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The Autobiography of William Jerdan
William Jerdan, “Applications for the Laureatship,” The Satirist, 1814

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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
Letter from the Lord Chamberlain to the Satirist.
“Lord Chamberlain’s Office, Palace Yard,
Dear Sir,—

“In consequence of the death of Mr. Pye, the lucrative, honourable, and important office of Poet Laureat having become vacant, very numerous applications for the reversion have been made to me by sundry noble, celebrated, and estimable persons. Many of these applicants have presented me with specimens of their poetical talents, in order to enable me to appreciate their fitness for office; but, as I am not only little versed in measured compositions, but am, moreover, extremely puzzled to make out intelligibly the plain prose meaning of not a few of these productions, I have deemed it expedient to send them to you as One skilled in criticism, and, from practice in dissecting authors, enabled to develop things incomprehensible to other men; and to beg you will favour me with your opinion thereon, with your speediest convenience, for the writers have already become extremely clamorous and impatient for a decision each in his own favour.

“In the hope of an early answer, to release me from the life of persecution I now lead, and the hourly dread of being torn to pieces by infuriated bards, as a certain bard, I believe Orpheus, was of old,*

“I remain, dear Satirist, yours, &c,

In consequence of the request contained in this polite epistle, which his lordship dispatched to US by a special messenger, we have taken infinite pains carefully and impartially to scan and

* The Lord C. is a little out in his Heathen Mythology, but it ill becomes a Christian noble to be more accurate in those things than in his Scriptural knowledge.—Ed.

peruse the mass of poems which accompanied it, and which were, for greater security and conveniency, conveyed to our office in two of the royal waggon-train-covered waggons, attended by a suitable escort. From these loads we selected, by a species of sortes invented for the occasion, one thousand applications. These were again reduced to one hundred by another ordeal; and, lastly having undergone the severest criticism, we chose twelve of the best, which we returned to his lordship, advising him, as they were all of equal merit, to have the business of the Laureat hereafter done by a committee of twelve, in such manner as we also pointed out. His lordship we understand thinks highly of our suggestions, and letters have been written to
Mr. Bankes, Mr. Martin, and other reformists of our petty economy, in order to ascertain if such appointment may not occasion great clamour, from the creation of so many new officers. Should any objection be made, the idea will be dropped, rather than be persevered in to cause contention (such is the placable spirit of ministers, who, instead of treating such carping little creatures with contempt, too often yield to these political coxcombs), though, as only the same salary and perquisites are to be allotted to the committee of twelve as to one individual, it is hoped no objection will be urged against a plan which promises so much variety, novelty, and national renown. From these and others, with the approbation of their several authors, we have made a few selections, and, with some extracts from the letters enclosing them, we now hasten to submit to the admiration of the world.

Note from Mr. Wilberforce, enclosing a Specimen of
Hannah More’s
“Kensington Gore, 14th August.

Mr. Wilberforce humbly begs to earnestly recommend the enclosed to the notice of the Lord Chamberlain. Though it hath not been usual in times past to nominate and appoint females to the office of Laureat, yet he trusts that, with the glory of God, and the religious instruction of this degenerate age
in the contemplation of his Majesty’s confidential advisers, an exception may be made in favour of one so pre-eminently saintly, and so admirably calculated, by her writings of birthday odes and moral reflections on the new year’s-day, to promote the sacred cause of Christianity. Surely as there was one she Pope, there may be allowed to be one she Laureat: if which should be the event of this application, it is hoped the usual formalities and ceremonies, as enacted by the Cardinals on the initiation of a Pope, will not be insisted upon, though
Hannah is willing to undergo much in the service of the Lord.”

From Mrs. More’s production we select only two verses: it is rather too much in the Methodist hymn style for an ode.

“While worldlings sing
Earth’s joys, oh king!
I’ll heavenly anthems raise;
‘No Pagan nine,
But hymns divine,
Inspiring George’s praise.
“Oh! Lord of hosts!
Protect our coasts,
From war’s terrific burst;
And Boney’s sway,
Now and for ay,
Be evermore accurst.”

Of a very opposite tendency and character is the following:—

“Melina Place, half-past Two o’clock,
“Saturday morning.
My Lord Chamberlain,—

“You and I have had a —— deal of troublesome correspondence; I trust the present will be more pleasant to us both. It ought to be so, considering the auspices under which it commences, for, by Jove, I have been enjoying my bottle since five o’clock with a few friends, and, having tired myself and them with damning the critics, for whose malevolence I do not care a single curse (save when they attack my moral character, b——t them), I sit down in desperate good humour and high spirits to write to your lordship.


“As Pye has been dished up for the worms—
“And there he doth lie,
To make a dirt pie.’
what say you, my lord, to put me into his living place? I can sing more like a lark than any Pye that ever chattered. I will undertake to keep the court in good humour. Give me the money, and you shall have odes galore. But to show you that I do not want to bargain about the Sack, like a pig in a poke, to—a specimen—

“‘Is’t wine you give the bard t’inspire?
By heaven it sets my soul on fire!
And for the tun,
I’ll write and pun,
Till Maids of Honour cry,
O G—d! I’m like to die;
How different from Pye!
Give over punning, George—with laughing I’ll expire.
“Then give a butt of sack, I’ll say,
And on the sackbutt I will play:
But sack the cash likewise.
Penn’d in his Bench,* here let me pen.
Odes to the very best of men,
And laud him to the skies.
“Through life Pre had a hellish prance,
A kind of damn’d bad Morris-dance
’Tis time now for repose.
Then give me, king, thy wine to drink,
And lend me paper, pens, and ink,
I’ll write, till all my senses sink,
Thy praise, and —— our foes.
George Colman.”
My Lord,—

“Having many hours of idleness on my hands, and being an adept at versification, it would not be unacceptable to me

* Melina Place was in the rules of the King’s Bench, and George resided at No. 7, a considerable time. Delpini, the famous clown, escaped a like fate by writing to the Prince of Wales, “By de * * * *, if your Royal Highness not help me, I shall go live in your Papa’s Bench.” But the Prince succoured him!

to try the experiment of writing the Laureat Odes, in order to ascertain if that new pursuit would kill the ennui by which I am devoured. Being in politics between a Whig and a Jacobin, the subject of our Sovereign’s praise will have so much of the Romaunt in my eyes, as sufficiently to resemble the species of composition in which I am most successful. My desires, my Lord, do not point at the perquisites or emoluments of the office. Wine I now loath—money I detest—praise is irksome to me—and the world only one dull round of apathy and misanthropy. It is for variety I undertake the task, and, if possible, to amuse the forlorn.


We have only room for very limited extracts from this candidate’s probationary ode.

“Three hosts combine to offer sacrifice;
Three tongues prefer strange orisons on high;
Three splendid standards charm the pale blue skies;
The shouts are France, Spain, Albion, victory!
The ‘foe’ presumptuous, and the brave ‘Ally,’
‘That fights’ for liberty, nor fights in vain,
‘Are met; and low on earth the spoilers lie,
To feed the crow on ‘Salamanca’s’ plain,
And fertilise the field they idly hoped to gain.’”
——“he, whose nod,
‘Has tumbled’ feeble monarchs ‘from their sway,’
Abhorr’d of men, and surely cursed of God;
Is forced now his murd’rous arm to stay:
Soon have his myrmidons been swept away.”
“Borders of the Lakes,
“11th August.
My Lord,—

“I have just received tiding of the demise of the lamented Mr. Pye. Grief for the loss suffered by the nation in so inestimable a genius will scarcely permit my sensibility to turn connectedly to worldly concerns; but, simple as I am, if it should please your good lordship to nominate me to the vacant Laurel, in good sooth I will address me to the office with my
dearest ability; and for office I trust your lordship will acknowledge my perfect aptitude.

“I am, my Lord,
“With the utmost gratitude, respect, and admiration,
“Your Lordship’s
“Most obedient, devoted,
“And very humble servant,

Here follows a specimen of this gentleman’s writing—

“Great ‘Lawgiver! yet thou dost wear
The godhead’s most benignant grace,
Nor know we anything so fair
As is the smile’ on George’s face.
“‘Flowers laugh before’ him ‘on their beds,
And fragrance in’ his ‘footing treads;’
He does ‘preserve the stars from wrong,
And the most ancient Heav’ns, through’ him, ‘are fresh and strong.’”*
“We poets in our youth begin in gladness,
But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness.Ӡ
Sack and a salary are‡ ‘there,
Few visions have I seen more fair;
Nor many prospects of delight
More pleasing than that simple sight.’
‘My heart leaps up when I behold’§
An office rear’d on high:
‘So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by’ Sack and Salary!

* Ode to Duty.

Resolution and Independence.

‡ “Look, five blue eggs are gleaming there.” See Verses on a Sparrow’s Nest. § Wordsworth’s Poems, p. 44.


Who comes next?

My Lord,—

“Having been honoured with the patronage of his Royal Highness our most gracious Prince Regent, H.R.H. A.B.C.D. E.F.G.H. and all the most illustrious of our nobility, I presume to solicit your attention to my claim to the vacant seat of the Laureat. Odes, my Lord, are nothing to my Muse. I will do wonders.

“‘When energising objects men pursue,
What are the prodigies they cannot do?’
(Ohe! jam satis!)

“N.B. My son, G. F. B., Esquire, is willing either to write in conjunction with me, or, if more agreeable, recite my odes to the court.—L. B.”

“12th August.
My Lord,—

“As I never can resign the pleasures of hope, though there may be many more excellent candidates than myself; many whose political opinions are more German to the nature of the office, or whose minds are better attuned to the celebration of royal praises; I cannot resist the impulse I feel to offer myself as a candidate for the bays. I will not debase myself by submitting any specimen of what my Muse is capable of. Such petty-fogging meanness is neither consistent with the national pride, nor the personal consciousness, of

My Lord,—

“The office of Poet Laureat being vacant, unmoved by any sinister motives, and actuated only by the pure love of fame, I will, if thought worthy of the appointment, undertake to fulfil its duties, by giving a New-year Ode in the style of a fairy tale, and, duly mingling seriousness with lightness, a Birth-day Ode from the Bible. Should this candid offer merit your lordship’s approbation, you may command, as your future Laureate,

“Daughters of Britain; praise our noble Prince!
‘Break into song! with harp and tabret lift
Your voices up, and weave with joy the dance;
And to your twinkling footsteps, toss aloft
Your arms.
Shout ye! And ye! make answer.’ Grah’m ‘has slain
His thousands;’ Well’sley ‘his tens of thousands slain.
Sing a new song.’”
Tunc ad libitum.
“King David, in his sark,
He danced in front of the ark,
His religious freedom to show;
No gloomy bigot was he,
The slave of intolerancy:
He caper’d in ecstasy,
And flung his limbs to and fro;
Tol de rol.
“Ah would that our Prince like him
Were full of frolic and whim,
In like manner to dance the Hays; *
O’er Protestant scruples skip,
Give Constitution the slip,
And tip us the Catholic trip,
As jig-led in ancient days.
Tol de rol.”

“The Lakes, 25th August.
My Lord,—

“Earnestly devoted to the Muses, and to every kind of literature, may I presume to offer myself to your lordship’s notice, as one who would be extremely glad to see what can be done after Pye. My Lord, I will not vaunt myself, but refer you to my works, of which I have produced very many, more perhaps than your lordship has had time to read; but I may, without vanity, venture to assure your lordship, that no Epic Poet has ever yet exceeded

“Your humble servant,

* No allusion to the Secretary of the Catholic Board.

“Oh King or Prince!
Charm’d be thy life
From the weapons of strife,
From stone and from wood,
From fire and from flood,
From the serpent’s tooth,
And the beasts of blood;’
From the curse of Kehama,
And ev’ry other curse or dam-a.
May sickness ne’er harm thee,
And constant health charm thee,
May the lands that are thine,
Fruit never deny thee,
And water still bear thee
Where all thy foes fly thee.
‘And the winds shall not touch thee,
When they pass by thee;
And the dews shall not wet thee,
When they’ only ‘fall nigh thee.—
“Then what a happy prince you’ll be
With a Poet Laureat such as me;
When duly here, to George the Regent’s praise,
My prince, as with an angel’s voice of song,
Pour my melodious lays
Upon the gales of even,
And sounding strenuous like a gong,
I lift his fame to th’ north-west gate of heaven,
Such harmony to all my notes is given.”

“Selkirkshire, 10th Aug.
My Lord,—

“My Minstrelsy is so renowned, that I may scantly doubt of success in this contest. In truth, I begin to be afeard that the booksellers will soon think meet to retrench in the purchase of my ballads; and only, as I am anxious to have a horse in the stable, do I submit my claims to your judgment, as a candidate for a hundred pounds sterling per annum, and a butt of good sack, as in older times, on condition of furnishing a certain quantum of rhyme, at which your lordship may have heard I possess great alacrity. The verity is, I can put one
hundred rhymes together in a day with great ease and facility; so that if we can complete this bargain, there is no peril of having sufficiency of verses for the price from

“Yours truly,

This author having enclosed a description of a court-day, of about 900 lines, we can only find room for a small but eminently poetical, picturesque, vigorous, and precise part thereof, describing the Beef-Eaters, &c.

“Ten men in arms came at their backs,
With halbert, bill, and battle-axe:
Then twenty yeomen, two and two,
In hosen white and jerkins new,
With auncient javelins in their hands,
Obey’d their captain’s loud commands.
“’Tis meet that I should tell you now,
How fairly arm’d, and order’d how,
The Soldier of the Guard,
With musquet, pike, and morion,
Stood sentry as the crowd throng’d on
Through Carlton House’s yard:
Fifers and trumpeters were there;
The gunner held his linstock yare,
For welcome-shot prepared.
“The Guards their morrice pikes advanced,
The trumpets flourish’d brave;
The cannons from the ramparts glanced,
And thund’ring welcome gave.
“Two pursuivants, whom tabards deck,
With silver scutcheon round their neck,
Stood on the steps of stone,
By which you reach the outer gate;
And there with equal pomp and state,
They tell you to walk on:
For which their kindness to requite,
Some ready cash (at Court rare!) Wight,
May tip them half-a-crown.”

Enough! surely this is sublime—at any rate it is circumstantial!!!

* He is the man after all.

My Lord,—

“Though my humble pretensions as a poet may not entitle me to enter the lists with the bards of high fame, who will doubtless be competitors for the bays, yet, my Lord, there is one secret point which I trust will have considerable weight in inducing his Majesty’s ministers to look with a favourable eye upon me, and mayhap tempt them to promote my passage to the object of my great ambition. The point to which I allude is this; I have decidedly more Borough interest than any poet who may address your lordship on this subject, all of which I am willing to devote to the service of ministers, on condition of their appointing me successor to Mr. Pye,

“Their humble servant,
“Lo! where the Prince, with glories cover’d o’er,
From wild Miami’s and from Ebro’s shore;
Thence the proud strain of victory resounds,
And triumph’s shouts fill Britain’s ample hounds;
Whose heroes wield their dreaded arms in war,
And drive th’ invaders from their prey afar,
Reluctant flying from their hoarded spoils,
While freedom springs from free-horn Britons’ toils”

Lord Nugent’s compliments to Lord Hertford, would be extremely happy to be crowned with the Laurel. As he is the only one of his family blessed with poetical talents, he conceives that his stake in the Muse’s hedge ought to be planted near those of his relations in the political. Portugal speaks his celebrity, (did Lord H . . . . ever read it, or hear of it?) and if his physiognomy should not be thought indicative of genius, he begs only to refer, for its contradiction, to that poem, which he trusts, it will be acknowledged, gives the lie to his face . . . . . Sunday noon.


“N.B. Lord N. is just going to be married, and sings thus blithely:

* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *

[We have avoided extracting the accompanying poem: it is such infernal trash. We observe, moreover, that it is disloyal, being written at the expense of the country—on some of the late Lord Temple’s stationery.]

We have no room, at present, for the other candidates though it is a cruel injustice (of which we are sincerely sensible) to withhold from the public the specimens of their productions, of which we are in possession, especially as we were desirous to refute, by their promulgation, an injurious opinion, which has acquired but too much weight with the unthinking multitude, that these authors had already written more than was worth reading. The names of some of them will prove how keen our regret must be in being deterred from rescuing them from this barbarous and unjust insinuation. We have a few strophes and antistrophes from Memory Rogers; from the twin Smiths, who have offered to belaureat the task in the dual number, according to the Athenian fashion; from Coleridge, who says he would be glad to turn his hand to anything which would leave him no cause for Remorse; from John Taylor (not the Water Poet), who has backed his pretensions from his connexion with that loyal paper the “Sun,” and, having defended ministers, right or wrong, for the last thousand years: from, and with him, the Chief of Chiefs, we will close our catalogue, William Henry Fitzgerald. Having, by a fine stratagem, disclaimed the appointment in the newspapers, he, next day, wrote to all the ministers and high officers of state separatim, to inform them of his modesty The hint was palpable, but it would not do; for Lord Hertford enclosed his application to us with the others. These were the last lines:

“Blest year!
George rules sublime: while tyrants domineer,
’Tis his to far and wide merge his mild sway;
Thames, Shannon, Tweed,
His bounties feed,
While Lawrence, Ganges, and Sen’gal, his lovely rule obey.
Hail happy day that gave him birth,
Day most auspicious for earth:
How many nations joy in thy return,
And gladdening myriads with ardour burn,
As my poor verse shall show.
Yankies no longer jaw!
No longer Spain cries Ah!
Sicilia’s blest with British law,
And Portugalia free—enjoys her O—
[Cætera desunt.