LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 6: Wm Gifford

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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But friendship doth two souls in one comprise—
Here in a deep recess of thought we find
Pleasures which entertain and which exalt the mind;
Pleasures which do from friendship and from knowledge rise,
Which make us happy as they make us wise.—Roscommon.

Pursuing my labours in the “Literary Gazette,” it will not be disadvantageous to my claim for industry (being, as Francis Mahony scornfully calls it when he does not quite approve of the products, “one of the industrious fleas”) that I found time to write a review on the Pindarees, and prepare others of greater length for the “Quarterly Review,”—delighted with the intimacy and friendship of its editor, the well-abused William Gifford. I say nothing of the merciless politics and mohawk literary onslaught with which his opponents charged him: I speak of him as he always was to me, full of gentleness, a sagacious adviser, and instructive upon so comprehensive a scale that I never met his superior among the men of the age most renowned for vast information, and captivating powers in communicating it. To him I must return hereafter.

Another politico-literary labour of love was undertaken to promote the cause of a friend whom I dearly prized, and
with whom for many a year I enjoyed that choice happiness which results from cordial sympathies and esteem. I allude to the late
Robert Westley Hall Dare; who appeared, to my partial but discerning eyes, to be rusting away a life which might be serviceable to his country, in the too-secluded repose of a private gentleman. I had measured his talents, and I urged him to seek a seat in the legislature, in order to rouse him from inactivity and excite his energies in a sphere of action worthy of himself. I succeeded in attaining a sort of passive acquiescence; and then set myself to work, in earnest, to prepare his way as a candidate for the county of Essex. With this view, I wrote a series of letters (December, 1819, and January, 1820), under the signature of “An Essex Freeholder,” in the “Essex Herald,” published by Messrs. Meggy and Chalk, at Chelmsford, and widely circulated in the home and several adjacent counties. These were then republished in a pamphlet, which my friend Mr. Freeling, when presented with it, as in duty bound, pronounced to be “admirable;” but be that as it might, the desired effect was produced, and the county began to look to Mr. Dare as one of its members. But certain private, as well as public considerations, touching Mr. (afterwards Lord) Western and Mr. Tower, determined him against an immediate canvas, and his patriotic aspirations were satisfied with the popular influence imparted to the politics he “supported for the honour, the safety, and the happiness of the country,” without caring to endanger the cause by embarking in the contest. Such was the tenor of the first letter I received from him after my pamphleteering adventure; and it showed how deserving he was of the honour he, for the moment, so liberally surrendered. When the proper time came, he stood, and was elected with every
tribute due to his estimable qualities as a country gentleman, and his honest independence as a politician. That I partook of the triumph may readily be supposed; and in many ways it ministered to my heartfelt gratification in succeeding years. I cannot forbear from recalling these pleasant memories, as a farther proof that a ready pen and even a limited literary repute procure, at least, some compensations, unattainable by other pursuits, for the evils inseparable from the profession of letters.

My friend was pricked as High Sheriff of the county, and, on preparing to fill the office, wrote to me:—

My Dear Friend,

“As the time is fast approaching for the assizes, I do myself the pleasure of addressing you to express a hope that you still continue in the mind to be present at them.

* * * *

My plans are these—to send the coach and horses to Chelmsford on Saturday, and to post down on Sunday morning, accompanied by my little chaplain, Mr. L——, and my brother-in-law, with whom I shall have great pleasure in making you acquainted. The judges are to arrive at Chelmsford on Sunday afternoon, about half-past five or six o’clock, to go to church the following morning, and afterwards proceed to business. The Black Boy Inn will be my head quarters, and I hope to see you there on Sunday. I should think you would find no difficulty in procuring a conveyance, although it would be as well to look out in time, as a good many people will be coming down about the same time. * * *

“Yours faithfully,
R. W. HALL.”

To be present at an assize, and be able to examine the administration of the criminal law under the auspices of a high sheriff, was a very desirable thing for an inquisitive public writer (to whom every new source for acquiring information is of importance); and with my strong regard for the individual, and prospect of other enjoyments, the occasion altogether promised me a most interesting holiday, and that promise was more than realised. The gentleman alluded to in the note was Mr. Thomas King, with whom I had opportunities of investigating the inmost penetralia of the system of criminal jurisprudence as then administered; and I am bound to state that the impression on my mind was little short of horrible. This is, however, no place for an account of our inquiries, having access to every quarter, nor for an essay on legal or jurisprudential defects, even though they are as yet only partially remedied. Suffice it to say, that we found acquittals and convictions, discharges and executions, little better than a lottery, and were shocked by the reckless and apathetic conduct of the prisoners who were subjected to this ordeal, and which must have been produced on the doctrine of chances whereby they were permitted to live or doomed to die.

Some of the cases were very distressing, and the results so different from what Mr. King and I anticipated, from our previous minute examinations in the gaol, that we were as much afflicted as astonished. The prisoners had mock trials among themselves, and but too truly cast some for death, whilst they transported and imprisoned others with a strange sort of prophetic accuracy. But I have not yet displayed my flattering passports to this, to me, most attractive scene. They follow:—

“Wyefield, Aug. 1st.
My dear Friend,

“It appears to me an age (as indeed it really is one) since we last met. I have had the intention twenty times, and the inclination as many times more, to pop in upon you at Brompton since my return from the north; but although I have frequently been in town, I have never succeeded in getting beyond the turnpike at Hyde Park, and I am now in despair of being able to do so prior to our assizes, which, as the public prints may have informed you, are fixed for the 6th inst. How do you feel disposed respecting them? This, by-the-bye, is hardly a fair mode of putting the question, I should rather have said, will your engagements admit of your being with me at that time? If you answer in the affirmative, and you are not afraid of the fcetid air of a crowded court in August, come and receive the cordial welcome of yours very sincerely,

“Wyefield, Saturday.
My dear Sir,

“I rejoice to find that I am to have your company during the ensuing week. I wish I could ask you to join me here and be my compagnon de voyage on Monday, but I am sorry to say that I shall not have a seat to offer you in the carriage. The judges are to make their appearance at Chelmsford on Monday, at two o’clock, and, consequently, I must leave home early on that day, to be in readiness to receive them. We shall dine at six, long before which time I hope to see you at my old quarters.

“Yours truly,
R. W. HALL.”

During the week to which I was thus invited, I made the acquaintance of several Essex gentry, whose mansions and estates were afterwards my healthful resorts for hospitable recreation and sports of the field. With Squire Western I sat up for nights, till almost day-break, disputing on politics and corn-laws, and I witnessed the black list of the convictions brought in to the judge (Baron Richards) and, shuddering with terror saw him affix the fatal mark to two names, left for the law to take its course upon their unhappy owners. One was about the finest specimen of an English peasant that could be imaged by a romance writer. Had there been a murderer to hang his life would have been saved; but as it was, his was the most heinous crime in the catalogue, and one that had become prevalent, and so, poor fellow, for giving drugs to a wretched female to prevent their mutual disgrace, he was condemned and executed.

A Welshman had a narrow escape for horse-stealing, in consequence of his not comprehending a word of the English in which the witnesses swore against him. The discovery was made in the nick of time, and, in consequence of the reaction, Taffy got off, whether he stole the horse or not.

Another case interested me, and caused some amusement. A prisoner was tried for stealing a tent from a gentleman’s grounds, and was traced dragging it along the lawn in the dewy morning and across a stream. I was sitting at the end of the bench, and recognised in the culprit the son of a respectable woman who lived near me in Brompton, and had a fruit and flower garden which my family used to patronise. My crony, Curwood, was in the court below, and I handed him a note, telling him the circumstance and asking him to do what he could for the accused, who had no counsel. The case was, however, clearly proven, and
the abstraction of the tent, and a pail along with it, brought home to my luckless client. I thought it was all over, and that Curwood “had not a bone to throw at a dog,” when he got up and read the indictment, which ran for stealing so many yards of Russia duck, made &c., upon which he took a legal objection, that if they were to go to the origin, or component articles, of the thing stolen they had no right to describe it by a middle term, and that if the prisoner was not charged with stealing a tent they had no right to accuse him of stealing duck, and might as legally have specified the thread of which it was woven, the hemp which grew it, or the seed from which it sprung. It may be guessed that this ingenious argument was enough to perplex an Essex jury, and the prisoner was acquitted. The prosecutor hinted something about proceeding on the pail, but Curwood cleverly feigned utter astonishment at the idea, and appealed to the most intelligent jury if, after having acquitted the unfortunate man of the serious offence with which he had been charged, they would enter into such a paltry matter as a valueless pail. The jurors with one voice ignored such barbarity, and my protégé left the dock a free and astonished piece of honesty. Sorry am I to add, that, on my return home, and relating to his mother the service I had rendered her offspring, she expressed her extreme regret at my interference, as she thought she would be well quit of her torment at Botany Bay; and, fortunately for her, he was tried for another felony at the very next Old Bailey sessions, and transported!

The busy week over, I returned home with the sheriff in his gay equipage; and now I persuaded him to think seriously of the county representation.

With one note more I shall close this episode, relating to a portion of my happy intercourse with as upright and
noble-minded a man as ever lived; one who contributed to thousands of my pleasures: for his estates (so close to London, too!) were mine for shooting, fishing, or recreating, whenever I chose to send the necessary orders; and to his mansion I was ever welcome when I could spare time for that social delight.

Alas, there is a heavy sadness in out-living our friends. We become, as it were, babies again, and leave the world as we entered it—alone.

The retrospect of my anxious efforts to excite Dare to the “sticking-place” is painfully depressing; and the more so, perhaps, on account of its being attended by many entertaining circumstances.

“Cranbrooke, Saturday.
My dear Jerdan,

“I had hoped to have seen you this week, but, being disappointed in that expectation, I write to say that I shall be at home after Wednesday next, and shall be very happy to see you on Thursday to dinner, at half-past four o’clock; but if you can come earlier in the day, tant mieux. I am to have a party of farmers on that and the three successive days; and your assistance would be everything to me, to get through the undertaking.

“Yours sincerely,

We had nearly a week of dinners to the farmers electors for the county; and, with few exceptions, it is hardly possible to conceive, so near London, and so short a while ago, such an unsophisticated and uncouth set of guests. Their bewilderment with the dishes and wines—their ludicrous mistakes and blunders—their being upon their best manners—and, indeed, the whole “treating” would have
afforded the merriest of volumes to the foremost of comic writers.

I thought to have finished this chapter with the preceding note; but my trip to Chelmsford led to another excursion, so dear to my memory that I must indicate it as one of the felicitous incidents of my varied life. The annexed letter is from Mr. Thomas King, previously referred to.

“Hay Hill, 8th Aug., 1821.
My dear Sir,

“Your letter of the 4th reached me last evening; and I lose no time in assuring you that it will afford me sincere satisfaction to see you here at the time you propose leaving town.

“The plan which I should recommend you to pursue is, to put yourself in the Cheltenham day coach, which passes by or near to your street. You will arrive at the end of your journey about seven o’clock in the afternoon. Having dined on the road, you would be inclined, perhaps, to walk about before dark and view the town, and, the following morning, early, finish seeing the walks, &c., there, and, by the ten o’clock coach, from the Plough Inn (where your coach will set you down), come on, and join me in Gloucester, where I will make a point of meeting you. [And I was taken, among other lions, to see the far-famed Jemmy Wood in his dark shop-den.] We could then see all the lions of that city, get our mutton-chop early, and come on here in the afternoon Newnham coach, which leaves Gloucester in sufficient time to give you an opportunity of seeing the beautiful country between it and this place. We will not fix any day for going down the Wye, as that must depend on the weather; but we will take the first fine days for it. Our intention is to go from Ross to Monmouth one day, see all
that is remarkable; and, the second day, go down to Chepstowe, after viewing Tintern Abbey on our way, and not limiting ourselves to time at all. For the other days, we hope to find you good amusement in our neighbourhood.

“In determining on your day for leaving town, you will, of course, be regulated entirely by your own convenience. We shall be ready to receive you at any period between this and the end of the first week in September (when we intend going to the sea-side), which suits you best. I regret that it is not in my power to give you much encouragement in the sporting way, as, in the first place, we have very few birds, and, in the next, our harvest will be late this year. The wheat will only be in part cut by the end of this month, and the barley and beans will not be ripe until considerably later. Therefore birds, hares, and rabbits will escape into the standing corn. However, I will promise you that the keeper shall do all in his power to show you something. I mention this because I do not wish you to be disappointed in any way, and under the impression that you might have an opportunity of seeing good sport elsewhere in September, and therefore wish to join us earlier. As I before said, you have only to form your own plans, and we are at your service at any time.

“I again remind you that you will only receive from us a plain welcome; but it shall be a very hearty one; and I will do all in my power to render your stay with us as agreeable and interesting to you, as it will be highly satisfactory to ourselves.

“My dear sir,
“Yours very truly,

My stay at Hay Hill, with its magnificent prospect, and
our tour, with his wife and daughter, down the Wye, including two days of incessant rain at Monmouth, were enjoyed to the utmost.

At Monmouth, in an old ruined chapel, I discovered, under one of the seats still left, as spirited and Mephistopheles-like a carving of the arch-fiend as ever I saw, and, unluckily, hid a sovereign for it to the beadle who showed the place. If I had given him a shilling, or even half-acrown for it, I should have had it; but the largeness of the bribe was the d—1 to pay. It alarmed the Cerberus, and, whilst sitting after dinner, under the sign of Henry of Monmouth, the landlord walked in with the following message to me:—“The beadle presented his respects to the old gentleman in the spectacles, and is sorry that he durst not let him have the old gentleman he wanted to buy!”

The knowledge of the fine arts in this part of the island was laughably shown one day, when riding out with Miss King. We were driven, by a sudden storm, to take shelter in the mansion of a Welch squire. I was struck by a fine miniature over the chimney-piece, and was admiring it much, when the owner observed he was glad to see me so well pleased with it; “for,” said he, “you know, of course, whose portrait it is.” I pretended ignorance; and then he informed me that it was a faithful likeness of the Man of Ross. The Man of Ross was, no doubt, the hero of that neighbourhood; but the portrait, with its costume exquisitely finished, was a Petitôt of Prince Rupert!!

For years I was indulged with the privilege of shooting at Hay Hill, when I could go so far, and always over Mr. Dare’s estates in Essex, near Ilford, Theydon-bois, Rainham, et cetera; and, to a laborious writer, such relaxations were inestimable, conducing alike to invigorate the body and restore the mind.