LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 20: The Sun

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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Perhaps, “where ignorance is bliss,
’Tis folly to be wise.”
Who saw the Sun to-day?
No matter.—Shakspere, Rich. III.

My preceding chapter may have intimated that I had become editor to some journal, of sufficient character to embrace the correspondence of distinguished literary men. In point of fact I was installed in the “Sun” newspaper, on Monday the 10th of May, 1813, and, with an interregnum of a few months in 1817, held my place in that Journal, and the “Literary Gazette,” for the long space of thirty-seven years, during which period I enjoyed that intercourse and those communications, on which I rely to give interest and value to my succeeding autobiography. On the past I feel, that, though I have dwelt upon personal reminiscences to some extent, I have not pursued the subject farther than the public may approve, nor, at any rate, farther than I have declared to be necessary to develope and point the lesson of my life. On the contrary I have left many things untouched to which I hope to return in the way of illustration, and which (to confess a truth) I have only been compelled to pass over in consequence of the difficulties
of reference, which, to my astonishment, I have encountered. Truly may it be said, we live only in and for our own day. Having been as liberal in forgetting as in producing my literary labours; not having preserved a complete copy of any publication I ever conducted, nor of any separate work I have published, though amounting to twelve or thirteen volumes; nor of any of my contributions to the larger Reviews, Annuals, books of friendly combinations for humane purposes, or any of the multitude of minor efforts scattered about here, there, and everywhere; I thought, on setting myself to my present undertaking, that I should no doubt have plenty to do in raking up my ashes (if there were fire in them) from the dust-holes of these neglected bantlings of the brain; but, on coming to the retrospect, I found it was all a blank. If I had written anything deserving of resuscitation in the brilliant “
Aurora,” the brilliant “Aurora” had herself sunk so irretrievably into the gulph of oblivion, that one ray of her was not to be discovered. If I sought the “Pilot” for like remains, it was but to learn that this “Pilot” had not weathered the storm; but the “Satirist,” there were eight or ten octavo volumes, and these must easily be found for reference. Stop, reader! I dare say they exist in more places than one; but, certes, in no receptacle to which inquirers would be directed to resort for such information. The British Museum (deficient in a multitude of sterling works, or at least so catalogued as to preclude their discovery), is, as far as periodical literature is concerned, a collection of odds and ends, shreds and patches; you may look all day ere you find them, and when found they are not worth the search. I do not think there is one perfect set of a London newspaper in the National Repository! As for those publications which flourished for their era, be it short or long, there is
no trace of them or of their ever having been. Of provincial journals there are only few irregular fragments; and on visiting the Chapter Coffee-house, Peele’s, Deacon’s, and other places, noted as the conservators of elder journalism, nothing will be met but disappointment,—the “rubbish” has been cleared out, and the butter it has wrapt, eaten thirty years ago, and the very trunks it lined fallen to pieces through the wear and tear of age.

Therefore, I can here only repeat that such things were, and were to me most dear; and promise that if I can hereafter recover any morsels of them I may fancy deserving of rescue, the public, as fox-hunters say, shall have the benefit of the “find.”

My editorship of the “Sun,” then an acknowledged organ of Pitt politics, and ministerially informed and supported as such, was confided to me, as stated, on the 10th of May, 1813. I had a tenth share of the property, a weekly salary amounting to above 500l. a-year, and the “entire control” of the paper; and hence great troubles and disastrous results in the sequel, when the deed of copartnery came to be construed and canvassed in the courts of law. In the beginning it was all pleasant and harmonious enough, and a curiously illustrative instance of the clearness with which literary people are apt to apprehend the nature of legal instruments and the penalties attached to a breach of them, was afforded within six weeks of our engagement by Mr. Taylor and myself. One clause in the agreement provided always, that neither of us should be bail for a third party, on pain of forfeiture; yet, notwithstanding, and nevertheless, we went together to a spunging-house, and gave bail for a stricken associate, a Mr. Proby, Lords’ reporter for the “Morning Chronicle,” and a great oddity in his day. My immediate precursor
Mr. Robert Clarke, a gentleman of solid intelligence and sound ability; and there was conjoined with him, for the lighter contributions of poetry, dramatic criticism, chit-chat news, &c., the aforesaid notable Mr. John Taylor, of Monsieur Tonson repute, one of the most prolific punsters and amusing convivial companions of the time. He also held a tenth share—the remaining eight being still retained by Mr. George Heriot and Mr. Clarke. Thus situated, I commenced my daily labours, proud of the position I had achieved, and resolute in the ardent Toryism I had inherited from my father, nourished in the “Morning Post,” and augmented by my new connexion.
“Sol tibi eigna dabit!”
I proclaimed, and—
“Solem quis dicere falsum
I printed on my shield, just as if I were endowed with capacity to instruct and lead the whole world, and as if it would be a perilous feat to question my authority. It was like the Dixie family motto, Quid dixi dixi (what I have said, I have said), which some wit translated and applied to a blustering scion of the race, “What Dixie has lied about, Dixie will swear to;” and though I certainly intended no falsehood, I was pretty well prepared to stick to my text, whatever it might be; adding,—
“Ille etiam cæcos instare tumultus,
Sæpe monet, fraudemq’ et operta tumescere tecta.”

It was an eventful period. Napoleon was pursuing his victories in Germany, and Wellington, like the lion couchant, preparing for his immortal spring, for the deliverance of
Spain; and almost every sun witnessed circumstances of immense interest and magnitude, which it was my duty to record and comment upon. My first “leader” was on the anniversary of the death of
Mr. Perceval, the firm antagonist to the Roman Catholics, which at this period was warmly debated in Parliament. Of course I took the Protestant opposition side, and wrote so well, that the “Sun” was publicly stigmatised and burnt by the Romish party in Dublin.

I do not look back on all, what I may call my political career, with unmitigated satisfaction; for, in the heat of argument, and, I must add, in the deep conviction of national injury being perpetrated by opposite opinions and acts, one is apt to become more violent in condemnation than ordinary circumstances could warrant; and even personal, in the belief that there must be corrupt or bad motives on the other side. Time assuages this fury, and mitigates this rancour; and we think of the fierceness of the strife, and the hatred of the suspicions, with a considerable change in feeling and judgment. But when I now calmly consider my writings in the “Sun” to the end of the year (1813), I am bold to say that I find more to be proud of than to repent.

That I fervently, and with all my might, plunged armed to the teeth among the ranks of the opposition, and almost daily made bitter attacks upon their organ, the “Morning Chronicle,” and its editor, Mr. James Perry, is no subject of regret. In after years Mr. Perry and I lived together in social kindness, and I had ceased to think that he had been sold to the worst and most dangerous enemy of his country, or was a desperate revolutionist aiming at its destruction. I could believe that he was merely the tool and mouthpiece of his party, and meant nothing unpatriotic
in using every means to push them into place and power. Engaged in such designs no one sees very clearly to the right or left, or weighs very impartially the pros and cons of the case. In short the mind is warped, the perceptions obscured, and to accomplish the end in view the single occupation of the newspaper ally.

But no distance of time can erase from my memory the indignation and disgust I experienced in daily dissecting the ruinous tendencies of the opposition tactics, as they regarded the war in the Peninsula. I am convinced that the hottest politicians now living as the heirs to their sentiments could read the parliamentary debates of 1813 without shame and contrition.* It seemed as if, between terror and admiration, they had exalted Buonaparte into an idol, and would rush through the fire to worship their Moloch, colouring every advantage on his side, and disparaging every success against him. No wonder that the ministerial phalanx shouted and exulted with triumph when the tide turned against the mighty conqueror. I crowed with the rest when Wellington victoriously entered Madrid, and (July 1st) scouted with scorn the “Chronicle” opinion, that it was “nothing but a renewal of the policy of Buonaparte to protract the contest in Spain until a more favourable opportunity occurs of carrying it into effect.” I laughed at the prediction, that the hero “having finished the war in the north,” would be “enabled to send a force to the Peninsula strong enough to compel Lord Wellington again to retreat, and once more leave the enemy the undisputed occupancy of the greater part of Spain!” But, indeed, we had the argument all our own way now, and

* It is worthy of remark that in the publication of the Wellington Dispatches, the Duke himself complains of these debates and newspaper comments as currish, and calculated to embarrass his Commissariat, and defeat his measures.

recurred with grand gusto to the gloomy prediction about the leopard’s being driven into the sea, and the gloomier wish that Wellington and his brave army were only safe at home. After this date the downfall of Napoleon from his dazzling height was a wonder to behold, and accompanied by a continual succession of such astonishing and terrible events as no other era in the world’s history can parallel. There were not many nights on which the evening newspapers did not publish second, third, and even fourth and fifth editions, with the extraordinary news brought by every arrival from the continent, which was in one sanguinary ferment from the Tagus to the Vistula; and, as I have acknowledged, we were not particularly moderate in boasting of our prescience, our patriotism, our glorious deeds, and our resplendent victory. The “Chronicle” characterised the “
Sun” as a “paper peculiarly resorted to by ministers for the propagation of their ideas;” and I presume, therefore, that every class of politicians in the British Isles will agree that I could not do less nor otherwise than I have stated. And I did it in verse as well as in prose: here is proof.

Cur! cur!
You must have seen, pray han’t you Sir?
In London streets, a yelping cur,
In trust of waggon proud:
Trampling the bales of goods below,
Barking at crowds who near him go,
Snarling, and racing to and fro,
Busy, offensive, loud.
Of office insolently vain,
He snaps, and growls, and snaps again—
A plague to all around;
And yet with all this battling stout,
Of what he really is about,
And worth of charge which prompts this rout,
In ignorance profound.
A cur, you may have seen beside.
To axle-tree by cord fast tied,
Beneath a cart, God wot;
The string about his neck he feels,
He twists, he writhes, he pulls, he reels,
And wheels about between the wheels,
Compelled along to trot.
Like vanquished slave in ancient war,
Chained to the spoke of Victor’s car,
A triumph to adorn;
His dreary howl ascends the sky,
Amid the shouts of victory,
No sharer in the general cry,
But wretched and forlorn.
Thus ’tis that “all the talent” crew,
Appear presented to our view
A currish-tempered race;
Barking and yelping with the best,
Snarling and biting without rest,
To all, and to themselves a pest,
When raised aloft to place.
Tearing about, so loud of voice,
So pert, and prodigal of noise,
And self-importance too!
Spoiling the goods beneath their care,
Yet bustling, chaffing, here and there,
Though impotent to guard the ware,
Or real service do.
And so again did they appear,
Tied to the cart (their proper sphere),
Unwilling tugged along;
With all their backward jerks so hard
Its progress trying to retard,
With filth their fate, scorn their reward,
In struggling with the strong.
And now when victory’s acclaim,
To glory gives Britannia’s name,
In notes which mount to heaven!
Still, like the cur, their helpless fate
They mourn, while all the land’s elate,
And, wretched, grace their rivals’ state
In pomp of triumph driven.
On with the car they must proceed,
Strengthless to leave it, or impede
The splendid course it rolls;
Reluctant, howling, stubborn, slow,
With joy they mix their screams of woe,
And that good men with transports glow,
Embitters more their souls!

After this I hope none will deny that I was a hearty partisan, and spared neither rhyme nor reason to sustain the cause to which I vehemently and conscientiously adhered.

In looking over this chapter I have caught the notion that it has more of a political tinge than I intend my biography to exhibit; and therefore I will get over another passage, of cognate character, though the periodical press is its prominent theme. It is a declaration of my principles a few weeks after I joined the “Sun,” and I copy it because I have never swerved from these principles in any of my writings, and I uphold them to be the true elements of the true Press:—

“We wish the British nation to be informed of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; making allowance always for the mistakes into which a public print may occasionally fall, or the impositions to which even the most guarded are casually exposed. Little consistent with this principle is the vain desire of making a stir by the circulation of news of which the next day proves the utter fallacy; and still less consistent with it is the abominable practice of lending the aid of that which ought to be more honest, to promote the sordid purposes of gambling and stock-jobbing. To such designs the ‘Sun’ shall never be prostituted. It shall be our pride to communicate the earliest intelligence, but we will not impose upon credulity by committing the character of this paper to that which is not authentic, for the paltry and (we should imagine in the end) self-injurious eclat of causing a momentary bustle, by
filling the horns of the news-boys. Neither shall this publication ever, knowingly, be made the vehicle for stamping erroneous impressions on the public mind.

“Did our inclinations lean this way, our judgment would correct them, for we can conceive nothing more mischievous than to raise and depress the opinion of the country beyond what the real situation of the facts warrant. Deceptions, like bad fire-arms, invariably recoil; sometimes they burst, and destroy the agent. If the news is bad, in God’s name let the English nation know it to its full extent; they possess sufficient philosophy to hear the worst manfully, and have shown by firmness and perseverance under twenty years of pressure and difficulty, that they can face danger and overcome calamity; if, on the contrary, the intelligence is of a favourable nature, it wants no exaggeration, for temperance and equanimity in a people are more to be coveted than a too sanguine temperament, which lays the foundation for future disappointments, or the excitement of hopes so little consonant to reason, as to be certain of grievous frustration hereafter.”