotch Fusileers, were also visitors and on intimate terms with the family. With the former, indeed, it had all but formed an alliance; my eldest sister, then a very handsome girl, having attracted the attentions of two of its officers, Mr. John Hay (son of Dr. Thomas Hay of Edinburgh, and one of the finest looking young men in Scotland), and Mr.
Peter Hamilton, a younger brother of Lord Belhaven. I believe my sister preferred the former, but a union with either would, under circumstances, have been imprudent, and so the love-making was discontinued till the route came and our much valued friends marched away. Above forty years after Hay and I met, accidentally, upon Granton Pier, and after staring at each other for a minute, rushed to a hearty recognition. He had been long in India married to a daughter of General Gowdie, and I had grown from boyhood to an elderly man: we renewed a friendship which lasted to his death. My sister, though the belle of the town, never married.

The distant retrospect of my father paints him to my mind’s eye, in a few prominent situations: ex. gr. as a fine looking portly gentleman, who from the summit of the abbey which adorns the title-page of this volume,* and to the insecurity of which he and his assessor, Willie Hawick, were wont to commit prisoners who often escaped before morning, fired a pistol as the signal for Lunardi’s balloon ascent,—the earliest impression left of my infant recollections, being then little beyond three years old; as presiding at the cross on the 4th of June, when around the bull-ring assembled the respectable inhabitants to drink bumpers to the health of King George III., and toss their glasses back over their heads to be profaned by no other toast, unless luckily caught by the crowd of boys and mechanics; as guiding me to parties for the collection of old poetry; as walking with Robert Burns and calling me from play to

* For this charming illustration of the lovely scene in which my childhood and school-life was spent, I am indebted to the liberal kindness of Mr. Adam Black, the distinguished publisher of Edinburgh; who, in thus placing one of Turner’s sweetest views at my disposal, has conferred one of those obligations which do honour to the intercourse between booksellers and authors.—W. J.

be told who the admired poet was (I seem to recollect the very spot in the churchyard where the meeting took place, in 1787, when little more than five years of age, and my idea of the bard is most completely realised by the portrait of him in a broad-brimmed hat)*—and, lastly, as assisting in the family leave-taking of my eldest brother,
John, in 1795, when he mounted his pony from the classic ground of Ednam.† and cantered off, rejoicing as a young soldier should, to set out on that journey to India, whence he never returned to gladden the hearts of those who wept to see him depart,—a noble, manly fellow, whose military career, till he died at the Cape of Good Hope, Colonel of the 5th Bombay Regiment, reflected honour upon his name and the service, in which a severe campaign in Cutch sapped his constitution, and sent him forth an invalid, for that native home which, denied by Providence to many anxious and earnest prayers, he was destined never more to behold.‡

That I was not more familiar with my father’s domestic life arose from the circumstance of my having been adopted in childhood by a relative of my mother’s, wife of Mr. Walker the Supervisor of Excise for the town and adjacent district, an office of responsibility in those days, yet one to which I paid but little deference. For, in truth, the good man was very indulgent, and allowed his wife to pursue that course of training which is generally known by the appellation of “quite spoiling” the party in charge. And I dwell upon this matter especially, because it exercised much influence over all my future years. Having more pence than my companions, being allowed to loiter and lag behind school hours, and being pampered and petted with or without reason, I naturally grew up petulant and self-willed; and it is only extraordinary that the process did not render me also vicious

* See Appendix B. † See Appendix C. ‡ See Appendix D.

and selfish. But I inherited my father’s easiness of disposition, and it saved me from these greater evils, though not from consequent misfortunes.

As portion of the lesson I have promised to give, I should mention another source of notice and praise which were well calculated to produce the feeling of vain-gloriousness in the infant mind. When still a child so young as to he unacquainted with my letters, I possessed an extraordinary faculty of the boy Biddle kind for figures, and could promptly render an account of arithmetical questions, such as were put to me by the gentlemen who were my father’s associates, and receive from them, in return, expressions of admiration and immense rewards, enabling me to scatter blessings round in the shape of gingerbread and sweetmeats. To be treated as a precocious phenomenon is a dangerous shoal, but as my talent left me as strangely as it had arrived, I was not long exposed to it. With the acquisition of the A, B, C, the gift of calculation suddenly departed, and from that hour to this a more unready reckoner than I have been never existed in the world. It has seemed as if all my capacity in this way had been exhausted between my birthday and its fourth anniversary; although I have not been unequal to high and abstract propositions of sufficient interest to enchain the faculties for their solution.

Another trait, and I close this Childish chapter. Owing to a premature cold bath in the Tweed, administered whilst yet unrecovered from small-pox, I was thrown into a condition of health so delicate, that during several years it was the nearest possible issue between death and life. This led to continued indulgences, and I only got through the struggle by the help of a long-eared nurse, whose milk at morn and eve was my chief sustenance. Towards the end
of this sickly period my prolonged holidays were spent delightfully at Old Melrose, the seat of Mr. Liston, nearly related to the
ambassador at Constantinople, and uncle to Robert the famous surgeon and John the famous comedian. My dear playmates, his daughters Oby and Diana, came to disastrous fates after his death; and in Edinburgh when a student there, I met with the former under circumstances that shocked and pained me so severely that I cannot bear to think of it even now! Sad and terrible change it was from the innocence and loveliness of Old Melrose, surrounded by scenes so pure and fair, and with all the venerable memories of antiquity to superadd intensity to the sweetest and noblest feelings of the human heart. Here, close at hand, rolled the silver Tweed, and here stood the triple Eildon Hills, the Roman station of Trimontium, Melrose Abbey, immortal in the lay of Scott, and Dryburgh Abbey, so pathetically and poetically sung by Charles Swain, where his mortal remains have their last repose.

For He whose spirit woke the dust of nations unto life—
That o’er the waste of barren earth spread flowers and fruitage rife—
Whose genius, like the sun, illumed the mighty realms of mind—
Had fled for ever from the fame, love, friendship of mankind!