LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 9: Insanity

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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She’s dead! and all which die
To their first elements resolve;
And we were mutual elements to us,
And made of one another.—Donne.

Of my old friend, Mr. Mulock, regretted as lost sight of in my preceding volume, I am happy to have heard as in the land of the living, and one of the most able and zealous public writers, in the cause of another acquaintance of mine mentioned in the same work, viz., Prince Louis Napoleon. It is, therefore, an odd coincidence that I also recognise him as the author of three clever satirical letters in the “Gazette,” under the signature and in the character of Satan, which made a noise at the time; which my correspondent was increasing by giving a course of lectures on English literature with immense effect at Geneva! and afterwards in London.

Of another friend, about this period, I have a curious theatrical anecdote to relate. Mr. Millett was a miniature painter of fashionable repute, and one of the best artists in his line of that day. He had just finished a likeness of the famous King of Poyais, Macgregor (a royal-looking personage
he was) which I called to see, and we afterwards strolled out together. Reading the playbills on the walls we saw “Aladdin” announced, at which Millett laughed and said, “You would hardly believe that some years ago I tried my hand at dramatic writing, and really sent in a piece under that very title, of which I have never heard since. I should like to go and see this novelty of the same name.” “The play’s the thing,” answered I, and after a quiet chop in the neighbourhood, to the theatre we went. After the play the curtain drew up for the grand spectacle of the Wonderful Lamp; and not the least extraordinary and amusing part of it was performed in our box by my companion. On the opening scene he gave me a dreadful kick on the shins, exclaiming, “That’s mine; by ——, that’s mine!” A little change took place, and he added, sotto voce, “Or very like it!” As the piece proceeded I heard either “No, no,” “That won’t do,” or got another deuce of a kick with exclamations as before. The short and the long of it was, that Aladdin was Millett’s drama, converted into one of the most successful spectacles ever produced, and perhaps he was the first dramatist who ever went to see a piece of his own performed without knowing it. By my advice he wrote to
Mr. Harris the next day, stating the circumstances, and, in return, received from that gentleman a letter of thanks and a cheque for a hundred guineas. Whether it was to follow the example of his hero I cannot tell, but he left off painting in London and settled in Cheltenham, where he built a most magnificent palace for an hotel, and let it at a rent of 500l. a year.

As a personal incident, of some satisfaction when one is too old to have the joke repeated—for age has some though very few advantages, and would be glad of more—I was drawn for the militia, and had the honour to serve my
country by a “fit and able substitute” named Frederick Harrison, whose glories, if ever he achieved any, ought in fairness to be reflected on me.

With regard to what depended on myself, and was not performed by substitute—and it would have been better for me if I had trusted less to deputies—I can truly say that I never entered into any undertaking of a literary nature, or business, or benevolence, or enjoyment; without taking my heart and soul along with me. I could not be a sleeping partner. If it tended rightly, so much the better; if wrong, so much the worse. It was my disposition; and as long as there was a hook to hang a hope upon, I could not desert a failing good cause, nor even abandon an unpropitious plan. I always found myself sticking to the last; and, as we had it at school, never said Die.

In this way, and with such idiosyncrasy, I persuade myself the “Gazette” was brought to take the initiative in many projects of great public utility, the problems of which have since been nobly and profitably wrought out. For example, even thus early in its course, it had, with all its strength, directed attention to a scheme for forming a communication between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by Panama, and recurred to the proposition year after year: that great fact is now being accomplished!

Having given an extremely interesting account of an institution for the insane at Aversa, in Italy, where the patients were indulged in beautiful gardens, music, pastimes, and scarcely the semblance of restraint, I took up the subject, and in many articles insisted on the humanity, beauty, and curative powers of that mild system which Dr. John Conolly has brought to perfection in this country, and blessed the suffering by educating disciples to apply it to their unhappy cases—but oh, how much happier than
before!—in many places throughout the land. To have an early interest and part in such a reform is a consolation under the severest trials.

In a less degree I can but repeat the truism, that the endeavour to promote the good and beneficial is calculated to furnish far more gratifying reflections to the journalist in later years than the cleverest articles he ever penned of an opposite tendency: and I name the journalist especially, because no other class has so much influence for good or evil. Two slight testimonies shall speak for me in minor affairs, and all I shall trouble my readers with just now. The first relates to the project for settling commercial differences by reference, as now, in the north of Europe, without incurring the ruinous expense of law; and the other, one of hundreds of such individual assurances which have cheered and piloted me on in the difficult course I had prescribed to myself to steer.

“Chamber of Commerce, London.

“I have the honour to hand you an extract from the minutes of the committee and members of the Equitable Trade Society and Chamber of Commerce, which was unanimously agreed to at their meeting this day.

“In taking the earliest opportunity of making this communication,

“I have the pleasure to remain,
“Very respectfully,
“Your most obedient faithful servant,
“V. P. and Secretary.

“‘It was proposed by Mr. Clarke, and seconded by Mr. Barber, and resolved unanimously,

“‘That the thanks of this Society be given to the Editor of the “Literary Gazette,” for the explanatory and handsome paragraphs inserted, concerning the Equitable Trade Society, in his publication, and that the Secretary be requested to communicate the same, and that the printers to the Society be desired to strike off 1000 copies thereof, for the information of the members.’”

Mr. Editor,

“‘Stern Fate,’ &c. decrees that, in about eight days’ time, I shall embark for that bourne, from whence God knows when I shall return, i.e. Asia; and if the enclosed meet your approving nod, I entreat they may meet mine over the pages of your publication before I go.

“And now, Sir, although the thanks of a stranger may be of little concern to you, I cannot refrain expressing my respect for a man whose classical exertions have afforded delight to so many of my hours. It may be I shall never return to my native land, but my recollection will frequently recur to your paper, where sometimes I have disguisedly appeared. I do sincerely wish you well.

“I am most respectfully yours,
“R. T. LAMBE.”

To this last tribute I shall merely add, that besides such incitements to discharge a public duty, to the best of my humble abilities, as it ought to be fulfilled, I ever had Mr. Canning and his advice in my view, and whenever I felt myself doubtfully tempted, I would ask (aloud to myself sometimes), “If you did so, what would Mr. Canning think
or say of it?” This criterion, I believe, often kept me in the better way, and at least checked inclinations to error.

But I had graver monition for my private than for my public life. In July, my loved and venerated mother died. The everlasting truth was spoken—
“Your mother cannot wake—not in this world—
But in another she will wake for us.
When we have slept, like her, then shall we see her.”
The death was sudden, as my father’s had been—a few insensate hours, and the vital flame was extinct. I was deeply affected, but such feelings are not for public obtrusion. I shall only say in a voice still vibrating from my heart—It is hard to Bury loving Clay! Yet this hard task we must all learn: may God give us strength to bear it when it falls upon us! I have had frequent occasion to allude to my connection with the “
Morning Post,” and its proprietor and editor, Mr. Byrne. Up to the year 1821, I at all times, when I could be of use, lent my aid (not unrequited) to his service, and it is grateful to the memory of that intercourse of fourteen years that I should preserve the last record I possess of it in a letter from him on this afflicting event, which does honour to the man and the Irishman—

My dear Sir,

“I sincerely condole with you on the mournful event of which you yesterday informed me. Your feelings on the occasion do honour to you as a man and as a son; but let me entreat of you to give no more way to your grief than you can help, and to console yourself with the heavenly reflection that your departed, venerated, and beloved has
only left the miserable pilgrimage of this sad life to enjoy in the kingdom of God that bliss eternal which is awarded to the righteous. Take, my dear friend, as much consolation as you can; and do not think of returning to business till you find yourself perfectly tranquil and composed.

“I remain, my dear Sir,
“Most sincerely yours,

“I was myself ill in bed when your note reached me yesterday; otherwise I should have answered it instantly.”

The kind condescension of Lord Belmore allowed me, under his own guidance, to examine the interesting collection of antiquities he had just brought from Egypt; and I notice the period with pleasure as connected with the return from the same country, and under the same auspices, of Mr., now Sir Richard Barry, with whose fine genius as an architect, and admirable qualities as a man, I thus became first acquainted.

Besides the continued poetical, and other contributions of Croly, Proctor, Beresford, A.M. (not as has been stated the present Secretary-at-War, who disowns the soft impeachment), Dagley, &c., my vase was enriched by the compositions of E. Crowe; Marshall, a Sydney Smith genius, Vicar of Pomfret; A. A. Watts, the amiable Eugenius Roche, Ismael Fitzadam, Henry Neele, Mrs. Hofland, and others, whose pleasant effusions were now joined by the first efforts of the muse of “L. E. L.

I had nearly forgot to mention a narrow escape I had from the fury of a bookseller’s man in Bond Street, and as it may serve as a model for vituperation and abuse, I beg leave to present it for the study of the emulous—

Mr. Jerdan,

“I subscribed the ‘New Tales of my Landlord,’ containing ‘Pontefract Castle.’

“As you have had the impudence, considering your notoriously bad character, to intimate that I have committed a fraud on Messrs. Longmans, I write first to say that you are a liar in regard to that assertion, and that you know well you are a liar while you utter it.

“And, in the second place, that you are a scoundrel and a swindler; and in order that I may not appear to say so without foundation, take a walk down to Brompton.

“I am Mr. Fearman’s man, and consider myself the only proper person (and indeed I am almost ashamed to put myself on a level with you), to answer so paltry and worthless a fellow. You must be the most grovelling blackguard that ever lived to make use of the following expressions:—

“‘But when the trick was found out, many of the honourable dealers refused to receive even a single copy!’

“Now, so far from that being the case, Messrs. Longman have sent to renew their numbers twice; and the trade well know that, in answer to letters from Messrs. Whittakers and Ogles, ordering a certain number, Mr. Fearman in one line declined their subscription altogether; but that afterwards, on Mr. Whittaker’s calling, it was arranged that he should have fifty copies, and, at his particular request, a promise of fifty more was made.

“At Mr. Fearman’s, 170, New Bond Street.”

“N.B. Unless you apologise to me, and in a very satisfactory manner too, I shall take steps which will be very unpleasant to your feelings.”


That one survived so damaging and dangerous an assault is astonishing; yet here I am, who did not fear Mr. Fearman’s man, and almost fancying that I must have been slaughtered and come to life again, like an Egyptian mummy which feels nothing. But to leave such worthless trash—even though it shows that the life of an author is as desperate as the life of a highwayman—I will quote a very characteristic note from an artist, whose sad fate was deplored by a nation which had not adequately cherished his genius. “The Entry into Jerusalem,” though not faultless, belonged to the high standard of art—
A host is at thy gates, Jerusalem.
Above them Judah’s lion banners gleam,
Join’d with the palm and olive’s leafy stem:
Now swell the nearer sounds of voice and string,
As down the hill-side pours the living stream;
And to the cloudless Heaven Hosannas ring.—Croly.

The painter had done much to realise the poet, or rather the poet had written this in honour of what the painter had accomplished; but it seems I had ventured some observation, and the following was the result:—


“I beg to thank you sincerely for your manly criticism on my picture. The way in which you spoke of me is the way in which I like to be spoken of, viz., with force both in praise and censure. Allow me to say that no other eyes or brows would have done for my principal figure; dark eyes and forcible brows gave him at once the look of a being liable to appetite and passion. The great thing to give him was the look of power without the appearance as if its exercise was an effort. I painted the head seven times, and tried every variety of human feature; this
is no reason that I have succeeded, only it gives me experience as to the nature of the means of representing him. I write this in confidence. And believe me, with great respect,

“Your obedient servant,

My readers have, I dare say, heard or read of matter-of-fact people, who understand everything literally, and can see just as far into a millstone as into a jest; but I think they could hardly beat the following instance, which I would not venture to state as bonâ fide if the original MS. letter did not go as a voucher to the printers. In joke at receiving, in truth, an immense quantity of indifferent poetry, I inserted a Notice to Correspondents: “Any one in want of a ton of bad poetry, may have it for the price of the paper as waste, at the ‘Literary Gazette’ Office, 362, Strand. A nearly equal quantity of inferior prose on the same terms.

“N.B. As there are so many persons who like to write such things, there may be persons who like to read them: if any such incline to purchase, we shall expect an advance of 1½ per cent, ad valorem; and the following sample of the wares may be relied on as literally the conclusion of a long poem received this week upon the theme, ‘Your’s sincerely,’ at the bottom of a lady’s letter:—

“What then can I, the words yet doubly sweet
Had met those eyes, which vainly must eye you,
Though from thy lips themselves, love’s fav’rite seat,
I’d caught the words fresh with their balmy dew.
“Then, Juliet, tho’ most tenderly, sincerely,
Humbly, adoringly, I bend the knee,
And swear that swain never half so dearly
Loved, as I am willing to love thee.
“If, as she ought, fortune would act fairly,
And change as I could wish my destiny;
But as it is, heart-broken I recline—
Old Romeo’s fortune it was bliss to mine!”

That such a temptation should tempt a bidder was certainly what I never expected; but the following letter came by return of post:—

“Plymouth, 30th October.

“Observing in your valuable ‘Literary Gazette’ of Saturday last, under the head of ‘Correspondence,’ of your having a lot of bad poetry, etc to dispose of, I wish to know if such is actually the case; if so, I shall feel particularly obliged by your informing me, per return, on what terms you will part with, not a ton, but about 30, 40, or 50 lb. I am at present confined to my room from ill health, and in all probability will be safely stowed in that situation during the winter; therefore those to-be-expected very interesting papers will form a fund of amusement during that period. I should have no objection, if convenient to you, to purchase some of those manuscripts which may be tolerably good, such as those taken notice of under the head of ‘too great a length,’ ‘not adapted for the publication,’ &c., &c. at a moderate price.

“I shall feel obliged by your answering me ‘pro or con’ if not too much trouble, per return, addressed ‘at Mrs. Mary Lawton’s, Jubilee-street.’

“I am, Sir,
“Your most obedient servant,
To the Editor of the Literary Gazette, London.”

The reader will, I dare say, think as I did, that this was a fair joke in requital; but I made inquiry and found that Mr. Johnsone, invalided from the Navy and very fond of poetry, was a real person and fully disposed to be a real purchaser. Indeed, he afterwards tried to treat “were it only for half a ton,” and I was quite shocked that I could not spare him that quantity [!]