LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 17: Wellesleys

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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Between woman and wine, sir,
Man’s lot is to smart:
For wine makes his head ache,
And woman his heart.

Having broken bounds with one of the extraneous incidents of the many belonging to my social experience, in which I may say the profession of the pen made me more or less an actor, it may be more interesting now than hereafter to glance shortly at an affair where I had occasion to hold some intercourse with the great character whose funeral, at the time this will be published, must engross the national concern. Publicity has already been too much given to the circumstances to render any reserve, beyond what gentlemanly feeling always demands in such cases. The connection between Mrs Bligh and Mr. Long Wellesley, now Earl of Mornington, led to much public discussion as well as to much legal proceeding. To put herself in as fair a position as possible with the world, the ill-starred lady was induced to court my literary aid; and I am free to confess that I gave it willingly and cordially. Mrs. Bligh was a very fascinating woman, and when she desired to compass such
services as she thought I could render, she knew well how to employ those female blandishments which few men can resist. But I also saw her sorrows in the midst of luxury and apparent gaiety, and I truly pitied her. I saw what was amiable and good in her, whilst the public voice only rung in her censure; and, as in other conditions of a like nature, where there were opportunities to be perfectly acquainted with all the causes, temptations, and conspiring fatalities, I could not help feeling that there were redeeming points, which qualified the odium so unsparingly lavished on the frail or fallen by the extremely rigid and sternly virtuous. I am preaching no false morality, nor will I be the apologist for error, but I stand by the holy text, so utterly forgotten by the over-righteous, “Judge not lest ye be judged;” and I will fearlessly and frankly declare, that I have known Magdalens whose remorse and wretchedness exalted them far above the cruel degradation to which pitiless severity would have doomed them, and above many of those who declaimed most loudly against their vileness. The best have some dark spots; the worst, some relics of a brighter sphere. There are always traces left, and often precious portions of “the soul of goodness in things evil.”

With that strange unaccountable blindness to her own position, which is almost an inalienable principle in human nature—for every living man and woman, inherently and to a certain extent, deceive themselves, and do not, from cunning or hypocrisy, put on all false appearances in order to deceive the rest of the world—the warm affections of Mrs. Bligh led her to take an earnest part in the Chancery suits and other transactions which brought the fortunes and family concerns of Mr. Wellesley Pole so distressfully into general notoriety. To me she looked for help to counteract impressions which she considered to be (and some of which were grossly) founded
on misrepresentations and falsehoods; and to inform my judgment I was, as it were, made a party to the public matters and a confidant in the explanations. I had to read affidavits—such as were made in Master Eden’s office—in answer to one made by the Misses Long;* and I was instructed that “the cruel part of all this melancholy business is, that
Lord Eldon allows these horrid women to retain possession of Mr. L. Wellesley’s only daughter, who, poor little thing, they are bringing up to hate her parent. Mr. Wellesley has not seen her since Mrs. L. Wellesley’s death [about a year]. Excuse my troubling you upon this painful subject; but I am sure now you are made acquainted with the facts you will feel for the distressing situation poor Mr. Wellesley is placed in. Every parent, I am sure, must, when they know how he has been treated by the Misses Long and his own family. Believe me, dear Sir, your much obliged, H. Bligh.”

I will not attempt to deny that the written appeals of this description were greatly re-inforced by their more diffused vivâ voce repetition in the small confidential circle chiefly interested in their results. I had no pretensions to be superior to Socrates or Pericles. Colonel Paterson, the father of Mrs. Bligh, was a well-bred and agreeable gentleman, who had served in India and seen a good deal of life, and was affectionately attached to his daughter. Mr. Wellesley, with much of the talent of the race of which he is a member, possessed most of the accomplishments that make an individual a charm in social intercourse; refined in manners, frank in speech, and exceedingly well informed, the elegance of his style of living was not to be surpassed, and, let me add, his literary productions, though principally

* The sisters of the deceased, Mrs. Long Wellesley, to whom the charge of her family was decreed by Lord Eldon.

on constitutional and political questions, displayed sterling abilities and afforded subjects for solid conversation when personal or lighter topics had served their turn. Of Mrs. Bligh I need say little more; she was very handsome and extremely engaging—the more so from the abandon of these meetings, and their disclosure of remarkable circumstances, which would have made a
Byron exclaim with increased relish—
O Pleasure! but thou art a pleasant thing;
or rather, more appropriately repeat from
The wheel of life no less will stay
In a smooth than rugged way;
Since it equally doth flee,
Let the motion pleasant be.
And so it was in these parties, usually of four, with every indulgence that epicurean taste could desire, and, as sung by
W. King in his “Art of Cookery”—
The feast now done, discourses are renewed,
And witty arguments with peace pursued.

This, in short, was one of the Circe cups referred to in my first Chapter, Vol. I., and even in age “I cannot but remember such things were,” which yet throw a ruddy tinge over the dark and rainy clouds of later days. But to return to my narrative. The “facts” mentioned in the preceding note were enlarged upon in another, which, however, I must somewhat obscure in the quoting:—

“A most important fact, which is not generally known, is that the attorney of the Misses Longs, Mr. J——, of No.——, and his clerk, J——, connected themselves with that abandoned and profligate prostitute, Mrs. ——, whom they bribed to perjure herself, and through whom they
obtained the host of low ignorant wretches to also forswear themselves. Mr. —— and his clerk have given her money to distribute to these people.

“At the time and long before Mr. —— brought the action against the ‘Morning Chronicle,’ the ‘Times,’ the ‘Morning Herald,’ the ‘Sun,’ and several other papers, for defamation of Mrs. ——’s character, he, Mr. ——, knew she had been for some time living with his head clerk as his wife, and travelling about the country with him to procure witnesses to swear against Mr. Wellesley—some of whom could not read or write.

“We understand [this was instruction for me to say] Mr. L. Wellesley’s legal advisers have at this moment in their possession documentary evidence of all this in the hand-writing of and his clerk.

“This attorney, in consequence of the father, Mr. L. Wellesley, having been deprived of the custody of his children, and no guardian of his election having been as yet allowed to be appointed, is getting up all sorts of Chancery suits, with the minors’ fortune, against the father, Mr. L. Wellesley. All this he asserts he is doing by the directions of the Duke of Wellington. The Misses Long, little caring how much they ruin the prospects of the unfortunate children of Mr. Wellesley, so they accomplish the ruin of the father and satiate their own unnatural and unchristianlike revenge, are also adopting every means within their power to create expense.

“The poor boys whilst under their care was [were] beat by their orders by a servant, called ——, who [whom] Mr. L. Wellesley, when at Wansted, caused to be put to school and educated upon his bounty; this wretch the Misses Long have bribed into their service, and made him swear falsely, first against his benefactor and master, Mr. L. Wellesley,
and then to become such a monster as to beat his poor children with sticks, until one, the youngest, was obliged to lay [lie] in bed for several hours to recover from the effects of the strokes.

“They were taught by the Misses Long to execrate the name of their father.

Mr. Wellesley’s only daughter, who is now unfortunately with them, notwithstanding all Mr. L. Wellesley’s exertions to remove her, they are teaching to hate her only unfortunate surviving parent.

“The late tutor, Mr. ——, to Mr. Wellesley’s boys, died a short time since mad. He was mad for a long time previous to his quitting the Masters Wellesley. The person now put about Mr. L. Wellesley’s daughter by the Misses Long, is the sister of a woman of the name of ——, who was a woman of infamous character, having lived with several persons as their kept-mistress. This woman, now living with the Misses Long, and put about the little girl, followed the same line, and lived with her sister—so said the sister, and proved it.”

This is a melancholy picture of the effects of dissensions in families, from whatever causes springing; and I beg to repeat, that in placing it in this work, I am not only maintaining conscientiously the spirit of truth which I declared should animate it, but am trespassing on no private grounds by divulging secret matters; for everything I am stating was only too notorious, and too loudly discussed in every possible shape and in every possible place, to admit of more than I am now doing, which is to furnish, from my own knowledge, such a version of the painful story as will enable my readers to form a more accurate conception of its real features than could be derived from the Babel and contradictory accounts with which the public were so profusely inundated. But I
have farther the curious advantage of being able to show what were the opinions of the
Duke of Wellington respecting this “delicate inquiry,” and the disastrous consequences which it unfolded. I have nowhere met with more characteristic traits of that illustrious personage. The following is a holograph letter from him to Mrs. Bligh, without a signature!—the style of which, however, is proof enough of who was the writer, for nobody ever wrote letters like “F. M. the Duke of Wellington.”*

“London, 17th May.
My dear Mrs. Bligh,

“I received your note only this morning; but I cannot call upon you, as I have really a great deal to do; and I have a very bad [the word ‘bad’ struck out] heavy cold in my head which keeps me confined to my House.

“I have stipulated, as I told Mr. W. that I had done, that I should not be a Party to, or have any knowledge whatever of the Suit between Mrs. Wellesley’s family and him, now depending in the Court of Chancery; and I don’t think I ought, and my inclination would certainly lead me not to interfere in it in any manner; unless I could do so by putting a stop to it, and preventing further disclosures of Private life.”

* On an occasion when I interested myself to obtain brevet rank for a lamented friend of mine in the Royal Marines, Captain (afterwards Major) Johns, against which his Grace set his face, because the commission was not in the regular army; Prince Lieven, on the part of the Emperor of Russia, to whose honour the promotion would have taken place, also pressed the matter upon the Commander-in-Chief; till one day, when I waited upon his Excellency, he told me there was no use in urging the matter any further, and indeed he could stir no more in it, since he had got from the Duke one of his F. M.’s, which were so distasteful to any foreign ambassador at the English court. This was the first I heard of his Grace’s peculiarity, in commencing his most ungracious communications with the Field Marshal initials, now so generally known as the F. M.’s of repulsive correspondence.


In every case the same sound sense and sagacity mark the man of granite nerve and crystal intellect,—the Achilles in the camp, the Nestor in the cabinet, and, not the less, the Paris in the boudoir of beauty. From another long letter I can only transcribe a few striking extracts; it was written to Mrs. Bligh, after Lord Eldon had pronounced the judgment by which he deprived Mr. L. Wellesley of the custody of the children, on account of his connexion with the fair lady to whom it is addressed.

“I have come to town and received your letter this morning, my dear Mrs. Bligh; and I assure you that I feel for, and lament the distrest situation in which you are placed. Throughout these discussions you have been exposed and sacrificed for no one reason.” * * * * “I assure you that I would willingly do everything to relieve you from such a situation.” * * * * “He (Mr. L. W.) is quite mistaken in respect to me; I have nothing to say to him; and will have nothing to do with him or his affairs.”

The poor, infatuated Mrs. Bligh could not induce the pitying but Iron Duke to espouse the cause as she wished; and she then accused him of very material interference, (as before in the case of Lord Westmeath), in spite of this assertion; charged him with influencing Lord Eldon, Lord Redesdale, and Lord Manners; blamed him for procuring the appointment of Sir Colin Campbell as guardian of the children; gave Sir Colin and his lady as indifferent reputations as any foe could desire; and complained bitterly of the Duke and Lord Maryborough’s conduct to the nephew of the one, and the son of the other. Mr. W. himself was content with saying carelessly, “Though I have gone far enough wrong, I believe I am the most virtuous individual in the family!”

Long since the period to which these anecdotes belong, the fate of Mrs. Bligh—made Mrs. Wellesley in 1828—has
been yet more deplorably before the busy world, and excited, even in the hardest hearted, some commiseration. Abject poverty and want, after living as I have indicated, must indeed have been (I hope it does not continue to be) a draught of gall and bitterness, overflowing to the utmost limit of human endurance. Alas for erring woman!
In vain with tears her loss she may deplore:
She sets, like stars that fall, to rise no more.

The lesson is an afflicting one! but Life is more full of such instruction, applicable to the business of life, than all that fiction can invent, or genius picture. It is from the actual we are best enabled to learn the course most judicious for us to pursue.

Having introduced the name of the great Duke, respecting whom every trifle is a historical desideratum, I will add the very slight reminiscences I have of him in person. He appeared to have one of the royal memories, and never to forget anybody or anything. Thus, out of the foregoing affair, I was on the list of individuals whom, or whose names at least, he remembered. At a dinner-party, of between thirty and forty, given by the Lord Mayor to his Grace and the committee who superintended the erection of the City Equestrian Statue, near the Mansion House, he condescended to notice me at the table, together with Sir Francis Chantrey, by whom I was seated, about half-a-dozen chairs from him, and which I was told was a very rare compliment. At the time, Sir Francis pointed out to me the singular conformation of the Duke’s ear, which he, as an artist, modelling his head, had naturally observed; it was almost flat, and destitute of the shell-like involutions which are the usual attributes of the organ.


This committee-work obtained me another curious example of the Duke’s ways. It was agreed to print fifty copies of the minutes, &c, of the proceedings, in a handsome small quarto volume, one copy as a souvenir of their services (and they occupied considerable time, from 1836 to 1844, and were a little arduous in consequence of competing interests), to be presented to every member, and the few remaining copies to be appropriated to his Royal Highness Prince Albert, the Duke, and other parties interested, or who had taken a zealous part in promoting the subscription and forwarding the design. This task was devolved upon me by a resolution of the committee, and in due time I sent a copy of the book by my messenger to Apsley House, into which the packet was refused admission. I consequently wrote a letter by post to his Grace, stating the circumstance, and enquiring how I might place the volume in his hands. The answer was not an F. M., and much more amusing. He said the Porter had done perfectly right, and acted according to orders, in refusing to receive the packet; and added that, if he took in all the things that came from every part of London, the house would be filled with rubbish throughout; but to insure access to the volume, the favour of which was graciously acknowledged, the Duke wrote the address of his own Porter at the bottom of the note, and requested me to cut it off and paste it on the packet!! Thus vouched, the Porter did me the honour to take it from my own hands, for I was much diverted by the manoeuvre devised to carry a lodgment in Apsley House. As his Grace’s answer to the communication of the proposed memorial, in honour of the great interest he had taken in the improvements of London connected with the streets leading to London Bridge is written in his admirably direct and, if I may so say, most professional manner, I add a copy of it to this anecdote:—

My Lord Mayor and Gentlemen,

“I have been much flattered by the honour which has been done me by the merchants, bankers, traders, and others, of London, in having determined to erect an Equestrian statue of me in the centre of the City, aided as they have been, in the execution of this project, by other noblemen and gentlemen.

“I was the minister of the late King; and I did no more than my duty upon the occasion to which you have been pleased to refer, in promoting to the utmost of my power the views of the Ring, his government, and of parliament, by assisting the City of London to complete their magnificent work, London Bridge, and the approaches thereto on both sides of the river.

“I performed this duty assiduously, as I have all others on which I have been employed in the public service; and it is gratifying to me to know that my conduct upon that occasion attracted your attention, and gave you satisfaction.


Mr. Lambert Jones assured me that the assiduousness mentioned by his Grace was not a strong enough term for the pains and trouble he bestowed upon these civic undertakings, and his anxiety to have them effectually executed. But “Duty” was his load-star through life.

Count D’Orsay, the accomplished and witty, painted a full-length portrait of the Duke and a companion of the Marquis of Wellesley, which adorned the drawing-room at Gore House. I was one day noticing the difference between the two, and the Count made a curious distinction in his piquant manner. “Ay,” said he, “the same nest—the
one is the cock-pheasant, and the other the hen!” On another occasion, in the same room, the Marquis himself was present, and the conversation turned on a politically unexpected, and it was thought a veering speech the Duke had just made in the House of Peers, when the Marquis observed, “Oh, you don’t know my brother Arthur: he is the cunningest dog alive.”

The only other trifle I may relate occurred on the return of Sir James C. Ross from his nobly conducted and memorable Antarctic voyage, of which the particulars were first published in the “Literary Gazette.” I happened to go down on a visit to my friend, Mr. G. P. R. James, then residing close by Walmer, and appointed to call, as he frequently was, on his Grace the following morning, when the subject of Captain Ross’s arrival, and my account of it, were brought out in conversation. The Duke expressed his desire to read it, and on Mr. James stating that I was with him, he said, “Oh, I know Mr. Jerdan very well; I am sure if he can send me a paper he will be pleased to do it.” It put me in mind of the Opera clown, Delpini, who, when told that the Prince Regent said he knew him very well, exclaimed, “Oh, he brags; he brags!”

The Duke was more of a matter-of-fact man than an admirer of wit; and yet that he was not insensible to humour, some of his own hard strokes and his enjoyment of the fine jeux d’esprit of Talleyrand, bear witness. Of the latter I remember an instance when unlooked-for political changes were very frequent in Paris, and some one asked the impenetrable statesman what he thought of it. “Why (he replied), in the morning, I believe: in the afternoon, I change my opinion; and in the evening, I have no opinion at all.” And, à propos, his parrying in this style was carried to perfection, as when an inquisitive quidnunc, who squinted, and was asking how he thought certain measures
would go, was answered “comme vous voyez;” and another example, less, if at all known. A council of the Ministry having sat three hours upon some important question, an eminent nobleman met Talleyrand as he came from the meeting, and asked “Que s’est-il passé dans ce Conseil?” to which the witty diplomatist drily answered, “Trois heures!

Talleyrand is a fertile subject, but I will dismiss it with one other anecdote of London birth, which I received from a guest who was present. It was a small party at the Duke of Gloucester’s, and for some reason the Ambassador seemed indisposed to converse, and the Duke failed in every effort to induce him to lead the conversation. No one else would venture to do so, and the company were very dull. When they rose after dinner, a now noble English diplomatist made a last attempt, and said to Talleyrand, “Ne trouvez-vous pas, Monsieur, les protocols de Milord Palmerston très ennuyants?” to which Talleyrand replied, “Non, Monsieur, ce ne sont pas les affaires qui m’ ennuyent (and, casting a glance on the table he had just quitted, added), c’est le temps perdu qui m’ennuie.”

The chivalrous admiration of female beauty, the love of the drama, and especially of music, were marked traits in the character of the Duke; and, by-the-by, all my readers may not be aware of the great usefulness of theatres for purposes of national intercourse and negotiations. Elsewhere, ministers, and couriers, and despatches are watched with sleepless cunning, and unintermitting activity; but nothing can be construed out of a casual rencontre in an opera-box, and the affairs of Europe may be unsuspectedly settled, by two heads close together, in the midst of a bravura. But the Duke was really fond of music for itself; and thence his personal attentions to Jenny Lind, and the tribute of having Durham’s excellent likeness of her, along
with the bust of
Napoleon, in the bedroom where he died. Both had afforded him gratification, though of different kinds—the first, the highest delights of melody; and the last, the most glorious triumphs of discord. His Grace had a splendid appetite for both.