LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 7: Edinburgh

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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Edina, Scotland’s darling seat!
* * * *
Thy sons, Edina, social, kind,
With open arms the stranger hail.
* * * *
Thy daughters bright thy walks adorn!
Gay as the gilded summer sky,
Sweet as the dewy milk-white thorn,
Dear as the raptured smile of joy.—Burns.

From being so much in the chambers of Mr. David Pollock, my intimacy was closer with him, as regards time, than with any of his brothers. We were very much together, and I was sincerely attached to him, as he was, I believe, to me, for his son assures me that my name was one of the last upon his tongue at his death in Bombay. In the spring of 1802 we paid a visit to Mr. Burchell, near Amersham. On returning, after a few days’ pleasure and enjoyment, I was suddenly seized, on our way home, with a dangerous brain fever. I shook as if in a violent fit of ague, and my terrified friend, having wrapt me in all obtainable great coats and coverings, literally laid me down and sat upon me for warmth. I was soon under the care of my uncle, and removed to a lodging in Lower Sloane Street, where there was more air and room to breathe than in the heart of the City, where I had pitched my tent for proximity to the counting-house in
Tokenhouse-Yard. I lay long in the conflict between life and death, too delirious to be aware of my situation, and even in my convalescence the most ingenious and credible romancer that ever tested the belief of medical attendants. Several of my dream stories were so feasible and congruous, that my uncle absolutely put faith in their reality; and it was, indeed, some time before I could entirely disabuse myself of the same opinion. Ultimately my life was saved; an event for which I owe a deep debt of gratitude to no less eminent a physician than
Dr. Harness, who although holding the distinguished position of President of the Sick and Hurt Board, sedulously attended me as a friend, and by his skill and judgment raised me from the edge of the grave. When I was able to be removed, my generous uncle conveyed me to the healing influence of my native air, and delivered over his charge to my mother, with the ironical character of a young gentleman who had lived in an exceedingly handsome manner upon a salary of fifty pounds a year. To do him justice, he had promoted and supplied the extra expenditure, but was at this juncture somewhat disappointed at bringing home a poor emaciated invalid, instead of the prodigy he expected me to have been! A tedious period of lassitude and dejection ensued; and my constant wish was to occupy an oval spot of flower-covered mould, surrounded by green box, on a part of the garden which sloped towards the beauteous Tweed, and lay open to the golden beams of the rising sun. During this interval I learnt that time was worth nothing; and that it was only our own doings which filled it up and made it valuable, or the reverse. Ever since, when I have had occasion to mourn over lost or mis-spent hours, I have not ventured to blame Old Greybeard, but taken the shame, where it was due,—to myself. But weeks wore away, and health
began to impart the vigour of former days to the body, and a corresponding elasticity to the mind. Richard was almost himself again, hut views were changed, and the study of law in Edinburgh determined upon. The Justinian and Feudal codes were affirmed to be the broad bases of later legislation, and as they were far better taught in Edinburgh than anywhere else, I was once more to set up for a Prodigy, and lay the illustrious foundations there.

I was accordingly placed with Mr. Cornelius Elliott, Writer to the Signet, an aged gentleman, and old friend of some of my progenitors or relatives, of whom I knew nothing. But it induced him to receive me in the kindest manner, and commence another course of spoiling, far more perilous at my age, then, and under all existing circumstances, than any which had previously tried me in the moral crucible, and failed, as yet, to make me a fool or a profligate. My London sojourn had sharpened my wits a little, into a sort of smartness, and created a difference between me and my fellows who had never quitted their mothers’ apron-strings; and small as this distinction was, it helped largely to the favouritism with which I was treated. Mr. Elliott resided at No. 95, Queen Street, New Town, and Lord Moira, then Commander-in-Chief of the forces in Scotland, at No. 94. His Staff were a lively and gallant set: Lord Rancliffe, Tom Sheridan, Ensign Browne, and I think, Dalrymple, afterwards Earl of Stair, were of the number; and the martinettish General had sometimes enough ado to keep his Aides under military discipline. The contretemps were frequently amusing, and an account of some of them may serve, by-and-by, to diversify the desultory, characteristic and anecdotic portion of my task.

In the meantime I have to pursue my personal memoir. In a suitable lodging in Thistle Street I lived nearly opposite
my estimable relations, Mrs. Hamilton, her son Robert (the indefatigable and greatly esteemed directing agent of the Shipping Company, resident at Granton,) and two daughters, one of whom we had the unhappiness to bury whilst I remained in Edinburgh, and the other, the present Mrs. Irving, wife of the junior representative of the ancient family of Drum. With them I passed the most rational and most gratifying of the leisure hours I could contrive to snatch from my other engagements of business or pleasure. I never liked the law, and certainly I was not drugged with it. The occasional copying of deeds and other papers, the amusement of taking seizins (the symbolic ceremonies of which quite redeemed the dryness of the verbose recitals), a rare attendance at the Court of Session, and other routine, were all I ever heard or learnt of Justinian and his code, or the venerable Feudal systems of the middle ages. My lesson might run thus:—Master. “Willy, my dear, you must be early with me the morn, for I have a contract to dictate to you of great consequence.” Willy. “At what hour, sir?” Master. “It must na’ be later than eight o’clock, and you’ll find me up and all ready for you.” Probably I might be tolerably punctual? The table and desk were set, the paper or parchment was spread, I took my seat, and the dictator, walking about the room, proceeded to deliver the oracles which I committed to the record, repeating every last word of a sentence to show that I was ready to go on again. This hard work might last for nearly or even quite an hour, when my easy and ever good-humoured friend, either found out that we must be tired or that it was time to go to breakfast; and at breakfast was always a bevy of beauty enough to drive all law, or gospel either, out of the head of a student, if such there could be, thrice as old as I was. The superb future
Lady Elphinstone, then Lady Carmichael, was a daughter of Mr. Elliott; and another daughter, Margaret, and cousins Charlotte, &c., and other companions often staying with them, possessed female attractions which could hardly be surpassed in the British empire. They were also frank and unceremonious, and delightful were the forenoons of those days when my early morning toils brought me the privilege of mingling, for the sake of recreation, with such company. To confess the truth, Mr. Elliott’s dictations were not so rapid as speedily to exhaust a prolix deed, and I did not exert myself to write so very fast as would expedite the transaction, without due time for deliberation and correctness; and so, between us, it never could be said that the business was spoilt by being hurried, or that we set our ungrateful faces against the law’s delay.

Had it not been for such co-lateral inducements, I should never have stuck even nominally to this profession as I did. As it was, I did not attend the classes to receive the necessary instruction, but went as an amateur, pretty regularly, to those of medicine and chemistry, for which sciences I had a strong natural predilection; but, indeed, it was, altogether, too much of play or pleasure, and too little of work or study. I almost realised a wish I had entertained in my early school days, on seeing a fountain: “Oh, happy fountain,” I whispered to myself, “would I were like you, and had nothing to do but to play!”

Perhaps no place in Britain has changed so essentially, within the present century, as the Scottish capital. At the time I am writing of, it was in customs, manners, and every element of society, from top to bottom, nearly as different from London, as London was from Pekin. From senators of the College of Justice* to caddies (a sort of ticket-porters,

* See Appendix E.

or running footmen, generally highlanders,) in the streets, there was a strange spice of eccentricity which led to odd habits and acts, as the rule and not the exception throughout the community. Billiards and luncheons, dinners and hard drinking, tavern suppers and oyster fêtes, and hearing the chimes at midnight after the fashion of which Justice Shallow boasts, formed the general living panorama of the place. My disposition vacillated between thoughtfulness and thoughtlessness: I was either absorbed in the one or misled by the other. In London, the amusements and recreations had still left me under the protection of the graver and better mood; but in Edinburgh, the gaieties and seductions, ever tempting the other way, were too potent for me to resist. Thus, though it was impossible not to acquire a good deal of intelligence from my social intercourse, during the period I passed there, I never could look back upon the precious time when so much might have been done, without deep and vain regrets that it had been so irretrievably wasted and mis-spent.

Being initiated into free-masonry in the Ancient Lodge of the Canongate Kilwinning,—having a pistol bullet fired at me near Mushat’s Crag, in consequence of a silly quarrel with a fiery West Indian student,—and serving in the splendid corps, the 1st Regiment of Edinburgh Volunteers, commanded by Charles Hope, were the leading events left on my memory during this period, susceptible, if worthy, of public record in my personal journal.

And here allow me to remark, or rather to repeat the statement with which I set out,—that I find it irksome to deal so largely in Self-notice; but consistently with my design, I cannot help My-Self, and can only promise relief when I come to broader correspondence with men and things, and a later date whereunto matters more interesting
to the present generation belong. Hitherto, I could but exhibit sketches of the past; and scenes in which, with all my desire to do so, the part of Hamlet could not be omitted. Be this my apology for yet a little longer trespass.

My Masonic career, which I conscientiously except from the category of ill-employed time, brought me into more familiar acquaintance with Lord Rancliffe, Tom Sheridan (as he was called then, and, I believe, to the day of his death), and other Aides, who were my contemporaneous brethren, though initiated in another Lodge, of which a well-known and popular humourist, Joseph Gillon, W.S., happened to be master. His rich jokes and racy conversation formed a lode-star to the congenial temperament of Sheridan, who, even in his younger days, displayed no small share of his father’s wit and brilliancy. These attractions, and the habits of the gude Auld Town, led to occasional tavern-resorts, after the sober refections of the Lodges—which were restricted to a slice of bread and cheese and a single glass to drink (not, as in London, rounded off by plenteous banquets)—and convivial enjoyments were carried on with a degree of spirit and animation that could hardly be surpassed. The high jinks of a preceding era were certainly improved upon; for we were not so boisterous, and I should think, from the talents of some of the party, quite as well qualified for the glow and pungency of social hours—merry without coarseness, and jovial without excess. These revels, however, such as they were, did not limit themselves to very early separations. On the contrary, past midnight, or, as the Old Reekie topers denominated them, “the sma’ hours” were generally invaded. Against this, the Commander-in-Chief had remonstrated, and I cannot forget one night when we got back to the adjacent domiciles, Nos. 94 and 95, my companions tapped gently at their door, and were astonished,
dismayed, to see it thrown open, and the gaunt figure of
Lord Moira standing in his dressing-gown, with a wax light in each hand, ready to admit them. I skulked into the other side of the iron rail, and heard the sonorous admonition, “Walk in, gentlemen! You are aware that I have ordered my servants not to sit up after twelve o’clock, and, therefore, when you choose to stay out so late, it must be my office to be your porter.”

Conceive the picture which this scene would have furnished to an artist of grave or comic subjects!