n 4 April 1824 Jerdan and Landon had their baby daughter christened Ella Stuart, at St. James, Paddington (Baptismal record, St James, Paddington, County of Middlesex. Baptisms 1813-26. 4 April 1824, Microfilm X029/001. London Metropolitan Archives). They gave their names as William and Laetitia Stuart, living in Paddington, with Jerdan’s occupation as ‘Gentleman’. It was common practice to use a mother’s maiden name in cases of illegitimacy, and although this was usually the maternal mother’s name, in this case Jerdan clearly had no objection to appropriating that of his own mother. In Scotland it was normal practice for a child to be given the mother’s surname in addition to the father’s, and although this had not happened in William Jerdan’s own case, he would have seen no anomaly in using his mother’s Stuart name. At about the same time that Ella was christened, Frances, Jerdan’s wife, became pregnant with her last child.
Still heavily involved in meetings and the affairs of the Royal Society of Literature, Jerdan used the Literary Gazette to promote and support its objectives. In issue 374 of March 20 1824 a report of an important meeting was published. This contained an error, describing the appointment of the Royal Associates as proceeding from a carte blanche given to the Council by the Sovereign. Jerdan swiftly received an anxious letter from the Society’s President, the Bishop of St David’s, who was concerned that the King could interpret this as a betrayal of the confidence he had placed in the Bishop. The carte blanche had been a personal matter between them and did not apply to the Council; the King had expressed his will, referred to in the report, “that no party or political feelings should be permitted to have the slightest influence in the proceedings of the society” (3.162). Accordingly, the next issue of the Literary Gazette included a correction. One of the first ten Royal Associates, who each received an honorarium of a hundred guineas annually from the King, was Coleridge. The honorary members represented both political parties and, keen to show there was no political or religious bias in the composition of the members, Jerdan recalled how he and Bishop Burgess nominated a certain M. Wiseman, “little foreseeing that he would become a Cardinal and the greatest Roman Catholic authority in England. It is almost enough to stir my venerated old friend in his tomb” (3.163).
The rapid rise of interest in gift albums had created a large market for writing which suited this medium, periodicals were started and failed, finances everywhere were becoming a source of concern. Quarrels were inevitable in the fairly small circle that made up London’s literary world. No wonder then, that in such a hothouse atmosphere, even the most sensible people found fault and picked arguments over minor matters.
In 1824 Alaric Watts, who had been a regular contributor in the first years of the Literary Gazette and especially renowned for his articles on Byron’s plagiarism, founded The Literary Souvenir, an annual to compete, amongst many others, with Ackermann’s pioneering Forget-Me-Not. Jerdan, always willing to assist a fellow literary man, gave Watts permission to use his name in seeking contributors of some standing for the new annual and sent in an offering of his own. Watts’s gratitude did not prevent him airing grievances against Jerdan’s close friend and contributor the Rev. George Croly, and asking Jerdan’s assistance in resolving the matters. They are yet more instances of the petty squabbles which arose from competitiveness. In an undated letter to Jerdan Watts belligerently announced, “Mr Croly has been acting a very paltry punt by me and I mean to tell him a piece of my mind before he is many hours older” Bodleian Library, MS. Eng. Lett. d. 114, f288.).
T. K. Hervey, editor of Friendship’s Offering (and thus a rival to Watts’s Literary Souvenir), had been told by Croly that the poor review of his books of poems Australia in the Literary Gazette, was at the instigation of Watts. Watts had not seen the review but required Jerdan to “oblige me by giving me your authority to say that I have never attempted to influence you by one word to the prejudice of the young man. What motive could I have had – Nobody thinks envy of Mr Hervey’s genius!!!” The review, in July merely said that “it was not calculated to make a dazzling impression, but there is, nevertheless, a vein of beauty in his versification which demands our notice and praise. His chief fault is want of compression…a youthful poet of considerable promise. He has much to unlearn…” Watts’s other grouse also concerned Croly; he wanted to “trace the affair home to Mr Croly. He wrote I am told a most bitter and invidious character of me” which was not printed as Croly was afraid of reprisal. “We stand at bay. Let him look out”, warned Watts. This may have been a story Watts told to his son, who recalled much later that “Jerdan was a man of genuine bonhomie, and an able and judicious critic. In his hands the Literary Gazette was conducted in an independent and liberal spirit, unless, perhaps, occasionally, when politics, religious or otherwise, intervened. There was a powerful clerical pen affected to its service in these days much concerned with the interests of ‘The Throne and the Altar’ and very severe in consequence, occasionally, upon ‘radicals’ and ‘atheists’” (Watts 1.108).
Another altercation was averted by the mediation of Owen Rees, a partner in Longman & Co. Jerdan had reviewed the work of Dr Campbell, allegedly insinuating that he had included forged letters. In letters to Campbell written on 24 and 27 December 1824, Rees insisted that Jerdan had complete editorial control and, moreover, had supported a request of Campbell’s to the Literary Fund, a matter about which he had been most discreet (University of Reading, Special Collections, Longman Archives, I, 101, 485A and 483B).
Watts, (whom Lockhart nicknamed ‘Attila’) was an influential journalist who supported the Tory party before and after his association with Jerdan and the Literary Gazette. His new venture, the annual Literary Souvenir, provided Landon with another outlet for her poetry. Authors such as Watts and Bernard Barton (who had written the first tribute to L.E.L. in the Gazette), ignored the overt tones of sexuality in Landon’s poetry, preferring to uphold the virtuous, virginal character that was L.E.L.’s public face, first promoted by Jerdan, as the “young girl yet in her teens”.
In the same year Landon’s new book of poems The Improvisatrice was published. In a letter she sent to Samuel Carter Hall she recalled that “it was refused by every publisher in London. Mr Murray said peers only should write poetry; Colburn declared poetry was quite out of his way; and for months it remained unpublished. In the meantime the fugitive poems with my signature L.E.L. had attracted much attention in the Literary Gazette, and Messrs Hurst and Robinson agreed to publish it” ( Book of Memories 269).
Jerdan had been instrumental in making the arrangements. The previous November he had sent Hurst and Robinson the manuscript of The Improvisatrice together with a press release, directing that the book should be published in March or April, and expecting that “the Annunciation will appear on all your own lists of channels; perhaps in the New Waverley Novels, which is very desirable; say in a slip at the beginning or end” (University of Edinburgh, La II 171). Although he was clearly acting here as Landon’s agent, he wanted her to have the final word on the proofs. “The printing should proceed as fastly slow as possible: for though I will correct the press and do every thing in my power for the work, I should wish every page to be revised by the sweet writer whose intelligence will probably be beneficially exercised on the printed copy.” He strongly recommended that Richard Dagley design the cover, and also a frontispiece. Confirming his status as a middle-man, Jerdan went on, “I have written to Miss L. to say I have concluded the arrangement with your House, that I shall, as soon as agreeable to you, have the pleasure of enclosing her a draft for thirty guineas, and that the profits are to be divided.” Hurst and Robinson paid her three hundred pounds for The Improvisatrice and offered to double that for her next work. It seems odd that Longman and Colburn, both partners in the Literary Gazette and therefore benefiting from her popularity, refused her book, but perhaps they were not willing to take a chance after the poor sales of The Fate of Adelaide.
Once the book was published the press called L.E.L. “the female Byron, the English Sappho, and, after the notoriously independent eponymous heroine of Madame de Staël’s novel, the English Corinne” (Lawford). Even the Literary Chronicle which had been so cruelly derisive of Jerdan and of Landon’s poetry gave The Improvisatrice a favourable review, whilst maintaining their contention that she had published too often for one so young.
The Literary Gazette reviewed the new offering in the issue of 3 July 1824. Jerdan overplayed his hand, as usual when mentioning L.E.L.’s productions:
We can adduce no instance, ancient or modern, of similar talent and excellence…simplicity, gracefulness, fancy and pathos, seem to gush forth in spontaneous and sweet union, whatever may be the theme…her poems possess one rare and almost peculiar quality – their style is purely English. In the whole volume before us we do not meet with one ambitious word, one extraneous idition or one affected phrase…it seems as if by some magic touch mean and household things were changed into the rarest and most brilliant ornaments.
She would be immortal, he thought. Jerdan’s personal taste ran to the sentimental, especially in poetry, and he could generally be relied upon to welcome such contributions to the Literary Gazette. However, his unfeigned and excessive admiration for The Improvisatrice was not universally mirrored.
He was accused by the Literary Magnet of puffing and partiality, of which he was in fact guilty in the case of Landon. The Literary Magnet (which would be owned by Alaric Watts between 1825-1828), devoted more than three pages to its review of The Improvisatrice, with minimal extracts. The thrust of their article was not so much to praise or to condemn the work itself, but to take issue with the Editor of the Literary Gazette for his unqualified encomiums. The Magnet called the Gazette “A literary journal of talent and celebrity” but protested that “when we see an instance of open bare-faced puffing and undisguised partiality, we cannot too strongly condemn, or too openly expose it.” The Magnet’s reviewer thought L.E.L.’s vast output to be of the same tone, love-sick, melancholic, sadly monotonous, and challenged the Gazette’s view that the supporting poems in this book “totally differ from each other in sentiment and subject”. “The chief fault which pervades the poetry of L.E.L.” opined the Magnet, “is its unbroken sameness.” Quoting a few lines from the “Death Song of Sappho,” he admitted it was “pretty” but could not accept the Gazette’s opinion that “we are acquainted with nothing more beautiful in our language”. This was not the first puff that L.E.L. had received from the Editor of the Literary Gazette, noted the Magnet, because as she supplied so much to that journal, “the wily Editor is not unmindful of himself”. Outraged, the Magnet asked, “was the grave Editor of the Literary Gazette in his right senses when he sent the following passages to be printed?” referring to Jerdan’s assertion of the poet’s assured immortality. While the Magnet praised L.E.L.’s “high poetical feeling”, it regretted that she had “fallen into interested hands, by which her talents are prematurely thrust upon the world, and rated so far beyond their merits.” If The Improvisatrice had been published anonymously, it wondered, would it have been so lauded by the Editor of the Literary Gazette. As a final sword in Jerdan’s side, the Magnet remarked sententiously, “… we shall always remember that there is an unerring standard by which merit may be judged, independently of self-interest, favour or affection” – sentiments which Jerdan himself purported to espouse.
The Westminster Review grudgingly granted the poetry some limited merit, but attacked the book on the grounds that L.E.L. related too much of her poetry to “love”. In the poem, they said, there was “very much that is mere verbage, and pages filled with puny and sickly thoughts clothed in glittering language that draws the eye off from their real character and value” (Dibert-Himes). In a letter dated 13 July 1824, Jerdan asked Blackwood quite baldly for a quid pro quo: “I am always happy when it is in my power to promote your interests – will you do me a friendly turn by forwarding the success of my favourite Protégée, L.E.L. The Improvisatrice where you can” (National Library of Scotland, 4012/208-9). Blackwood complied with Jerdan’s request and in the issue of August 1824 a review appeared, written by Maginn. The review was full of personal allusions, even giving Landon’s address at her grandmother’s house and directions for finding it. In the same issue, the “Noctes Ambrosianae” swung into action:
“Odoherty (pen-name of Maginn) Literary Gazettes! What a rumpus all that fry have been keeping up about Miss Landon’s poetry – the Improvisatrice, I mean. North. Why, I always thought you had been one of her greatest admirers, Odoherty. Was it not you that told me she was so very handsome? – A perfect beauty, I think you said.
Odoherty . And I said truly. She is one of the sweetest little girls in the world and her book is one of the sweetest little books in the world; but Jerdan’s extravagant trumpetting has quite sickened everybody; and our friend Alaric has been doing rather too much in the same fashion. This sort of stuff plays the devil with any book. Sappho! And Cornina, forsooth! Proper humbug!” [237-38]
Whilst Jerdan wanted publicity for Landon’s book, he must have found Maginn’s comments dangerously personal, and worried that Landon might succumb to such blatant flattery. In his Retrospect of a Long Life Hall, who had known Maginn in Cork back in 1820, commented that “Maginn came to London in 1823-4 with as large a ‘stock-in-trade’ of knowledge as was ever brought by one man from Ireland to England; yet it was profitless and almost fruitless” (1.119). Later in life, said Hall, the disapproving teetotaller, Maginn frequently got drunk “like a tap house sot”. Jerdan had taken Maginn whole-heartedly into his world, and in apologising for a lack of contribution to the Literary Gazette, Maginn told him,
You must think me either dead or very careless. In fact I am neither. But my brain is dry of the affairs I used to write for you, and must get a new supply of moisture before I begin again…Give my compliments to Mrs J. and my love to your fine boys and girls, or I should say girls and boys out of etiquette and politeness. And remember me to Miss Landon, thanking her in my name for all the pretty L.E.L.’s of her composition I have read since I had the pleasure of seeing her. [Letter of 20 October 1823, Huntington Library, San Marina, California, Al 243]
Maginn’s apparent charm hid a vicious streak of satire which he used to savage effect over the next few years.
Calamity struck the Landon family with the death, in November 1824, of Landon’s father, aged sixty-eight. Her brother Whittington was still at University in Oxford, her invalid sister, her mother and cousin Elizabeth were left virtually penniless. Landon became the sole support of her family. Many of L.E.L.’s poems from this time reflect her grief at this bereavement. Despite this, and as ever alert to public tastes, Landon was aware of a shift away from poetry to fiction. She began to add short stories to her repertoire whilst continuing to write poetry.
There was an uneasy tension between the public’s devotion to Landon’s flowery, emotional, romantic poetry, and their interest in the freak shows of the period, to which Jerdan himself admitted an attraction. The ‘ramas’, waxworks and pseudo-scientific shows had been popular, and the display of unfortunate humans for amusement was not seen then as distasteful and degrading. The famous ‘Hottentot Venus’ had come to London in 1810, succeeded in 1822 by Tono Maria, ‘The Venus of South America’, who was displayed in Bond Street. She bore one hundred scars, one for each act of adultery. She was allowed 104 by her tribe, and would be killed on the 105th (Altick 269). The Literary Gazette of 23 February 1822 sought a lesson from this unsavoury display, that Englishmen would hereafter “pay the homage due to the loveliest works of creation, enhanced in value by so wonderful a contrast” (123). Another freak show was the ‘Sicilian Fairy’ Caroline Cratchami, who was nineteen-and-a-half inches tall, with feet three inches long. In its series, ‘The Sights of London’, the Literary Gazette was ecstatic. The reviewer, who may well have been Jerdan, fell abjectly in love with this tiny creature: “I shall visit her again and again, for she is to me the wonder of wonders. I took her up, caressed, and saluted her; and it was most laughable to see her resent the latter freedom, wiping her cheek, and expressing her dislike of the rough chin” (17 April 1824. A month later he was back again, describing her appearance and behaviour. A month after that came the stark notice: “Our poor little dwarf is dead. She had been unwell for a few days; and expired on her way home, after enduring the fatigue of receiving above 200 visitors on Thursday last.” The ‘Fairy’ may have been Irish, not Sicilian at all, thought the Gazette on 19 June 1824, but if so such a ruse was unnecessary, “the wonder of so minute a form sustaining the functions of life was sufficiently astonishing” (398). Crachami’s skeleton is still to be seen at the Royal College of Surgeons’ Hunterian Museum.
The ‘Sicilian Fairy’ was treated well in comparison to the ‘Living Skeleton’, who was put on display in Pall Mall in 1825. His skeleton too is supposed to be in the Hunterian collection, but has “unaccountably disappeared” (Altick 319). The same source points out that although the display was supposedly of scientific interest, even The Lancet called it a disgusting attempt to make a profit out of human suffering and degradation. The Literary Gazette furiously attacked the exhibition, railing that the owners of the poor creature made nearly two hundred pounds a week from displaying him, but had agreed to give him more rest time between shows. “Thus he is only required to expose his poor naked frame, in moist or dry, hot or cold, at one, two, three, four, five and six o’clock – to crawl and shuffle round the stage – to have his squalid trunk griped, and his clammy extremities squeezed by hundreds – the beatings of his miserable heart counted, and all his dying symptoms of bone, physiognomy, and distortion commented upon in his hearing, and in terms perfectly clear to his understanding.” Angrily, the Gazette suggested such displays should be confined to hospitals, as a tourist attraction such as Bethlem once was, perhaps displaying two contrasting patients, one suffering from dropsy, the other from consumption. Despite his evident distaste for such ‘shows’ and sympathy for the plight of the poor exhibits, Jerdan would visit all of them, both for his own curiosity and more ostensibly, so that they could be written up in the Literary Gazette, where he could, and did, attack such barbaric cruelty.
Another, more respectable type of ‘show’, the exhibition of paintings, was given a boost when, in 1824, the National Gallery opened in Pall Mall with only 38 pictures. It quickly expanded, moving to Angerstein’s house also in Pall Mall and, finally, to its new building in Trafalgar Square in 1838.
Whilst visiting all the wide variety of ‘shows’ on offer, Jerdan’s main task was his journal, and encouraging talent wherever he found it. A twenty-year old Irishman, Gerald Griffin, had moved to London in 1823, and was a neighbour of Jerdan’s, just as L.E.L. had been. Jerdan recalled that with Griffin he had enjoyed “a literary intercourse rather than a personal intimacy, though of the most agreeable nature” (Croker). For Griffin however, the acquaintance was more significant. In November 1824 he wrote to his brother,
Since my last I have visited Mr Jerdan several times. The last time he wished me to dine with him, which I happened not to be able to do, and was very sorry for it, for his acquaintance is to me a matter of great importance, not only from the engine he wields – and a formidable one it is, being the most widely circulated journal in Europe – but also because he is acquainted with all the principal literary characters of the day, and a very pleasant kind of man…There is a young writer here, Miss Landon, the author of “The Improvisatrice”, a poem which has made some noise lately, who has been brought out by Jerdan and to be sure he does praise her…Jerdan has asked me to meet Alaric Watts at his house, when the latter comes to town.” [Griffin]
The following year he told his parents, “I set about writing for those weekly publications, all of which except the Literary Gazette, cheated me abominally.”
Whatever his other faults, Jerdan tried to be a genuine friend to aspiring authors and to treat them fairly. In contrast, one wonders whether he was somewhat troubled by his unfairness to his family. In the same year that his and Landon’s daughter was christened and fostered somewhere, his wife Frances gave birth on 10 December 1824 to Georgiana Leicester King, her last child. Six months later, on 19 July, Georgiana and her sister Elizabeth Hall Dare were christened together (Bishops Transcripts, St. Mary Abbott, Kensington. DL/T/47/26).
By 1825 Jerdan had arrived at a time which would prove to be the best period of his life, successful professionally, personally over-endowed with a complex relationship, and now, the accolade of a bust of himself made by the sculptor Peter Turnerelli, was exhibited at the Royal Academy. To have such a bust on display would have made Jerdan immensely proud. The current whereabouts of this sculpture is unknown, and no image of it has so far been discovered.
In February 1825 Jerdan became a member of the Society of Antiquaries, on the recommendation of four sponsors that he was “a Gentleman deeply conversant in English History and Antiquities” (The Society’s Minute Book vol. 25; Jerdan misremembered the date, giving in his Autobiography 1826.) In March he paid his admission fee, and gave his Bond for annual payments. Thus in April he was elected a Fellow of the Society, and for a while was involved in its proceedings. In January 1827 his close friend Crofton Croker, author of the recently published Fairy Legends of Ireland, also became an F.S.A. and in his turn introduced as Visitors other literary men such as Maginn and Ainsworth. Croker was active in the Society, giving several papers. At a literary breakfast at Samuel Rogers’s recalled many years later, Jerdan and Croker arrived arm-in-arm. They
presented a striking contrast: the fairy chronicler being little of stature – some four-foot nothing – and Jerdan standing over six feet in his stockings. Little Croker had a shining bald head, a round dumpling, good-humoured face; and Jerdan a physiognomy of hard, Scotch character, that looked as if it had been washed in vinegar and rubbed dry with a nutmeg grater…The faces of these gentlemen were by no means indices of their respective dispositions, for it is well known that Croker is by no means indulgent to others; whereas Jerdan is a merciful critic, a kind-hearted man, and a fosterer of struggling men of genius. [Dix 24]
Predictably, Hall who disliked Jerdan, also did not have a good word to say for Croker, commenting: “I knew Crofton Croker during many years of his life: he was a small man – small in mind as well as in body; doing many little things, but none of them well” (Memories 17). Hall’s wife, Anna Maria Hall, also wrote about Irish folk tales, and perhaps Hall’s criticism of Croker reflected his loyalty to his wife as much as his literary evaluation of his fellow countryman. Known for his puritanical lifestyle, and never for his bonhomie, Hall also pronounced for no apparent reason, “I did not like Hazlitt; nobody did” (Retrospect 25).
Jerdan joined the Horticultural Society, acting as Steward at two of its festivals, and he also promoted the Artists’ Fund, noting that there was no benevolent institution in London “to which I did not contribute with pen and purse” (4.34). One favourite amongst the many clubs and societies of which Jerdan was a member, was the Melodists Club, formed at the house of William Mudford, editor of the Courier. The company on that evening included Gaspey, Kitchiner and others of Jerdan’s friends, together with the famous singers Braham and Sinclair; the after-dinner conversation turned into a dispute between the singers concerning their vocal range and where falsetto began. Song followed song, and this delightful entertainment )as the foundation of the Melodists Club (3/381). Their declared object was to encourage the composition of ballads and melodies, with performances both vocal and instrumental. It was a strictly run arrangement, with dinners at the Freemasons Tavern seven times a month in the season, that is between the end of November and the end of June. According to the October 1827 Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, An annual concert was arranged for which each member received three ladies’ and two gentlemen’s tickets, and the public were admitted on payment of ten shillings and six pence (487). There were rules concerning the copyright of the original compositions contributed to the Club. Their convivial meetings became famous for the variety of musical entertainments. From the outset Mudford was elected President, and Jerdan became Vice-President. He valued his association with the Melodists highly and was proud to have been a founder member. The Age made fun of an overcrowded Melodists’ dinner a while later: “Will Jerdan stuck bolt upright in the chair, as stiff as John Murray, or the Mansion House kitchen poker. By-the-bye, we must stop a moment to enquire how it is that the learned pundit of the Literary Gazette contrives to cram himself into so many of these important offices, not that we are jealous of him, or seek to ‘push him from his chair’…a merry, talkative, three bottle, hard headed gentleman like our friend Jerdan, is no doubt a great acquisition” (1 February 1829). The Age was adept at damning with faint praise.
Literary Gazette matters filled up a large part of Jerdan’s time, both in collecting material from his various contributors, and in reviewing major books himself. As a reviewer, Jerdan always erred on the side of kindness. There were exceptions, and he was only human – he could also make the odd mistake. Once instance of this, occurring in July 1825, showed the high regard in which he was held by a well-respected and important literary person, James Ballantyne, erstwhile editor of the Kelso Mail, then Sir Walter Scott's publisher in Edinburgh. Jerdan had reviewed Scott's The Crusaders, and in the last sentence had apparently made the error which upset Ballantyne, who wrote him in a letter of 5 July 1825:
Any opinion you give as a literary man must of course be free from animadversion: but when you, an authority of great weight, personal as well as literary, tell your readers [that Scott had not written, only corrected The Betrothed] had anybody else fallen into, and published this utter error; but from many causes and especially from the uniform sense and caution which characterize your work, it does vex me as having come from you. [Pierpont Morgan MA Unassigned]
Jerdan made a note on this letter, “My mistake about The Betrothed. I think Scott never quite forgave it.” Scott and Ballantyne, having ridden a huge wave of popularity, were now riding for a catastrophic fall, caught up with so many others in the Panic of 1826. Whilst the financial world was in the state of turmoil which led to a crisis at the end of the year, Jerdan was able to concentrate on his own work. Still apparently in a good mood, ‘Teutha’ published a poem in the Literary Gazette of 25 June, following one of L.E.L.’s. His was entitled “The Inconstant: A Song”:
Ah! Mary smile not at my woes,
Nor mock my just upbraiding;
When you to Henry gave that rose
Your love to me was fading.
I sacred held the oaths you swore,
Then wherefore can you wonder
When Mary Henry's favours wore
Our ties were torn asunder.
There’s but one love - one way of love -
Whole, changeless: and confiding:
Let but a doubt th’ enchantment move,
And where's the spell abiding?
Setting aside such sentimental nonsense the following week, ‘Teutha’ was in punning mode with “The Anniversary – Epigram”:
Keeping Tom's wedding day, his friends
Boozed till their brains were addled;
They frank his bridal day! Tom sighed,
“That same day I was saddled!”
Landon would not have known which of these offerings to take as a clue to his frame of mind.
On 16 July 1825 Jerdan’s sense of humour temporarily deserted him. In his “To Correspondents” column, he placed an irritable notice castigating a reader, Mr Clerc Smith, for sending an unpaid letter advising that “Agnes Somebody intended to publish a volume of poems. If the same judgment is displayed in that production as in sending such a communication by post, unpaid, we may expect little good of it.” The following week he again inserted a notice concerning the unpaid letter, acknowledging that this was “poor rubbish to occupy any part of our Paper”. Furious at these attacks, Clerc Smith went to the unprecedented length of taking out a large advertisement in the Times of 5 August. He announced himself as “Bookseller and Publisher of St. James’s Street”, and denied that he had ever written to the Literary Gazette, and had so advised the Editor, Mr Jerdan. Appalled that a third notice appeared in the Gazette of 30 July, Clerc Smith’s advertisement described how he had gone to Jerdan’s residence on a Saturday evening, “when, not finding him at home, he left a note pointing out the necessity for an immediate explanation. As Mr Jerdan had neither the good sense nor good manners to return him any answer”, Smith had had no choice but to take out the advertisement to appeal against “a wanton and wholly unprovoked attack on the part of the above-named Editor, calculated as it was probably intended, to do material injury in many respects to Mr Smith’s character and originating in some unworthy motive which he is wholly at a loss to explain.”
In the Literary Gazette of 6 August, Jerdan ungraciously caved in, claiming that “someone has been playing tricks with Mr T. Clerc Smith and pestering us with letters in his name, which he denies having written…[and] has in consequence fulminated an advertisement in the Times Newspaper, against an individual by name, whom he improperly assumes to be the Editor of the Literary Gazette…Any complaint he might have, he ought to have addressed to ‘The Editor’, instead of visiting, as he relates, a private dwelling, and during the absence of its master, leaving an open letter which was calculated to alarm females. The Editor pledges his word that he did not even know who or what Mr Smith was and that he would be very sorry to do him the slightest injury.” This was a real tempest in a teapot, arising out of a petty remark of Jerdan’s, made on a bad day. His disavowal of being the Literary Gazette’s Editor was surely disingenuous, as his position was well known in the literary world in which both he and Clerc Smith, as literature-involved men, travelled. The whole affair seems to have been a practical joke on both of them, which could easily have ended up in a libel court.
While he was himself at the peak of his professional life, Jerdan never forgot that other literary men and women strove for a daily pittance, or sometimes for no pittance at all. One of the most successful features in the Literary Gazette’s early days was ‘The Hermit in London’, written by Felix Macdonough. Of the many desperate cases whom Jerdan helped to get grants from the Literary Fund, Macdonough’s was one case which haunted him, especially because of the “extra humiliation of those who try to keep up respectability despite penury” (4.34). He had been on excellent social terms with the author for several years until Macdonough fell upon very hard times, and was imprisoned in the King’s Bench. His application to the Athe Royal Literary Fund in April 1825 admitted that he had been “nursed in the lap of fortune the major part of my life passed in elegant life and in largely, indeed ruinously, assisting others” (Archives of the Fund, British Library, M1077/16). He wrote to Jerdan, requesting support for his application and asking for “some literary work to do”, signing his plea “Author of The Hermit in London” as if Jerdan would not otherwise recognise his friend. Even Henry Colburn was sympathetic, recommending that Macdonough be helped as “Whatever his actions have been, his writings have always upheld good morals.” Macdonough had to write several more times to the Literary Fund pleading for grants, receiving ten pounds each time. He died in 1836.
In contrast to Macdonough’s sad story, Landon was at the height of her popularity in 1825, when she published The Troubadour and Other Poems, inscribed to Jerdan, who bargained with her publishers to raise the amount of money they paid her. For a man who constantly claimed to have no ability for arithmetic, this was a surprisingly compelling letter and resulted in Landon’s earning an extra seventy-five pounds for The Troubadour, which went into three editions.
The Literary Gazette’s first review of The Troubadour appeared on 16 July 1825, most probably written by Jerdan himself, claiming that it was based on an incomplete volume, as the publication was not quite ready for the printers, (thus highlighting that the Gazette had the earliest mention of the book). Explaining that at this time he would abstain from reviewing the main poem, which consisted of about four thousand lines, it was nevertheless “calculated not only to confirm, but to augment and extend the fame of the fair writer.” Despite saying he was not reviewing the eponymous poem, the reviewer, mused on the soul of poetry, the creative mind, and metaphysics, and told his readers,
The Troubadour is concluded by a finale, in which the personal sentiments of the author are distinctly expressed. Here she leaves fiction and fancy; and after a charming description of the effect which the success of her first work, and the praise it procured for her had upon her heart and spirits so as to lead her to begin a new attempt, she addresses herself to the contrast afforded by its close, when she lost a fond and affectionate father. We never perused anything more honourable to the head and heart of a poet than this natural and pathetic apostrophe.
The insertion of this very personal detail about the poet’s private life was highly unusual in Literary Gazette reviews, and underlines how, at least on this occasion, his intimacy with Landon influenced Jerdan’s judgment of her work.
The remainder of this first review was then restricted to discussing the smaller poems only, with the usual extracts, from which Jerdan concluded, in language as emotive as that of the poet herself: “…there are so many examples (all of the finest character in their respective kinds) of the deepest natural feeling – of heroic description – of moral tenderness sweetly turned almost in epigram – of poetic romance – of elegant and playful fancy – of elevated pathos – and of lowly interest; it will, we think, be a matter of wonder that it is a youthful female whose pen thus touches so great a variety of themes and adorns every theme it touches.”
The Literary Gazette issue of 30 July carried another review of The Troubadour, with well over four columns of extracts. Tempted though he was to expand into a third week of review, Jerdan noted that he was not “inclined (eminently entitled as we think it is to such distinction) to transgress our usual habits, by carrying our review of a single poetical volume into a third Number.” He recovered his objectivity enough to comment, almost in passing, in his conclusion, “We could see some light blemishes too … certain irregularities in the versification and some carelessness in repeating rhymes – but we have been too entirely delighted with the copious originality of thought and the ever gushing bursts of true poetical genius, to put one objection on record.” A second edition of The Troubadour appeared on 31 August. The Literary Gazette greeted it rather more cautiously than the earlier reviews, though ranking it above The Improvisatrice. The Examiner cautioned Mr Jerdane (sic) to “be more discriminative and less magnificent in future, especially when a work has benefited from your own ‘surveillance’” (Quoted Sypher 70).
Under the Literary Gazette section ‘Literary and Learned’ on 1 October 1825, Jerdan gave a long quotation from the Revue Encyclopedique, considering L.E.L.’s Improvisatrice and The Troubador. It was of course a review after his own heart, full of phrases such as “Love is the domain of the softer sex…the heart of a woman is an inexhaustible source of feelings and passion.” Jerdan could only have been delighted that Landon was finding fame on the Continent as well as at home, thus reassuring him that his judgment as to her writing was sound, and not solely coloured by their personal relationship. The same issue that carried this review also had a long poem of Landon’s entitled Stanzas, one of which was:
Oh, tell me I shall not forget
The lesson he has taught me
Albeit I may not feel so much
The woe that lesson wrought me.
The poem later said:
I saw thee change, yet would not see;
Knew all, yet what I would not know;
My foolish heart seemed as it feared,
To own thee false, would make thee so.
It is tempting to read into Landon’s lines a shift in her relationship with Jerdan. Perhaps his eye had roved elsewhere, but if so, it was temporary, and they remained close as lovers and as colleagues.
Her poems continued to delight Literary Gazette readers, and almost any of them can be interpreted as relating directly to her affair with Jerdan. With their daughter Ella Stuart sequestered somewhere, and possibly unable to visit her often if at all, Landon’s poetic mood was occasionally dark. In the Literary Gazette of 12 March she asks “Is this your Creed of Love? It is enough/To make one loathe the very name of love.” She sounded jealous as if she had seen Jerdan’s eye light on another:
What must a woman feel,
Whose very soul is given
To that wild love – whose world must be
Her all of Hell or Heaven?
Then to meet the careless smile,
Look on the altered eye,
See it on others dwell, and pass
Herself regardless by.
Another March verse was called “Love’s Reproaches” and in April, she published “My heart is wholly changed.” Maybe annoyed by all this moaning and woe, in the issue of 9 April, Jerdan may have been making fun of her, as on the same page as two of her “Songs,” he printed a verse of his own called “Sickness,” and signed with his pseudonym, ‘Teutha’.
The notion that Landon’s poetry was written entirely with Jerdan in mind has been challenged by an alternative suggestion that she may have been fixated on an earlier unknown love, which had withered on the vine. This idea is supported by a quotation from Landon’s friend Emma Roberts noting: “an almost extraordinary want of susceptibility” in Landon’s later attachments. This theory is possible certainly, but the evidence of the poetry itself points to her infatuation with Jerdan; perhaps the lack of “susceptibility” was a defensive expression of a (necessarily) selfish character trait exacerbated by watching difficulties in her parents’ marriage.
Landon’s portrait had been painted by Pickersgill and was exhibited at the Royal Academy. The Literary Gazette of 28 May 1825 took special notice of it:
We have no intention to disguise our knowledge or our admiration of the talents of L.E.L., the author of ‘The Improvisatrice’ and of numerous poems which have adorned and enriched the numbers of the Literary Gazette; or the excellence of which has been fully recognized by the world of letters, as well as by the public at large. Of the portrait, and its merit as a work of art, we may fairly and truly say, that it is among the happier efforts of the truly able artist’s pencil, both in its picturesque arrangement, and its character and expression – where we may venture to quote of the subject, as well as in compliment to his talents, that
“There’s inspiration in that look, and the rapt eye,
Beams with the powers of mental exstacy.”
Jerdan was letting himself get carried away with his very partial account of this one portrait, so betraying a most personal interest in its subject. (This may be the Pickersgill portrait referred to, although it is inscribed “Æt 25”, which does not equate with Landon’s age at this date. Sypher 313 also queries the veracity of this caption.)
In recognition of the truth of his statement about Landon’s appeal to “the public at large,” by the end of 1825 Jerdan had expanded the ‘Original Poetry’ section of the Literary Gazette, sometimes to five or six full columns, mostly filled with the outpourings of L.E.L. In the year-end Index he noted for the first time, “The poetry of L.E.L. can be found in pages …”, thus acknowledging that many readers often bought his magazine largely because of her poetry. Another woman poet’s first appearance in print was in the Literary Gazette of 19 November 1825. Elizabeth Barrett (later Browning), signing her verse E.B.B., contributed “The Rose and the Zephyr,” a feather in Jerdan’s cap that he could not have been aware of at the time, and maybe not even later, as he did not mention this debut in his Autobiography.
Following the birth of the daughter she could not acknowledge or care for, and the death of her beloved father, Landon had another sadness to contend with. Her sickly little sister Elizabeth died at the age of thirteen, apparently from consumption. These weighty matters, although doubtless felt deeply by Landon, were hidden behind her social mask. Through Jerdan’s contacts and, as her popularity grew, on her own account, she was invited to literary salons, welcome and fêted everywhere.
Editors of annuals were forever looking for suitable good quality contributions. In October 1825 Jerdan received a letter from Alaric Watts, reminding him that he had contributed to the Literary Souvenir the previous year, for which Watts was grateful, “and which I had reason to know was a service to the work” (Bodleian Library 114-290). He carefully explained that he had not approached Jerdan formally for another contribution this year, knowing how busy he was; but he had noticed “pieces from your pen” in many such volumes. His “delicacy” had delayed him approaching Southey, who would probably have sent a poem. Putting aside the question of a contribution, Watts asked Jerdan to give the Literary Souvenir a true review, favourable or otherwise. Jerdan responded to Watts’s letter, and his verse, “The Three Kates,” appeared in the Literary Souvenir for 1825, which Watts claimed sold six thousand copies. The narrator sees the beautiful Katherine, “the limbs so finely formed /Round, polished soft and feminine” and hopes to make her his. Then he sees her mother, Kate, “plump, fair and forty”, still attractive. Finally, he sees Kate’s mother, her hand a bony claw, her hair thin and gray. This is his beloved’s “upward line”, but he understands this is the inevitable course of nature:
Yes, onward, onward flows the tide:
Love’s raptures bless Youth’s revel day;
The matron staid succeeds the bride,
And follows fast Eld’s sad decay.
Why then rebel at the decree?
Come, ripe and bursting bud, be mine!
Three Kates, and thou the third I see –
To see a fourth I’ll not repine.
At this time, when he had embarked upon his affair with Landon, Jerdan was still acquainted with her mother (whose name was Catherine, a name often abbreviated to Kate), and more so with her grandmother at whose lodgings Landon was then living. He had ample opportunity, therefore, to study her “upward line”, and had already taken the “bursting bud” as his own.
At Christmas 1825 Jerdan was tempted to change his residence to one reflecting his successful position in society, and go “up-market”. Moving only a stone’s-throw away from their current home in Michael’s Grove, he, his wife Frances and their seven children moved into the substantial and elegant Grove House in Brompton, also known as 11 Brompton Grove. The house was demolished in 1844, (or 1846 according to T. Croker) and stood on the site now occupied by Ovington Gardens.
He later admitted this to be an error, as although he had a large enough income to run a smart establishment, he had not yet cleared his debts. The brother of George Twining, of the long-established tea business, whose new bank had opened on 12 November 1825, had changed his mind about taking a lease on Grove House. On the assumption that Jerdan’s promotion of the bank to his large circle of colleagues and acquaintance would be good for business, Twining convinced him that to be seen to live in such a grand residence would increase sales of the Literary Gazette, on the basis that success breeds success. Jerdan subsequently noted “which it did, very considerably: wordly appearances go a great way in promoting success! What is a Physician without a carriage!” (3.303). To clinch the deal, Twining assured Jerdan that one thousand pounds would be credited to his bank account, an irresistible offer. This generosity turned out to have strings that Jerdan did not mention.
Grove House itself had an illustrious history which might have attracted Jerdan as much as the amenities it provided. It was the largest of three houses built in 1763, a handsome detached building having a one hundred foot frontage to the road. The house was five windows wide and three storeys high. Next to the stables at the rear was “an unusual appendage”, a 90’ x 30’ riding theatre, to allow exercise whatever the weather (Survey of London vol. 11). The first occupant of Grove House was Bartholomew Gallatin, Colonel of the 2nd Troop of Horse Grenadiers; he was followed by Sir George Savile, a politician. From 1794 to his death in 1821 Grove House was occupied by the larger-than-life figure of Sir John Macpherson, briefly Governor of India after Warren Hastings. (In 1805 Macpherson used Grove House as security for a mortgage of ten thousand pounds from the East India Company.) He added a single storey drawing room of 30 x18’ on the east side of the house, allegedly for entertaining the Prince Regent, a feature Jerdan would have greatly admired. Macpherson was known locally as the “gentle giant”, “from his usually riding a very small pony and flourishing in a most determined manner a huge oak stick over the animal’s head but never touching it with his club.” In complete contrast to this lively and eccentric occupant came the next tenant, William Wilberforce, who lived in Grove House from 1823-1825. Wilberforce resided in Grove House during the period in which he made his last speeches in the House of Commons in debates on the anti-slavery issue. Illness forced him to resign his seat and he moved to Highwood, Mill Hill, north of London.
The Jerdan family took over the house from Wilberforce. They were amazed to find so many comforts in the home “of a gentleman so pre-eminent in the religious world”. There was a modern kitchen range, large enough to cater for fifty people a day and, to Jerdan’s wonderment, a fascinating wine cellar. As the move had taken place in winter, an unpropitious time to move such treasures, Wilberforce had asked a favour of Jerdan, to leave the cellar of wine to be moved in the spring. As well as a curious selection of wines with some fine vintages, Wilberforce stored a collection of artefacts given to him as a consequence of his involvement with slavery issues. Jerdan invested a considerable part of the money Twining had supplied in furnishing his new home, and the family relished the grandeur of the house and enjoyed all the room for entertaining that it afforded. They gave many parties in Grove House and living in such a residence, with congenial neighbours, would have given Jerdan immense gratification, especially as his idol George Canning lived nearby.
Reminiscing years later, William Pitt, Lord Lennox, recalled
During the time Jerdan lived at Brompton, his house was ever open to all the leading literary men, artists, dramatic authors and actors of the day. Nothing could be more delightful than his dinner parties, as I can vouch for, having often participated in his hospitality. Hook…Lord Normanby…Chief Baron Pollock…Judge Talfourd…were constant guests at his table. Jerdan was full of anecdote and his conversational powers were equal to his critical ones…he strenuously advocated the English, now almost obsolete, custom of sitting late after dinner, denouncing the foreign habit of quitting the table with the ladies as a dreadful innovation – a perfect abomination. [2.35]
This custom so impressed Lord Lennox that he quoted from Jerdan’s own words on the subject, from [an unidentified] work Jerdan had written and which he was often in the habit of quoting:
We have always thought that the one English custom which raises us immeasureably above all other races and types of humanity, is that of sitting over our wine after dinner. In what other portion of the twenty-four hours have we either time or inclination for more talk? And is not the faculty of talk that which denotes the superiority of man over brutes? To talk, therefore, a certain part of the day must be devoted. Other nations mix up their talk with their business, and the consequence is, that neither talk nor business is done well. We, on the contrary, work while we are at it, and have all our talk out just at that very portion of our lives when it is physically, intellectually, and morally most beneficial to us. The pleasant talk promotes digestion, and prevents the mind from dwelling on the grinding of the digestive mill that is going on within us. The satisfaction and repose which follow a full meal tend to check a disposition to splenetic argument, or too much zeal in supporting an opinion; while the freedom and abandon of the intercourse which is thus kept up is eminently conducive to feelings of general benevolence. It is not too much, perhaps, to say that our ‘glorious constitution’ (not only as individuals, but as a body politic) is owing to the habit which the British Lion observes, ‘of sitting over his wine after dinner’.
Another chronicler of the times noted that “Mr Jerdan was fond of eclât and fine company… of him it was said he had been fond of running a wheelbarrow round the gravel in front of his house, to represent carriage visitors!” The author remarked that this anecdote was probably an envious ‘jeu d’esprit’, “but it showed in what light it was possible to view him” (Scott, LEL Works) It is a wonderful image – even if it is imaginary.
This move into grandeur epitomised Jerdan’s bad luck and bad timing as far as money matters were concerned. The industrial revolution was proceeding apace; the first railway line opened, and Brunel sank the first shaft of the Thames tunnel, while a chain suspension bridge appeared over the Menai Straits. In the financial world however, all was not well. Jerdan was not unaware of the storm which was brewing. In the Literary Gazette of 19 November, under the heading of ‘Politics’, normally only one or two lines, appeared the paragraph: “The fall of the Funds is news which oddly enough seems to affect every body – those who have money, and those who have none. It is after all a riddle, and apparently quite inexplicable.” It was, however, explicable, and led, over that winter and into the new year, to the Panic of 1826.
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Last modified 16 June 2020