LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 1: Literary

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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No Delphic sage is wanted to divine
The shape of Truth heneath my passing line;
Yet these are truths—like schoolmates, once well-known,
But half remembered, not enough to own—
That lost from sight in life’s bewildering train,
May he, like strangers, introduced again;
Lully and Geber, and the learned crew,
That loved to talk of all they could not do.
Astræa” by Holmes, American Poet.

The favourable reception which has been given to my first volume by the almost unanimous voice of those critics in whom the public reposes confidence, and the very small portion of dissent, and generally on very small matters, which has leavened the mass, would have afforded me no occasion for any observations, except to express my grateful feeling for the liberality and kindliness displayed, and my sense of the ability with which several of the reviewers have gone deeper than the surface, fairly and impartially to trace the inner spirit of my purpose, and the objects it
seeks to subserve. But in one point of view I have been so entirely mistaken by some of my critical contemporaries, that I must take leave to offer a few words on the subject; especially as it affects my whole argument, and is of deep interest to the literary world.

It has been held that my narrative, as far as it has gone (the sequel being unknown), tends to the disparagement of the literary class or “profession,” and has consequently not only provoked the animadversions of members of that class or “profession,” but the ruse of carrying the war into the supposed enemy’s quarters, and charging me with ingratitude where I ought to have been exceedingly thankful for the success accorded to me.

“On their own merits, modest men are dumb;” and I am not about to balance the account whether or not I have received more or less than my deservings; such a consideration is totally beside the question. For I have not set up to glorify myself; but to write the Memoirs of one whose whole life has been devoted to literature, not concealing short-comings or errors, but as frankly and candidly as possible recording them, to point a moral, even if, in other respects, it should fail to adorn a tale. This is the declared aim of my work, and I have not shrunk more from the task (as is honestly remarked in the Messrs. Chambers’s review of it) than would be deemed justifiable in every well-constituted mind, conscious of imperfections, the confession of which ought to withhold the arm raised to throw the first stone. If I had attempted to paint myself in false and flattering colours, there would have been a tolerable excuse for censuring the picture and not sparing the original; but I humbly conceive that I have not committed so gross a misrepresentation, and was therefore hardly amenable to the inapplicable law of a personal and individual test. If I were
writing a romance or a novel, I could make my principal character suit the tastes of those who admire perfect heroes; but I am endeavouring to write the genuine life, and describe the motives, springs of action, and reflections of a real human being—a mixture of good and evil. I do not set up to teach as a schoolmaster, but to tell the truth, and develope causes and effects, as fairly as my philosophy can appreciate them, so as to operate in the way of example. I am neither concealing nor apologising for what may be wrong, nor boasting of better qualities and laudable deeds. If, in the end, the balance be sorely against me, I cannot help it now; all that I could ask would be candid construction from those who are conscious of their own frailty and fallibility; and as for the vilifications of the Holy Willies of the earth, I am disposed to take, even from them, the blame that I may deserve in a repentant spirit, and despise all the rest.

In legitimate criticism the main and proper business of the reviewer is with the writings before him; and unless the writer dogmatically parades himself, or inculcates dangerous doctrines, there is not a syllable out of the work, either about him or his history, which are within the sphere of justifiable remark. Whether an author has been gay and irregular, or a saint and a pattern, has very little to do with his text. In teetotalism the most shocking drunkard always becomes the greatest apostle of temperance; and the old proverb says, “The greater the sinner the greater the saint.” It is an unwholesome principle, therefore, to attempt the rebuke of virtuous precepts, merely because they may be uttered by some one who may not have fulfilled the duties of the decalogue: it is a mode of judging that must be condemned. Perhaps, however, I admit in my case it may be more allowable, if the
parties are so inclined, than it could be under other and more usual circumstances; because I have not undertaken the onerous responsibility of training others “in the way they should go,” but to lay before the world—and particularly the literary world—such a retrospect of facts, as far as my experience enables me, as to throw some light upon the evils to which they are exposed, the temptations which attend, the seductions which beset them, and the good they may perform in spite of the ill which is their human lot.

I am not so stupid as to expect from sanguine youth a general concurrence in all the maxims of sobered age, and though the truism is obvious enough, and I may regret with one of my friendly critics that certain “happy ideas” did not occur to me “rather at the commencement than at the close of my career,” I must confess that I consider such idiosyncrasy a phenomenon more to be desiderated than expected. I have heard something of the impossibility of putting an old head on young shoulders; and even were it possible, I should look upon the hybrid monster as a very disagreeable, ugly, and unnatural production of Nature! I should like to lay the unction to my soul that it is, nevertheless, only a slight approximation to this ancient-pated condition on juvenile props, which has led to the misconception of my meaning in regard to “disparaging the profession of literature;” and resentment and reproof for the offence. The gist of my statements and reasonings from first to last has been, is, and will be the very reverse of this! I maintain that literature is neither appreciated, encouraged, nor honoured as it ought to be; and that its professors (if dependent altogether upon it) are liable to worse usage and more misfortune than any other intellectual class in our social scheme. To those of my brethren who are not far
advanced on the road, and are perfectly satisfied with their progress and position, I have only to wish from my heart, the continuance of their contentment and the permanency of their condition, and that God may speed them to the end of their course, without affording them cause to look back with regret upon any part of it. May they be taught to avoid the commission of such errors as examples might suggest, and escape the accidental misfortunes and the injuries which are too common to their less lucky and self-complacent compatriots. In short, I hope they may be exceptions to the rule, which all my experience has inclined me to believe to be almost invariable as regards the literary “profession,” and inseparable from its pursuit and practice in this country.

It was but yesterday I heard it gravely maintained, and by no uninfluential authorities, that the having produced a beauteous work of fiction, developing the inmost recesses and workings of human nature, the very essence of the philosophy of life, was proof that the author was unfit for public employment, and destitute of the qualifications necessary to form a statesman. What these qualifications, therefore, are, it is out of my power to divine, seeing that knowledge of mankind, admirable penetration, and astute discrimination, do not enter into the composition; but I merely note the objection to show how inimical, to the progress of a highly gifted individual, the possession of pre-eminent literary faculties are accounted. Deny it who may, there is a very general jealousy and fear attached to the literary character, which is anything but pleasant or beneficial to authors, in the usual run of worldly affairs.

What then has my biography said or done to expose it to the groundless charge which calls forth these observations. Let me repeat: it submits the lesson and experience
of a long literary life, now verging to its close. It will exhibit the blunders, the follies, the indulgences, and other features incident to the busy lives of all men; and is too late either to model or mend. It cannot be lived over again (and it is very far from being wished that it should, if it could); but its candid history may warn others to avoid some errors and pursue wise and provident courses. In everything it is amenable to the same laws, physical and moral, as the lives of other mortals; but it is in its literary peculiarities that I am anxious to demonstrate the differences, by showing the evils to which the author, the man dependent upon literature, is exposed, the enjoyments and the disappointments which await his career,—the injustice and wrongs he is doomed (and must lay his account) to meet with—the trials and troubles which attach to him only as the consequence of his pursuits—the abstraction of his mind from the needful details of accurate business, and its aptness to seek refuge from dull realities in the brighter idealities of imagination as the result; and his often blameable inattention, impunctuality, and want of order, which leave him almost a helpless prey, to be preyed upon by the sordid, the grasping, the scheming, and the rascally, who are not slow to take full advantage of their opportunities to plunder and defame their victims.

I have found it so, and I immolate myself for a beacon. If in so doing I expose my individual mishaps more than a prudent and selfish reserve would dictate, I thereon found a claim, not quite of exemption from severe interpretation, but upon generous feelings (referring to the breast within) to find as much excuse as they can, and not seek advantage from my history to make me out worse than I am. But above all, I require it to be kept in sight that my opinion on
this important question is not drawn solely from myself; but on the contrary, from the fate of the multitude I have witnessed struggle and perish around me in the unequal strife. My own case might almost seem an exception, in consequence of the position to which it raised me; but still the misfortunes which attended it, as my narrative will show, were attributable to its literary occupation, and therefore fall properly and justly within the scope of my argument.

To the youthful and earnest upholders of the dignity of their literary condition, I would as earnestly offer my counsel to take heed lest they fall. If only the improvident and misconducted fail, let them show me the provident and the discreet who have succeeded. A catalogue of such would, indeed, astonish me. Surely it cannot be contended that all the unsuccessful are careless, extravagant, reckless, vicious! Thousands, and tens of thousands, of aching hearts and broken-down fortunes, alas! are but too easily to be found to vouch for the fidelity of my descriptions, and the dismal force of my opinions.

But let it be understood that it is not the fault of literature—that source of solace, even in misery, and of gratification in every phase of existence,—that its apostles are thus visited and punished. Compare with them the fate of gentlemen, perhaps retired officers from the two services, who may be induced, at a mature period of their lives, to enter into trade. Who have ever witnessed one among fifty of them succeed in business? I have not; but, just on the contrary, have seen them as unlucky and squeezable by their more cunning competitors, to the manner born, as the literary man. Acute, clever, diligent, they have not been brought up to it, and are unaware of what its profitable cultivation requires. Impositions of every kind beset them
in the unequal strife; and, like the others, the great majority of them struggle and sink.

O! would some Power the giftie gie us,
To see oursels as ithers see us;
It would frae mony a blunder free us
And foolish notion.
What airs and graces, and a’ would lea’ us,
And e’en devotion!