ollowing his acrimonious parting of the ways from Henry Colburn, Richard Bentley had decided to start a new magazine to rival Colburn’s New Monthly Magazine, but with more humour. Bentley first settled on the title The Wit’s Miscellany, then changed it to Bentley’s Miscellany. On being told of the change, Jerdan is said to have remarked “what need was there to have gone to the opposite extreme?” (Vizetelly 1.202-03). The joke has also been attributed to others. A bad omen, “Miss Sell Any” was another popular joke. Not to be outdone, Colburn immediately secured Thomas Hook as editor of another new magazine to take the wind out of Bentley’s sails. He gave Hook a much-needed four hundred pounds in bills as advance payment of his first year’s salary. S. C. Hall, then acting editor of the New Monthly Magazine, protested that such a move would ruin the New Monthly, and Colburn abandoned his plans for another publication. Hook had already spent his advance, suggesting that he would work it out as editor of the New Monthly and it was agreed that he and Hall would be joint-editors, an arrangement which was short-lived, Hall being paid off by Colburn shortly afterwards. This knee-jerk reaction to Bentley’s planned Miscellany cost Colburn dearly, in money and in the running of the New Monthly. John Forster could not work with Hook either, and he severed his connection with the paper. In an ironic twist of fate, Henry Colburn’s widow married John Forster in 1856.
Bentley must have watched these to-ings and fro-ings with amusement. In November 1836 he asked Jerdan to call on him to discuss the matter, being too ill to leave his room. The first issue of Bentley’s Miscellany appeared on 31 January 1837 and was an immediate success, mainly because it carried the first instalment of Dickens’s Oliver Twist, with illustrations by George Cruikshank. Dickens’s novel was not in the spirit of the Miscellany, which avowed to be non-political and humorous, but it was immensely popular. The Prologue to the first issue was written by William Maginn, as Bentley hired him and other writers from Fraser’s for his new venture.
A note from Jerdan to Bentley, undated, but about December 1837, acknowledged two advances of twenty pounds each, but, said Jerdan, he had “no idea what your scale of allowances is for my articles. Whatever it is I shall be well pleased and shall continue regularly as long as you and CD think they benefit the Magazine.” Unblushingly, he asked Bentley for another advance of twenty-five “or rather thirty”; “it is for a pressing purpose in which parties for whom I am much concerned have all at stake, and I am unable to do what I could wish.” Bentley’s accounts show that an advance of twenty pounds was made in February 1838. Jerdan wrote a number of contributions for Bentley’s Miscellany, for which he was paid one guinea per page. Between 1837 and 1846 he produced fifteen articles for a total of eighty-six pounds fifteen shillings. However, he had drawn advances from 1837-1840 of twenty to twenty-five pounds a time, totalling one hundred and fifty pounds, so ended his labours for the Miscellany by owing Bentley sixty-three pounds five shillings (Bentley account books British Library, 46651 f.143).
In 1837 Jerdan’s work appeared in the February, March and June issues. The first, a “Biographical Sketch of Richardson the Showman”, who had died three months earlier, ran to eight pages. Dickens had returned the proofs to Jerdan apologising for having “cut it a little here and there”, having had to do the same with his own articles the previous month. The subject of the Showman was close to Jerdan’s heart, loving as he did all manner of shows, theatres, freaks and exhibitions. Even though he revered Richardson, Jerdan could not resist the temptation as “a scribbler for hire”, to branch off into a disquisition on the history of Bartholomew Fair from its inception in 1641. It was at this Fair that Richardson’s independent career as a showman commenced in 1798, when he opened his first booth as manager of an itinerant theatrical show. Taking some information from an earlier writer, Jerdan described Richardson’s theatre of 1825, housing nearly one thousand people, “continually emptying and filling, and the performances were got over in about quarter of an hour!”, the show thus being repeated over twenty times a day.
When Bartholomew Fair was not in season, Richardson and his troupe travelled around the country in a caravan, and “for nearly forty years his show was the most prominent attraction of the English fairground” (DNB). Jerdan designated Richardson “the National Theatre” and described in detail some of the individuals in his company, including the famous actor Edmund Kean and, in this age of freak shows, the “Spotted Boy” (a black child with pigmentation defects caused by vitiligo), who “was a fortune to him”. Fortune or not, the Spotted Boy was treated like a son by Richardson, who was childless. The boy died very young, and on Richardson’s own death he was buried in the same grave as his golden goose.
Jerdan’s biography included some direct quotes from Richardson’s store of puns and quips, and tributes to his generosity to impoverished actors, noting that Richardson’s own fortunes had swung from rags to riches. Jerdan’s admiration for his subject shines through even his tangential account of Bartholomew Fair, and he sourly observed that fairs in general were “sinking under the march of intellect, the diffusion of knowledge, and the confusion of reform”. He asked plaintively, “Who shall now open the gates of the temple to dramatic fame? The Janitor is gone for ever.” This biography in Bentley’s Miscellany is perhaps one of Jerdan’s most sincere and heartfelt writings, even including the Autobiography that he wrote some fifteen years later. Shows of all kinds were the spice of his life, and Richardson had been the showman par excellence. Jerdan felt that his passing marked the end of an era, a sadness that is unmistakeable in his tribute, written at a time when his own affairs were in trouble, and the years of his own success seemed to be fast receding.
Jerdan had to carry on providing manuscripts for Bentley’s Miscellany, and in March his six page story “Hippothanasia; or, the Last of Tails” appeared. Noting the plethora of railway companies recently formed, Jerdan’s amusing conceit was that all the horses in the empire were horrified at this development, as they had been superseded by rail and were no longer needed. Jerdan cited Gulliver’s Houyhnhms which showed man the intelligence and habits of this noble species. Nevertheless, his fictional government ordered all and every horse to be slaughtered as they no longer served any purpose and were too expensive to feed. “Wherefore should they live? Steam-boats had thrown the wayfaring tracks out of hay; steam-ploughs, the agricultural labours out of oats… the military out of service…the mechanics out of mills and factories…” In the ensuing chaos following the great killing, asses became highly prized, cows, pigs and dogs were tried in place of the absent horses; it was the higher orders who suffered the loss most – no horses were available to draw the King’s carriage from Windsor to London: Eton boys were not strong enough, the river route was too slow. No-one knew what to do: Ministers sat around playing cards, mails did not arrive; Masters of Hounds committed suicide, the parks were deserted. At Ascot, not all was lost: sack races and wheelbarrow races were run. Jerdan gleefully described the plight of the elite Royal Horse Guards in their splendid uniforms, turning into the Royal Ass Guards, mounted upon donkeys – in short, the complete breakdown of society at every level. His dénoument is – for Jerdan – subtle. The learned societies puzzle over the “sudden and enormous rise in the price of German, Strasburg and Bologna sausages”, and to solve the mystery one must travel to the fabled land of the Houyhnhms, “and at all events, make our finale like Trojans, by trusting to the horse!”
Although this is plainly a political satire, Jerdan was no Luddite, seeming to relish the new ease of travel made possible by the railways, and there is no evidence that he felt particularly strongly about the increased industrialisation of the country. Indeed, a few years later he was to write a Railway Guide. However, the Prime Minister of the time was the Whig, Lord Melbourne, formerly William Lamb – perhaps this attack on government short-sightedness was Jerdan’s revenge on Lamb’s scolding at a long-ago party, a dish by now very cold indeed.
It was not of much immediate interest to Jerdan when, in February 1837, the boarding house of the Misses Lance at 22 Hans Place was given up. Landon had lived there, in her barely furnished room, since December 1826, but in 1834 the Lances themselves had moved out, and the new tenant was a Mrs Sheldon (Sypher 169). When this tenant left Hans Place, Landon went with her, to 28 Upper Berkeley Street West, London. Later, Landon told her confidante, Katherine Thomson, that initially Mrs Sheldon had been prejudiced against her, but after they had lived together for two years, she had been treated with affection, “almost as if I were a child of her own.” Nevertheless, Landon moved again within a few months. Jerdan did, however, become involved in Landon’s affairs yet again, soon after her removal to the new lodging.
Jerdan was in a sour mood at this time because of an article on the Literary Fund in the April issue of Fraser’s Magazine, which billed it as a conflict between the Editor of the Literary Gazette and the Editor of the Athenaeum. As Fraser’s agreed with the Gazette, in the interests of fairness they quoted at length the Athenaeum’s argument. This rested upon the blurring of distinction between the Literary Fund Club and the Literary Fund Society, promulgated by “certain paragraphs” which had been sent to the papers. The idea that these two were identical, believed the Athenaeum, was prejudicial to the interests of any benevolent institution. Mr Dilke agreed with their view (naturally, as he was the Athenaeum) and especially resisted the proposal to elect members of the Club to the Committee, which would tighten the bonds between the two. The Athenaeum reported that re-election of the committee was about to proceed when Crofton Croker opposed the re-election of Mr Dilke. Asked for his reasons, he remained silent. Jerdan stated that in his opinion the club had benefited the institution, so a person who opposed one could not be a friend to the other, and he supported Crofton Croker’s objection. When the vote was taken, only four people objected to Dilke: Jerdan, Croker, Britton and Moyes. The Athenaeum jeered that “to determine the brain sympathies” of the parties, it should be noted that Jerdan was the editor of the Literary Gazette, Britton and Croker had written for it for years, and Moyes printed it. The Athenaeum believed that “some change must take place in the committee – whether they have selected the person who ought to retire remains for proof.”
Having quoted for a full page the Athenaeum’s position on the matter, Fraser’s revealed that they could say a great deal about the Literary Fund, but would restrict themselves to merely estimating the other paper’s points instead. The argument was simply whether the Literary Fund Institution benefited or otherwise from the Literary Fund Club. The Institution dined together once a year, “on which occasions very bad speeches and very good subscriptions are furnished with a ‘continual giving’ liberality”, and they administer the distribution of funds to the needy. The Literary Fund Club were all members and most were promoters of the Literary Fund Institution. The Athenaeum’s “horror” concerning eating and drinking made them duller than usual for not understanding that club dinners aided the Institution. “What, we would ask, keeps together every benevolent institution in this metropolis? Dinners, dinners, dinners.” The Athenaeum was talking nonsense to say the Club was not mixed up with the Institution, and put this pettiness down to personal jealousies. Although belonging to a temperance society, joked Fraser’s, they recommended these two “talented editors to hob-nob together…a rivalry but not feeling it – animated, in short, by one heart and soul in the noble endeavour of humbugging his Majesty’s subjects…” Jerdan and Dilke were never going to “hob-nob” and they crossed swords again, immediately.
Despite his seemingly tireless work on behalf of authors desperate for help from the Literary Fund, Jerdan was attacked by Dilke, at a meeting of the Committee on 12 April 1837, most probably as a direct result of Jerdan’s vote against his re-election. Dilke wished the meeting to consider “the conduct of a member in respect to monies voted to him for the relief of applicants”. Although his Motion was seconded and carried, Jerdan’s reliable friend Croly moved an Amendment that the Committee proceed no further in the business, a motion that was also carried. Although Jerdan’s name did not appear in the Minutes, it was clearly he who was Dilke’s target, as on 10 May it was noted that “Mr Jerdan was heard by the Committee in explanation of the subject noticed in the Minutes of the last Meeting”.
During the course of his association with the Literary Fund, Jerdan personally sponsored some thirty applicants, many of whom made multiple applications to the Fund, each requiring separate forms and letters and, if successful, acknowledgements. He was no doubt instrumental in guiding many more destitute writers to the charity of the Fund, to be sponsored by others. Letters in the files of the Fund are full of heartbreaking descriptions of the poverty assailing writers and their families, and make plain how very precarious it was to rely upon writing for an income. Jerdan, luckier than so many, felt a deep sympathy with these men and women, and did everything he could to give them the support they needed. Veiled accusations of misconduct from Dilke, who had come from a privileged background and known nothing of hardship, must have been anathema to Jerdan’s ears. He knew enough hard luck stories to fill a book, he remarked in his memoirs, but preferred other witnesses to offer evidence “whose sentiments on the subject of literary distress and the futile nature of literary pursuits will not, perhaps, be so angrily impugned as, in certain quarters, mine have been” (4.42). He cited as “witnesses” the advice that Charles Lamb gave to the Quaker poet Bernard Barton, when the latter thought of giving up employment at the Bank in order to write: “Throw yourself rather, my dear Sir, from the Tarpeian Rock, slap down headlong upon iron spikes…Oh, you know not, may you never know, the miseries of subsisting by authorship!…keep to your Bank and your Bank will keep you.” Barton got the same advice from Byron: “You know what ills the author’s life assail,/Toil, envy, want, the patron and the jail.” Nevertheless, Jerdan’s friends were still producing successful books, Bulwer publishing Ernest Maltravers and two others, Lady Blessington’s Victims of Society and Disraeli’s Venetia, all giving the lie to Byron’s advice. Leigh Hunt published his poem ‘Blue Stocking Revels’ in yet another of his ventures, the Monthly Repository, and asked Jerdan to notice it in the Literary Gazette, a clear indication that a highly experienced writer still believed the Gazette to have influence. In the poem he celebrated female poets such as Elizabeth Barrett, Felicia Hemans, Anna Barbauld and, of course, L.E.L. (Holden 248). Lady Blessington also did her best for the Repository, but it failed within a year. About this time Jerdan received a note from Thackeray, whose periodical The Constitutional had recently failed. “Is it fair to ask whether the Literary Gazette is for sale? I should like to treat; and thought it best to apply to the fountain-head of whom I am always, the obligated W.M.T” (Thackeray Letters 313). Nothing came of this proposal.
Jerdan and Dickens were at this time socialising in much the same circles, and the bright spot of the year as far as the Literary Fund association was concerned was the attendance of Dickens as guest of honour at the Anniversary Dinner, an occasion on which he made his first public speech for the organization. Dickens had been introduced by William Harrison Ainsworth to Maclise, Cruikshank, and the young publisher John Macrone. John Forster, recently dis-engaged from Landon, took Dickens in June to see Othello at the Haymarket Theatre, and introduced him to the famous tragic actor William Macready, Jerdan’s friend. Forster acted as Dickens’s agent, negotiating new agreements with Bentley, increasing his salary to thirty pounds a month for editing the Miscellany, and five hundred pounds for the remainder of Oliver Twist, which had given Bentley’s journal such a flying start. In September Bentley had acquired the Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi who had died in May, and had given Dickens the task of editing them. The arrangements concerning the Memoirs and Oliver Twistt had repercussions which were to involve Jerdan.
Pickwick Papers was finally completed in November 1837, celebrated by a banquet on the 18th, for a select group of Talfourd, Forster, Ainsworth, Jerdan, the publisher and Macready, at the Prince of Wales in Leicester Place (Dickens Letters). Having played such an important part by his suggestion to develop the character of Sam Weller, Jerdan was invited to the “semi-business, Pickwickian sort of dinner”, by a letter from the author saying “I depend upon you above everybody” (4.365). Jerdan was delighted and noted with pleasure that “author, printer, artist and publisher had all proceeded on simply verbal assurances, and that there never had arisen a word to interrupt or prevent the complete satisfaction of everyone.” Collegial himself, but too often involved in quarrels, he would have preferred to live in a world of gentleman’s agreements. Dickens’s affairs were more business-like, especially while Forster was managing them.
Hard up for ready money, Jerdan wrote constantly to Bentley asking for help. On 10 June (with no year noted), a letter rather more explicit than many other such letters, told Bentley that Jerdan had always found him friendly, and before plunging in with his request, warned him to “not be startled by its first aspect, but look to its real features and extent”. Jerdan explained that a loan had been recalled, and he needed to reborrow the amount. The principal was secured, but he wished Bentley to act as co-guarantor with Crofton Croker, for his “punctual payment of an Insurance Policy and the interest”. He had paid premiums on the Policy for thirteen years, so it was only for the interest that he needed guarantors. In return, he offered Bentley “a Novel for next Season from a party from whom you are very desirous to have a work of that sort” (10 June; Bentley Papers). Jerdan later mentioned that he had been forced to let his insurance policies lapse, so it appears unlikely that Bentley and Croker agreed to stand as guarantors for him.
In an attempt to earn more, the Miscellany of June 1837 saw the publication of Jerdan’s longest contribution so far, nine and a half pages earning him £9.19.6. The story was entitled “John Pouledoune, the Victim of Improvements!” Jerdan was late with his story. Dickens chided him, “I feared you were not going to introduce me to the victim at all, so long have I expected him without avail.” In The Life of Dickens, the source of this quotation, Kitton does not connect this remark to Jerdan’s story and mistakenly believed it referred to Literary Gazette business. Dickens complained that Jerdan should not have blamed him for errors in the last story, as there was no time for corrections, an indication of the hectic speed at which Jerdan was turning out all the work he was committed to. “John Pouledoune” was another thinly veiled attack on the state of modern society, its heartlessness and disregard for the individual. The protagonist, son of a hosier of self-made wealth, was told his fortune by gipsies in terms that seemed incomprehensible to him. On inheriting his father’s considerable wealth, John Pooledoune endeavoured to create many “improvements”, each more absurd than the last, and each causing him serious physical harm. One such, recalling Jerdan’s earlier tale, “Hippothanasia”, was the sale of his farm horse and purchase of a steam plough which, as he demonstrated its use to his farm labourers, overturned, covering him with steam and burning coals. Another improvement fractured his arm, another left him bald and facially scarred. His fortune vanished and he took to drink, finally trying to drown himself in the Thames. However he was rescued and taken to the poor house as a pauper, dying before reaching it. His funeral was a sham, the coffin was empty. His emaciated body was displayed for medical students and lectured upon. Jerdan could not resist poking fun at the popular interest in phrenology; the bumps on the corpse’s skull inflicted by the grappling irons that pulled him from the Thames were interpreted as “organs of philoprogenitiveness, amativeness and destructiveness”. Pooledoune’s skeleton was eventually displayed in a glass case in the hospital’s museum. Thus were the gipsies’ prophecies fulfilled, the last of which was that he will be “Dead; resembling Death, yet keeping thy place among the dead and the living; thy end shall not be an ending, and every one shall know that thou art and art not!” Jerdan again spoilt the climax of his tale by needlessly observing that as Bentley’s Miscellany was a “moral magazine”, the point of his story was “May we all be preserved from the fascination of Gipsies!”
Macready’s glow about Jerdan’s kind speech at the Garrick had worn off a year later when, on 13 May, he saw a copy of the Literary Gazette’s review of Miss Martineau’s Society in America. Jerdan, like many Britons, would have had feelings of antipathy towards America which waged war when England was threatened by Napoleon; at this time, although he changed later, he found nothing to admire and wanted nothing to do with the new republic. (His view of American literature, however, was more favourable, such as his early praise of Washington Irving and later, Fenimore Cooper.) The Martineau review was, in truth, on the light side for such an erudite book. As if at a loss for an opinion on the content of the work, the reviewer (probably Jerdan) took issue with the wording of the title, while noting that the work
stands upon higher grounds. Miss Martineau is a decided politician, political economist and philosopher. Her book is redolent of all the profundities of speculation connected with these grand questions: then why give a flippant commonplace name to an article of much higher order? Miss Martineau writes like a man, and she ought not, thus, to be treated as a woman. Saunders and Otley have to answer for it.
Both Colburn and Bentley had vied for Martineau’s book, offering her extravagant sums. That Saunders and Otley were successful is likely to have caused a furious Colburn to insist on the Literary Gazette’s finding fault with it, on whatever grounds it could fabricate. Small wonder then that Macready wrote in his Diary, “Jerdan is not a man of sufficient intelligence, extent of view, probity or philanthropy enough to estimate such a work – his notice is in my mind a disgrace to himself. He does not understand, nor can he feel the truth contained in the book.” His criticism was indeed merited, but Jerdan could not possibly have had time to read Martineau’s book in any detail and still get out a review at the earliest opportunity; nevertheless, to take issue with its title in place of any serious comment, was not up to Jerdan’s usual standards, even when pushed by his irate partner Colburn. Full of righteous indignation, Macready spent the evening at Miss Martineau’s, where he knew no-one but passed a cheerful time. His disgust with Jerdan did not last long, as the following week he invited him to some entertainment. That Christmas, Macready and Kemble acted in a pantomime, where Jerdan was also on the stage, as happy to participate in a play as to watch one.
In June 1837 King William IV died, and the young Princess Victoria came to the throne to begin her long reign. The country’s celebrations were not shared by Jerdan, who had troubles on his mind. In July he wrote a brief and poignant note to Mr Burn, solicitor, of Raymonds Buildings, Grays Inn, who was probably acting on behalf of a creditor. Mr Burn knew Jerdan personally because of their work on the Literary Fund; Burn had resigned in January 1836 but was asked to remain, which he agreed to do, under the direction of the Treasurer. His letter of 20 July 1837 encapsulated his situation and his emotions: “Mr Jerdan assures Mr Burn that he is most unwilling to provoke either trouble or expence, being ill prepared for either. But at this moment he cannot help himself and must be at the mercy of any one who has a claim upon him which he cannot immediately satisfy. Several concurrent circumstances have exhausted his resources, and tho’ only for a short breathing time, he is for the instant utterly defenceless” (Bodleian Library, MS Montagu d.14 ff. 26,27).
Although their paths had diverged widely by this time, Jerdan could not have helped but know about Landon’s every action, of significance to him as it would affect the upkeep and care of their children.
Writing to Bentley on 16 December 1837, Jerdan was uncharacteristically circumspect. He enclosed two short contributions to the Miscellany, to be forwarded to “our friend Boz, suitable to the season and of no value at any other time, if of any now.” If accepted, they should not give the author’s name. He also enclosed a manuscript of Landon’s which he did not recall previously appearing in print, but was not sure. “If you like to risk it, we might put in a doubtful note.”
Jerdan planned to submit several contributions to Bentley’s Miscellany during 1838, but at the very beginning of the year was again out of funds. The long-suffering Bentley had once again come to his rescue, earning himself another heartfelt letter, which Jerdan wrote on 10 January 1838: “What you were good enough to advance as a ‘Miscellany account’ will be so long of repayment that it looks more like a donation to be without return, than a friendly aid to help through a great temporary danger. Indeed I am bound to say that for the latter it would be so ineffectual that I am wavering upon its enclosure to you, and will certainly hesitate to employ it beyond placing it at my bankers.”
Jerdan’s first of five appearances in the Miscellany for 1838 was in March, entitled “Life” and signed with his pseudonym ‘Teutha’. The scrappy haste of this piece might be his reason for using an alias. It opened with a meeting of the “Nothing New Under the Sun” Society, at which a member declared that “Life is like a week”. The members gabble “It may be like a day, like a play, like stubble, like a bubble, like a vomit, like a comet” and so on for a paragraph. The remainder of the piece described each day’s characteristics in terms of human development, Friday being personified as Avarice, Saturday with stiffened limbs and Sunday as the rest of the grave. As so often, Jerdan ended awkwardly, saying that the “Nothing New Under the Sun” Society considered the article as a novelty and worthy of the Society, and as Bentley’s Miscellany was only one year old, it was still a novelty itself. It is a short piece, and hardly worthy of Jerdan’s ability; there is no indication that Bentley made any complaint about either its brevity or its quality, but he was paying a flat page rate for Jerdan’s work, and this was mercifully brief.
Considering this to be a “rather grave article”, Jerdan sent Bentley a more humorous one for the April issue, “likely perhaps to serve the Miscellany in Cornwall and Wales” (19 February). He told Bentley rather plaintively, “I will faithfully go on every month if you do not make any lapses between, which discourage me as much as if I were a novice in writing.” He was ashamed, he acknowledged, to come to the point of his letter, asking for a hundred pounds, as money he was expecting was delayed. Lord Willoughby was due in town and would repay the loan. Jerdan sent this letter with his son, who was to return with Bentley’s answer.
The story he sent, which he hoped would appeal to the Miscellany’s Cornish and Welsh readers, was “The Snuff Box – A Tale of Wales”, which appeared in April. This odd story appears at first to be Jerdan showing off his detailed knowledge of Cornish mining, as his hero travels to Cornwall on the way to Wales, filling his hampers with samples of ore. Jerdan’s list of minerals covered a long paragraph, and included quite a number of exclusively Cornish words. This makes for a tedious reading of lists, but it is an impressive show of knowledge. He had, a little earlier, visited his old friend John Carne in Penzance and had been taken to visit mines and museums in the area. He found these of great interest and clearly remembered, or noted, many items of which he made good use in the opening lines of this story. All this erudition merely paved the way for his hero to ingratiate himself into Swansea society. Once known and respected, at a dinner party he exhibited a fabulously jewelled snuffbox, modestly displaying an inscription inside declaring it as a gift to him from King Louis First of Bavaria, for discovering an inexhaustible silver mine, and promising him a huge annuity.
Thus marked out as a desirable catch, he had his pick of potential brides, settling on one who, though not very attractive, was endowed with £30,000. The following week, a party given by the newly-weds was rudely interrupted by two rough and dirty men bursting in and seizing the jewelled snuff box, claiming it against a bad debt of eight guineas. The snuff box was a fake, and the bride’s only hope was that her husband would turn into a honest gentleman, which would be a “wonderful change and worthy of award more real than the fine Bavarian royal box.” This cynical tale of avarice and deception weighs poorly in the balance against the opening promise of learned information on mines and mining, and ends with a rather flat moral.
The strains of his depleted finances made Jerdan quite ill. In his letter of 23 May 1838, Croker suggested he come to his home, Rosamund’s Bower, to be nursed back to health (Bodleian Library MS. Eng. lett. d. 113, f144). He was worried that Jerdan’s incapacity would have a serious effect upon arrangements for the Literary Fund Dinner, “for really I know not who could take your place in directing the needful to be done.” There was a genuine friendship between the two men, and despite his recent illness and accruing financial problems, it was typical of Jerdan’s thoughtfulness and affectionate regard for his friend that he proposed that the tenth anniversary of the Society of Noviomagus be marked by a presentation to their Chairman. He suggested to J. B. Nichols on 11 June 1834 “What say you to a subscription tribute from the Club, to be presented on 2 July. If you approve, keep the secret from Crofton, and let us buy some pretty little thing of old plate or what you might think better, and give it at the Anniversary” (Bodleian Library MS. Eng. b. 2074 f68). Nichols responded favourably, agreeing that old plate, “the older the better”, was an ideal gift. Jerdan then approached other Noviomagians, including John Bruce, in his letter of 14 June 1834 reminding him to keep the matter secret until the day of presentation (John Bruce Collection, James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University).
Jerdan had confided to Nichols that he had “bestowed much pains” on the presentation he was making that week to the Society of Antiquaries, and Nichols assured him that he would be there to listen. Jerdan’s offering was of two “remarkable armlets...of great beauty and workmanship” which had been found at Drummond Castle, the home of Lord and Lady Willoughby de Eresby, when the land was being ploughed. The armlets were made of brass, respectively sixteen and fifteen inches in circumference, weighing over three pounds apiece. The Society’s journal Archaelogia described them in great detail, noting that Jerdan had consulted various references, and had dated these finds at “soon after the Christian era; in the time of Agricola and Galgacus” (28.435). A letter of 10 June 1836 to Jerdan from Henry Ellis, Director of the British Museum, indicated that these Armlets had been gifted to the Museum by Lord and Lady de Eresby (British Library, ADD70842 f.56. They are held in the British Museum’s Department of Prehistory and Europe, reg. Nos. 1838,7-14.3 a + b). At the same meeting as he displayed the Perthshire armlets, Jerdan also exhibited a fragment specimen of painting from the walls of a room in Pompeii. It is not known how he came by this fragment, but it was minuted as “an interesting example of the type and composition of their ancient Frescoes”.
Reflecting Jerdan’s illness and lack of energy were the next two stories which appeared in the Miscellany, both signed with his pseudonym ‘Teutha’, which often indicated a work that Jerdan was not anxious to acknowledge as his own. The May contribution, “Thomas Noddy Esq.” was in the style of a biography, listing absurdly improbable lineage for the ancestry of his eponymous hero. (“Tom Noddy” was a colloquial term meaning a fool; it was used by John Leech in his cartoons for Punch 1842-64.) Jerdan gave spurious and amusing references playing upon the name of Noddy, such as a Bishop Noddy: “It was from this holy man and pious divine that assemblies of the clergy were styled sy-nods. Vide Archaeologia Vol.I, p.1.” As an infant his hero was dropped by his mother and trampled by a pony, resulting in a twisted head, with involuntary winking and nodding. The remainder of the tale related the dire consequences of the misunderstandings caused by this affliction, such as the night he took the stage box at a performance of Hamlet, causing roars of laughter by his nodding and winking in inappropriate places. Being a man of wealth, he paid a huge compensation to the theatre; he visited an auction and predictably found himself the owner of large amounts of china, pictures and jewels; he fell down an open hole in the street, went to a levee and nodded and winked at Queen Victoria and finally, so upset a lady who interpreted his affliction as unwelcome attention, that her lover challenged him to a duel. He was killed and his second, who was his heir, inherited all his property. This story seems to have no moral point or deeper meaning other than as a mere amusement, and perhaps that is why Jerdan chose to sign himself as Teutha. The piece certainly does not show Jerdan at his best, nor does it contain any elements of his knowledge that can be found in other stories appearing in Bentley’s Miscellany.
The following month saw the publication of “A Windsor Ball of the Latest Fashion”. Two women and two men sharing a house threw a party to celebrate their achieving a total of 191 years. Reminiscent of his earlier “Conversazione”, Jerdan recounted the banal conversations of their similarly elderly guests, their hopes and plans for whatever future remained to them, but always with a cynical or sarcastic edge. The party was a success, some even carefully walking through a minuet. On the stroke of midnight a horrifying apparition appeared, hideous and misshapen, ghoulishly depicted with a noxious smell and blue flames. Most frightening, the ‘monster’ wore a sign on its back with the word “Influenza”. The party broke up in chaos, people fleeing the dread figure. Never one to leave well enough alone, Jerdan explained that the local ‘wags’ had costumed a dwarf and obtained the awful smells and blue fire from a chemist to terrify the partygoers. He remarked that six years later the four old friends still lived happily together, so no lasting damage was done.
This story may well have been symbolic of the way he felt in the Spring and Summer of 1838. It was a terrible year for him as Landon’s marriage loomed, circulation of the Literary Gazette kept dropping, and he was always short of money. Bentley had helped him out countless times before, but that well was running dry. In a brief letter annotated 1838, it appears that Jerdan had been rebuffed by his colleague and was deeply hurt:
my disappointment yesterday was great; so great that I must write a few lines, the last on the subject, and at least with one good quality, because they are to assure you that I will never again allude to this or broach anything of the kind again.
Of course I know that you could have rendered me the service if you had thought it right; and at the same time I am free to acknowledge that you had a perfect right to refuse, and that circumstances of various kinds might exist in your mind to warrant that refusal, and so cogent that I must simply confess their preponderence. So let the matter rest, and let me indulge in the hope that it may not occur again when so much may depend on so little. At all events you shall dismiss all fear of being troubled.
Although Jerdan was always verbose, the tone of this letter is more garbled than usual, indicating his frantic state of mind.
Another reason for Jerdan’s distracted state of mind was that on 28 July 1838 a son, Charles, was born to ‘William Stuart Jerdan’ (annexing his mother’s surname) and ‘Mary Ann Jerdan, formerly Maxwell’ (Lambeth, Surrey, Registration 4.250). Mary was living at 87 Hercules Buildings, Lambeth, which had been constructed by Philip Astley as workers’ houses, around 1818. William Blake had lived on the same site, and in a cyclical reminder of Jerdan’s boyhood memory of seeing the balloonist Lunardi, another resident of Hercules Buildings was G. P. Harding, publisher of prints of Charles Green, Aeronaut, another famous balloonist.
For ten years after Jerdan had lost Grove House the only addresses on his letters were those of the Literary Gazette office; there could have been some form of accommodation at these premises as well, but it is more probable that he had gone to live with Mary Maxwell in Hercules Buildings. Although on the baby Charles’s birth certificate she is styled as ‘Mary Ann Jerdan formerly Maxwell’, Jerdan was still married to Frances. By December 1839 another son, John, arrived, called merely “Boy” on his birth certificate, as they had not yet decided on his name (Lambeth, Surrey, Registration 4.218). This new, fast-expanding family was a drain not only on Jerdan’s energy but on his resources, stretched to the limit as the Literary Gazette declined.
He still had faithful contributors, however. One, the poet Charles Swain, sent him a humorous verse entitled “The Leek,” telling him “I think the Cambrians might to elect me their Poet Laureate for my patriotic song” (3 March 1838, Manchester Archives and Local Studies, Msf091524 (38)). His other offerings were “To Gaglioni,” a famous Italian ballerina, and “Ode to a Coal Fire (found near Rydal Mount).” This latter piece, he explained to Jerdan, had been intended as a “pleasant squib upon certain imitators of Wordsworth.” He had thought of destroying it – but left it to Jerdan to decide upon its merits. “I look upon you as my literary parent – what you burn is best burnt”, he declared. Jerdan did not burn it, but printed it in the Literary Gazette of May 1838.
In the world of drama, so fascinating to Jerdan, Macready had been collaborating with Bulwer on a new play, The Lady of Lyons, which opened in February 1838. It was successful and Bulwer, reflecting his commitment to the enterprise, refused to accept his royalties, returning to Macready his cheque for two hundred guineas. This was accompanied by a letter which, noted Macready, was “recompense for much ill-requited labour and unpitied suffering; it is an honour to him, and a subject of pride to myself." Macready called Jerdan in and told him that Bulwer’s kindness should be made public. In the Literary Gazette of 31 March readers were advised of Bulwer’s generosity, and told that “To estimate Mr Macready’s exertions and sacrifice is something, but to lay so noble a testimony of that estimation on the altar of personal sympathies and a public cause – is alike honourable to the receiver and the giver – we know no praise too high for it. With such an example, who will doubt the ultimate issue of the struggle to reclaim the stage and the drama of England.” Jerdan would have been delighted at the opportunity to extol two of his dear friends in one paragraph. In April, Macready was incensed that his sworn enemy Bunn, was elected to the Garrick Club. He resigned in protest but was begged to return and did so. Jerdan wrote in sympathy for his predicament.
By December Jerdan was in dire straits and called upon Macready for assistance. The actor confided to his diary:
A note from Jerdan asking me to withhold the cheque for £70, upon the faith of which he had borrowed that sum from me. The fact cannot be disguised; he is a man who has no conscience obtaining the means of other men. The money is gone! Wrote notes to Ransom’s to withhold Jerdan’s cheque. It is useless to make strife with a man who has it in his power to cheat you. And is determined to do so. One’s mind must be made up. He has sold me, as others have done!
The following day his entry was brief and to the point: “Letter from Jerdan. More frivolous excuses. He has robbed me and there is an end.”When Jerdan came to write his Autobiography in 1852-53, he left any mention of Landon’s death until almost the last page of the final volume, as if he could not bear to put it into words. All that he said then was, “Of the shock received by the death of L.E.L. I dare not trust my pen to write. The news stunned me at the time it was told – I fell down insensate – and the memory is too painful for even a line to bewail the sacrifice. No more” (4.378). His pain is palpable, even fourteen years after the event. The only other record of his feelings immediately after hearing of her death is the eloquent emotional letter, in which he included a lock of Landon’s hair, that he sent to the always sympathetic Lady Blessington on 5 January, in reply to hers:
Dear Lady Blessington,
Your note but too truly expresses what I was sure you would feel for the miserable calamity which has closed the earthly carreer (sic) of our wonderfully gifted friend. Could her life be told what a history would be there of Womans fated wretchedness and of the woes which genius must endure. A life of self sacrifice from infancy to the grave – of sufferings vainly concealed under mocking brilliancy and assumed mirth – of a heart broken by mortification, of spirits always forced, of the finest of human chords ever crushed and lacerated by the rudest handling, of sensitiveness subjected to perpetual injury – in features such as these are to be read the sad story of L.E.L. – Men are exposed to unhappiness, but alas what else is there for their beautiful and gentle companions?
Hard is the fate of Womankind; and the serpent whose curse contends with the heel of the one, gnaws the heart and drains the life-blood of the other. My poor, dear, all but adored L.E.L. – the creature whose earliest and precocious aspirations it was mine to cherish and improve, whose mind unfolded its marvellous stores as drawn forth and encouraged by me – well did she sweetly paint it when she said “We love the bird we taught to sing”, and truly and devotedly did I love her for fifteen eventful years. Deeply did I deprecate her fateful union with a man altogether unfitted for her, because I foresaw nothing but that misery which she, annoyed and depressed by the inconvenience and humiliations of her own position, could not or would not see.
Dear Lady Blessington, since writing these lines I have marked my letter private; for I know not how it is, I have been led to unbosom myself to you in a manner that would not do for many in our own bad world. Yes, I do know how it is! It is because I am writing to one, every emotion in whose breast is attuned to the dearest and loveliest sympathies of our Nature. May Heaven give her many happy moments. [British Library, MSS 43688 f64]
This is Jerdan at his best, not putting on any disguise, not trying to keep a stiff upper lip, but just talking to an old and trusted friend, who also was close to his beloved and was all but certain to have been privy to the truth of their situation. There were few, if any, that he could trust with their secret, and except for the occasion when Bulwer reported his drunken boast, had no confidante to whom he could unburden his sorrow at Landon’s too-early and mysterious death. Lady Blessington gave what support she could, but this was a dreadful time in her life too; she was weary with overwork and struggling to appear vital and interesting, especially when Louis Napoleon came to call whilst waiting his chance to claim the French throne. Anna Maria Hall condoled Jerdan on L.E.L.’s death, and he responded more cautiously than to Lady Blessington on 5 January 1839: “I am in truth bewildered by this frightful calamity and feel altogether unequal to think or dwell upon the subject. Heaven knows how deeply I deprecated this fatal African marriage; but poor L.E.L. was a sacrifice through all her life, and if to continue so, it is almost well it has ended” (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. Bequest, Gordon N. Ray; 1987. MA 4500).
Maginn too was appalled by Landon’s death, “and almost lost his senses for two days. In his own last hours, when he fancied that he saw visions, he said to one who watched by his bedside, ‘I have just been talking to Letitia – she has been here an hour, she sat there, just opposite.’” Maginn blamed himself for her death – had he not received those incriminating letters which his wife sent to Forster, Landon might never have married Maclean, with such tragic consequences.
Two months after Landon married, and whilst she was at sea on the way to her new life, Jerdan produced another tale for Bentley’s Miscellany, “Nonsense! A Miscellany about Love,” this time signed with his own name. Landon would inevitably have been on Jerdan’s mind, and in ruminating on the nature of love he remarked, “Perhaps it is that not being quite as young as one was, the same matter which formerly was deemed the main business, aim, scope and material, may have changed its hue, and so become to be looked upon as the Nonsense of Life.” He was clearly feeling his fifty-six years and his three families weighing heavily.
He described Love as invoked by a picture in his study, by a fictional Genoese artist Cangiaggio. His poem is in the lush romantic style of L.E.L., ending as her own verse so often did, on a note of death. Jerdan wrote fondly of love as a fledgling bird, soft and downy, full of promise, but Time passes, the bird sickens, pines, decays and dies, whilst one watched in horror. The sadness and feeling of ageing evident in this section of his article changed suddenly, as if Jerdan became aware of being too solemn. To liven up his tone, he told a story of Isaac Newton whose friends thought it was time should be married. On sitting with a candidate for the post, he absent-mindedly took her hand, using her finger in his pipe as a tobacco tamper. Her scream confirmed him in his belief that he should remain a bachelor. This, Jerdan noted, is the “comedy of love; better, perhaps, than the melodrama, serious opera or tragedy.” This anecdote was followed by another, seemingly unconnected with his topic, about a Sicilian Queen in 1347 regulating unlicensed intrigues, relating how a Jew was whipped through the streets for an infringement of the rules. Jerdan awkwardly twists this to moralise that ladies should attend to their scarfs, boas and jewels in public places, so they are not lost – a meaningless inclusion even into a “miscellany” about love. Jerdan seemed to realise this, and returned in serious vein to his theme of love: “No adverse fate, no storm, no danger, not death itself, can alter its destiny. It is high above fate; it is deeper than the storm can reach; it is safe from danger, it is beyond the victory of the grave.” He continued in this vein with metaphors about oceans, tides and boats – doubtless thinking of L.E.L. at that moment on her sea voyage to Cape Coast Castle. “The passion of love,” he wrote, “ought never to be supplanted by the passion of hate, not even of anger.” He thought that “a Quaker-like sorrow and regret” better reflected past happiness, and mentioned the Quaker poet, Bernard Barton. This is yet another clue that his mind was on L.E.L., as it was Barton who had penned a tribute to L.E.L. in those long-ago early days when she first appeared in the Literary Gazette. The verse that followed this thought is a further reinforcement of the strong impression he gave that she was uppermost in his thoughts. The fourth stanza read:
Everything fails, everything flies;
The very light of Ella’s eyes,
Even while I gaze upon it, seems
Melting away, like joy in dreams.
Ella, of course, was the name he and L.E.L. gave to their first child who, at the time of Jerdan’s writing, was about sixteen years old.
In case his readers missed his point – which in such an odd collection of writing would be easily done – Jerdan explained that his moral was that “The readers who did not understand what love is before they began to peruse this paper, will not understand it a bit the better now they have finished it.” He insisted that, “it is quite impossible for me to pen any thing without conferring a benefit on my kind”, but spoilt the altruistic effect by deciding at the last minute to include a verse of fourteen four-line stanzas entitled Cupid Couched!, a vulgar piece making fun of mothers bringing their daughters “to market”, ancient maiden ladies and the “ugly, consumptive, scorbutic, monstrous gathering” who seek love. At the close of this contribution to Bentley’s Miscellany, Jerdan referred to his “desultory and miscellaneous” chapter on love. It is a miscellany in that he mixed prose and poetry, but there are parts that seem heartfelt and true, and not mere column-fillers, as were some of his earlier efforts for that magazine.
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Last modified 3 July 2020