LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 16: John Trotter

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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From the birth
Of mortal man, the Sovereign Maker said,
That not in humble nor in brief delight,
Not in the fading echoes of renown,
Power’s purple robes, nor Pleasure’s flowery lap,
The soul should find enjoyment; but from these,
Turning disdainful to an equal good,
Through all the ascent of things, enlarge her view.

Although not yet in emolument to satisfy the expenses, the “Literary Gazette” began to hold an honourable and acknowledged rank in periodical literature, and the novelty and utility of its plan to increase the numbers of its friends. The printing was confided to the celebrated typography of Bensley, whose establishment was, in the course of the year, visited by the Archdukes John and Lewis of Austria, and the Russian Grand-Duke Michel, who closely inspected the machinery, and carried away as much information about it as I could communicate. I was pressed on the Austrian occasion, from correcting my press for the morrow’s publication, as the only person in the house at the time who could converse with their Imperial Highnesses in French, which language I spoke very indifferently. Add to this that I knew but few of the names of the various parts of the “Patent Completing
Printing Machine,” even in English, and it maybe conceived how perfect an explanation of them and their performances in action was supplied. They, however, thanked me very graciously, and ordered the “Gazette,” which, when done by the Archdukes John and Lewis, was of much service to its future circulation and influence in Germany. On such accidents do many of the important events of literary success, and even of life, often take their hue.

At this epoch the higher compositions of poetry were very popular. It was a direct contrast to the condition of the Muse at the present time. How the public taste has happened to degenerate into apathy, would afford grounds for a curious philosophical inquiry, for there are sweet and graceful poets still amongst us, but something has changed the feeling of the age towards their productions. Have we become more mercenary, and less refined? it should seem so. Poetry has hardly a voice now, and no echo! Dumb and silent selfism listens to no ravishing sounds which enchant the generous heart; or the noise of clamorous pelf-hunting drowns the intellectual and exalting in the din of the go-a-head and sordid. Be this explained as it may, the launch of the “Literary Gazette” was fanned by the fine poetry of Croly; Barry Cornwall, who made his debut and produced his earliest flights in it; Miss Porden, the first wife of the lost Sir John Franklin; Knowles, brother of the eminent Queen’s Counsel, and from his few productions before he was prematurely cut off, quite equal to Kirke White; Read, author of the “Hill of Caves;” Chandos (Lord) Leigh; Fitzadam, whose touching tale is almost confined to these pages, and others, who, if they have not reached the foremost rank, have shone with considerable lustre in the literature of their day. Instead of being a weight to drag down a periodical, and be passed over
unread, the poetry in the “
Gazette” was one of its most attractive features, and the young, the imaginative, and the cultivated, rallied round the standard “flowing sheet.” The sensation afterwards made by L. E. L. completed the charm.

And there are other matters in this world little dreamt of in our philosophy, which are as imaginative as poetry, and still more extraordinary; but the story connects itself with my intercourse and friendship with one of the most remarkable men I ever met in my life, and it must be told at some length. I was acquainted with Mr. John Trotter when he thought of establishing the Bazaar in Soho Square. It was an entire novelty in Europe. From his great previous contracts with the Commissary General’s department, he had very extensive premises in that locality, and when the connection was dissolved, and, as I understood, in compliance with his advice, the Commissariat (grown to an enormous extent by the war) made a Government department, these immense storehouses, which had been the receptacles of the supplies by private contract, were emptied and left vacant, to be applied to any other useful occupation. The genius of Mr. Trotter suggested the Bazaar, and in humanely turning its foundation and operation into admirably-regulated benevolence, he was seconded by his estimable wife. There never lived on earth a more enthusiastic, and yet systematic being, than John Trotter.

The formation of the Bazaar turned out to be far more lucrative than could have been imagined on the first conception of the idea, when its founders invited my literary assistance to write an explanation of its nature and objects, to enable the public to understand them. This I did, and got it inserted in the “New Monthly Magazine,” after which the account was extracted and enlarged into a pamphlet of a few
pages, and sold for a few pence in the Bazaar. A year after, whilst sipping my wine with
Mr. Trotter, my surprise may be guessed at having a cheque for a considerable sum put into my hands. I objected to the receipt of any douceur, but my worthy host called for his Big Book, and showed me that the amount was bonâ fide the profit on the extraordinary sale of the publication. I was glad enough of the unexpected supply; for, as I have stated, my income was so limited, that, had it not been for certain independent literary employments, and particularly two or three with the always liberal publisher and ever my warm friend, John Murray, I could not have gone on even so well as I managed to do, and, as the saying is, “keep my head above water.” Before offering a few remarks on the Big Book I have mentioned—and a stupendous proof it was of the systematic part of Mr. Trotter’s character—I copy a letter from Mrs. Trotter, relating to the Bazaar, which throws a gratifying light upon that establishment, and well sustains what I had written in its commendation;—

“Thursday morning.
Dear Sir,

“Not knowing Mrs. Sell’s address, I must beg of you to tell her to call at counter No. 8 in the Bazaar next Monday, at half-past ten o’clock, and ask there for Mr. Gingell, to whom I have spoken, and who will take her to Mr. Trotter, without whose sanction no one by any interest can be admitted; otherwise I would say yes to your request; but unless he decidedly disapproves, I will do all in my power to promote your views for her. At present there is not one counter vacant, but there may be sooner or later; it is all a lottery. Nor is there an inspectress’s situation vacant; but one of them has been absent a few
days from illness, which, if it continues, may oblige the poor woman to give up her employment. We are but just returned from the Continent, where we were detained by our little John’s having met with an accident, which, thanks be to God, he has completely recovered from.

“Believe me, dear Sir,
“Yours sincerely,

This note indicates the admirable principles on which the Bazaar was conceived and conducted. There was no promiscuous admissibility. Every person who took a space of counter must be properly vouched for and introduced; when at their post, their behaviour must be decorous, and their dealings fair; punctuality was a sine qua non, and breaches of the regulations, or other offences, were immediately followed by warning, and, if these failed, by expulsion; but, above all, it was the cherished object of the founders to look out for tenants in such circumstances of life as rendered their election a boon and a blessing to them. The widows and orphans of decayed families, who had seen better days in every variety of profession and walk in business, were thus enabled to provide for themselves in a creditable and respectable manner. The case above referred to was an instance, and the comfort it carried into the hearts and homes of deep distress was one example, of the multitude for which their fellow creatures had cause to be for ever most grateful to their benefactors in the Bazaar.

The Big Book, I have no doubt, remains in the possession of my lamented friend’s son and successor, Captain John Trotter, of Durham Park, who has in several philanthropic
designs followed the beneficent example of his sire. It was, I think, the largest volume I ever saw, and on opening it, its vast page had much of the look of a gigantic manuscript of a page of Napier’s logarithms. Yet this apparently inextricable display of figures was a perfect exemplification of order, with the powers ascribed to the elephant (I dare say it was elephant paper), to bear a castle, or pick up a pin. Almost every line or entry embodied a transaction of great pecuniary importance, or some minute affair of the value of a few pence. It was so arranged and indexed, that its owner could at once turn back to any year of his public concerns, or any date of his private circumstances, and find them clearly stated and minutely detailed. Thus I remember some chests of stores were returned from Egypt, which had lain in that country, lost sight of for years, ever since the expedition under
Sir Ralph Abercrombie. The Government officials in the Ordinance-office neither knew, nor could know, anything about their origin, or what ought to be their destination; and in their dilemma applied to Mr. Trotter. He inquired if there were any marks remaining, and on being told there were some faint traces, and getting a copy of them, he went to his conjuring book, and immediately returned an answer that such and such a chest contained so many dozen pairs of stockings at such a price; that others held so many pairs of shoes at such a cost, and so on through the lot, and that the whole were the property of the Crown!

To me personally the specimen in the small way was yet more interesting. One summer day after dinner, I continued to drink a glass or two of port, instead of paying my respects, as usual in hot weather, to the superb claret which was an honour to a cellar where every vintage was of the best. Mr. Trotter asked why I did so, and I answered that I had got hold of a wine so peculiar, that I could not make
out what it was, though it bore a stronger resemblance to rich fruity port than to anything else to which I could compare it. He tasted it, and inquired of the butler out of what bin he had taken it; and on being told, the Big Book was sent for, from which it was immediately discovered that the precious tipple belonged to a supply which he and
Mr. Thomas Coutts, the banker, had bought as a curiosity in 1795, on the faith of its character; being then of ripe age, and fermented from the juice that dripped from ripe grapes, and without the admixture of a single drop of brandy. Such was the Ichor Deorum respecting which these Sybilline leaves afforded so distinct and satisfactory a record.

The inventive powers of Mr. Trotter’s mind were, as I have hinted, perhaps still more extraordinary than his organ of order. There seemed to be nothing around him, to which he paid attention, that he did not improve. His apartments were models of every comfort and luxury, without ostentation. Finery was not to be seen. Doors closed softly of themselves, as if on magic hinges. There were no noises, no hangings, no culinary odours anywhere but in the kitchen; everything neat, everything good, everything in its proper place, and nothing out of it; in short, all things disagreeable or inconvenient, which are often met with “in the best regulated families,” were so transformed by his inexhaustible ingenuity, that he seemed to have the absolute command of every mechanical art. But these were only every-day trifles, the aggregate of which, however, contributed largely to the general sum of ease and contentment, and the right working that prevailed over every place and undertaking directed by him.

Here he invented a little machine, like a watch, which marked every revolution of the carriage-wheels, and regis-
tered the exact extent of the drive;* here another, to be carried in the trouser pocket, which informed you how far you had walked. He was full of similar curious and most ingenious productions, many of which, I am afraid, like many admirable ancient inventions, have left no memory for our edification in reconstructing such useful articles. Still more I have reason to regret the passing away, without a record, of a discovery replete with incalculable consequences to mankind, viz., the means of carrying on the grand desideratum of civilised intercourse through the medium of a Universal Language! That
Mr. Trotter had mastered this prodigious system, I have not a doubt. I have witnessed its practical illustration, for though the secret was not communicated to me, I have given out the problem, and seen it completely solved by Mr. Trotter and his eldest daughter, Stuart, whose intelligence and sweetness of nature was beautifully exemplified in performing the task. I have given the passages in languages which Miss Stuart did not understand, and yet, by the application of her father’s pasigraphic signs, she has shown a thorough understanding of them in a few minutes.†

* This desirable check on coachee, when he is supposed to he waiting several hours for his master or mistress, would well deserve general adoption, as a considerable preserver of horse-flesh, inasmuch as it is not altogether unknown to London servants to do a little business on their own account in the driving line, when they are sure the governor or m’lady are engaged for some time.

† This amiable girl died in the autumn of 1818; and, soon after, I spoke my feelings in addressing the following lines on the affecting event, to her disconsolate parents:—

There are some woes that wring the heart,
While Sorrow’s fount is dry,
To which Earth can no balm impart,—
They point us to the sky;
For there alone the anguish’d mind
Can peace and consolation find.
Vain, then, to hope, with human dross
To bid such griefs be o’er;


Wilkins’s folio essay upon the subject was published so long ago as 1668, and since that period it has often engaged the earnest study of able and philosophical men in all countries. With regard to Mr. Trotter’s success, all I can now vouch for is, that the characters were of the utmost simplicity, and bore some resemblance to the notes in music; that they were so limited in number, that two types of a telegraph would express them all; and that they changed their signification by relative position.

The knowledge of this character, that is, the power of reading what is written in it, critically, could, with the greatest ease, be acquired in ten minutes, by persons of common capacity. Thus, A, with ten minutes’ instruction, should audibly read—give voice to—these signs, so that B, previously acquainted with the language, should completely understand the import given to each by the first writer, C, with the utmost grammatical minuteness.

Friends can but feel thy fatal loss—
Thy fatal loss deplore;
And he who gives and takes away
Tell thee is now thy only stay.
Yet fain would I some comfort shed
Upon this hour of pain.
Alas, I cannot! She is dead,
And will not come again!
And child so good, and child so fair,
Hath seldom smooth’d a parent’s care.
What could a Mother’s eye delight—
A Father’s fondness cheer—
That she possess’d not?—lovely, bright,
Affectionate, and dear;—
Those charms Youth, Beauty, Virtue gave,
Now moulder with her in the grave.
And therefore ’tis we heavenward turn,
Where joys immortal are;
And, piously confiding, burn
To meet our treasures there:
Who bless’d us in this world shall be
Bless’d with us in Eternity.


From one to three signs, and very rarely a fourth, expressed any idea, in all its various moods and forms; and the grammar of the characters might be acquired in a very few hours; so that it was firmly believed, from analogy of the European languages known to the inventor, that every foreigner could, within that brief space of time, place his finger on every part of speech used in his native tongue; distinguishing the gender, number, and case of the noun, the degrees of comparison of the adnoun, agreeing with its noun; the same with respect to the adverb, the moods, tenses, number, person, and voice of the verb.

The same symbol or symbols represented the same substance or the same idea in all languages. Every possible inflection of any word followed the knowledge of the root.

Every symbol, with all the niceties of language, could be spoken, written, printed, or expressed by a very simple telegraph.

The roots were few, the number of words, in all their inflections, without limit, and their use attained with the utmost ease, within the short time stated; of which fact I repeat I have been the witness.

Such was the first outline of this discovery, and Mr. Trotter and I took much pains to invite the attention of learned philologers to the properties stated to belong to it. But we could not arrest the sceptical public mind to the investigation; and, like many a great discovery, our Pasigraphy fell asleep, whilst something else started up to evoke the ever active faculties of the prolific inventor, who, with the sensitiveness of genius, felt so discouraged that he would not bestow the labour needed to mature this conception.

All we gathered was, that a French “ancient major of infantry” had, about 1796, published in Paris a system of Pasigraphy, which did not appear to be very difficult, and,
when understood, requiring little more study or imagination than short-hand.

But there is a living fact to the practicability of such a system; since the people of China and Cochin China, though unacquainted with the spoken language of each other, yet write in a character perfectly intelligible to both!

The gate which forms the entrance to Mr. Trotter’s seat, Durham Park, I may mention, as an archaeologist, is the same which Monk caused to be erected in London for the triumphal return to his capital of King Charles the Second. In its new site it opened the way to a very delightful retreat, where I enjoyed some happy holidays. Here and in Soho Square, the instructive and pleasant society of Mr. Trotter and his household, combining his own striking conversation with accomplished literary tastes, charming music, and all the agrémens of refined communion, leave remembrances on my spirits which are at the same time sad and solacing.

In my first volume I dwelt upon the fortunate results of brethren standing by each other in the world’s fight, and endeavoured to contrast the benefits derived from their mutual affection, and sustaining each other, with the baneful consequences which must ever flow from family feuds and fraternal strifes. I instanced the Wellesleys, Pollocks, Malcolms, and might have added other honoured and conspicuous examples to the list; and among these one not less eminent may be found in the brotherhood of the Trotters, Alexander, John, and Coutts. They were the sons of highly respectable and highly-connected parentage in Mid Lothian, and seated on a property near the Scottish metropolis. Like so many of their countrymen, they were sent to London to make their way, Alexander, the eldest, being promoted through the family interest to a clerkship in the Navy Office, Somerset House. It was in this
situation that his talents recommended him to
Lord Melville, did important public service, and laid the foundations of his own, and to a certain collateral degree, of his brothers’ prosperity. It was, after all, as simple as it was a sagacious work, and yet of how much benefit to the country. Before it was suggested by the young Scotchman, the system of keeping the official accounts was a monstrous absurdity. They were always largely in arrear, and the practice was to keep on bringing them up from the date at which they had arrived, in regular line as it were, whilst at the same time all the later accounts were accumulating in an increasing ratio; for the business had become far too extensive and complicated. Thus, whilst yon were clearing off (say) 1777, 1797 was loading your books with twice or thrice as much as was got rid of, and the confusion every year grew worse confounded. The clever brain of Dreghorn (so called, Scottice, from his estate) detected this gross inconsistency, and he wrote (as his brother informed me) a memorial to the first Lord of the Admiralty, in which he pointed out the expediency of keeping pace with the current accounts instead of lugging on the past, but leaving the intermediate period to be brought up with all the expedition the strength of the office could afford. Lord Melville perceived the merits of this suggestion at a glance; the system was adopted, and the young clerk was promoted to a position of great emolument, fairly earned by his merits, as well as advanced to the especial favour and patronage of the powerful friend he thus had made. His appearance in connexion with the memorable impeachment of that distinguished individual cannot have been forgotten by my readers: it was a rub in the game of party politics.

But the débût of the brethren in town, as humorously
described to me by
John, must possess more of novelty, and therefore I will venture to repeat the tale as it was told to me. They lodged in the Strand, very near to Coutts’s Banking House, of which in process of time Coutts Trotter became a leading partner; I think it was on the second floor, in the shape of bedrooms only, as the young gentlemen of those days did not indulge much in the expense of sitting-rooms. I have mentioned that they were highly connected with some of the nobility of Scotland (a relationship which, as blood is thicker than water, did no harm to Alexander in his rise in the Navy Office); and they were occasionally honoured, particularly on Sundays, with a call from one or other of their dignified kinsfolks. When we heard their knock (said my informant), we used frequently to be caught in a disorderly state, and put into a fearful “bicker.” Perhaps we were, or had just done, feeding, and everything was in confusion. But we were active fellows, and before you could cry “Jack Robinson,” the firkin or pan of butter, and the barrel or pock of oatmeal, or the kipper salmon, or the jam or jelly, or short-bread, or whatever else it was which the bounty of our friends at home had supplied for our provision, was shoved under the beds with wonderful rapidity; and before our visitors got to the top of the stairs, everything was as snug and tidy as if half-a-dozen housemaids had been employed! From such beginnings it is a proud feeling to witness the diligent and the worthy raise themselves to great wealth and eminent station: the pith and glory of the British empire are knit up with such progress in our social and national scale. It is true that only a limited portion can reach the goal; but thousands and tens of thousands strive for it, and therein, as in the hair of Samson, lies the strength, of the land.


That John Trotter did not forget the advantage of being remembered by kind friends in the way of “victual,” the following note will witness:—

“Soho Square, 15th March, 1818.
Dear Sir,

“I find I have a very gentle cow, small and a good milker, which calved three weeks ago, and is now ready to be removed to Brompton when convenient for you to receive her. At present she lives on hay, of which it seems you have abundance. I shall hope to hear from you on the subject, and am, dear Sir,

“Yours truly,

This was of a piece with many a friendly office, among which I was very thankful for his handsome and well-appointed equipage to carry me to, and bring me from the coronation of George IV., which I was thus enabled to attend in a style which few literary gentlemen could hope to emulate. At least, it was a chance so rare as to be unique in my time, though I hope it may be more within the compass of my younger compatriots now who uphold the “profession,” as so pre-eminently eligible for an investment of learning and talent.
“’Twas not so when Tabitha Woodstock was young;”
and it must be gratifying to congratulate the more fortunate generation which has arisen since, on the change of times, of their happy change with it; long may it continue, though the preceding literary litter might be unable to help enviously wishing that they had been born a little later!


Another, and the most elaborate affair that ever Mr. Trotter and I concocted together, was a scheme for placing the national finances on a better footing; invigorating every class of society, producing a plentiful and healthful medium currency, and, in short, imparting to the country such a fresh circulation of life-blood, that its prosperity should hardly know a bound, nor its population a want. He was very earnest in this matter, and we really worked at it night and day. He was often at my house before I had risen from bed, and often found me at my late labours at night; for the demands on my time always forced me to waste a great deal of the midnight oil, when all was still, and interruptions mitigated. The different habits of literary men in this respect are very curious, though generally to be accounted for from extraneous causes. Thus, some diligently employ the morning, and others toil at night; and some poor souls are at it morning, noon, and night. But I agreed in opinion with Bishop Burgess, of St. David’s and Salisbury, that the most studious, and learned, and deeply pondered writings were produced by the sitters-up at night, and not by spinners in the sun. It is almost impossible to steady the mind to such objects amid the tempting freshness of nature on a lovely summer morning; and as for lighting candles in winter, you might as well do it before you retire to rest as to have your rest broken for a very cold, uncomfortable, and untimely sederunt early next day.

The currency plan was submitted to Sir Coutts Trotter, and a number of distinguished political economists and statesmen, including Mr. Huskisson; and I will say, that though the theory was objected to by the bullionist school, even its leaders acknowledged its ingenuity; whilst those of the opposite opinion held it up as a panacea for all our monetary evils and panics. The pamphlet we made on the occasion
was quite in keeping with
Mr. Trotter’s methodical precision. One side of the page was left blank, and on the opposite side the lines of printed matter were all numbered; so that the persons who were consulted could readily make a close and direct reference to the precise line, and enter their judgment pro or con on the adjacent white. I have not seen it now for some years,* and cannot recollect what hearing it would he likely to have on the altered system of the golden age in progress; but if I find the opportunity, and it seems to have aught deserving of notice I will bring it forward for another place.

* Since writing this, Captain John Trotter has kindly looked up a copy for me, and in due season I shall refer to it.—W. J.