LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Ch. 1: Critical Glances

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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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.
A dove and a sparrow, a parrot and crow,
Will show you the lives of most women also;
They are all of them doves to the age of fifteen,
Then lively as sparrows till forty they’ve seen,
Then chatter like parrots, until they’re three score,
Then birds of ill omen, and women no more!
Old Song, some of the words a little softened.

One Mr. Ollendorff undertakes to teach you how to read, write, and speak a language in six months, and I will undertake to teach you how to criticise all that can he written in it in six weeks; I mean in the manner and to the full extent of the ability so general and so arrogant in our day. My ordeal has not been a very trying one. A few
exhibitions of spite and rancour have demonstrated a truth of which I have long been aware, namely, that gratitude was the shortest lived of human virtues; but the compensation on the other hand of liberal sentiments and generous sympathies have far outweighed the inflictions of literary coxcombic pertness, and sheer stupidity and unprovoked malevolence. Truly ashamed of my own shortcomings, for I find it is one thing to plan and another to execute, I have still comforted myself with the idea that if it must be a poor house that nobody would rob, so it must be a poor book that nobody would abuse. When I had my grin at this sort of thing, and turned over a leaf to a kind recognition and cordial eulogy from my better brethren of the pen, I could hardly help fancying my portrait photographed after the style of those ingenious professors of hirsute-chemistry, who exhibit the effects of their skill on double-dyed placards of rare attraction. Here you may observe the gentleman, with a perpendicular line of division from his middle forehead, straight down his nose, and ending at his neck. One side is of a “sad colour:” the hair is smudged by age into a dismal grey, and the old gent is anything but comely or prepossessing. But on the other side we “live at the sign of the case is altered,” (as the saying is,) and magnificent raven curls, the jet of juvenility and health, afford you assurance of youthful vigour and “the front of Jove himself.” In like fashion a dear sweet lady is represented; on the right coal, on the left carrots; rich in feminine beauty here, pale and sickly there; impressing the spectator (not the able newspaper of that name) with an almost painful idea of how much you may be deceived in a female, if you do not carefully examine her all roundabout.

Just so have I thought of my critically-pictured self, when glancing from the odious misfeatures of the iron-grey
and offensive carrot to the cheering traits of the living coal and curl!

Having been led to begin this volume with an allusion to the criticisms upon “my book,” as Abernethy used to say, and being from my confirmed literary habits unused to put aught literary away from me, I will venture to add a few words more touching my performance. In it I have endeavoured to relate circumstances truly, to depict myself ingenuously, to speak of others faithfully, to state my opinions frankly, to express my feelings sincerely, and to season the whole with such anecdotes and pleasantries as might render it more acceptable to the general reader, or, in common parlance, more popular. Fifty years is a long time for reminiscence, and memory and talent must to a certain degree fail in reviving once vivid images, as want of judgment or just appreciation may attach too much consequence to matters of small importance. But a whole should be taken as a whole, and I have been equally puzzled and diverted by the multitude of critical and friendly missives with which I have been favoured (and much encouraged) during my progress. “I have laughed like to kill myself,” says one, “at such and such a story;” “your natural touches and descriptions,” says another, “have powerfully affected me; do, pray, let them fulfil their humanising effects without being marred by jokes and amusing incidents.” “We are delighted; give us more of yourself,” comes from a third source; and “there is, perhaps, a little too much about your personal affairs” in so and so, is the hint of No. 4. “Launch us, as you must be well able to do, more widely in the general history of the literature of your period.” “Your early life and scenes in Edinburgh have restored me to the days of my youth, with a freshness I should have thought impossible,” writes
a fellow septuagenerian. “I will now expect something far more interesting, since you have arrived at our own day,” writes another of greener years. Without dwelling longer on the matter, than the mere indication of these “pointers,” I may observe that, in my belief, there is not a single feature in the three preceding volumes of this work which has not been extravagantly praised and (“respectfully”) deemed susceptible of considerable improvement, the same parts to be extended and condensed, and others to be enlarged and omitted!
The old man, his son, and his little jackass
Trotting along the road,
never received more various counsels than I; but, I add with pride and gratification, never with such warmth of heart and show of reason, which afforded me much to reflect upon, though I found it exceedingly difficult to amend my plan or improve the manner of executing it. A mixed and desultory life offers no opportunity for the unities; but yet I can only say in return for all the cheering voices, for which I am most thankful, and all the excellent advices of which I am unaffectedly sensible, it will be my own fault at the end of my journey if I am discovered to be carrying my own ass: and after all it is better to ride an ass that carries, than a horse that throws, you.

The true glass must reflect actual images; pain and pleasure, woes and mirth, chasing each other in our changeful course. For

The stait of man dois change and vary,
Now sound, now seit, now blyth, now sary,
Now dansaud mirry, now like to die.
Ne stait in Erd heir standis sicker;
As with the wynd wavis the wickir,
So wavis this warldis vanité.

(But I, William Jerdan cannot, with William Dunbar, add for myself)

Timor Mortis conturbat me.

But I must on to my progress, and throw the material of the past into my mind-mill, in the hope that it may work them off by something like that strange process by which we often unconsciously unwind the ravelled skein of memory, or develop thoughts from a germ we hardly knew was planted.

Among my earliest coadjutors and friends in the “Literary Gazette” was Mr. Alaric A. Watts, from whom I received many valuable contributions in prose and verse; and among them a series of articles pointing out the plagiarisms of Lord Byron, which created a considerable sensation and led to much controversy at the time. The talents of this gentleman had, whilst yet young for literature, recommended him to the editorship of the “New Monthly Magazine,” and during thirty years which have elapsed since that period, he has not only filled an eminently useful place in the periodical press, but taken a distinguished rank among the sweetest poets of the time, as well in separate publications as in the brilliant annuals which he so ably edited.

The coincidences, to say the least of them, which Mr. Watts pointed out between characters in Byron’s works and characters drawn by preceding writers, and also between circumstances and language employed upon them in common, were angrily resented by the great admirers of his lordship; but still as passion is not logic nor abuse argument, there the statements and evidence remain to be sustained or refuted, as the case may be, by future commentators. The “Giaour,” for instance, is traced to Mrs. Radcliffe’s Schedoni, in the powerful romance of the
Italian.” Manfred is asserted to be a close combination of Marlowe’s Faustus and Schiller’s Moor. Sotheby’s Oberon is clearly shown to have suggested much of Gulnare, and her action in the “Corsair.” German authors, and little-known modern as well as ancient Italian poets, furnish many supplies in larger or smaller quantities; and English bards, of course, do not escape near imitation and even literal transcription. Young is laid under considerable contributions, and indeed the whole host from Dryden downwards. But perhaps the most humorous trait in Lord Byron’s helping himself from others, lies in the profusion with which he has done so from those whom he satirised and nick-named with unsparing intemperance, such as bustling Botherby (Sotheby), sonneteering Bowles, drowthy Campbell, raving Montgomery, stale Scott, ballad-monger Southey, turgid Coleridge, lewd Moore, simple Wordsworth. It has been contended that the adoption of a thousand half-lines, single lines, and brief passages, do not amount to the piratical offence of plagiarism; but Lord Byron himself did not seem to be of this opinion, for he founded his critical charge against Lord Strangford for stealing from Moore, upon a solitary line. A few of the obvious resemblances after Scott may serve to illustrate (though very faintly) the nature of Mr. Watts’ accusations:

A moment now he slacked his speed,
A moment breathed his panting steed.
A moment checked his wheeling steed,
A moment breathed him from his speed.—Giaour.
And I the cause for whom were given
Her peace on earth, her hopes in heaven.—Marmion.
——and she for him had given
Her all on earth, and more than all in heaven.
Of Gulnare in the Corsair.
The evening fell,
The air was mild, the wind was calm,
The stream was smooth, the dew was balm.
Cool was the silent sky, tho’ calm,
He bathed his brow with airy balm.—Byron.

It were too long to revive this subject with those particular details and quotations, without which its merits cannot be understood. The French literary journals took it up, and a furious contest of les retorsions et les répliques ensued. Then sprung up the Bowles and Byron controversy relating to Pope, provoked, according to his Lordship, by words spoken at the house of “the Nestor of our inferior race of living poets,” Samuel Rogers; and the yet more violent quarrel between the noble Lord and Southey, founded on the application of the epithet “Satanic school,” to him and Moore; and a propos of the “Literary” Gazette Exposition, I have a letter before me from Mr. Watts, who says: “I received a very flattering letter from Southey yesterday, who alluded, among other matters, with high praise, to our plagiarism papers on Lord Byron . . . . .” Mr. Watts does not mention how much Byron borrowed from d’Herbelot, which I could demonstrate; nor how much Ivanhoe was indebted to Boccacio.

Leaving, however, these battles of the books, and their authors, to be dealt with by Prince Posterity, I may note, en passant, a sample or two of Byron’s anachronisms, recalled to memory by the grand show of Sardanapalus, as an acting drama this season. Here we find:—
My eloquent Indian! Thou speakest music,
The very chorus of the tragic song
I have heard thee talk of as the favourite pastime
Of thy far father land.

Now, as the learned and witty Maginn would remark,
Sardanapalus, in whose mouth this is put, died in the year 820 before the Christian era, and his friend, Myrrha, therefore, could hardly have talked much of the chorus of the tragic song of Greece; for this plain reason, that Thespis, the inventor of tragedy, did not flourish until the year B.C. 537, nearly three centuries after.

Again, Sardanapalus asks the same lady:—
Myrrha, my love, hast thou thy shell in order?
Sing me a song of Sappho, her, thou knowest
Who in thy country threw—
But, as far as chronology is concerned, he might as well have asked her to “Sing him a Song of Sixpence,” for
Sappho lived about 600 years B.C.: so that Myrrha must ‘have not only had the gift of song, but of prophecy, if she chanted the lays of her who made her appearance more than two centuries after the fair Ionian’s death—that death so gloriously sung by Croly, in the “Gems from the Antique,” by my loved old friend and colleague, Richard Dagley, to whom and Walter Henry Watts, the arts and artists of England owe many obligations, through the pages of the “Gazette.” The Gem represents the head and countenance of the impassioned poetess as deeply dejected, and here is the inspired congenial strain:—

Look on this brow! the laurel wreath
Beam’d on it like a wreath of fire;
For passion gave the living breath,
That shook the chords of Sappho’s lyre!
Look on this brow! the lowest slave,
The veriest wretch of want and care,
Might shudder at the lot that gave
Her genius, glory, and despair.
For, from these lips were uttered sighs
That, more than fever, scorched the frame;
And tears were rained from these bright eyes,
That, from the heart, like life-blood came.
She loved—she felt the lightning-gleam,
That keenest strikes the loftiest mind;
Life quenched in one ecstatic dream,
The world waste before—behind.
And she had hope—the treacherous hope,
The last deep poison of the bowl,
That makes us drain it, drop by drop,
Nor lose one misery of soul.
Then all gave way—mind, passion, pride!
She cast one weeping glance above,
And buried in her bed, the tide,
The whole concenter’d strife of Love!

But to return to my friend Alaric Watts, with whom, during so many years, I carried on a copious literary intercourse and correspondence, always benefited by his assistance, and occasionally still more obliged to him for acting as my Lord-Lieutenant when temporarily absent from headquarters, I look back on the period with mingled emotions of pleasure and pain. Mr. Watts, like myself, did not find literature the path to fortune. Yet was he exceedingly well read, full of intelligence, cultivated in taste, superior in talent, and laborious in application. In every thing I found him straightforward, honourable, and kind-hearted; if a little warm sometimes, when we happened to differ in opinion, I will venture to record it to the credit of both, that beyond asserting our own convictions of what was due to truth in criticism, we never contravened each other for an hour.

In the retrospects of life, there are too often changes to regret more distressing to the mind than the most afflicting losses. The latter are inevitable, the conditions of existence. The former are caused by ourselves. Between Alaric Watts and I no such event ever occurred to be lamented now. He sought me first, as his senior with some experience, to advise him in his literary career. His footsteps thenceforward ran parallel to mine, and we were ever ready
to join hands for mutual help in the race. When offered engagements which he thought might be prejudicial to my interests, he, like
Allan Cunningham, refused them, till exhorted by me to accept the advantageous provision. I could not suffer a generous feeling to impede their prospects; and I could only have wished that in both cases they had conducted to more crowning results. I flatter myself that what he saw of my example had some influence on Mr. Watts’s course; for only three years ago, he writes to me:—“No man living, I except yourself, has ever done more for authors and artists of talent than I have done.” And justly may he make this boast of himself and his efforts to serve the interest of literature and art; and I trust that he may farther follow my example, and give the public from the ample materials he must possess, an autobiographical work more worthy of its attention than it is in my power to produce—I would fain hope, without direct reference to the first verse of the heading to this chapter. It will not, I trust, be thought either too trivial or too private a trait, if I point and conclude this personal notice by quoting the pleasant manner in which my friend communicated a far more important matter to me, viz., his union with one of those women whose accomplishments and dispositions are calculated to adorn the brightest, and cheer the darkest vicissitudes of life:—“I shall call and see you directly. I have been busy since you have been from home; and, with other whims, have taken it into my head to be married! If you are sceptical, come and satisfy yourself as to the fact. This is, at all events, better than dying. Ever faithfully yours.”

A few lines from another letter bear so much upon a good deal of the preceding, that I cannot refrain from copying them. “My dear friend,—On looking over the
new monthly works last evening, I could not but observe how much your ‘Gazette’ gives the tone of criticism. Many of these gentlemen are not quite certain which side of the question to take, whether to praise or abuse, until the ice has been broken by their avant courier the ‘
Literary Gazette.’ With respect to Byron’s tragedy, the opinions of the monthly harriers, nemine contradicente, is almost entirely consonant with your own. The ‘Monthly Review’ alludes en passant to the plagiarisms, without giving its own sentiments, and all the other journals, except the ‘New Monthly Magazine,’ agree in recognising the gross plunders from Otway. Blackwood, in weighing Byron’s abuse of Cowper, compares him to Voltaire, who plundered from Shakespear and then vilified him, or to a man that set a house on fire, and then ran away by the light of it. The other works condemn the play for its weakness and total want of originality.”

Ranging among poets, I hope I may consider it opportune to cast a glance over my intimacy with the author of the “Pleasures of Hope,” which also endured for many a year, and to the day of his death. Among the attendants at his funeral in Westminster Abbey, there were not many who mourned him more sincerely than I did, for I had participated in his eccentricities, regretted his little weaknesses, studied his better qualities, and admired his genius. Campbell’s was a curiously mixed character, partaking of the sublime and the ridiculous in an extraordinary degree. In this respect there was a certain similarity between him and Goldsmith, as the latter is handed down to us in his social habits and high poetic mission—the
Who wrote like an angel, and talked like poor Poll.
Campbell’s conversation was not of this absurd description,
but his head was easily affected, and then a remarkable jealousy respecting any merely civil courtesies from the fair sex, bestowed on others, and a puerility of manner between boyishness and coxcombry, seemed to be the attributes of the metamorphosed bard. Generally speaking, he was rather an entertaining companion, and at droll anecdote and story-telling few could surpass him. The fact is, that his brain was frequently wool-gathering, of which I can afford an instance, with which his most attached of friends and kindest of physicians (his biographer)
Dr. Beattie, was not I dare say, acquainted. Tom accepted an invitation to dine with a friend in the country, who had just hired a villa for the summer months, half a dozen miles from Town. The address was communicated verbally, “near the Green Man, at Dulwich” which Campbell declared he could not forget. Owing to some confusion, however, he proceeded on the following Sunday and made his way to Greenwich, where he set about inquiring, in vain, for the sign of the Dull Man. It was suggested that he might mean the Green Man, at Blackheath, but here he was equally at fault, and the Black Boy somewhere near got into his head and was next tried. At length the proper direction flashed upon the tired Poet; but it was now long past the dinner hour, he was far from the place, and he sat down to his solitary chop at the nearest inn.

Perhaps he was thinking of founding the London University, or of establishing the Association for the succour of the unfortunate Poles; in both of which he took an ardent and effective part. This ardour was constitutional, and pervaded his later years. I remember him desperately in love with a fair, embonpoint, and handsome lady, who published a very nice romance, and is now the wife of another, better acquainted with banking than poetical notes;
and one day he was so smitten by a beautiful child in St. James’s Park, that he put an advertisement in the newspaper to discover its residence, the result of which was excessively ludicrous. For some wags of the
Hook and Co. clique, aware of the circumstances, answered the appeal, and not knowing what address to give, took the last name in the directory, a Z—— No. —, Sloane Street. Thither Campbell hurried the next forenoon in full dress, and was shown up to the drawing-room, where he found a middle-aged lady waiting to learn his errand. It was not long in being explained, and the indignant Miss Z——, on being asked to bring in her lovely offspring to gratify the longings of the poet, rushed to the bell and rang violently for her servant to show the insolent stranger to the door!

Tom told an amusing story of having a “travelling merchant,” alias a bagman, foisted upon him as a bed-fellow, under a mistaken notion, in a small country inn, when travelling in Scotland; but I must content myself with a less racy preliminary. He had been stopped by the weather in the afternoon, had dined, and indulged himself with a toothpick to wile away the idle after hour. Enter chambermaid. “Sir, if ye please, are ye dune with the toothpick?” “Why do you ask? I suppose I may pick away as long as I like!” “Oh dear na, sir! for it belongs to the Club, and thae hae been met amaist an hour!” The disgust with which the instrument was thrown away may, be more readily imagined than described, though he did describe it admirably.

Please ye, my worshipful readers, I think it was from Campbell, it might be from Sam Anderson or McCulloch, that I gathered the annexed characteristic Scotch facetiæ, with which I will finish this anecdotic division.

There is nothing like imitation! A baillie of Dundee,
after witnessing the Lord Justice Clerk pass sentence of death very impressively upon a criminal, happening to have a fine of eighteenpence to impose on an offender, thus solemnly addressed him: “You must therefore either go to gaol or pay the money, and the Lord have mercy on your soul!”

The minister of Renfrew was desired to pray for some newly-elected baillies, and thus he performed his apologetic duty: “I should ha’,” said he, “to petition again for the sake of ithers; but, L—d, it is na worth while to trouble ye for such a set o’ puir bodies!”

Rate of Interest. In a conversation which happened to turn on railway accidents and the variety of human sufferings, a bank director observed that he always felt great interest in the case of a broken limb. “Then, I suppose,” said—“for a compound fracture you feel compound interest.”

But, lest no interest at all should be felt for this episodiacal gossip, I hasten to close the page on Chapter I.