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The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 9: Excursion

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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Land of the mountain and the flood,
Land of green heath and shaggy wood,
Land of my sires, I love thee well.

Pleasure is no doubt a pleasant thing, but it cannot last for ever, and is often attended by considerable penalties. My opponent in the duel I have mentioned, was in reality a fine fervid creature tingling with Indian blood; and since our foolish quarrel, in which I had not fired, for I saw his bullet hit the ground between us, in time; we had continued on warm friendly terms together. He was fond of play, got into bad hands though of Scottish gentlemen, lost all his money, and committed suicide. I was severely shocked, and having been for several months in declining health, my appearance excited some anxiety in the breast of my ever-indulgent master, the kind-hearted Corrie Elliott, of Woollee, W.S. He indeed made our doings now and then, a sport, as it were to lighten the drudgery of business, which he considered it to be if we did as much in a week as an active practitioner might accomplish in a day, I remember having finished a deed to be signed by Dame Janet Grant of Preston Grange, Countess Dowager of Hyndford; and on my admiring the sonorous romanticism of the name and title, the worthy old gentleman took the
opportunity to play off a joke upon me. He expatiated on the extraordinary beauty of the lady, and contrived that I should carry a letter from him and breakfast with her next morning, taking the parchment with me to be signed, as an excuse. Full of curiosity and expectation, I was timely, for a wonder, at my Lady’s residence in a street out of the Canongate (St. John Street, I think); for the old Town still retained a portion of the quality, and was shown into a room to await her appearance from the toilet. At last she came, and to my utter surprise I beheld a wrinkled ancient crone, with a beard that would, though scrupulously clean, have done honour to one of the Witches in Macbeth. At first I could scarcely conceal my amazement, and then it was yet more difficult to suppress my laughter, of which symptoms were doubtless visible, for after a very agreeable meal with one of the best informed and agreeable old ladies I ever encountered, she quietly put to me the question about my risible propensities. There was no way out of the dilemma but the truth, and so I confessed to all her lawyer’s instructions, at which she laughed as heartily as I had been inclined to do, and sent me back with a billet to “Corrie” (the accepted abridgment of Cornelius), ironically complaining of his sending his clerk to her on such a sleeveless errand.

But all these well-meant expedients failed to accomplish their object, and I got more and more sickly; which was attributed to my reading too hard for a fancied degree I never aimed to take. I had, however, adopted a freak to read very hard to make up for lost time!—and really injured my constitution by the process. Consumption was predicted, and I was a marked young man, much pitied and caressed. It was almost worth while to think one was dying or even to die, in order to excite such sympathies, and be the object
of such affecting solicitude. I was quite reconciled to my destiny, when an event occurred to shift it into another course. In our office there happened to be the germ of an important plea, which was now brought to a critical position, by an action by certain Messrs. Hunters, merchants in Edinburgh, who claimed to be the legal proprietors of the estate of Polmood, held by
Lord Forbes in right of his lady, a Miss Hunter. The documentary evidence was perplexed and interminable, and the genealogical complications such as would have non-plussed Mr. Nugent Bell, and puzzled Sir Harris Nicolas himself. It became expedient for the respondent* to trace and ascertain how the whole race of the Hunters, and Welshes, with whom they had intermarried, had been disposed of from the first syllable of (Parish) recorded time. This was an opportunity not to be lost by my thoughtful benefactor, and I was appointed to search registers and seek health together, on a mission, for several weeks, among the hills and wild localities of the upper districts of Peebleshire and Tweeddale. With the exception of a brief sojourn at a solitary hostelry, where I was instructed to entertain them in capital style, and followed my instructions to the letter, I travelled on horseback from Manse to Manse, and received unbounded hospitalities from the ministers, whilst I examined their Kirk registers and extracted from them every entry where the name of Hunter, or Welsh, was to be found. Never was task more gratifying. The bonhommie of the Priests, and the simplicity of their parishioners, was a new world to me, whilst they, the clergy, men of piety and learning, con-

* This appellation sounded drolly enough in a legal paper, wherein describing his being insulted and reviled by huntsmen whom he endeavoured to stop from trespassing on his cornfields, the farmer made oath that “to all which torrent of abuse the Respondent answered not one word.”

sidered themselves as out of the world altogether. The population was thin and scattered, the mode of living primitive in the extreme, and the visit of a stranger, so insignificant as myself, quite enough to make a great sensation in these secluded parts. I found the ministers ingenuous, free from all puritanism, and generally well informed. Several of them had furnished the accounts of their parishes for the valuable
Statistical Account of Scotland, projected and executed under the auspices of Sir John Sinclair; and since immensely improved in the publication of Messrs. Blackwoods. A similar work would be of deep interest to England; but I must not wander from Tweedshaws, and the mossy uplands where it bubbles into light, whilst Clyde and Annan rise at a little distance from the Tweed and each other; and a small circuit of earth is the mother of three beautiful rivers, which flow in three different directions, adorning and enriching the south and west of the kingdom, till they fall into different seas. The triplex legs, which are the arms of the Isle of Man, might be their symbol.

The examination of the parish books was also a labour of love, and source of endless amusement. They mostly went as far back as a century and-a-half, and were, in the elder times, filled with such entries as bespoke a very strange condition of society. The inquisitorial practices and punitive powers of the Ministry could not be exceeded in countries most enslaved by the priesthood of the Church of Rome. Forced confessions, the denial of religious rites even on the bed of death, excommunication, shameful exposures, and a rigid and minute interference in every domestic or private concern, indicated a state of things which must have been intolerable. High and low were obliged to submit to this offensive discipline and domination. The Laird, like
the hind, had to mount the cutty-stool in atonement for his amatory transgressions, and back-sliders of inferior station were visited still more severely for their moral lapses and “heinous sins.” One of the striking features throughout was the evident avidity with which cases of indecent character were hunted out, and every detail investigated, as if the Reverend Inquisitor, whether Minister or Elder, gloated on the obscene revelations which they insisted on being made. Many of these were as filthy, above a hundred years ago, as some of the trials reported in our newspapers are at the present day.

My duty was thus pleasantly and satisfactorily performed. My note-book was full. My skill in decyphering obsolete manuscript was cultivated and improved; and my health was restored as if by miracle. Of other incidents and results I shall only state that on one occasion, to rival Bruce in Abyssinia, I dined off mutton whilst the sheep nibbled the grass upon the lawn,—our fare being the amputated tails of the animals, which made a very dainty dish;—that on reaching Edinburgh, my hackney, having from a dark gallop over a ground where a murder had been committed not long before, and being put into a cold stable, lost every hair on its hide like a scalded pig, subjected me to half his price in lieu of damage;—and that the famous and ancient Polmood remained in the possession of Lord Forbes, as inherited from the charter of King Robert, who gave the lands for ever, “as high up as heaven and as low down as hell,” to the individual named in the grant which was witnessed “by Meg, my wife, and Marjory, my nourice.”

This was nearly my last exploit in Edinburgh. A delightful excursion over Fife, and visit to Balcarres Castle, the seat of the noble and lively Lindsays, finished my Scottish sojourn. I bade farewell to many dear friends
and companions, and again taking leave of my native home, sought the busy mart of London without a fixed plan, and only vague notions and wishes floating in lay imagination, among which the pursuit of a literary life was the most prominent and the least understood. Like a child I could only see the gilt edges and gay binding of the book, and little apprehended the toil of the text, the labour of the brain, and all the troubles and ills that were concealed within!