LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 6: Shreds & Patches

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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This is the place, stand still my steed,
Let me review the scene;
And summon from the shadowy Past,
The forms that once have been.
The Past and Present here unite,
Beneath Time’s flowing tide;
Like footprints hidden by a brook,
But seen on either side.—Longfellow.
Lives of great men all remind us,
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave hehind us
Footprints on the sands of Time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked hrother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.—Idem.

The eighteenth of June arrived, and ended all this strange eventful history, except the disposal of the individual whose ambition had flooded the earth with blood.

The war being again over, the “Sun” Literary Reviews recommenced with increased energy, and the notices of exhibitions and productions of works of art were never neglected. If I repeat my boast of these things, now and hereafter, I must beg my readers who are only acquainted with the recent and present publications of the newspaper press, to look back for an hour to those of the period of which I am speaking. They will not, then, deny the praise to
which I aspire, of having most unequivocally led the way to these combinations in the periodical press, commingling the arts and literature with the news and politics of the hour; which two years afterwards (1817), I concentrated, barring political discussions, in the “
Literary Gazette,” and which have been the fruitful source of the universal newspaper system of the present day. It is something like a feather in one’s cap to have contributed to such an improvement.

I also carried my zealous services into the “Literary Fund” and other benevolent associations; and I never slackened in my exertions to promote their interests to the utmost of my power. I can truly aver that I have laboured diligently all my life, where the cause of letters and humanity came within my sphere, and never grudged cost, or time, more precious than money, to help my fellow-creatures.

As a counterpoise at the period now in hand, I plead guilty to the commission of clouds of indifferent epigrams, and other effusions in prose and verse, which I considered to be very pertinent and clever when produced, but which I cannot conscientiously assert to bear the test of retrospection. My colleague, John Taylor, was as bad as, or worse, than myself; and I must confess that I should not like to see a collection of all the puns and plays upon words and syllables that appeared in the “Sun” during any one year of my editing. A few samples of the best will prove that my blush for these productions would not be without reasonable foundation. Impromptu, January 19th:—
Old Scotia’s Thistle long has rear’d
Its head in fair renown,
Now rumour lies, or else ’tis fear’d,
’Twill be but Thistle-Down!
It was a far better mot on the occasion that, now he had got the ribbon of the order,
Lord Erskine’s voice would not be heard so much in the House. “No,” remarked the wag of the day, “he will be like the hotel sign in Oxford-street, the ‘Green Man and Still.’” In after years I had a pleasing correspondence with his Lordship when he printed his humane appeal in favour of the Rooks, and contended that by their destruction of insects they much overpaid the loss of any injury done to the farmer’s crops. There was nobody, to be sure, to take up the case of the suffering insects: they were like the very poor in the social scheme, too low in the scale to stir up a friend; and the only word I ever heard uttered in favour of the tribe, was the reply of the lazy fellow in Dublin when reproached with his sluggard habits. “Ah, Dick, Dick, thee wilt never come to good, lying in bed till noon! It is the early bird, Dick, that picks up the worm.” “Ay, but,” said Dick, “the worm was up first!” But again, March 17th:—

Master Dicky, my dear,
You have nothing to fear,
Your proceedings I mean not to check, sir;
Whilst the weather benumbs,
We should pick up our crumbs,
So, I prithee, make free with a peck, sir.
I’m afraid ’tis too plain,
You’re a villain in grain,
But in that you resemble your neighbours;
For mankind have agreed,
It is right to suck seed,
Then like you, hop the twig with their labours.
Besides this, Master Dick,
You of trade have the trick,
In all branches you traffic at will, sir;
You have no need of shops
For your samples of hops,
And can every day take up your bill, sir.
Then, in foreign affairs,
You may give yourself airs;
For I’ve heard it reported at home, sir,
That you’re on the best terms
With the Diet of Worms,
And have often been tempted to Rome, sir.
Thus you feather your nest
In the way you like best,
And live high, without fear of mishap, sir.
You are fond of your Grub;
Have a taste for some Shrub,
And for Gin there, you understand Trap, sir.
Though the rivers won’t flow
In the frost and the snow,
And for fish other folks vainly try, sir,
Yet you’ll have a treat,
For, in cold or in heat,
You can still take a Perch with a fly, sir.
In love, too, O, Dick!
Though (you oft when love-sick,
On the course of good-breeding may trample;
And, though often hen-peck’d,
Yet) you scorn to neglect
To set all the world an Eggsample.
Your o-pinions, ’tis true,
Are flighty, a few;
But at this I, for one, will not grumble;
So your breakfast you’ve got,
And you’re off like a shot.—
Dear Dicky,
Your humble cum-tumble.

In the ranks of opposition there was not one member whose political conduct I so thoroughly condemned, and whom I, consequently, so much disliked, as Mr. Whitbread. I do not know how many squibs I fired at the “Santerre” and “Anacharsis Cloots” of England, as
our party denominated him; but I do not think I ever wrote a word about him, till his deplorable death, that was not a satire and reproach. His frequent practice of pestering ministers in the House of Commons by asking questions, had recently been more than ever indulged in, and led to the following (April 25):—

Sam Query, a brewer, in famed Chiswell-street,
Is a comical dog as you’ll find in his station;
He ne’er opens his mouth, nor gets up from his seat,
But to ask what he very much wants—information.
Sam Query.
From his tongue never accent is noticed to flow,
Save “I rise, sir, to ask?” and “I wish, sir, to know?”
“Being set on my legs, sir, I beg to inquire?”
“Am I then to presume?” “Is report, then, a liar?”
“By that shake of the head, sir, pray what, sir, is meant?”
“Does the noble lord’s nod stand for ass or dissent?”
“What was done, sir, at A?” “Who was present at B?”
“When signed C?” “How did D?” “Where the Devil was E?”
“Is it false?” “Is it true?” “Whence arose this foul blot?”
“Does the noble lord know?” “Does the noble lord not?”
“Why the h—ll do you laugh? I’d have you, d’ye see,
Impeached if I thought you were laughing at me.”
Sam Query.
Thus raving away for the good of the nation,
Sam Query personified interrogation;
The ministers’ souls or their ears sure to harrow,
With cross-questions outgarrowing fifty times Garrow;
But the cream of the jest is the fellow, odd rot it,
Can never make use of a fact when he’s got it.
By Query.
When I made this remark to the brewer one day,
He replied, “My name’s Query, and Query’s my way.”
Noun, adverb, and verb all by logic combined,
Cannot do half the work which in Query I find;
And pedants who undertake grammar to teach,
Should rank Query the ninth and the best part of speech.
Great Query.
Had he lived in those days when, as school-classes tell,
The Pythoness prophet in Delos did dwell;
He’d so many responses have asked in a breath,
As had badgered the God and his priestess to death.
And ’till now in the world ne’er has been such a man, sir,
For questions by hundreds, not wanting one answer,
So endless, so aimless, so senseless, so dreary,
As this bugaboo, bothering brewer, Sam ——?

The practice of cross-questioning has by no means abated with parliamentary reform! On the 13th of May I uttered a punning prophecy, which was soon, gloriously fulfilled, on the ball given by the Duke of Wellington at Brussels.

The friends of Duke Wellington, prompt to the call,
With pride and with pleasure attend at his ball;
But lest e’en his foes should with jealousy pout,
He will soon give them many a ball and a rout.

As I was all for the Duke, so was I all against Buonaparte; and on his issuing an order for the defence of Paris by inundation, wrote—

’Tis a desperate measure, the Paris folks think,
To inundate them and the country around;
But Boney will swim, though the capital sink,
For those born to be hang’d are sure not to be drown’d!
Thus secure of a fate high and dry in the air,
The rebel, from water with nothing to fear,
Bids, in justice, to sink the good city prepare,
As amends for the blowing up meant it last year.

But I must not indulge too long at a time in this vein. Party spirit ran very high, and those who believed the safety of the country to be endangered by that sort of hero-worship which the extraordinary exploits and elevation of Buonaparte had engendered, were not sparing either in denunciation or ridicule of his worshippers; among the most zealous of whom was Mr. Whitbread. But on his death the sense of disapprobation which influenced my constant opposition to his political course also died, and the following was my honest tribute to his character:—


“He was a man of a vigorous mind, and of the most intense application. Generally informed, devoted to business, and zealous in all his pursuits, Mr. Whitbread exhibited many of the traits which have been thought to belong to our national character. It has ever been our lot to differ from him on political subjects, and truth compels us to say, that, in our opinion, his course did not always square with the true interests of his country. But to his indefatigable diligence, to his perseverance and constancy, we desire to pay the tribute due. The death of few men would have occasioned so large a blank in our parliamentary history; and in the relations of private life, and in all the honourable situations of magistrate, country gentleman, and active member of society ——” I was concluding with the praises which the deceased merited in these relations, when the fatal particulars of his suicide arrived and stopped my pen.

Such trifles, too, as I have quoted, varied the page on which was imprinted news of mighty import; statements and rumours on the truth or falsehood of which the fate of Europe seemed to depend; and accounts of Lord Cochrane’s apparition in the House of Commons; the death, dissection, and burial of Joanna Southcote, after being kept the four predicted days in vain for her revival and the birth of Shiloh; the apparition of the pig-faced lady, who was never seen; and other momentous affairs demonstrative of the enlightened civilisation of the nineteenth century!

In the spring I had the good fortune to procure the appointment of Post-master of Sheffield for my friend Mr. William Todd, a respectable printer there, and proprietor of the “Sheffield Mercury;” the leading articles for which I wrote during six or eight years. The subjoined letter expresses his acknowledgments of the kindly office:—

“Mercury Office, Sheffield, April 29th, 1815.
Dear Jerdan,—

“I was not at home when your very pleasing communications reached Sheffield. By the same post a letter from Mr. Freeling also conveyed the welcome news. I know not how to thank you for the present and former instances of friendship you have so obligingly shown in the promotion of my interest. If you were personally to take an early hour to call on Mr. F. and thank him in my name, you will accomplish a sincere and ardent wish of my heart.

“Receive the warmest and best acknowledgments of your sincere friend and obedient servant,


A few weeks after, I was equally fortunate in obtaining for Mr. Pyne her Majesty’s permission to make his drawings of the royal apartments at Windsor, for his splendid work on the Royal Palaces, and leave to dedicate the same to her Majesty. Colonel Stephenson’s letter on the subject, hints with great delicacy at the condition of the King, and as it is only a few lines and “private” no longer, I take leave to insert it, and Mr. Freeling’s previous letter requesting the favour.

“General Post Office, July 6th, 1815.
Dear Jerdan,—

“You are always thinking of my gratification— many sincere thanks—all these little things are valuable to a collector.

Stephenson has so much felt his loss, (the death of his wife) that at present he avoids even me.

“The best thing I can do is to send him your letter. I
know that he has laid down strong rules for his own conduct in all these cases, and I shall be much gratified to learn that your request is not contrary to those rules.

“I think the public have been too extravagant in their expectations as to the Allies entering Paris. That act will take place in good time, and not before it shall be right to do so on a consideration of all circumstances.

“Believe me, dear Jerdan,
“Yours truly and always,
“Windsor Castle, 8th July, 1815.”
My Dear Freeling,—

“I have laid Mr. Pyne’s request before the Queen, and her Majesty has been graciously pleased to accept of the dedication, and to allow the drawings to be made of the royal apartments, as far as the same can be done with propriety under existing circumstances; and I have written to Mr. Pyne accordingly, and desired he would call upon me, in order to make the necessary arrangements with his artists. It will give me great pleasure to afford that gentleman every assistance in my power, though I very much doubt the success of his undertaking. I return you enclosed Mr. Jerdan’s letter,

“And remain, my dear Freeling,
“Yours affectionately,
“Fras. Freeling, Esq.,
&c. &c. &c.”

My intercourse with the Government, through its highest official channels, and especially with those most attached, personally and politically, to Mr. Canning, was at this
period of an intimate nature. There are, of course, many matters which it would not become me to touch upon, but as my work is an Auto-biography, I trust I shall be thought entitled to select some personal reminiscences very gratifying to my own feelings, and, if I am not mistaken, likely to be of some public interest in consideration of the names connected with them. What they were to me at the time, it were impossible for me to over-estimate; but the vista of years is in nature what the dissolving views are in art; the prominent and important objects fade gradually away into the misty horizon, and resolve themselves into the thin air. The excitements, the strong passions, the prospects, the pleasures, the pains, the all of current existence, like the landscape of the artist, melt into the distance, and we wonder that they ever appeared to be so substantial, so awful. Yet it is a lovely grey mist that tempers all into harmony. How the rugged is smoothed, how the intemperate is chastised, how the offensive is qualified, how the crude is refined how the saddening is solaced, how the joyous is moderated, how the passionate is rebuked, how the evil is punished, how the truly good is trained to flourish for ever green and for ever fruitful, though the atmosphere is changed in the picture and the feelings in the man. The parallel of a dissolving view is, indeed, a pregnant lesson of life; it advances with imposing features, expanding, realising—distinct with sylvan glades, cheering sunshine and flowery foreground, rocky precipices, insuperable mountains, a sky clouded on one side and clear on the other,—for a few brief moments it is stationary, to try the penetration of your sight, and the application of your judgment—and then begins the vanishing, the magic of looking back instead of forward, and the glades are but dismal avenues, the sunshine obscured, flowers little better than weeds, the rocks shape-
less stepping-stones, the insuperable mountains shadows, and the sky, as far as human life is concerned, a deepening gloom.

——“These our actors
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made of, and our little life
Is rounded by a sleep.”

Letters from my brother, Major Jerdan, commanding with distinguished military approbation, a battalion in the expedition to Kutch at this time, were further stimulants to exertion, and sources of sanguine hopes. I read his name in the despatches with delight, though spelt “Jardme,” and in one of his letters he tells me, that he had seen mine honourably mentioned in some Magazine, with a similar pleasure; so, at the date of the Battle of Waterloo, I was tolerably contented, very actively employed, and, in the pursuit of literature, happy.

My frequent correspondence with Mr. Canning at Colares was not the least of my enjoyments, for though the subject-matter was of little importance, still it was a high gratification to me to be hearing familiarly from such a man, and communing on terms of confidence with his friends at home. I was very proud of it; and am! A few letters which illustrate this, and have other meanings of more general interest, I will add. The first is of curious import, when it is remembered that the writer took the ambassadorial appointment only in the almost certain expectation of the Sovereign arriving from the Brazils at Lisbon, and when this event did not take place, immediately and
without publicity resigned the office and its large allowances. This act being unknown, he was, of course, furiously assailed by his adversaries for his venality, in taking pay where there were no duties to be performed! The curious formality of the letter is also a characteristic worthy of note. It is droll to receive from an eminent minister of the Crown, on the same day, as I have done, letters addressed “Sir,” and “respectfully” signed; and others, “My dear Sir,” “Yours, most sincerely,” &c. &c. It seemed as if the forms of official business necessarily adhered to communications of a political character.

“Colares, nr. Cintra, Sept. 22nd, 1815.

“I receive by each packet two sets of ‘The Sun,’ one, I apprehend, sent by yourself to the Foreign Office, the other through the Post Office.

“The latter comes by far the most regularly; and, as I intend to continue that, and as one set is enough for a private person, may I request you to discontinue that which has come to me through the Foreign Office?*

“I am, Sir,
“Your most obedient and
“Faithful humble servant,

“PS. If yours should be the set that comes from the Post Office, I should still be much obliged to you to find out how the other set comes to the Foreign Office, and to stop it.”

Next month, my letter runs—

* The italics are the writer’s.

“Colares, October 25th, 1815.

“I have to acknowledge the favour of your letter of the 28th ult., and to return you my thanks for the book which accompanied it, and which you have done me the honour to inscribe to me, in terms so much too flattering.

“I shall certainly he in England some time next Spring; hut exactly at what period, I am not yet able to decide.

“I am really uninformed of the nature of the ‘rumours’ which you say are ‘afloat’ in the political world, and consequently utterly unable to suggest to you any confirmation or contradiction of them.

“I am, Sir,
“Your most obedient
“Humble servant,

A letter from Mr. Huskisson shows that Mr. Canning’s return, or stay, had become a point of political importance.

“Whitehall Place, Monday.

“I wished to see you principally for the purpose of setting right the mis-statement of the morning papers, that Mr. Canning was returning home. But this I see you have already done, in the ‘Sun’ of Saturday. If you can call here for five minutes, I should, however, be glad to have a little conversation with you on the subject.

“I remain, Sir,
“Your obliged, humble servant,

My interviews with Mr. Huskisson were always of a confidential nature. Mr. Arbuthnot I saw almost every day,
and learnt what was on the tapis—amusing myself sometimes, in his room or ante-room, when kept waiting too long for my impatience, in turning over the Treasury volume of Recommendations, and notes thereupon, which I assure you was a queer and entertaining book* but with Mr. Huskisson, the communications went beyond “the ignorant present,” and were, to me, in my position, singularly valuable. Like
Mr. Canning, he would discourse over the “business, whatever it was, with utter frankness, tell me the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and then wind up—“Now, Mr. Editor, this is not for statement or display of information; it is for yourself, and for your guidance in any reasoning you may be called upon to use on the subject.”

In writing, matters were not more reserved; thus:—

“Whitehall Place, 20th July.

Mr. Huskisson takes the liberty of sending to Mr. Jerdan what he believes to be a correct statement of facts respecting Mr. Canning. He troubles him with this statement, in consequence of what has appeared in the ‘Morning Chronicle’ of this day, and leaves to Mr. Jerdan to use it as he may think proper.”

The article in the “Sun” was as follows:—

“The ‘Morning Chronicle’ is correct in stating, on the authority of the ‘Sun’ of the 18th, that Mr. Canning is not coming home. The report of a frigate having been sent out for him, is unfounded. But the remainder of the ‘Morning Chronicle’s’ information respecting Mr. Canning is altogether false. Mr. Canning is not ‘left at Lisbon to

* Appendix C.

execute the important duties of Ambassador to three Deputy Regents and an empty Court.’

“At this moment, Mr. Canning, we believe, holds no public situation whatever.

“Upon the first rumour which reached Lisbon that the Prince Regent of Portugal hesitated about returning to his European dominions for the present, and before any notice was taken of the rumour in the House of Commons, Mr. Canning had actually written to the Foreign Office to mention the report which had reached Lisbon; and to request, in the event of its being ascertained in England that the Prince Regent was not about to return, that he might be permitted to resign his Embassy.

“This request was acceded to as soon as it was known, by the arrival of Sir John Beresford in England, that the Prince Regent of Portugal had resolved to continue for some time longer at Rio de Janeiro; and, whatever may have been surmised in the ‘Chronicle’ or elsewhere, that he never intended to return, we can positively affirm, that it was only a very few days before Sir John Beresford’s departure from Rio de Janeiro, that the Prince Regent had finally made up his mind to postpone his return to Lisbon.

“Mr. Canning, as a private individual, will continue to reside in Portugal, from the motive which originally induced him to visit that country—the hope of restoring the health of his son. When the last accounts were received from Lisbon, Mr. Canning was with his son at the Baths of Caldas; and we are happy to be assured that his severe illness and sufferings have been much relieved and alleviated by his residence in Portugal.”

The poor boy was indeed a great sufferer, and constant source of anxiety and affliction to his most affectionate parents. No climate could restore him.

* Appendix D.