ollowing publication of his Autobiography, Jerdan was commissioned by Routledge to prepare “Remarks on his Writings and a Sketch of His Life” at the beginning of The Works of the Rev. George Herbert, published in 1853. According to the Routledge Archives now at University College London, he received ten pounds for this essay, and two thousand copies of the book were printed (RKP2, RKP6). Routledge chose an old-style type face for this book, with the letter ‘s’ looking like an ‘f’, understandable perhaps in the body of a work written two centuries earlier, but an anachronism as far as Jerdan’s contribution was concerned. Jerdan’s Introduction is particularly interesting as it is a rare example, outside of the Literary Gazette, of his opinion on literary and especially poetical work. His personal predilection was biased more towards poetry than prose, a bias which was likely to have been a key factor in the decline of the Literary Gazette. Armbrust’s essay on three nineteenth-century introductions to Herbert’s poetry concluded that Jerdan’s best expressed the understanding of Herbert’s work as a template of Christian ethics and “of the broader Victorian Evangelical movement.”
Herbert’s verse, almost all in a collection entitled “The Temple” comprised one hundred and sixty poems and contains unusual imagery. The collection was of a religious nature which made the choice of Jerdan, who was not especially religious, a curious one. However, he was well known as a literary pundit and it was on this basis that he approached his task. Jerdan’s Preface, reflecting his passion for poetry, argued that “the mission of Poetry is refining, pure and holy. If it be not, it will not last, descend the stream of time, and be cherished from generation to generation through succeeding ages. It is only as the heroic partakes of this influence, in the form of noble sentiment, that it enjoys a similar immortality: whilst wit, humour and description are doomed, however admirable in their way, to a much more limited existence.
Jerdan acknowledged Herbert’s earlier biographers, such as Sir Isaak Walton, and, basing his study on their work, gave a brief outline of the main events of his subject’s life. He then discussed why Herbert’s “orb has beamed more brightly through the shade of so many years” when those of his contemporaries have faded. (Jerdan omitted to mention Milton, whose orb had not faded much at all.) Placing Herbert into his historical context Jerdan noted that the beginning of the seventeenth century was “unsettled in religious principle”, with many clergy positively irreligious. This gave rise to an opposite extreme, of the religious fanatic. The Civil War polarised allegiances even more, and as a result of the turmoil religion was almost banished, in disgust at its “violences, hypocrises and crimes”. During the “Popish struggles” of James II, men changed their religion to suit their convenience. All this occupied nearly a century.
Into the midst of such chaos and confusion came Herbert, aspiring to walk in the footsteps of his “Master”. Jerdan remarked that in Herbert’s period the standard of poetry was not high, although he found some worthwhile work of lesser poets, naming four. Declaring he was not an apologist on either side, Jerdan said that many Restoration poets veered into licentiousness, but he suggested that “polished vice is less obnoxious and injurious than coarse and vulgar profligacy in word or deed”. Jerdan seldom let his literary judgment overpower his strong sense of morality even though his actions so often belied his creed. Herbert’s popularity, he thought, lay in his ideals being the antidote to loose living, ensuring his “descent to our day with a halo of righteous glory about him”. Herbert was passionate about music, his chief occupation besides “Piety and Poetry”. His own influence had permeated through seven generations. He “diffused a vast amount of holiness throughout the British Empire and the Universe”, said Jerdan, and attributed to Herbert “the wisdom of Solomon with the inspiration of David”, saying that over his subject’s prose and verse “is shed that divine Spirit which transports us to another sphere far beyond the cares and afflictions of our present sojourn”.
Whilst passing quickly over Herbert’s The Country Parson, observing merely that it would benefit the Church and its congregants to take its lessons to heart, Jerdan pointed out that this was a topic foreign to the purposes of his essay. From this point on in his introduction, Jerdan was on surer ground: he finally started to discuss poetry. As was usual in the seventeenth century, a poet or playwright’s work was often introduced by “commendatory verses” written by others. It was Jerdan’s opinion that these were characterised by poverty of composition, “full of commonplace compliments and exaggerated laudation in unpoetic language”. These defects, however, served to demonstrate Herbert’s superiority.
Jerdan quoted from the first epigram of “The Church Porch,” “A verse may find him who a sermon flies [/and turns delight into a sacrifice.]” He maintained this was the key and touchstone to all Herbert’s works. “His whole nature is developed in its nine words!” he eulogised. “The love and service of God: the love and use of Poetry!” Only poetry, asserted Jerdan, was exalted enough to light the sacred flame; prose appeared to Herbert to be the effort of a stammerer. Jerdan’s critical faculties were alert to the danger of critiquing work produced in a different age. Herbert’s penchant for “sprinkling strange and quaint conceits over all” were usual in his day, and were understood then to be moral pointers. Jerdan quoted some of Herbert’s verses in order to demonstrate what he meant by “conceits”, showing how phrases that were acceptable and admired two centuries earlier would, in the present time, be considered profane.
Long years in the periodical and magazine business made Jerdan aware of production details of a first edition of Herbert’s work, published in 1633, which another reviewer may have overlooked. He commented on the enhancement of some poems by “the fanciful devices in which they were typographically moulded into the shapes of angels’ wings, hour-glasses, alter-pieces and other forms analogically connected with their matter”. Jerdan saw these decorative elements as in some way dictating the shape of the verse, whilst he in no way detracted from the “substance” of the poetry. He gave several examples of the “sweet or pathetic ideas” which overflow Herbert’s pages, more suited to decoration than were the “sacred exhortations and mysteries”. Herbert’s verses, so moral and impressive in their own era were, with the effluxion of time, “liable to be lost on our fastidious era, when partial education is more widely extended, and minute criticism more largely indulged.”
Jerdan proceeded to discuss Herbert’s opening poem of “The Temple”, entitled “The Church Porch,” praising the way in which Herbert, in the name of the Church, admonished drunkenness, idleness, lying and other vices, but did so in a voice of “kindness, earnestness and love”. This was why, Jerdan believed, his writing stood the test of time. He selected a quotation to illustrate his observation, on a subject with which he had a close familiarity:
Drink not the third glass, which thou canst not tame,
When once it is within thee
He that is drunken…
He hath lost the reins,
Is outlawed by himself.
Jerdan quoted twenty-four lines on another matter which spoke directly to his own life, some lines of which were:
Be thrifty, but not covetous; therefore give
Thy need, thine honour, and thy friend his due.
...By no means run in debt…
…if with thy watch, that too
Be down, then wind up both. Since we shall be
Most surely judged, make thy accounts agree.
These words must have struck a deep chord within The Critic, who had never in his life made his accounts agree. He concluded by commending Herbert’s poems to his readers as a blessing passed down the ages.
Reflecting this solemn and intellectual work on Herbert, and reminiscent of his work for the Camden and Percy Societies, Jerdan prepared a paper for the British Archaeological Association on “Documents relative to the Spanish armada and the defence of the Thames”. Somewhat startlingly, in his opening paragraph setting the armada in its historical context, Jerdan remarked that the Pope had blessed the Spanish expedition, “the result of which showed that the benediction of his holiness was so ineffectual as to be turned into a curse.” Jerdan drew his readers’ attention to the “curious coincidences with the present day”, such as the “menaces of invasion”. He discussed three documents, the first, of December 1585, showing “Queen Elizabeth and her ministers adopting measures for putting the navy in an effective state to meet the enemy.” This dealt with wages paid to the militia, and allowances for victuals. Jerdan remarked on the smallness of the scale of such preparations, but noted that the queen had “the enthusiasm of her people to sustain her against all foreign aggression...” The second document, a lengthy one, gave the Duke of Parma’s twelve orders previous to sailing the armada from Lisbon in May 1588. Several of these orders were concerned with Catholic observances on board their ships, and instructions for the fair and equal treatment of all sailors. Jerdan noted that it was “interesting from the particular painstaking to reconcile, or at least postpone, all existing differences, and produce a unity of zeal and daring in the sacred cause of a religious crusade.” The final document was a report dated 25 August 1588 concerning the defence of the kingdom against Spanish invasion. Some of the soliders at Tilbury had not received their full pay as their captains had spent it on entertainments, and other sections dealt with the pay of conscripted men. Jerdan commented that this document “is principally deserving of attention from the insight it affords into the interior of the military service of the age, and of the determined purpose to effect all requisite reforms and redress all real grievances.” He acknowledged that these three documents were widely known, and that he could not add “any novel matter of importance” to them, but that his intention was to show his support for the British Archaeological Association, “in the prosperity of which I have taken so warm an interest since its first institution at Canterbury”.
In the same year, 1853, Jerdan worked on an entirely different and contrasting piece: an Introduction for the American book, Yankee Humour and Uncle Sam’s Fun, published by Ingram, Cooke & Co. His work was featured in Eliza Cook’s Journal, and that article was subsequently copied in The Eclectic Magazine of either June 1833 or 1853. The book was a London-published adaptation of Dow’s Patent Sermons, humorous articles originally published in the New York Sunday Mercury. Jerdan’s lengthy and erudite introduction pointed out that whilst many American writers had achieved considerable popularity overseas, very little was known about the “humorous exhibitions of the press”. His purpose was to make readers better acquainted with American humour of the various regions of the country – the far west, south west and Yankee versions. Taking Dow’s Sermons as his text-book, he said, he also took several other publications into account when researching his subject. He could not write the scholarly treatise such a subject deserved, but noted how little we know
how the Hebrews joked, if they did joke, in their dialects without points; how the Egyptians punned, if they did pun, in hieroglyphics; or how the Chinese, assyrians, Babylonians, Medes, or Persians jested when in a merry mood, and laughed at the good sayings of their Joe Millers and Sydney Smiths. Of Greece we have some Attic and dramatic remains, which enable us to judge of the fineness and asperity of Greek humour. From Rome, little of what we (i.e. England and modern tastes,) consider to be wit or humour, has descended to us. Biting satire, and epigrams, the spirit of which generally depends upon the brevity of the dictum, or turn of expression, barely afford us grounds for comparing and contrasting these two ancient aggregations of human intellect, and showing us how dissimilar they were in their playful moments and movements.
He remarked that no vestige of what made Druids, Celts or Britons laugh has remained; the Saxons left caricatures in their church carvings, and the national humour of Britain, for centuries, was ridicule or satire. Shakspeare (sic) commenced the present era, embracing every variety of humour “from the purest and loftiest range to the inferior sports of badinage, equivoque and pun”. Jerdan expounded his discussion through the wit of Jonathan Swift, after which he believed there had followed a half century of “remarkable mediocrity and dulness. “School of authorship” had led to quantities of imitators of Samuel Johnson, Laurence Sterne, Tobias Smollett, Sir Walter Scott and others, but “we have nothing like Don Quixote or Gil Blas to light up the retrospect”.
Jerdan noted that English, Irish, or Scottish humour were very dissimilar, just as Anglo-Saxon humour transported to America became nothing like its original. He gave examples of the “droll system of exaggeration” which was popular in the “idleness of the far West”: “a man being so tall that he had to get up a ladder to shave himself; an oyster being so large as to take two men to swallow it whole”, and similar examples. He quoted from popular stories published in America in 1846, commenting astutely that “In the exhibition of American humour, so much depends upon the language, that it is requisite to have some notion, not only of the newly-coined phraseology, but of the distinctive localization of the patois which belongs to various States and divisions and subdivisions of the Union.” He quoted at some length from “A Stray Yankee in Texas” which set out such distinctions, with many examples of words, phrases and pronunciations reflecting Spanish and French influences in various States.
Having covered in detail the genesis of humour in America, Jerdan finally approached his subject of Dow’s Sermons, “so full of good sense, endorsed by burlesque and whim”. Before starting on his putative subject however, he discussed the adventures of Captain Suggs who embodied the daring rascality of the go-ahead characters of the new world with a propensity for foul play to achieve his ends. Jerdan dismissed this type of story-telling as “rather a specimen of the characteristic than the humorous”. Despite this caveat, Jerdan filled a further seven pages with Suggs’s exploits, following this with a further long extract from “Georgia Scenes”; these sketches of the South, he thought, showed a “more jocular quality”. After several more pages of quotations from a successful contemporary book published in Philadelphia, concerning Major Jones’s Courtship, Jerdan filled more space by extracting from a similar book, Travels from Georgia to Canada,to demonstrate a style he said was “full of merriment, with some little spaces of sentiment”.
After dealing with what he called “Facetiae Americanae”, only on page twenty-seven did he finally come to Dow’s Sermons, of which there were more than two hundred. They attracted notice for “their Yankee style, sly sub-acid banter and quaint originality both in design and execution”. The writer, Jerdan thought, was “well versed in Scottish publications”. The sermons displayed both jest and earnest, and Jerdan noted that “The American press compares the author with Boz…” A little over a page of extract is given, whereupon Jerdan said he did not need to introduce or remark at length upon the Sermons. His whole article was very much in the Literary Gazette tradition of lengthy extracts to fill his space, but the first part was his own disquisition on the origins of humour, and displayed his not inconsiderable knowledge of history and etymology. The critic of the January 1854 New Quarterly Review did not appreciate the book, dismissing it as “A catchpenny for the railways, to which we are sorry to see Mr Jerdan’s name prefixed. It consists of very bad facetiae collected from the back numbers of the New York Mercury.” It may not have been the quality to which Jerdan had normally aspired, but in his present penurious condition any work was better than none.
Although Jerdan had completed his Autobiography and moved on to other work, there were some repercussions from his memoir. Richard Bentley had been seriously offended by one paragraph in Volume IV of the Autobiography. On page 209, headed “Publisher’s Profit”, Jerdan had described how Bulwer paid Bentley £750 to recover a copyright and that Dickens too had paid the publisher to return his copyright in Oliver Twist for £2250, so that Bentley had profited by £3000. True to form, Jerdan omitted any dates, but these transactions had taken place in 1837, sixteen years earlier.
Jerdan heard from Bentley setting out his grievance, which apparently bewildered Jerdan, who responded on 7 January:
If I have committed any mistake about you, Sir B Lytton [Bulwer], or Mr Dickens, I shall be happy to correct it, on your informing me what it is: as I cannot guess aught from a vague generality, I really do not know to what your letter alludes. I shall regret any possible mis-statement unpleasing to you.
As for any abuse of ‘confidence’ I repudiate the charge, and think it comes with an ill grace from you. From your first publication to your last, I was your steady friend, as many a warm acknowledgement from you remains to show, if I am wrongfully accused. But I wish to close my days with the good feelings which have ever governed them, and hope there is nothing to prevent a reciprocal sense on your part.
Many mutual kindnesses have passed between us, and on which side any obligation for services rendered may rest, I am willing to leave to the oblivion of yours. ‘No more pipe, no more dance’, is no novelty to, Dear Sir, yours truly, W. Jerdan.
On 9 January Bentley protested vehemently,“There is a universal feeling amongst right-minded men that communication made in private intercourse should be regarded as sacred” (British Library Add 46641 f695). He accused Jerdan of misrepresentation and gross inaccuracy and demanded that the paragraph be “cancelled”, although he failed to suggest how this might be achieved in a book already published. Indignantly, Jerdan responded on 19 January 1854,
I need not enter into any argument on the general principle as to what ought to be deemed confidential communications every opinion varying on the extent to which it should be carried, and every individual case resting on its own circumstances.
I do not feel that I have transgressed any gentleman’s obligation, and have only to repeat that if you will point out any error into which I may have fallen, and of which I am unconscious, I will do my best to remedy it…
On 19 January 1854 Bentley had declined his offer to make a public statement which could only “call attention to what ought never to have been published” and repeated his demand for cancellation of the paragraph. Bentley was infuriated to hear again from Jerdan, still affecting to be mystified as to the reason for his ire:
It seems to me that, for some reason of your own, which I cannot comprehend, you desire to fasten an unprovoked censure upon me; and I have only to repeat that unless you will state distinctly and explicitly of what it is you do complain, I cannot deal with the subject.
You surely cannot expect me to acknowledge errors of which I am utterly unconscious, though I am still very truly your friend W. Jerdan.
Beyond patience now, Bentley wrote him on the 13th, “It is idle to waste any more words on the subject…Do you, or do you not intend to cancel the statement to which I so strongly object?” He gave Jerdan until the end of the week, after which “I shall conclude that you refuse and shall be compelled to seek reparation in some other way.”
On 15 January Jerdan, perhaps fearful of a law suit, tried once again to protest that he did not understand what had caused Bentley offence: “After so long a period of friendly intercourse I cannot be so discourteous as to allow you to interpret things from my silence. I repeat that what you persist in calling your “distinct and explicit explanation” is beyond my wit to comprehend. If I could discover any error I would do my best to remedy it.”
Taking the matter into his own hands, Bentley asked The Critic to publish his letter (which they did on the 16th) stating that Jerdan’s account of the two transactions was grossly incorrect and indiscreet. Naturally, Jerdan rose to defend himself in a letter to The Critic of 1 February, protesting that he would never wish to cause Bentley the slightest injury, that at the time he had acted as Bentley’s arbiter and would not have sanctioned a “disreputable arbitration” which was then “perfectly satisfactory to all concerned”. Forster wrote an unsolicited note of support to Bentley, with Dickens’s approval, in which he recalled that at the time of the transaction unresolved matters between Charles Dickens and Bentley had been taken into account when the price for the copyrights was fixed. Bentley asked if he might publish this letter and it duly appeared in The Critic of 15 February. The editorial comment preceding it hoped that this would “close the discussion so unfortunately commenced by Mr Jerdan” who had been guilty of a breach of confidence. However, he had not “designedly misrepresented” but had “an imperfect memory of the facts after so long an interval”. This did indeed close the publicity The Critic gave to Bentley’s dudgeon. The consequence of Jerdan’s indiscretion was a low point in the often sticky relationship between himself and Bentley, whose name had not appeared in the list of Testimonial subscribers Jerdan included in Volume IV of his Autobiography.
Jerdan had also seriously upset Thomas Crofton Croker by printing three letters from Mrs Croker in in this Volume. There was nothing in her letters to cause offence, but Jerdan had not asked permission to include them. Croker, whom Jerdan considered a close friend, exploded to Robert Balmanno:
Jerdan is beneath my notice…Profligacy – recklessness – debt – coupled with the most brazen audacity – are melancholy things to see in a man whose years must make him verge on the grave. Who has deserted his wife – ruined his son-in-law – swindled the most noble of Charities – and involved many of his best friends in difficulties. [Pyle 202]
(Balmanno noted: “The Literary Fund” after the mention of charities, referring to the not-proven charge of embezzlement in 1840.)
Croker had retired from his official post at the Admiralty in 1850, and just three months after writing this angry letter about his friend of so many years, he died aged 56, and was buried in the Brompton Cemetery, an ironic twist to his assumption that it was the 72-year old Jerdan who was verging on the grave. Jerdan did not include Croker in his Leisure Hour studies of “Men I Have Known” in 1865 and 1866, although the Irishman had been a prolific writer and collaborated with Jerdan on the Camden, Percy, Noviomagians and many other societies. Plainly their rift was never healed, a situation which must have caused Jerdan some grief. He had second thoughts on the matter and featured Croker affectionately in a more minor series in the Leisure Hour in 1868, entitled ‘Characteristic Letters’.
Two poems signed W.J. appeared in Fraser’s Magazine. In March, “To a Pleasant Companion” celebrated the birth of a child thirteen years earlier, recalling that
The smiling sisters did ordain
That thou someday with jest and whim
Should rain thy merriment on him
Whose life, when thou wert born, was pain.
Jerdan seems to have had his son William in mind, who was born in 1841.
Fraser’s October 1854 issue printed Thirty One to Fifteen, a title with no apparent relevance to the poem itself, which addresses “Charlie”; the poet’s face is wrinkled, he has resigned hope and urges,“Upward thou must climb Charlie!” and ends,
I shall not tread thy battle-field,
Nor see the blazon on thy shield;
Take thou the sword I cannot wield,
And earn the prize I miss, Charlie!
Earn the prize I miss.
Be fairer, braver, more admired,
So win a bride by all desired;
Just tell her who thy soul inspired With dreams of love and bliss, Charlie!
Dreams of love and bliss.
This “Charlie” would seem to be his son Charles Stuart Jerdan, born in 1838, who eventually sailed to Australia, but returned to settle in England. Jerdan sounded tired, as if he had struggled long enough, but still wanted to be fondly remembered.
Jerdan wrote a long and careful review covering two columns of the Illustrated London News. This was about Sir Roderick Murchison’s Siluria, a geological history. On the eve of the review’s publication Jerdan wrote to the author to tell him, “Though more removed out of the circle of your remembrance than in past times, I do not forget your friendly courtesies of old; and hope if you see the Illustrated News tomorrow, you will not dislike my effort to popularize, as far as the limits allowed, your momentum ore perennus” (30 June 1852; British Library 46126/482). He hinted that he would cherish a copy of the book signed by Murchison. Reviews in the Illustrated London News were unsigned, and it is possible that others by Jerdan were published; this one has come to light only because of Jerdan’s letter; others may be revealed in due course if an office book is found for the News.
Following the failure of Tallis’s paper, Jerdan was now engaged on a project outside of his usual activities. Although reminiscent of his Bank to Barnes spoof of 1829, this next project was not a spoof but the real thing. He wote Grissell, High Sheriff of Surrey, on May 6th, that having just completed his Main Line S E Rail Manual, “I have got to Boxhill on the Guildford and Reading Branch” presumably for his next production (Bodleian e86 f9). He reminded Grissell of his offer to introduce him to the local chaplain, from whom he could glean information on items of interest in the area. Bennoch was to accompany him as ‘Assistant’.
Two scenes of the South Eastern Railway: Left: The new station of the South-Eastern Railway, Cannon-street, City. 1866. Right: First Folkstone Train Passing the Blechingley Tunnel (1843) [Click on images to enlarge them.]
The project of the Rail Manual was a commission from the South Eastern Railway to write a guide to all the landmarks and neighbourhoods along the train’s route from London Bridge to Ashford in Kent; and thence from Ashford along the three different routes available to Margate, Dover and Hastings. Jerdan wrote a detailed and highly informative guide, commencing with a description of the geology on which London Bridge Station was founded, its historic antecedents, and the cost of the present structure, noting that it had been made of iron and masonry to protect it from the fires common in that area. Lines and branches of the South East Railway covered in his book were 280 miles long, and employed between two and three thousand people. Jerdan indulged himself in a vivid description of the crowds rushing through the station, observing the differences between passengers who arrive and those who depart:
The whistle is heard, and the coming train, gradually lessening its speed, approaches its destination. In a few minutes its living freight are all crowded upon the platform, and trunks, boxes, bags, parcels, cases, bundles, and all the paraphernalia of travelling, are dragged from their repositories, and allotted to their owners for further transport by other means and in other vehicles…
The departing scene is of a different description and nowhere is the tide in the affairs of men more remarkably illustrated; nowhere does it ebb and flow with greater regularity. ...Faster and faster gathers the crowd; hundreds of pedestrians and, from every description of conveyance, descending parties jostling together, eagerly press forward to secure their tickets and to select their carriages. While without the Station walls all is a mixture of chaos and Babylon - the natural consequence of universal individual independence - within all is symmetry and regularity. To each is his place allotted and to each his allotted time.
The Manual pointed out many sights along the route or very nearby, noticing especially Beulah Spa near Norwood and the Philanthropic Farm School near Redhill, for which Prince Albert had laid the foundation stone in 1849, and was for the housing of young offenders, so that they could learn agriculture:
Thousands of brands would be plucked from the fire and saved; the criminality of the country would be relieved from contagion and greatly reduced; our colonies would reap an important benefit, and every country in England would find such an economy of expenditure as would show not how doubly but tenfold blessed are the well-conducted works of mercy and charity.
Close to his own personal interests was the Asylum for Idiots being built nearby: “Long considered to be beyond the pale of efficacious succour, the idiot and the imbecile were left to their hapless fate; but since 1847 at Park House, Highgate, and Essex Hall Colchester, chiefly through the arduous exertions of Mr Alderman Wire and the skilful direction of Dr John Conolly, with the co-operation of other zealous philanthropists a special treatment of this affliction has been successfully applied, and many cures been the result. Thus encouraged, the cause is now undertaken on an extensive scale and liberally supported.”
Jerdan’s guide continued giving, as its subtitle set out, historical, antiquarian and picturesque facts about everything remarkable along the way; engineering details of Folkestone harbour were taken from a report focussing on the “eight splendid steam-vessels” owned by the South Eastern and Continental Steam Packet Company, an offshoot of the Railway Company which had commissioned him to write the Guide. Dover Harbour (which did not belong to the company) was dismissed as it did “not rank high as one of security or refuge”. The hotels he recommended at Hastings however, did belong to the Railway Company, so the guide was a kind of advertorial exercise, but he was extremely thorough in his information and did not hesitate to give his own opinions. St Leonards, for instance, designed by Decimus Burton only twenty-five years previously, “is a gem, a toy, a pretty fancy of a town, and from its charming situation, its sunny serenity of look, its attractive promenades and gardens and its fine pure air of healthful vitality, it looks more like the realization of some romance or some scene in a drama, than an every-day town, such as have sprung out of the congregated wants of a community! Floreat, St Leonards!” Jerdan the journalist was in his element, especially as this was a part of the country he knew well, having visited Hastings and its surroundings on many occasions. He skated over Ramsgate, “a petty London transferred to the most beautiful beach of this portion of the coast and adorned with all the means and appliance for the enjoyment of Cockney idleness”, and warned travellers about Margate: “Alas! The glory of Margate, like the age of chivalry, is gone. Its grand Square is deserted, and used to be considered in old warlike cities a dangerous indication, but which in Margate was a grateful sound, namely the footsteps of the stranger, is more unfrequently heard in its streets.”
The Manual combined Jerdan’s broad knowledge of history, archaeology, personalities and so on in an entertaining and informative book of a hundred and eight pages. From his comment to Grissell about the Guildford and Reading Branch he was expecting to produce another, similar book for that line, but no further mention of it occurs, nor has any copy been found. It would seem, from a later letter of Jerdan’s, probably written on 13 September 1856, that the first book ran into trouble: “My Railbook is so far settled that it (the 1500 copies) are secured from the rogue who has sacked the advertizement money, to my infinite discomfort, and within 48 hours of delivery; I have however to pay the binding, out of torn pockets” (MsL J55bAc Iowa). Jerdan was, as so often, most unfortunate and no doubt having to pay for the binding cost almost as much as he earned for the work itself. (In one of those ironic coincidences, the British Library’s copy of Jerdan’s Manual has lost its binding.)
Repeating a pattern that had dogged Jerdan frequently in his life, he was receiving letters from lawyers and writs for five and six thousand pounds. Bennoch had offered financial assistance, but asked Jerdan for a clear statement of his affairs. Jerdan responded irritably on February 11th: “In answer to your comforting letter of the 6th I stated as explicitly as possible the circumstances which harassed me and by causing expences consumed my efforts and left me in a condition of arrear instead of progress… unless I can do something promptly I shall not be torn but scratched to death” (MsL J55bAc Iowa).
1854 was a year when Jerdan and Mary added yet another son to their brood. Edward, known as Teddie, was likely to have been born in Maidstone, where, on 12 October, his mother was in a lunatic asylum in Barming Heath. Records of admissions to this asylum have not survived, so the precise dates of her incarceration and the reason for it are now lost. For Jerdan, her illness was a disaster: there were so many youngsters still at home, although possibly Mary’s mother was still living with them and could help, as would the older children. Mary had had a hard life, so many children in quick succession and no security in the later years. She probably suffered from depression, which saw many women sent into asylums. Jerdan did not desert her, and indeed the following year saw the birth of yet another son, Charles Stuart, curiously named the same as their earlier Charles who had gone to Australia and later returned to settle in Devon.
London was again rife with cholera, this outbreak centering around the Broad Street Pump; Bennoch took his family to Scotland for six weeks, and was “well off out of the way of cholera and its concomitant alarms”, Jerdan write Fields on 25 August 1854 (Huntington Fl 2832-38). In June Jerdan moved his family from Swanscombe to Old Charlton. Their home, St Ann’s Cottage in Landsdowne Road, was only a mile or so from their earlier home in Blenheim Villas, next door to Bennoch. As he wrote Fields 21 July 1854, from their cottage they heard “waggon-loads of nightingales singing every night up to July” (Huntington Library Fl 2832-38). From here Jerdan concentrated on his American ventures, corresponding with Fields in Boston, and on the Letters he had been sending to the Boston Traveller and the Saturday Evening Gazette, an opportunity arranged by the kindly Fields who thought highly of his abilities. The Traveller had been founded in 1825 as a twice-weekly bulletin for stagecoach listings, but twenty years later had become a daily paper. The Saturday Evening Gazette had been published by W.W. Clapp since 1851. When Fields, because of ill health, had to postpone a visit to England, Jerdan wrote to tell him:
I was personally anxious to see you to learn if I had fulfilled the expectations created by your (I fear too favourable) presentations of my talent for Journalism Correspondence. I can only say that I spare no pains to acquire information as distinct from our newspapers which are usually inaccurate and to render my letters as various as possible. I shall be glad to hear how they are liked, and must confess when I meet with some of the New York papers and observed their London communications, I am rather inclined to think well of my own. I wish I cd obtain other channels in the other cities of the Union.
He told Fields in the same letter, “My project of an Edition of ancient Scottish poets of which Mr Ticknor [Fields’s partner in their publishing business]...thought so well – my Proverbs with Crowquill’s illustrations and other enterprizes of great faith and moment are all paralyzed by your non-appearance.
A month later he had received no reply and wrote anxiously on August 25th, “By this day’s packet my letters to the Traveller from April to the last of August will have numbered eighteen, and when agreeable to remember the writer, I shall be well pleased with the honorarium.” After chattily giving Fields news of his friends Bennoch and Tupper, Jerdan continued “I want more work to keep me young; for let me tell you that it is better for an old horse to keep in harness, if not too heavy, than to have alternate pull and play – as the latter gets to preponderate and make the draught (never easy) distasteful.” To his evident relief he heard from Fields soon after, in response to which Jerdan thanked him for his letter and told him in his letter of 8 September 1854,
I am taking great pains with my Boston Letters (as I hope you may see by the result of this day’s post to both organs) and I purpose going to Liverpool on the 16th to the British Association for original observation. I am greatly obliged to you for your promise to look out for other channels. From the few New York papers I see, I confess I am proud of my own efforts. In plain truth I often read in my Boston Correspondence, news quite equivalent to the London News of the date of my reception of it. In fact, our Newspapers are darkling, jobbing and ill informed and good sifting as well as authentic sources are required for genuine intelligence. [Huntington Fl 2838]
He felt time passing, and remembering the picnic in a hayfield a couple of years before, exclaimed to Fields, “Well, well, D.V. [Deo volente – God willing], we will do such things together next year – only I am getting older than the “Old Jerdan” of Grace Greenwood and no “More hay!”
Whilst Jerdan had been assiduously writing his ‘Letters’ to the Boston papers, payment for them had not arrived, as he had already hinted to Fields. In September, Clapp of the Gazette advised him that no more letters were required. On October 27th he wrote to Clapp, “I have taken the liberty to draw on you also for seventy dollars, which approaches as near as I can calculate to very nearly the end of my letters at ten dollars each and posterior to the remittance of ten pounds for which I had to thank you some months ago” (Huntington). The Life of J M Whistler (1854) equates $350 to £70, so therefore $5 is equivalent to £1. This would amount to a total of twenty-four pounds for his Gazette ‘Letters’. As far as he knew at this stage, he was still supplying the Traveller with material, but this was about to change as his American connection proved ultimately unsuccessful. His two most supportive friends corresponded about him; Fields wrote to Bennoch on December 18th: “I am sorry that the Boston papers do not wish to keep Mr Jerdan any longer in their pay. I tried every way to have him retained but it was of no avail. I also tried the other papers but without success. This grieves me, for dear old William is my admiration and I wish to show him how much I regard him. I do not think I have answered his last letter for I hate always to chronicle bad news” (Huntington BE11).
Fields had just married, and hoped to bring his bride to England in the Spring. He had the warmest regard for Bennoch, who was so supportive of his less fortunate friends, including Jerdan: “Dear Bennoch, I often think of how your kind heart must throb with gladness at the thought of relief you have in so many ways bestowed among your less happy friends. Poor Haydon! and Jerdan! And Miss M[itford]! Ah, it was a bright day when FB saw the daylight.”
Jerdan would certainly have agreed with Fields about that. Of all his many hundreds of acquaintance and friends over the years Jerdan’s closest confidant was Francis Bennoch, some thirty years his junior, but a man he deeply respected both for his literary and business achievements, and also for his highly principled, respectable way of life. Bennoch was popular with the Jerdan children, too: “As my boy Henry said one day, ‘I wish Mr Bennoch was in danger in the river drowning (how kind?) and I could rush in and extricate him!’ Not so ungrateful though not so convenient a wish!” Jerdan wrote to Bennoch (J55bAc Iowa). Jerdan’s heart was heavy at this time as Mary Maxwell’s mental illness took its toll on the family. In that same letter to Bennoch, Jerdan confessed, “My poor invalid is a sad trial for us all and I get more and more terrified at the want of employment as we cannot make shifts so economically with her, as we managed to do before, and the boys from school is another heavy grief.”
With so much on his mind, Jerdan was vastly relieved to receive an offer which he hastened to tell Bennoch in a letter probably written on 16 December 1856: “A ship owner...having offered to take one of my boys to try how he likes the sea, Henry has accepted the chance and will be received on board the Ralph Waller, 1500 tons bound from Liverpool to Australia and India. This has come very suddenly upon me, and there are only four or five days to provide everything before the ship sails” (MsL J55bAc Iowa).
He was “clean drained” and needed Bennoch’s help to negotiate a draft from Boston to outfit Henry for his new life. “[Henry] is the first of the lads to go and others must speedily follow…I hope Henry may be as fortunate as my last two exports – for Stuart is going on prosperously in Trinidad and his sister Ella so well married in Melbourne as to be able to send him £50 to clear off early settling scores. These are loads off [my] mind.” Stuart, that is Fred Stuart, Letitia Landon’s son now aged twenty-eight and Ella, Landon’s eldest daughter aged thirty-two, were thus known, at least by name, to Bennoch, the only surviving indication that Jerdan had acknowledged them as his own children.
Fred Stuart had not followed his sister Ella to Australia but went instead to Trinidad. Only one letter from him survives in the family’s possession; this was written to Ella from Port of Spain, calling her “My own dearly loved Nelly” and signed “Your affectionate loving brother”. The long letter is undated, but thanked Ella for her Christmas gift, possibly the fifty pounds that Jerdan mentioned. From his letter it is plain that Fred was not “going on prosperously” as Jerdan had said but was in despair, “penniless and homeless” and recovering from a severe illness, “bad West Indian fever”. Following in his (probable) father’s footsteps, Fred told his sister that he had been asked to edit one of Trinidad’s newspapers, and would accept as he was in need of cash. He noted that Ella’s letter had come to him enclosed in a “short cold note” from Laura, their sister in London, “the first she has favoured me with since I left England – tho’ the very last words she spoke to me the night before my departure was a most solemn promise to write regularly and freely...” Why Laura should be “cold” to her brother is not known, unless she was afraid of his importuning her for funds.
Fred mentioned that his only correspondent from home had been “poor dear Uncle”, whose constant theme was to wonder what had become of “dear Nelly…poor girl, hard has been her lot thro’ life”. It is just possible that the term “Uncle” was a euphemism for his father, but as Jerdan knew what had become of Ella, and that she had done well for herself, it is more likely that the term referred to Fred’s real uncle, Landon’s brother Whittington, indicating that he was party to the existence of the secret children. This raises the question of whether Landon had told him at the time of the children’s births, or possibly had kept her secret until she married Maclean and left for Africa, needing someone she trusted to watch over them as they became adults. Whenever Whittington knew of his illegitimate nieces and nephew, it would have been especially difficult for him, as a clergyman from a family of churchmen, to accept. The language of Fred’s letter suggests that he was well educated, “a mist of that precious salve for wounded vanity”, “so many thousand miles of that envious briny ocean between us”; it seems therefore that Landon and maybe Jerdan, had taken care to place their children in homes where they would be well brought up. The only other known document surviving from Fred Stuart’s life is a photograph sent to Ella, of a little girl about two years old, taken in a photographic studio in Port of Spain Trinidad. It is undated, and marked on the reverse “Emily Ella Stuart”.( See illustration no. 8.) Family lore is that Fred married the daughter of a Governor of Trinidad; he may indeed have done so, but no evidence to support this claim has yet come to light, and it could be another of those myths that Ella, through her granddaughter Ethel, handed down to their descendants to validate the family line.
Perhaps as a consequence of his stress over money, losing both his American columns, the cost of binding the Rail Manual, and Mary’s mental troubles, Jerdan became ill. Writing to his constant friend Bennoch he confided in a letter most likely written on 16 September 1856:
Few friends, my dear Bennoch, will be more concerned than yourself (for I have found you a good and true one) to learn that I have had a great warning, in a partial attack of paralysis. It has been confined to my right leg which was suddenly struck on Sunday noon on the shore at Hastings. I got immediate medical aid and was doctored in the Hotel room where you slept at our last visit! Yesterday I was able to come to town and say (sic) Dr Copland who prescribed and the Pres. Coll. Phys. Dr Paris accidentally, who approved. Today I feel more power and the numbness going off thought the circulation is but imperfectly restored.
I must work on and do my best to ‘die with harness on my back’. Long weakness and helplessness would be a sad business. Do you know that I have wondered how even my hearty and sanguine temperament could resist the cares and anxieties with which I have been oppressed. But no spirits can last for ever. [MsL J55bAc Iowa]
Although Fields had been reluctant to inform Jerdan that the Boston papers did not wish to continue with his Letters, Jerdan, as he told Fields on 30 March 1855, had already heard from Worthington and Flanders, publishers of the Traveller, that “We are compelled to discontinue our London Correspondence from this date. Will you do us the favour to send your bill and draft for the amount due to you” (Huntington Fl 2832-38) He wrote at once to his benefactor in Boston on February 2nd,
I have received a sad shock today by the countermand of the Traveller correspondence on which I have been bestowing such great pains that I absolutely flattered myself it was unique. I am sure no journal in America obtained such authentic and early political information – and if you read the paper I think you will observe much of interest in literary and other matters. There is however no help for it and I shall feel the vacuum severely. Mr Clapp Jnr has not redeemed his credit, which I am very sorry for. I rely on the Traveller’s remittance, 180 dollars by the earliest mail – as “Times is hard”. If you can throw anything else in my way, it will essentially serve me, I say no more. [Huntington Fl 2832-38]
Others were feeling economic pressures too, even Bennoch who was spending more time in Manchester, and according to S.C. Hall had joined the Nightingale Fund committee, to send nurses to the Crimea (1.449). “Our hilarity is much checked,” Jerdan told Fields. “Indeed, we are very grave.” He had not received his payment by mid-March, when he again begged Fields to intercede on his behalf, reiterating his disappointment at the cessation of his Letters and how hard he had worked on them. Vital as the money was, it was not the only thing that worried Jerdan. “I should be very glad of any other literary employment, as having little to do is my bane – relaxing my mind and collapsing my purse.” He was forced to follow up again on 30 March, as he had still not received payment.
Title-pages of three of the six volumes of The Modern Scottish Minstrel. Courtesy of the Hathi Trust Digital Library and Harvard University.
A task much nearer to Jerdan’s heart came along in 1855. Charles Rogers was preparing a six volume work, to be published in Edinburgh, on The Modern Scottish Minstrel, or The Songs of Scotland of the Past Half Century. Jerdan was asked to make a contribution in two respects. The first was to provide a biography of his highly-esteemed friend Francis Bennoch, fifteen of whose songs or poems were featured in the volume. Jerdan’s account of Bennoch’s life ran over several pages, concentrating largely on his poetic achievements, from youth to the present, giving examples especially of his songs to Margaret his wife. Jerdan spoke admiringly of Bennoch’s ability to combine his literary talent with the daily life of business; he pointed to the assistance Bennoch gave “poor Haydon”, who had “never applied in vain”. Had Bennoch not been abroad at the time, Jerdan suggested, Haydon would not have committed suicide. His help to Mary Russell Mitford was also mentioned, and Bennoch’s membership of the Society of Arts, Royal Society of Antiquaries, Royal Society of Literature and the Scottish Literary Institute were noted. Jerdan’s warm regard for Bennoch is evident throughout this biography, which also noted that he was fortunate in his wife, “a woman whom a poet may love and a wise man consult; in whom the sociable gentleman finds an ever cheerful companion, and the husband a loving and devoted friend.” How different, Jerdan could not have helped thinking, from his own wife shut away in the lunatic asylum in Maidstone.
Left: The dedication one of the six volumes to Bennoch, Jerdan’s friend; oddly enough the volume dedicated is the one previous to volume five, in which Bennoch’s poetry appears. Right: The first page of Jerdan’s introduction.
Jerdan’s other c ontributions to The Modern Scottish Minstrel were two songs or verses of his own. “What Makes This Hour?” is a short, sad dirge that his love had not kept her tryst, so that an hour seems like a day. The second, “The wee bird’s song,” was annotated, ‘Here first published’. The very title echoes that phrase that Jerdan used repeatedly about Landon, “We love the bird we taught to sing”. The speaker in this poem is female, listening in her chamber to the bird’s song:
And I had long been pining,
For my Willie far away –
When I heard the wee bird singing.
Her lover is nearby and hears the song too, and they are joyfully reunited:
The true bells had been ringing,
And Willie was my own.
And oft I tell him, jesting, playing,
I knew what the wee bird was saying,
That morn, when he, no longer straying,
Flew back to me alone,
And we love the wee bird singing.
Was “Willie” himself harking back to the days with Landon, when he and she were often straying, and fruitlessly wishing that life had turned out differently for them both?
Looking back was inevitable in these days of enforced idleness, and Jerdan used his time to send a second contribution to Notes & Queries, reminded by a republication of the ‘Noctes’ from Blackwood’s Magazine. This was a letter he had received from Thomas Pringle between 1820-25, (a some time editor of Friendship’s Offering), whom John Wilson had asked to be his literary agent in London, which he declined. He mentioned that Wilson’s claim of Hogg being the ‘main projector’ for Blackwoods was incorrect as he himself had been the instigator. Jerdan made no comment on the content of the letter, leaving it to speak for itself. It was to be eleven years before he again appeared in Notes & Queries, but not under his own name.
Known for his concern about the welfare and remuneration of writers, Jerdan’s charity extended further afield when, in July 1855, he originated the “Pensioners Employment Society”, from which arose the still extant Corps of Commissionaires. S. C. Hall, no admirer of Jerdan because of his bibulous and other habits, disclosed the venture in his Retrospect of a Long Life. Jerdan’s aim for this society was to find employment for wounded soldiers returning from the Crimea. Several people lent their names to the project, but did nothing further; Hall remarked that of the fifteen members, ten did not attend a single meeting, and that the brunt of the work fell upon himself and a W.E.D. Cumming. “It was no wonder that things went wrong”, Hall wrote. “Mr Jerdan was called upon to retire from the position he held as ‘Registrar and Honorary Secretary’, a very few weeks after his appointment to it, and in the then working secretary no confidence was placed.” However, a letter from Jerdan survives in the London Metropolitan Archives, dated 14 January 1856, on the blue notepaper of the “Army and Navy Pension Employment Society”, at 22 Parliament Street (Q/WIL/236). The Society was still going strong in 1882 when Hall penned his Retrospect; it was then under the guidance of a Captain Walter, and offered employment to large numbers of needy soldiers. Hall did not elaborate on why Jerdan was ousted from his honorary position, but whatever the reason, Hall openly credited Jerdan with the idea and the energy to start the organisation to help the soldiers.
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Last modified 14 July 2020