LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 24: Byron

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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———“He whose nod,
Has tumbled feebler despots from their sway,
A moment pauseth ere he lifts the rod;
A little moment deigneth to delay;
Soon will his legions sweep through these his way;
The West must own the scourger of the world.
Oh! Spain! how sad will be thy reckoning-day,
When soars Gaul’s vulture with his wings unfurled,
And thou shalt see thy sons in crowds to Hades hurled.”
Byron. Childe Harold. 1812.
“Or, may I give adventurous fancy scope,
And stretch a bold hand to the awful veil
That hides futurity from anxious hope,
Bidding, beyond it, scenes of glory hail,
And fainting Europe rousing at the tale
Of Spain’s invaders from her confines hurled;
While kindling nations buckle on their mail,
And Fame, with clarion blast and wing unfurled,
To freedom and revenge awakes an injured world!”
Southey. Vision of Don Roderick. 1811.

On leaving Paris, it was my good fortune to meet with a fellow traveller, also bound for London, and to agree with him that we should return together. We accordingly hired a carriage, and proceeded without hurry on our destination, and I soon learnt that I could not have fallen in with a more congenial and agreeable companion. Mr. Douglas Kinnaird, was at the time, one of the most zealous members of the Drury Lane Committee of Management, his enthusiasm
Kean, and his anxiety about the success of the theatre excessive, and his anecdotes of Lord Byron, Whitbread, Peter Moore, and others, racy and entertaining in the highest degree. With regard to Byron he informed me of a circumstance which more nearly affected me than I had ever dreamt of in my slight intercourse with that noble lord. It appeared that the remarks I published on his unworthy lines to Mrs. Charlemont (his lady’s attendant) had given him mortal offence, and, in the ebullition of his fury, he deemed it right to demand satisfaction, and entrusted the challenge to be delivered to Mr. Kinnaird. Knowing his friend, that gentleman found that he could not find me during the whole day. Newspaper folks were difficult of access, and towards evening took occasion to appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober, and to put it to his lordship whether it was not infinitely beneath his dignity to call out a paltry scribbler, who might even, by some awkward chance, shoot him and rob the peerage and the poetic world of one of their greatest ornaments. This and more to a similar effect my informant jocularly told me, and insisted on my owing him a deep debt of gratitude for his prudent conduct, especially as Lord Byron was a certain shot! At any rate he had dissuaded the angry bard from his desperate purpose; and all that the public may have since gained from him or me, may possibly be attributable to the sensible advice of Mr. Kinnaird. He had kept the cartel and promised it to me as an autograph, and I dare say (if not stolen or taken with hundreds of others) I shall turn it up from among the masses of papers, which (very partially examined) have sadly tried my patience and almost crazed my brain, in preparing these sheets for the press.

We slept one night on the road, in a double-bedded
room, on a stone floor, and our cotelettes and omelette charmingly cooked at the wood fire in the same chamber; such was the best of the journey between Paris and the coast at that primitive initiative of international intercourse. On the further side of the channel,
Mr. Kinnaird had his own light barouche in waiting, and we posted up, in all haste, from Dover. It was midnight when we stopped to change horses at Canterbury, and so intense was my companion’s desire to learn something of Kean, who, I think, had performed in a new character, that he actually caused the hostlers to “knock-up the house,” in order to ascertain if there was any newspaper from town, or the landlord or waiter had heard anything of the play!

During the rest of his life—for he was prematurely taken from his friends and the world—I continued my pleasant acquaintance with this gentleman, who possessed many traits well calculated to enhance his appreciation in society and companionable qualities. A portion of humour, or drollery, would be mixed up with his other attainments; and Coleridge told a piquant story of him at the time the tragedy of “Remorse” was offered to, and accepted by, the managers of old Drury.

Mr. Kinnaird, according to my authority, had invited him (Coleridge) to Pall Mall, where he resided, to read the tragedy in question for his judgment thereon. The poet attended the manager, as in duty bound, and was shown into his boudoir, or dressing-room, where he was assiduously making his toilet. Without interrupting the process of shaving, teeth-cleaning, nail-paring and scooping, &c., &c., he desired the poet to proceed with his reading, and the poet complied; his didactic tone and sonorous voice ceasing at times, in the hope, perhaps, that the pause might allow of a compliment or expression of admiration being administered.
But the critic shaved, and made no sign; dressed his nails, and spoke not. Coleridge read on, and had got through an act or more, as he related the tale—and an excellent hand he was at embellishment in such cases—when his auditor suddenly stopped him, and pulling out a drawer full of papers from his dressing-glass, said, “Now, my good friend, I have listened to enough of your nonsense; and, in return, I have to request your attention to a little two-act piece of mine, which I think will be a hit at Drury!” And Coleridge had to listen in turn; for it will not do for dramatists to displease managers; and so Mr. Kinnaird never knew the remainder of “Remorse” till it was produced upon the boards; and
Sheridan had his jest upon the cavern scene, where the percolating of the water is described—“Drip, drip, drip,” said the satirist; “nothing but dripping.” It is the work of a man of genius, notwithstanding; I am sorry I cannot record the fate of my esteemed fellow-traveller’s “little two-act piece!” Observe, I very seldom employ italics, because I trust to the inherent essence of my stories, and the intelligence of my readers, to detect their merits; and if I fail, I continue, nevertheless, of the opinion that italics are, at best, but civil bowing letters, begging of you, with due ceremony, to believe that there is point, or wit, or humour, where there is none.

Among my curious memoranda about this time, is the note of being taken by my friend, Mr. (Sir F.) Freeling, to see and dine with the celebrated Lady Hamilton in the King’s Bench Prison. She was embonpoint, and still a fine woman; full of complaints, but too truly founded, of the cruel neglect she experienced from Government, and the ungrateful return made for her own public services, as well as to the dying behests of her glorious sailor. The deep conviction I that day received, of the stern inflexibility
with which official form can perpetrate and adhere to wrong, has never yet been removed by my acquaintance with not a few other cases, nor by reparation being given for humanity’s sake and the honour of the country, on which the treatment of those whom its
Nelson loved is still a shameful stain. Men, in their private transactions, would shrink from acts of such ignominious ingratitude; but state departments, like corporate bodies or numerous partnerships, have neither feelings nor a nice sense of truth and justice. Mr. Freeling interested himself much with the Government in the cause of Lady Hamilton, but with little, if any, effect. I have, however, an idea that something was done for her immediate relief.

Again I was seated at my daily desk in the “Sun,” and the world jogged on more peaceably, if little less quietly, than before; for royal visits, and national rejoicings, and interesting events, rose rapidly to fill the scene with pageants and new changes, which, though of different aspects, were equal in importance to the past. With these, and the actors in them, I shall have something to do, as I travel onwards to my more strictly literary avocations, in 1817, and meanwhile drop the curtain on my first year’s editing of a ministerial journal, referring to the poetic heading of this chapter for the contrast which led to mortification, on the one side, and triumph on the other.*

The literary leaning nourished in my nature, as I have endeavoured to trace it to the fortunate tuition of Dr. Rutherford, (for with all the ills it may bring in its course, a taste for literature and literary occupation is a great blessing,) was manifested as soon as the desperate din of war and absorbing strife of politics were so far quelled as to allow a breathing time for aught else to be heard or seen.

* See Appendix. “The March to Moscow.”

I immediately projected a Review of new Works to form a peace feature in the paper; and this, I believe, was the first example of any attention of the kind being paid by the newspaper press to the productions of its less ephemeral brethren of the quill. When I look around me at this date, I cannot but feel a sensible gratification on witnessing this little plant become the parent of a vast tree that overspreads the land, and possesses a universal influence upon the interests of literature. It is true that
They must dig who gather ore,
And they must dig who gather lore;
and that we have a considerable proportion of very superficial scratchers of the soil, both among authors and critics, but the mere fact of notoriety is a wonderful advantage to the really deserving, and can do but little temporary mischief in keeping back the sterling, puffing the mediocre, or bolstering up the trashy. Some years hence, however, in my narrative, will be a fitter time more fully to discuss this important question.

London was now inundated with continental arrivals of monarchs, of statesmen, of warriors, of amateurs, of works of art and vertu, and of articles of luxury, the importation of which had so long been prohibited. The restoration of the Bourbons had not only replenished Paris with statues, busts, portraits, paintings, engravings, and other mementos of the murdered and exiled family, which had been concealed during the reign of terror and revolutionary era; but the same repositories had yielded immense quantities of antique furniture, knick-knacks, curiosities, and productions of old masters for virtuoso admiration and purchase in England. The rage for instant transmission, too, before Custom-house regulations could be established, was indescribable: a Parisian dealer offered me a beautiful lace
dress, on condition that I should carry another along with it in my trunk, and deliver the latter to the address of a lady in London—it had been wrought for the
Queen of Holland, and was valued at three thousand francs! I declined the mission; and it was lucky I did, for, notwithstanding a very cursory inspection of my luggage at Dover, there was a contraband packet discovered on the very top of all, and seized as a transgression which could not be passed by. I had been asked, as a favour, to take it just as I was setting out, by the celebrated Peltier; and my whole “kit” exposed to forfeiture as a consequence of this friendly indiscretion.

During the summer and autumnal months of this year there were abundance of incidents to interest the public; and a retrospective glance suggests a strange medley. The Princess Charlotte’s hackney-coach adventure, when she scolded her Bishop tutor, ran away from Warwick-house to her mother’s in Connaught Place, and the match with the Prince of Orange was finally broken off, was a nine days’ wonder. The advent of Joanna Southcote, and the silver cradle making for the expected Shiloh, lasted longer. The mimic fleet on the Serpentine was an immense popular card, demonstrating that all rulers who take the trouble to devise amusements for the populace know what they are about, and how to smother disaffection, and create loyal attachment. The effect of a genuine holiday upon a working population is not to be calculated, and politicians would do well to study the problem.

But the grand visit of the allied monarchs and their famous followers to London, was the focus of universal curiosity and admiration. Sight after sight, fête after fête, and extraordinary novelty after novelty, kept the imagination on the stretch, and seemed to plunge everybody
into an activity for pleasure hunting, as if the British empire had been turned into one Greenwich Fair. From morning to night there was nothing but whirl and delirium: there was no life but the present; all the past was forgotten, and what the future might bring forth was uncared for. Among the most prominent attractions were the
Emperor Alexander, the Duchess of Oldenburgh, Blucher and Platoff. Blucher was lodged in the small house, now occupied by Lord Adolphus Fitzclarence, in St. James’s Palace, and was scarcely allowed an hour’s rest in the four-and-twenty, by the genteel crowds forcing their way into his privacy, and the common crowds assembling in the court on the outside, and hallooing till they made him show himself at the window, hat in hand, meerschaum in mouth, and bow his thanks for the uproarious distinction. The old General was fatigued enough with his restless reception, and would sometimes, I think, rather have been in a charge of cavalry than in the rush of female onset, which all but shook him to pieces. In a few moments’ conversation with him I referred to our Paris meeting, but, much as it interested him at the time, it was as I have already noticed, all driven out of his head, and he appeared to recollect nothing about it, as a half-score more of ladies were admitted to shake hands with him, or, inestimable prize! be honoured with a salute! In the evening he probably longed for a cool sederunt at the gaming-table, and a view at the heaps of gold, the coins of every nation, French, English, Italian, Dutch, German, Russian, of all sorts and dates, which composed the glittering miscellaneous bank, and tempted visitors to the risks of fickle Fortune. Platoff, it was said, carried off three of his lady friends with him when he left England, and settled them as Prima Donnas and samples of
British beauty, somewhere upon the Don! Different tastes were exhibited by the strangers, and according to their fancies did they indulge to the full in the enjoyments unsparingly provided on every hand. The
King of Prussia, one of the quietest of them all, was especially captivated with the excellence of a national fare which, perhaps, never acquired such royal approval before. The gentleman appointed to be his principal attendant, and see that all his wants and wishes were supplied in St. James’s Palace, where he was lodged, told me that his Majesty made the poorest possible figure at the gorgeous dinners at Carlton House, because he had lunched heartily before on what he liked much better than even the Prince Regent’s exquisite cuisine and cellar, viz., fine Cheshire cheese and Burton ale. On these daily did the King luxuriate; and my informant used jocularly to say, that if ever he went to Berlin he would take a gigantic Cheshire and a cask of Burton with him, and he had no doubt but the highest preferments in the kingdom would be open to his ambition.

As after a storm in the realms of nature there is ever a partial convulsive motion left, a rising and a fall in the lately vexed sea, and traces of the hurricane upon the earth; so after the pacification, did a succession of events still agitate the public mind, and afford themes of no slight difficulty to the pen of the public writer. The death of the Ex-Empress Josephine cast a shadow over many sensitive hearts; for though her husband could not exclaim with Macbeth, “She should have died hereafter;” as, in truth, both for his sake and her own, she should have died before; yet her amiable character, and patient endurance of her unhappy lot, had endeared her much to all who had an opportunity of observing her life and conversation; and as her political sacrifice had been pitied, so was her death
regretted by a multitude of sympathising admirers, on the banks of the Thames as well as on the Seine, between which rivers, by-the-by, her love of botanical pursuits had kept up an intercourse when all the rest of Europe was hermetically sealed against English enterprise.

The great Peace Jubilee, with the bridges and pagodas in St. James’s Park, the fleet on the Serpentine, and the symbols, tumults, and rejoicings everywhere, was another of the fruitful topics of the time. Its converse, on the opposite and painful side, was to be found in the party intrigues and disgraceful disputes about the Princess of Wales, and her consequent departure from this country. But upon this subject I have matters, as I venture to presume, of peculiar interest to relate, and which I cannot conveniently weave into nay narrative, so near the close of the volume; I shall, therefore, at the latest hour, beg for an allowance of time and credit, till my next tome appears, for their revelation. Mr. Canning’s Lisbon mission will, then, also demand my illustration; and, in the meanwhile, not inconsistently with the literary and miscellaneous character of my autobiography, I offer as a reward for granting me this boon, and to enrich these concluding pages with a production that cannot fail to charm every reader of taste and intelligence where the English tongue is spoken, an unpublished work of my late lamented friend, Thomas Hood, whose memory will stand on a higher pinnacle with posterity for his serious and pathetic writings than even for those quaint and facetious performances by which he contributed so largely to the harmless mirth of his age, and in which he was unrivalled.* Hook, also, has I believe left a drama in manuscript, but where I cannot say, unless it may be among Mr. Bentley’s stores of dead and sleeping authorship.

* See Appendix.


London, 16th April, 1852.

By looking back to the date of my birth it will be seen that on this my birth-day, I finish the task of my first volume, having just received the printers’ welcome intimation that there is copy enough in hand to complete the announced quantity. But I am yet more anxious about the quality; and would fain move an a priori arrest of judgment for any errors or inaccuracies which may have escaped me in the haste of composition. I had, apparently, sufficient time for my work, but private circumstances, of no concern to readers, occurred to break hurtfully into it, and on coming to consult data which I had presumed could be readily found and accessible, I discovered that the materials of from forty to fifty years ago were dissipated, no one knew whither! I was thus thrown for the nonce into more difficult labours, with less opportunity for the exact verification of particulars; and it is for any omission and imperfections in respect to these, that I venture to seek the candour of the critic and the indulgence of the public.

W. J.