LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 3: Boyhood

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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Sweet Teviot! on thy silver tide
The glaring balefires blaze no more;
No longer steel-clad warriors ride
Along thy wild and willowed shore.
Where’er thou wind’st, by dale or hill,
All, all is peaceful, all is still,
As if thy waves since Time was born,
Since first they rolled upon the Tweed
Had only heard the shepherd’s reed,
Nor startled at the bugle horn.

Like all the other boys of the place, above the poorest orders, I was educated at the parochial (not parish) school; where the fee was ten or fourteen shillings per annum, paid in quarterly half-crowns or three-and-sixpences, and a douceur to the master about Candlemas; who, according to a bad practice, declared the lad who presented him with the largest sum, captain or dux; and a new foot-ball and roistering holiday was sure to follow the openly corrupt election and purchased dignity. Yet when I have in later times, been called upon to form opinions upon the complex and disputed systems proposed to he adopted for national education, I have been thrown back to reflection on the simple and genial practice of my younger days, although a little disfigured by the custom alluded to. The teacher, chosen by a constituency of the clergy and heritors or owners of pro-
perty, was endowed with a very moderate stipend, and mainly depended for support on the character of his school and the consequent number of his pupils. There was no distinction in ranks or religious persuasions. The children of the gentry, farmers, tradesmen, respectable mechanics, and in some cases, of hinds or farm servants, mingled cordially together; and except such precedence as was earned by success with the head within, or prowess with the hands without, there was no boy preferred to another in this republic of letters. No one inquired if you were the son of a Presbyterian Kirk communicant, or an Episcopalian, or a Burgher, or an Antiburgher, or a Papist, or a Quaker; or what your parents believed and taught at home. Sufficient for the school was the schooling thereof: reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar in the first instance and a little of higher branches in the last, including moral precept and unsectarian advice throughout, constituted the entire routine, and has sent into the social world many a learned, and worthy, and virtuous member. If there was any competition in the breasts of the elders, it was confined to that secret depository, and was not suffered to appear in contention for the influence and mastery of peculiar creeds, or the monopoly of power and authority over rival consciences of equally confined views and pertinacious assertions of being the only and right section among the many diversities of mankind.

Could not our national schools throughout the length and breadth of the land, be framed, with a few slight and needful modifications, on a model of this description of Scottish parochial tuition?

Still weakly in constitution, with satchel on my back and shining morning face, I was often a late and unwilling attendant at early matin hours; but once in school, a diligent and ambitious learner; and in the out-door
exercises made amends by activity, liveliness and “pluck,” for the want of athletic strength; so that altogether I managed to get on very successfully, and if not at the head of my class, was never far from it. Notwithstanding, all this while the petting and indulgences of my dear “Mammy Nan” were persevered in with increasing fondness. To the end of her life I was the darling of her thoughts and prayers, and if a youthful folly grieved her unsophisticated nature, oh, how tender was the reproof, how beaming the hope that no indiscretion would ever cause her sorrow again.

After a reasonable time in the English division under Mr. White, whose attainments were sorely tried when I came to puzzle him for explanations of the cui bono of Euclid, I was duly promoted to the upper Latin school, then presided over by Mr. Taylor, a very amiable and accomplished man, who soon after went to Musselburgh, and established a large and celebrated academy, to which my eldest brother, John, was sent, and there finished his education.

Mr. Taylor was succeeded by Mr. Dymock, at first found by comparison to be rough and austere, but who speedily acquired a gentler manner; and turned out an able teacher. Nearly all I got of Latin and Greek in half-a-dozen years, I got from him, and had the good fortune to make myself a favourite pupil. In later years, having left Kelso, he removed to Glasgow, where he distinguished himself as the able editor of many educational and classical works; some of which it fell to my lot to review in the Literary Gazette, which led to a correspondence exceedingly gratifying to us both, though I had the effrontery to criticise my old master. I overcame the Latin language by drudgery; the Greek by love of its soft and sonorous structure. Yet Horace, in the foremost order, and Livy and Pliny were
well liked:
Ovid and Theocritus hardly less for their poetic mellifluence; but Cicero was hated; Virgil, Lucian, only coldly tolerated; Homer not much admired, Anacreon delightful (especially after I discovered that his opening poem could be sung to the tune of Maggy Lauder), and Pindar and Hesiod detested as if they had been Nero and Herod. I was fond of mathematics, but owing to the reason above stated, the want of an instructor to inform me of the whys and wherefores, made very little progress in that important branch of science.

But the hinge that turned my life towards literary pursuits was owing to an accidental circumstance which occurred just as I was leaving school, planted new tastes in me, and shaped the current of my future in the course which it has followed. Dr. Rutherford, the author of the View of Ancient History, retired from the toils of an extensive boarding-school at Uxbridge, and settled at Maxwellheugh, as the assistant to the Rev. Mr. Lundie, then the minister of the Established Kirk, and father of Mr. Robert Lundie, his much esteemed successor in that charge. The learned, good-humoured and facetious Doctor was accompanied by a very accomplished lady and her beautiful daughter by a former marriage, Miss Hermione Parker (said to be nearly related to the celebrated mutineer of the Nore, and afterwards the wife and widow of Mr. John Ballantyne); and brought with him a pupil about my age, Edward Gordon, who had been entrusted to his charge from India and could not be otherwise cared for when the Uxbridge seminary was broken up. For the sake of companionship and emulation, it was my fortune to be chosen as the fellow-student of this gentle and intelligent youth; and I ascribe every advantage I could acquire, beyond a mere school education, to the superior course of cultivation by which mind and thought
were evoked, instead of parrot note and cuckoo repetition. I may farther without vanity add, that I was selected on account of the talent I had displayed at school, where I generally carried off the prizes, and was rarely passed in particular studies by the foremost of my schoolfellows. To this sort of flattery and preference (followed as will afterwards appear by similar misleading appliances at important periods in my life) I attribute much of my character. In short, I repeat, I was a spoilt child, as will appear in the sequel with everybody, till I came to man’s mature estate. I was spoilt, as related, in infancy and boyhood; I was spoilt by the kindest of merchants with whom I spent my debut years in London (Messrs. Samuel Turners’, father and sons, City Chambers); I was spoilt by an uncle resident in town, Mr. Stuart, Surgeon, R.N., who supplied my purse far too liberally; and I was more than spoilt by
Mr. Cornelius Elliot and his family, under whose auspices I studied law and pleasure for about three years in Edinburgh at the dangerous epoch of twenty to twenty-three years of age.

Having the legal profession anticipated for me, my leisure hours were occupied with scribbling in the office of Mr. James Hume, a writer (as attorneys or solicitors in Scotland are called) and distributor of stamps for Berwickshire. He was a very smart and clever man, said quaint and good things, had a charming wife, and entertained a good deal of good company, chiefly his clients, among whom was Mr. Haig of the ancient Border family of Bemerside, and other country gentlemen. To this society I was domestically welcomed; so that this part of my upbringing, did not counteract, but rather harmonised with my preceding treatment. At Dr. Rutherford’s there was great intelligence and refinement of manners which, at that date, before steam and railroads led to so rapid and general intercourse
among all ranks of people, contrasted more than could now be credited with the best provincial gentility of Scotland; and at Mr. Hume’s, the latter was seen enjoying all the jollity and humour of Scotch hospitality. The difference was greater than younger readers of the present generation could readily imagine. The wonderful progress of the last half-century has indeed wrought wonderful changes in every phase of society. Both my friends were jocular and entertaining characters. The worthy Doctor told the most amusing anecdotes and stories; and among Mr. Hume’s quaintnesses was the use of an odd jumble of Latin and English: as for instance his denominating Mr. White, the Treasurer of the Bank, Mr. Albus de Ripa; whilst “Diabolus curat” stood for Devil-may-care, “All meus oculus et beati Martini” for All my eye and Betty Martin, and so forth; interlarding his otherwise piquant conversation with such singular latinities as rarely failed to excite a hearty laugh.

Respecting the Laird of Bemerside, whom I have mentioned, I may also record the particulars of a curious superstition. Among the prophetic verses of the famous Thomas the Rhymer, of Ercildoune, now Earlston, there occurred the couplet:—
Whate’er befal whate’er betide,
Haig will be Haig of Bemersyde!
But the mother of this owner of the name and title tested the prediction by a trial, which had almost deprived the Rhymer of the undoubting and universal faith hitherto attached to his oracles; for she gave birth to no fewer than twelve daughters, and then waited some time before she would permit the prophecy to be fulfilled, by giving to the world her thirteenth and last child, a son, to exalt and confirm the miraculous powers of the Wizard Thomas, at a higher pitch than ever.


Resuming my personal narrative at the memorable date of 1800, when there was such a controversy whether the century had begun or not, an intimacy was commenced, from which I have derived much happiness, and the retrospect of which, with its multiform results, spread over the rest of my life. David, William and Frederick, the eldest three sons of Mr. David Pollock, His Majesty’s saddler, and a native, I believe, of Berwick-on-Tweed, happened to take an autumnal excursion to the land of their forefathers, and in consequence of some distant co-lateral relationship by marriage, became our guests for a while, and the companions of my elder brother Gilbert, myself, and my younger brother George, all about the same age; David Pollock, being the eldest, and Frederick Pollock and George Jerdan the youngest of the party, in a range of about five years.

The London youths enjoyed for a short week or ten days the novelties and charms of the delightful pastoral country, and its ancient ruins and historical sites, with enthusiastic zest, and giving them a pedestrian convoy through a wild district for nearly twenty miles, we bade them farewell with much regret, full of admiration of their superior intelligence, and, to us, extraordinary acquaintance with the doings of the far-off great world. For, sooth to say, at that era, a lad of sixteen or eighteen, educated in the country, knew less of other life, than a smart English child brought up in the capital, or large schools in populous places, of only eight or ten years old.

We thought our new friends prodigies; and their after career has proved that we were not much mistaken.

My personal attachment was principally rivetted to Frederick, above a year younger than myself, but with all the fruits of Saint Paul’s School education flourishing in a soil of genial fertility. His attainments and his talents
made a deep impression on me; and for the first time, perhaps, I weighed myself in the balance, somewhat to my discomfiture and humiliation. But added to this, there existed between us (and I venture to state it as a psychological fact, and not as setting myself up unduly on the coincidence) a strong natural affinity or sympathy, which caused us to agree in most of our views and opinions, to entertain similar likes and dislikes, and to take delight in similar pursuits; on this basis a friendship of more than half a century has been built, and during that time the feeling I have described has often been so exact and powerful upon me that I have listened and listened to what my friend was saying, and, so true were the sentiments to my own, have almost fancied that I must be the speaker, and was delivering my individual thoughts. To what extent there might be a reciprocal agreement on the other side, it is impossible for me to determine, but that it existed so far I am certain, from numerous flattering instances, although necessarily modified by superior judgment, and bounded by a higher intellect. Nevertheless there is enough to justify the exclamation of the Poet:—
Friendship, mysterious cement of the soul,
Sweetener of life.