LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 21: Sun Anecdotes

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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I wooed thee, I wooed thee, my love,
For charms more endearing than speak
In thy soft beaming eye—like the dove—
Or the exquisite grace of thy cheek.
For a heart by each feeling refined,
And pure as a seraph’s above;
For the beauty and grace of thy mind,
I wooed thee, I wooed thee, my love.—Charles Swain.

The responsibilities and anxieties of a newspaper editor are very onerous; but there are often entertaining incidents to variegate the toiling tenour of his way, and generally a circle of friends and associates to animate and assist him. In an evening paper the opportunities for this sort of useful and agreeable society were (perhaps are) tempting and welcome. About two o’clock the sheet has gone to press, and there ensues two or three hours of light work and leisure, to see that something is ready for the morrow, all right for the day, and pay due attention to every novelty which might spring up and demand an improved edition. I am not aware of what alterations railroads and electric telegraphs may have caused, but forty years ago much important information was wont to reach London in the course of the afternoon. The evening journals were, of course, on the qui vive for such arrivals; and it may surprise many readers to be told that frequently a single French newspaper,
smuggled over, in spite of the continental non-intercourse policy, would be brought for sale, about three or four o’clock, and ten, twenty, a hundred guineas paid for it, if the date was recent, and it contained any fresh accounts or bulletins of
Buonaparte’s German campaigns.* Of the importance of the news thus obtained, an idea may be formed from the annexed note:—

Mr. Goulburn presents his compliments to Mr. Jerdan, and is extremely obliged to him for the very interesting and satisfactory information contained in the ‘Sun’ of this evening, of which Government had not received any information from other quarters.

“Downing-street, October 8th, 1813.”

A second note, from the same official hand, is to the same effect:—

“Downing-street, Nov. 27th, 1813.

“As your paper has usually the earliest and most correct intelligence from North America, I trouble you with this note, in order to ascertain whether you have received any information respecting the defeat of General Proctor, mentioned in to-day’s ‘Chronicle.’ If you have, I should be much obliged to you to let me know the particulars.

“Your obedient servant,

“I enclose the substance of a despatch, which will appear in the ‘Gazette’ of to-night.”

* The bulletins of the German Campaign were peculiarly perplexing and difficult to follow. Places were often mentioned of which no one had any previous knowledge; and many a time were the largest maps in the Foreign Office spread upon the floor, and Mr. Under Secretary and I might be seen by the hour together, crawling over them on knees and elbows, endeavouring to trace out the marches and positions of Buonaparte.


Seeing the papers had intelligence of this sort, it may readily be imagined that the privileged few who had access to their interior were almost in the daily habit of seeking an “idle” half-hour’s lounge with the editor, after the imperative business of the day was over. Thus my room was hardly ever void of company from the time the first wet sheet impression of the “Sun” came down from the printing “chapel” above; and there was no lack of topics on which to give and receive information. Among my most constant visitors were Mr. (Sir Francis) Freeling, John Kemble, Robert Clarke, Mr. Fladgate, and the Mr. Proby I have already mentioned as a singular character. Proby had never been out of London, never in a boat, never on the back of a horse. To the end of bag-wigs he wore a bag; he was the last man that walked with a cane as long as himself, ultimately exchanged for an umbrella, which he was never seen without in wet weather or dry; yet he usually reported the whole debates in the Peers from memory, without a note, for the “Morning Chronicle,” and wrote two or three novels, depicting the social manners of the times! He was a strange feeder, and ruined himself in eating pastry at the confectioners’ shops (for one of whose scores Taylor and I bailed him as related); he was always in a perspiration, whence George Colman christened him “King Porus;” and he was always so punctual to a minute, that when he arrived in sight of the office window, the hurry used to be, “There’s Proby—it is half-past two,” and yet he never set his watch. If ever it came to right time I cannot tell; but if you asked him what o’clock it was, he would look at it, and calculate something in this sort—“I am twenty-six minutes past seven—four, twenty-one from twelve, forty—it is just three minutes past three!”


Poor, strange, and simple, yet curiously-informed Proby, his last domicile was the Lambeth parish workhouse, out of which he would come in its coarse grey garb, and call upon his friends as freely and unceremoniously as before, to the surprise of servants, who entertain “an ’orrid” jealousy of paupers, and who could not comprehend why a person so clad was shown in. The last letter I had from him spoke exultingly of his having been chosen to teach the young children in the house their ABC, which conferred some extra accommodations upon him, and thanking me for my share in the subscription of a few pounds a-year, which those who knew him in happier days put together to purchase such comforts as his humble situation could admit.

Among the pleasures of newspaper procuration, I may, hereabouts, mention the acquaintance of Madame de Staël, who was far from handsome or attractive, and an almost incessant talker; though, perhaps, the excuse ought to be made, that in London society everybody endeavoured to “draw her out.”

The grand Vittoria festival in Vauxhall Gardens, was also an enjoyment in its way, and especially to the advocates for the policy thus triumphant and honoured. I sat next Mr. Hume at the dinner-table, and the fête altogether was certainly one of the most public-spirited and joyous that I have ever seen. The illuminated V.’s and W.’s were very brilliant, and the jest was made of one Cockney asking another what the letters meant, and receiving for answer, “Vy, the V.’s stand for Vellington, and the W.’s for Wictory, to be sure.”

It is whimsical to observe how, as the wheel of time revolves, the same kind of things appear to be repeated, or come up anew. Thus, in 1813, we have Lord Darnley and the Lord Chancellor bitterly complaining of the inclement
temperature and ventilation of the House of Lords; and I meet with a droll notice of
Jerome Buonaparte, then King of Westphalia, of whom so little has been heard from that date till now, when appointed President of the French Senate.

After his greater brother’s defeat at Leipsic, the German press ran riot in taunts and mockery, and one of them advertised King Jerome as having embezzled money and deserted. For his apprehension, the citizens of Cassel offer 10,000 centimes reward; and give the following “Description of the culprit:”—“Jerome, aged 29 years, of low stature, an awkward figure, diseased and debilitated by excesses, sallow complexion, blear and hollow-eyed, down-cast look, middle-sized nose, and pointed prominent chin, and particularly remarkable for the harshness of his voice and indistinctness of his speech. At the time of his absconding he wore a white coat with blue collar and cuffs, and epaulettes of false gold, a short white waistcoat and buckskin breeches, large old cocked hat, and newly-goloshed boots with sherry-yellow tassels.” Jerome has outlived his debilitated constitution a number of years, and it would only be curious to trace now in Paris what remains there may be of the likeness of the German caricature!

By an odd occurrence, my path was again crossed by my former acquaintance, Mrs. Mary Ann Clarke. The publisher of the “Satirist,” one Williams, had been tampered with, to publish from the office a pamphlet which contained a libellous attack upon the character of Mr. W. Fitzgerald, the Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer. On discovering this act of treachery I lost no time in writing to Mr. Fitzgerald, and informing him of all I could ascertain about the matter, and the unwarrantable conduct of my servant; to which communication I received the annexed answer:—

“Great George-street, April 7, 1813.”

“I have to thank you for the publication which you were so good as to send to me. I assure you I am highly sensible of the motives which have induced you to express yourself in the manner you have done, on the subject to which you have alluded, as well as those honourable feelings which actuated you in the disavowal of so infamous a libel as that which was sent forth from the ‘Satirist’ office.

“From my own knowledge, however, I can state that the account given by Mr. Williams, the publisher of that pamphlet, is not correct. As to that, however, I am indifferent, hoping still that the laws will be strong enough to vindicate themselves, and to protect me.

“I feel very much obliged to you for the manner in which you have been pleased to express yourself respecting myself, and

“I am, Sir,
“Your obedient and very humble servant,

About a week after, the lady was arrested upon a judge’s warrant, and conveyed to a sponging-house in Warwickcourt, Holborn, to which I was invited to see if any accommodation of the business could be devised. Here I found Mrs. Clarke in exuberant spirits, mocking at all consequences, and as usual making the best of the passing hour. Her landlord, she told me, was called Poker Wilson, in memory of his having killed a prisoner, who was attempting to escape, with that utensil; and, therefore, she was quite safe, and sure of protection; and I was formally introduced to this formidable officer, a short, thick, squat, fellow, with every semblance of being capable of the deed he had done. In the end, Mary Ann got out of the scrape
with less scathe than she had reason to fear; her sex standing her in good stead, for libels in those days were grave offences, and severely punished as such. Yet she had a sentence of nine months in the Marshalsea; from which gaol, as soon as she took up her residence, she issued cards, “Mrs. M. A. Clarke At Home every Evening till farther notice.” For a libel on
Lord St. Vincent my friends in the “Sun” had been convicted en masse, and one inconvenient afternoon, just as the paper was about ready to go to press, the bailiffs walked in, and walked off Mr. Heriot, the editor, to six months’ imprisonment in the King’s Bench Prison; Carstairs, the printer, and Mr. Scripps, the publisher, to one month, and required Mr. Taylor to pay the fine of a hundred marks, which puzzled the dramatic critic not a little, for though far more conversant with the stage than with actual life (much as he mixed with it), he had no notion what a mark was, and where he could get any to pay his fine withal. He knew more about Romeo Coates, at this time at his theatrical zenith, and about all the gossip of the coulisses, and the movements of the player-kings and queens from Elsineur, or elsewhere. And this reminds me of a little love affair, in the agency of which I was interested, and the secret of which, after the lapse of so many years, may, without impropriety, be whispered to the public, especially as it in no way compromises the principal parties, who were no less distinguished than the Secretary, Mr. Hiley Addington, and Miss Stephens, now Countess Dowager of Essex. Little could Canning surmise when assailing the “Doctor” (Lord Sidmouth) with his keen shafts of wit, and invoking his adherents to sustain him—
Praise him, O praise him, brother Bragg!
Praise him, O praise him, brother Hiley!—
little could he surmise that brother Hiley was also a poet, and, inspired by the tender passion, could cap verses almost as well as himself. But so it was, and we have the pleasure of adding one more to the list of noble and right honourable authors.

Miss Stephens had made her successful debut, and at once charmed all ears, and captivated all hearts by her rich melodious notes, sweetly simple looks, and modestly becoming demeanour. Among the most deeply smitten was Mr. Addington, and it was upon the occasion of a sudden illness with which the fair object of his adoration was seized, that he poured forth the following impassioned composition, to the popular Vocalist of “Adieu thou Dreary Pile,” and many a beautiful native English composition besides:—

Whither when doubts or fears molest,
By grief subdued, by toil opprest,
For solace shall I fly?
What charm shall each sad hour beguile?
The music of what voice—what smile—
The magic of what eye?
Enchantress sweet, I turn to thee,
’Tis thine alone my thoughts to free
From each devouring care.
But ah! whilst those which I endure
Thou, only thou, canst chase or cure,
Thou plant’st another there.
Angelic maid—how much ’tis thine.
With touch of melody divine,
To soothe the troubled heart!
Thine o’er the soul full sway to gain,
With chasten’d note and melting strain,
Beyond the reach of art.
But thus, while music’s power I own,
Sweet songstress, ’tis not that alone
Which ravishes each sense;
That sparkling look, that speaking eye,
In whose soft radiance I descry
The soul of innocence;
That cherub smile, chaste Cynthia’s tread.
That coral lip of virgin red,
Ne’er yet by mortal press’d;
In native modesty array’d,
These charms conspire with music’s aid,
To fire my throbbing breast.
When this thy earthly course is o’er,
Sure Heaven, with future bliss in store,
Shall bid thy spirit rise;
Design’d then from thy earliest birth,
To charm—a syren here on earth—
A seraph in the skies!

The writer was in deep distress and much alarm at the period these lines appeared in the “Sun,” November 2nd, 1813; and in a note from him, dated Harley-street, the 4th, he expatiates on the fair lady’s “great merit,” as an irresistible claim to this “just tribute,” and adds, “How Miss S. is this morning I have not yet heard. She was senseless above half an hour. Yours very truly, J. H. A.” Fortunately for the public, the poet’s prayers were heard, and the delicious vocalist restored to health and the stage, of which she continued one of the purest and brightest ornaments till raised to the aristocratic eminence which she has equally adorned. Farther than the insertion of this specimen of poetry, of my attention to which the writer expressed himself, in a note of thanks, “extremely sensible,” and explaining the circumstances on which it was founded, I have perhaps no mission to proceed; but I may state the impression on my mind to be, that it formed part of a correspondence and intercourse with Miss Stephens, which would have led to her being Mrs. Addington, had she inclined to view the offers made to her with favour and acceptance. Lady Essex may remember, among her numerous conquests, whether this was so or not!

As a pendant wherewith to close this semi-poetic chapter, I cannot do better than quote one of the thousand-and-one
jeux d’esprit, which have been thrown loosely, like my own, to the press by my old comrade
Mr. Gaspey, the author of the “Lollards,” “Calthorpe,” the “Witch-Finder,” and I know not how many other tomes and miscellaneous heaps. It may be remembered that the first mere report that Lord Wellington had fought a great battle near Saint Sebastian’s was brought home by the “Sparrow,” which stated that she had left the “Fancy” at Corunna, waiting to bear the dispatches; and that a week of intense national anxiety ensued before the official or any other account was received. It was in the midst of this breathless public feeling that Mr. Gaspey published the annexed neat, and happily prophetic, epigram—

“You peevish old churl!” cried Britannia, inflamed,
To Neptune, while anxious she looked o’er the sea;
“My Wellington’s fought, and you might be ashamed
To keep thus the tidings of glory from me.”
“Bright goddess,” he answer’d, “O blame not in thought
Old Neptune, who glories in seeing you blest.
By a Sparrow I sent word the hero had fought,
And to Fancy I thought I might well leave the rest.”