LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 1: Literary Pursuits

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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“The stranger much of various life had seen,
Been poor, been rich, and in the state between;
Had much of kindness met, and much deceit,
And all that man who deals with man must meet.”—Crabbe.

There has been much written against my opinion, as frequently stated in the preceding volumes of this work, that those who entirely depend upon the pursuits of literature for subsistence and fortune are in a worse position, generally, than any other class who bring similar talents and attainments into the market, and address their abilities to other professional avocations. It is evident, therefore, that there is much to be said on both sides, with regard to the question at issue rightly understood; but I think I have been met quite unfairly, when the argumentum ad hominem has been applied to me, and my own career instanced as a proof that literary encouragement and reward were in my case more than commensurate to my
merits, and thus an answer to my views. Now, I am perfectly ready to concede this fact; as in truth I have ever considered myself as excepted from the too common rule; and have never, in all my statements and reasoning on the point, put myself forward as an ill-used and ill-requited individual, who had suffered in consequence of his devotion to letters. On the contrary, I have throughout represented my success as a repetition of the spoiling which marked my earlier years (see Vol. I.), and acknowledged that I was lifted far above what my deserts in almost any other calling could have effected, without some lucky accident. I have shown that as the happy result even of my literary efforts, I lived all my life with the noble in station and intellect, which I could hardly have done under any other circumstances; and I have substantially reaped, in the sterling coin of the realm, a very handsome remuneration for my labours, such as they have been, in a successful periodical.

But still I contend for the rule that suffering is the badge of all our tribe; and that the literary man and woman are, from the causes I have enumerated, more exposed to be preyed upon than any other class of the community; all that I have described respecting myself being meant as an illustration of this sad fact as deeply affecting even what was in itself a prosperous career. If I, so favoured, was nevertheless a victim to literary casualties, what, I inquired, must be the fate of many of higher claims, but not so fortunate in their development and results. And, further, that although the “Literary Gazette” was, during a considerable portion of my thirty-four years, a highly remunerative publication, taking the average of the whole period, and the heavy burden (debt, the old man of the mountain,) laid on my shoulders in the first four or five
years, great deductions must be made. I have elsewhere spoken of the provisions liberally afforded by the newspaper and serial press as a saving boon to many of my compatriots: and my reasoning was addressed to literature of other descriptions; as for example, I have written and published ten or twelve separate volumes—not one a failure—and yet all I reaped from them would not have fed a grasshopper! I have therefore treated the whole gist of the inquiry into the literary condition of England and her authors—not by reference to my own person, though that goes incidentally some way, but as the result of my extended and painful experience, generally, in regard to others.

With this brief and simple re-assertion of my principles and objects, I leave the knotty subject to the feelings of the multitude who have too much reason to agree with me and the judgment of the few who contend for the opposite opinion. I shall only fortify myself on an authority which few will question, as that of one whose benevolent love of his fellow creatures and unceasing efforts to serve them will carry infinitely greater weight with it than a hundred pages of argument from almost any other source. What Charles Dickens thinks of the condition of the literary man, may be gathered from his dedication of “Pickwick” to another distinguished author, entertaining similar sentiments in common with him and me.

“48, Doughty-street, September 27, 1837.
Mr Dear Sir,

“If I had not enjoyed the happiness of your private friendship, I should still have dedicated this work
to you, as a slight and most inadequate acknowledgment of the inestimable services you are rendering to the literature of your country, and of the lasting benefits you will confer upon the authors of this and succeeding generations, by securing to them and their descendants a permanent interest in the copyright of their works.

“Many a fevered head and palsied hand will gather new vigour in the hour of sickness and distress from your excellent exertions; many a widowed mother and orphan child, who would otherwise reap nothing from the fame of departed genius but its too frequent legacy of poverty and suffering, will bear, in their altered condition, higher testimony to the value of your labours than the most lavish encomium from lip or pen could ever afford.

“Besides such tributes, any avowal of feeling from me, on the question to which you have devoted the combined advantages of your eloquence, character, and genius, would be powerless indeed. Nevertheless, in thus publicly expressing my deep and grateful sense of your efforts in behalf of English literature, and of those who devote themselves to the most precarious of all pursuits, I do but imperfect justice to my own strong feelings on the subject, if I do no service to you.

“These few sentences would have comprised all I should have had to say, if I had only known you in your public character. On the score of private feeling, let me add one word more.

“Accept the dedication of this book, my dear Sir, as a mark of my warmest regard and esteem—as a memorial of the most gratifying friendship I have ever contracted, and of some of the pleasantest hours I have ever spent—as a token of my fervent admiration of every fine quality of your
head and heart—as an assurance of the truth and sincerity with which I shall ever be,

“My dear Sir,
“Most faithfully and sincerely yours,

I think I may yield the argument, if my opponents will only admit that the examples are all unfortunately on my side.*

Our views of life, at different periods, have a prodigious effect upon our minds, and mould our ideas to wonderfully divergent conclusions. I will endeavour to sketch a retrospect; and in this, by experience, have some not most desirable advantage over those who argue from more limited and sanguine years.

Take the buoyant age of Twenty, and its competency to pronounce judgment. Its world is one glow. “Youth at the prow and pleasure at the helm.” Every other Twenty is a sworn and stanch friend. The look-forward is full of hope. The past is an impressionless cloud of certain preparations to fit you for a glorious start in whatever course you are destined to pursue. You believe in all appearances. Men do delight you, and women too; for you have seen no ghost to warn you of the perfidy and crime that may beset your very nearest ties and dearest interests. It is the vision of the morning; and you are not awake to the realities of life. To such, even middle age is an impertinency with its wisdom, and old age a croaker with its experience.

Pass on two lustra, and at Thirty something of the vision is dispelled—something of the tug has been felt—something of disappointment encountered; but still there

* See Appendix A.

is vigour in the imagination, and brightness in the surrounding scene. Broken ties have perhaps been replaced by ties of a firmer nature and more lasting promise. There is more of confidence than suspicion still left, and there is a self-relying feeling (often not worth a jot) that you are not so likely to be deceived again, as you have already been. The occupations of active pursuits strengthen the mind, and the battle continues to be fought under a host of advantages.

But what says the poet, over two lustra more?—
At Forty man suspects himself a fool—*
and in a vast majority, whose views have been what I have described, not without good cause. They have witnessed many a chill change the glow—many a dark streak cross the rose colour—many a loss and sorrow dim the brightness—many a valued connection disruptured that never can be restored; and the self-reliance has sunk into a doubt that what has happened in the paths of deceit and injury, may happen again.

Two lustra added, at Fifty, however fortunate, and yet blessed with health, man is aware that he has turned the corner stone of his existence, and plodded over the largest portion of his pilgrimage here. How different, then, are the aspects about him! He has now to live for others more than for himself; whereas up to a not far by-gone period, he lived more for himself than for others. There is a glimpse of the grave—a serious consideration of

* The fellow maxim that “Everybody is a fool or a physician at forty,” led to a neat retort where two of my distinguished contemporaries were concerned. Upon an occasion when Lord Stowell and Sir Henry Halford were dining at the same table, Sir Henry repeated the proverb, rather applying it to some hygeine remark of his lordship, who very quietly inquired, “May not a man be both, Sir Henry?”

provision for another race—a calm in the best cases approaching to sadness—and a closer approach to the awful futurity.

Two lustra more, and all these trials are aggravated and all the anticipations become more certain of speedy fulfilment. The most cheerful cannot enjoy the diminished good which remains as they did of yore. The man of Sixty is no more the man of Twenty or Thirty than he is a creature of another species. I do not mean to assert that there may not be many things for him still to enjoy; but they are altogether of a different sort, and he is altogether a different being. He sees matters with different eyes and in different lights—he judges of matters with different sentiments—he acts from different impulses. Credulities, follies, passions, vices, generosities, liberalities, virtues, are all more or less modified; as they have, in fact, been at every one of the stages at which I have paused; and now let me advance for a finale.

Two lustra more, and glance at the span providentially assigned to human life—the three score years and ten of the Bible limit. To possess little impaired faculties at that age is to be one of a great multitude. Of those who were born about the same time, death has removed nearly all, and some few linger on in decrepitude and pain, humbly desirous of the same inevitable end, as soon as it may please God to give them rest. The game is played—the flame is flickering in the socket—the look-back is wearisome. All the earth can afford is poor and frivolous; there is but one object that can deserve attention. Need I say what it is?

Now, this is the usual panorama in which man plays his many parts; though there are a multitude of exceptions, caused by all the circumstances of health, and age, and
temperament, to the general rule. I have only unrolled it hastily to the sight, in order to account for the striking variety of opinions which the question I have, accidentally, as it were, brought into so much discussion has occasioned. I can readily ascribe the conflict to the natural tone that would be taken between my earliest and latest illustrations, through every intervening epoch. The beardless and the grey-beard are not likely to coincide on such a topic, nor on almost any other; and, not to finish this homily too controversially, I may quote the quaint verse of an old song, which adopts a similar creed in a more humourous fashion:—
An Ape and a Lion, a Fox and an Ass,
Will show how the lives of most men do pass:
They are all of them Apes to the age of Eighteen,
Then bold as Lions till forty they’ve seen,
Then cunning as Foxes till three score and ten,
And then they are Asses, and no more men.*
In what the asinineness consists, it is not easy to guess what the satirical rogue meant. There is a bluntness of feeling common to donkeys and old men: the one stands a great deal of beating, and the other a considerable quantity of abuse without seeming to mind it much. They are both liable to be extremely obstinate and opinionative. They both love quiet and ease; and to eat their thistle in peace, if they have nothing better—if they have, they enjoy it. They are both apt to kick up their heels in a pet, now and then, when they fancy themselves ill-treated. In short, it must be confessed there is a considerable resemblance. I let the apes, lions, and foxes speak for themselves; and

* I have not ventured on the second verse, descriptive of the other sex, who are figured under the symbols of the dove, sparrow, parrot, and crow; and not very complimentarily.

would wish them to try their paws on their autobiographies, which I can assure them, once more, is a very difficult and trying literary task, “such as it is;” which words, by-the-by, like the “hark! did you not hear a gun?” of the tedious story-teller who always lugged in a favourite tale by this imaginary noise and query, put me in mind of an anecdote which I will repeat in order to enliven this episode.

A literary character—I need not mention names—on a visit to Bath, was pressed into a hospitable engagement with a resident gentleman who had a penchant for cultivating the acquaintance of such celebrities. He had also the peculiarity of using the above expression in and out of season, and often with ludicrous effect. His guest being seated at an excellent plain dinner, the Amphytrion most unnecessarily would apologise for its deficiencies. Bath, to be sure, was one of the best markets in England, and he endeavoured to get everything good; but the fish, he feared, was not that most fashionable in town at present; and the roast mutton was a very homely joint, &c. &c.; but he hoped Mr. —— would excuse the deficiencies, for he is most welcome to the fare “such as it is!” A smile rewarded this first ebullition, which was almost converted into a burst of laughter when the wines came within a similar category. “This sherry is direct from Cadiz, but not, I am afraid, of the highest quality; and the other was only humble port, a kitchen wine with high people; but I have had it in bottle nine years, and I hope you will be able to drink it, Sir, such as it is!” Everything went on in the same manner till Mr. ——, unable to keep his countenance much longer, pretended an urgent engagement in order to get away early in the evening. His host regretted this exceedingly, and said, “I am indeed very sorry that you are obliged to leave us so soon, and the more so as I can assure
you I have been much entertained by your conversation, such as it is!”

A speedy exit was the consequence, and no breach of manners committed, unless a stifled laugh in the street could be overheard; and with this brief introductory Chapter I proceed to my narrative, such as it is.