LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 2: Literary Labour

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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All my past life is mine no more,
The flying hours are gone:
Like transitory dreams given o’er,
Whose images are kept in store
By memory alone:
The time that is to come is not;
How can it then be mine?
The present moment’s all my lot.

TheLiterary Gazette,” from its origin to the last sheet in my hands, was edited on what I conceived to be the spirit of true criticism, especially for a work which professed to he established for the promotion of our national literature, and the encouragement of our native authors. The canon was, simply to praise heartily what merited approval or admiration; to censure mildly what the critical sense forced you to condemn; to point out defects in a friendly manner; and never to exercise severity, except where the publication gave great offence, by its immoral and dangerous tendencies. Thus conducted, it increased in popularity and influence; but still it continued, as I have hinted, to be unremunerative and uphill toil.

I refer to a pocket-book of the period; and as I have promised a candid exposition of my life, I must confess
that it is a specimen of all the memoranda conservatories that I ever began, and never carried on so far as to afford proof of constancy in business matters. Whether it was that the literary nature, prone to dabbling with other worlds, prevailed over the advantageous disposition which is needful for plodding in this, I cannot tell; but true it is that I have begun many a diary and many an account-record like that now before me, and that I could not, to save myself from all the blame of wiser and more systematically-prudent persons, produce a single example of one which I kept distinctly and regularly for more than a few months. My perseverance was elaborated on my weekly literary exertions—a heavy labour, but a labour of love, or it could not have been performed for so many long unresting years,—and which was, in truth, the victorious Serpent which swallowed up all the rest. The unintermitting and ever-renewing effort—occasionally overwhelming, and always attended by the anxiety to do justice to all—to cherish talent, and proclaim genius—to commingle the lessons of truth with the incitement of praise—to foster the aspirations of the young, and pay the tribute due to elder votaries in thepaths of authorship—in short, honestly to fulfil the duties which every journalist is the more bound to hold sacred because he has volunteered them, were enough, I trust, to absolve me from some blame for more private and material deficiencies.

From this said pocket-book I gather that the “Literary Gazette” yielded, in the first month of the year, no more than 5l., 3l., 2l., and 4l. 3s. 6d., on the 2nd, 8th, 12th, 16th current, amounting together to 14l. 3s. 6d., a sum certainly more germane to the “Polite Repository,” where it was entered, than to a lucrative mercantile day-book or ledger. But the next month was worse for “balances;” and no better
were many successive months. Assuredly this was a Πανδώρα return, and not Pan-dora, the all-gifted, or all-giving either; but, as in the myth, Hope was left at the bottom oft he pot (Πίθος, not Πυξίς, a chest, as commonly rendered), there was still a notion that the pot might boil, with something substantial in it, at a future day; and thus comforted (seeing also that the Evils had scattered themselves over the rest of the world, if the Blessings had ascended to Heaven), I wrought away, sharing my lot in the common destiny of mankind.

That it was not quite desperate and forlorn, I owed partly to my weekly contribution of leaders to the “North Staffordshire Pottery Gazette,” which produced a small quarterly sum—to a series of Essays in the “Chelmsford Chronicle” (of which more anon)—and to the liberal “consideration” of John Murray, for the revising and superintending in their progress through the press of two works published by him at this time.

As it is no disparagement to unpractised writers to call in the little more than mechanical aid of individuals accustomed to composition and printing, I need not conceal that the works which passed under my inspection were, Fitzclarence’s Journey from India to England, 4to, and Colonel Hippesley’s Voyage to the Orinoko, 8vo; for the former of which my honorarium was 751., and for the latter (having negotiated the copyright for 100l. to the author) 501. With these aids, and occasional bills from Pinnock and Maunder, the wolf was kept outside the door, though not without legal sacrifices to prevent the gaunt brute’s intrusion within, for old-standing arrears. That my services were appreciated by the authors—a result far above pecuniary reward—was shown by an intimate friendship with Lord Munster to the day of his death, and a handsome
bronze inkstand, presented to me by Colonel Hippesley, and also a state of friendly relation with him so long as his life lasted. And before I revert to the name of
John Murray, I will venture to tell the strange tale of which I am reminded by another memorandum-book of a later year.

Colonel Hippesley called upon me one forenoon in much tribulation, and informed me he had a very remarkable and very distressing event to communicate, and of which he requested me to make a circumstantial memorandum, as it would, in all likelihood, confirm the belief in apparitions, and set all scepticism on this mystery at rest for ever. I was bound to listen with all my ears to the supernatural story, of which, as desired, I recorded the particulars. On the preceding evening, when the twilight had sunk into a deeper shade of darkness, and the Colonel was seated by his lady, near a sofa on which, being unwell, she reposed; on a sudden they were both surprised by an unearthly and indescribable sensation, but which, they were sensible, sprung from a cause altogether dissimilar to any they had ever before experienced. They were struck by a singular awe, and their senses, as it were, excited to receive some wonderful impression. Nor were they long in suspense, for looking towards the door, they both distinctly saw the semblance, or wraith, of their eldest son, who was at the time a soldier of fortune engaged in the sanguinary wars of South America, enter the apartment and slowly glide across it, to vanish on the opposite side.

Into such a delusion (if delusion it were), as my informant observed, it was not difficult to believe that one person in their anxious condition, after hearing of battles fought in which their offspring was concerned, might readily fall; but that the vision of two witnesses could be so affected was too extraordinary to admit of any solution but that the
object of their affections had fallen, and was permitted to afford this revelation of his fate to his disconsolate parents. There was no reasoning against this impression—indeed, what could one oppose to it?—where doubly the
Sight was made the fool of the other senses,
Or else worth all the rest—
and I accordingly entered date, and hour, and circumstances minutely in my book, anticipating, with my friends, the news of the death of Captain Hippesley at the precise moment, by the next packet from the Rio Plata. No intelligence arrived; and gloomy apprehensions were screwed to the utmost pitch of endurance, when, at last, the ghost mission was solved by * * * * * * the real flesh and blood Captain Hippesley appearing in propriâ personâ, restored safe and sound to his almost unbelieving progenitors.

Now, this is a remarkable instance—of which I have the evidence still before me—of the inexplicable powers of imagination (perhaps sympathetic?), and might, analogously, account for some of the known influences of mesmerism; but I will only suppose that, instead of the actual denouement, the gallant officer had been slain, as he was very likely to be, at any date near to that which I took so much pains to preserve, would it not have been as perfect and authentic proof of supernatural appearances as has ever been created by fear, or believed by credulity or superstition? But after this I dispute Hamlet’s philosophy, and would not take the Ghost’s word for sixpence, far less for 100l.!

This, however, I should have been very glad to do, from the next personage to whom I turn my pen, and for whose memory I entertain a hundred kindly recollections. John
Murray was a character, and a character in which the estimable qualities predominated far above the questionable infirmities of our human nature. He was a prince and a gentleman among publishers, and the least of a huckstering tradesman I almost ever knew in that or any other trade. I mean no disparagement to trading; but when I have met with men, in the superior orders of commerce—not chandlers or petty shopkeepers—making it their boast that they view every transaction and contrive every bargain “as tradesmen,” I could, à priori, take my oath that their looks at, and their acts in the matter would be mercenary, sordid, and mean. I have known no exceptions to this rule; and I have always considered it an unworthy and unbecoming proclamation to his discredit, when I have heard any individual belonging to the upper class of traffic and the better portion of society, hold out the alternative that he was a tradesman, for fear you should mistake him for a gentleman, or aught superior to pounds, shillings, and pence. For, generally speaking—thank Heaven! with a crowd of exceptions even in our money-worshipping Gomorrah—the two classes are differently constituted, not by their original natures, but by the operation of their several pursuits. The man who has always the acquisition of gain before his eyes and everlastingly in his inmost thoughts, comes by degrees to entertain that thirst as the one object of his life: the man who is not so cursed with an eternal longing for wealth, seldom allows his mind to be filled with devices for attaining it. Thus it becomes a second nature in the one to be ever striving sedulously for his own interest and advantage, rarely abandoning it for a moment; whereas the other is possessed by no such demon, and this in a great measure explains the extreme variety witnessed in such a mingled mass as London presents, among a race of people, born with the same
senses, desires, and impulses, and merely modified into tradesmen or modelled into gentlemen by the sheer force of circumstances and habits.

But I must not lose sight of my old and esteemed friend, honest John Murray. In his business he was spirited, and generous to literary men, and no sordid calculator of every possible chance of loss. Not foolishly so; for, as if governed by instinct, he had as ready a perception of the main chance as, aye and readier too than, the most wary and greedy curmudgeon in “the trade.” But he was also well aware of the beneficial consequences which often spring out of liberal adventure; and that all deficiencies on unsuccessful publications are not absolute losses in the long run. Then there were losses which he did not seem to care about. He gave Mr. Lalor Shiel 400l. for his first tragedy on the morning after he had witnessed the first night’s performance at the theatre, and he cleared the price; but when the author counted upon a like sum for his second drama, Mr. Murray was not found ready for another venture of the like kind; and I think he recommended Mr. Shiel to Messrs. Longmans, who knew the market too well to give more than a small sum for the copyright, which Mr. M. did not like to offer, after the former transaction. In these minor affairs he almost played at publishing, with fine inclinations to encourage talent and reward merit. In all things he was straightforward and open, without mistrustful reserve or meaner dissimulation. Such did he appear to me in all I had to with, or heard of him, and I am thankful for an opportunity to pay this tribute to his memory.

In social life he was joyous and festive; and, as far as his constitution allowed, up to a certain point (in later years diminishing the time) an exceedingly pleasant boon companion, full of information, cheerful in converse, humorous
in remark and repartee, and gentlemanly in manners. His house in Albemarle Street was the common and daily resort of the distinguished literati and public characters of the age. His entertainments were treats of a rare order; the company well assorted, the board sumptuously supplied, and the presiding Amphytrion all that a host could be in promoting that sort of gratification which the poet describes as “the feast of reason and the flow of soul.” The walls of the chamber enriched with excellent portraits of our illustrious poets, great travellers, and other eminent authors, some of the originals generally formed a portion of the convivial group below, and imparted a novelty and zest to the discussion of the intelligence and topics of the day. I will endeavour to retrace one memorable occasion as a sample of these delightful symposia, and which might be deemed a field-day of mirth and, wit.

Peter Robertson, now Lord Robertson, and an honoured judge of the supreme Court of Session in Scotland, was long acknowledged as the Edinburgh Premier in the social Court of Humour and Facetiæ, and was at this period on a visit to London. In London the supremacy of Theodore Hook in convivial intercourse was equally established, and a plan was arranged, not a disagreeable one in any respect, that the heroes of the North and South, the modern Athens and the modern Babylon, should be pitted against each other at a dinner-party in Albemarle Street, Mr. Murray holding the lists, and giving a hearty welcome to all the lucky comers, about a dozen strong. Mr. Lockhart was second to his countryman, Lord Peter, and Mr. Milnes, of the Woods and Forests, appeared as the backer of King Theodore; or rather, I should say, these were their respective bottleholders, as long as either combatants or seconds could manage to hold a bottle. It was a fair sit-down fight and
keen encounter—keener than the
Bucolican Virgilius could portray amid sylvan scenes.
Nunquam hodiè effugies: veniam quocumque vocaris:
Audiat hæc tantum vel qui venit, ecce, Palæmon.
Efficiam, post hac ne quemquam voce lacessas.
Quin age, si quid habes: in me mora non erit ulla,
Ncc quemquam fugio: tantum, vicine Palæmon,
Sensibus hæc imis (res est non parva) reponas.
Dicite * * * * *
* * * * * *
Incipe Damæta, tu deinde sequêre Menalca.
Alternis dicetis: amant alterna Camœnæ.
And so did we; with our Hook and Robertson for our classic contention.

During dinner the conversation was lively and sparkling, and Hook’s wonderful ready wit carried all before it. He was in high feather, inextinguishable and inexhaustible. It seemed as if the Scotchman had a very poor chance; and would be what the jockeys term nowhere. But Mr. Lockhart was an abler tactitian, and knew better. He suffered Hook to expend some of his brilliant fire, and after the cloth was removed brought out his man. He gave us at due intervals a Gaelic sermon without a syllable of the Erse language, an Italian operatic scena without a word of Italian, and post-prandial speech after speech of military, political, and other characters, to which bursts of extorted laughter did homage for their racy performance and extraordinary ingenuity. The imitative speeches were certainly inimitable in matter and manner; and the identity of the meaningless sounds, with the tongues in which they
purported to be delivered, was so perfect that it was scarcely possible to fancy that they were not bonâ fide exhibitions of text and discourse, and recitative and song in the Gaelic and Italian. Stimulated by this most amusing display, Hook was primed in superb trim to answer the calls for various improvising interludes, and never afforded more entertaining proofs of his marvellous talent in this, I was about to say art, but in this astonishing natural gift. Flash upon flash burst upon every man at the table—his own backer and the Woods and Forests were glorified in a superb vein of satirical ridicule, nor did the Scots artist and his Scot supporter escape scot free from the scoffing criticism of the pseudo-provoked flagellator. But even among the lashed and listening there was a mutinous spirit which vented itself in a style well worthy of remembrance. It was truly a day to be marked with a white stone. I shall never spend the like again, and so, I doubt not, will respond the voices of those who yet remain, and who helped to contribute to, and partake of, this memorable enjoyment.
Lord Robertson still lives a prosperous gentleman, and it is only a few years ago that Robert Liston brought him out at a party at Gore House, where I heard him astonish Lord Chesterfield, Lord Douro, and some other Englishmen of “rank and fashion,” who were not acquainted with himself or his talent, and who were perplexed for a few minutes by his returning thanks for the complimentary toast of Cornet Heavy, of the Lights, till at last the flood of humour broke in upon them, and more hearty laughter was never heard in fashionable society. The fine caustic wit and pleasantries of Mr. Lockhart are also yet in the land; but I fear that the age of such communion, like the age of chivalry, is gone. If it has not quite departed, it has at any rate become more stinted and stingy; the utilitarian has pushed it from its
stool, and, if it is visible at all, it is, like angel visits, few and far between.

Mr. Murray’s philosophical bearing of the heavy loss in the attempt to establish the “Conservative” newspaper, amounting, I believe, to above 15,000l., the present Chancellor of the Exchequer being one of the principal contributors, and Maginn, the Parisian correspondent, was quite characteristic of the man; and his connection with the “Quarterly Review” another lasting proof of his skill in the conduct of bookselling affairs, and his right and liberal understanding of what was due to the literature, as it might be said, without offence to the dignity of its professors in his pay.

If the relative positions of writers and publishers were maintained more constantly in this correct and genial spirit, it would be advantageous to all. “Authors,” says Mr. D’Israeli (the father), “continue poor, and booksellers become opulent, an extraordinary result! Booksellers are not agents for authors, but the proprietors of their works; so that the perpetual revenues of literature are solely in possession of the trade. Is it then wonderful that even successful authors are indigent? They are heirs to fortunes, but, by a strange singularity, they are disinherited at their birth; for, on the publication of their works, these cease to be their own property. * * Let that natural property,” adds the writer, “be secured, and a good book would be an inheritance, a leasehold or a freehold, as you choose it; it might at least last out a generation, and descend to the author’s blood, were they permitted to live in their father’s glory, as in all other property they do by his industry.”

The conclusion does not bear upon my immediate matter, but I cannot help quoting it as another pregnant illustration of the hard fate of literature; though at present all I am
about to claim for it is usage somewhat in accordance with the pattern set by the late
John Murray: since, judging by Mr. Gifford, Dr. Southey, and, in a small degree, by myself, he behaved to literary men with that respect, courtesy, and consideration, which it behoves all ranks of cultivated minds to show to scholars and men of talent and genius—
From whose still unrequited labours flow
Half we enjoy, and almost all we know.
That a slight dash of eccentricity, now and then, was thrown into his widely-extended circle of connections, and partook more of the humour of the moment than of his stable disposition, was only an exception to prove the exemplary value of the general rule as applied to Mr. Murray: two of whose notes to me I append to show the nature of our intercourse, even in those early days. At a later period they were far more confidential and flattering:—

“Albemarle-street, Sunday.
Dear Sir,

“I now send the first five sheets of the work which I mentioned. I wish you to confine your alterations to such as you deem indispensable, and to send them back to me, or at least one or two, as early to-morrow as you can. To save trouble, I will send at nine to-morrow for what your leisure may have permitted you to do. Do me the favour to let me know what will be a compensation for your own trouble. The work will extend to nearly 500 pages.

“I will send you a copy of ‘King’ as soon as I fix the time of its publication. Reserve your remarks upon ‘Hakewell’ until the publication of the next number. It
is no fault of mine if the engravings are unequal; every artist has the price he fixes, and such is their vile conduct that I have determined never to engage in any work of mere engravings again.

“‘The Curiosities’ is a delightful work for young persons, and has passed through many editions. I am now preparing a seventh. The ‘Literary Character’ of the same author is also very good; he has caught the true tact and feelings of authors.

“I am, dear Sir,
“Very truly yours,
Dear Sir,

“I send you the next portion of MSS., on which I will beg you to effect your further emendations; and I send you a letter, which, when you have read, please to return, and send me portions of the MSS. at your convenience. Mr. G. [Gifford] thinks your corrections cautious and judicious. Use your best skill.

“Dear Sir,
“Yours very truly,
W. Jerdan, Esq.”