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[“A Day in Kent,’ which appeared on pp. 17-33 in Fraser’s Magazine of February 1832, portrays the kind of wandering ramble outside London that Charles Dickens drew upon for Pickwick Papers, the difference here being that the author gives his characters the names of real people, including Tom Moore, Tom Campbell, and William Jerdan. He also includes a fictional Tom Manumitter and his servant, a “free black”. Susan Matoff explains that “‘to manumit” is to free from slavery. The Slave Trade Act of 1807 outlawed the slave trade in the British Empire, but it was not until 1833 that the Slave Abolition Act was passed. Slavery and the nature of Africans were therefore topics of contemporary interest at the time of the outing.” Fraser’s Magazine, which the previous month had published “Letters on Slavery” by John Galt, that claimed slaves in Jamaica were well-treated and happy in their servitude, in this story describes the Black servant in grossly racist terms as ignorant and barely human. Jerdan, however, at one point agrees with Mungo when his employer abuses him for pointing that the carriage in which they are traveling is overheated. Matoff summarizes adventure in the following paragraphs. — George P. Landow] .
A group of friends, including Jerdan, Moore, Campbell, Croly, Manumitter, Mungo, and other servants escaped “the murky atmosphere of this pestiferous metropolis” to go fishing near Shoreham. Fraser’s Magazine irreverently described the Reverend Croly’s appearance and appurtenances, his “green shalloon jacket with duck trowsers, white as driven snow and wide and magnificent as the interminable gulf, yawning for the avalanche...” Thomas Moore wore white-buttoned pantaloons and slippers of pale brown leather with an orange waistcoat and jacket, in the pocket of which was a stash of maggots carefully wrapped in a page from his Life of Byron. Manumitter and Campbell were similarly scrutinised and mocked for their strange attire.
But no-one excelled in outward man our peculiar friend Jerdan. Furze and bramble bushes are great enemies to comfort; he therefore drew on a pair of good doe skin sad-coloured breeches, with leggins of tough fustian. His jacket was tightly bound round the waist with a black glazed leathern belt, a willow hat sat jauntily cocked on one side of the head; a netted bag was suspended from the girdle, and a natty imitation Indian cane stick curiously contained his rod. In his pocket lay our Magazine (for he could not for love or money recover a number of the Literary) to hold all his good things, either for man or fish.
One of the fictional characters, Mungo, the black servant, alludes to Mungo Park (1771-1806), who was a famous but unsuccessful African explorer. Squeezed into a closed carriage for their departure from London, he complains of the heat and Jerdan agrees, proclaiming ‘it is infernally hot, and something else besides; and although all the fish that ever clove the Tweed were to be the reward, I shall travel no farther like a potted char in rank grease and fetid abomination. So here I go’. And our friend, springing out, rushed to a stand, and ordered immediate delivery of four score oysters, and a dozen of ginger beer.” They disembarked after a skirmish between Mungo and the driver over a sixpence. The skies darkened, and on a bleak road, a stage-coach appeared. “‘We had better get in here’, said Jerdan. ‘We are going to have an evening that would revivify all the ducks and toads that have expired since the creation of the world. Four wheels for me.’” Jerdan leapt into the coach, joined by ‘Oliver Yorke’ (the embodiment of Fraser’s Magazine).
Whilst the rest of the party trudged on in the rain, finally getting a lift in a cart half full of cheese and onions, Jerdan and Yorke passed a comfortable night at the Red Lion of Farningham. At daybreak, the cart full of their friends arrived, causing much commotion. “‘God be praised, they have reached this safe at last’, exclaimed Jerdan, stretching out his neck out of the window, his head surmounted with a tapering red nightcap, (which having got entangled with the bell pull, every nod he gave filled the house with noise and confusion.”
After a mountainous breakfast, Tom Moore went fishing in the noxious pond opposite the hostelry and with much to-do, fished out a dog the landlord had drowned the previous night. The group left instantly, climbing the hills above the Tarrant, getting overheated with the effort. “No wonder,” remarked Jerdan dryly, “considering these are the dog days.” Stopping for refreshment at the house of Mr and Mrs Day in Shoreham, they stripped the place of ale and hams. “In a trice Croly’s face was hidden in foam, and Jerdan was gnawing a pork shin-bone of a flavour which would have corrupted the purity of Hyam Barnet himself.” Having eaten his fill, Jerdan (so said Fraser’s), was ready to hold forth:
“But I’m astonished,” continued our friend, wiping his lips, and folding half a cold fowl in an old John Bull, and depositing it in one of his wallet looking pockets, “I am ashamed to see you devote the glory of the morn to the indulgence of the grosser appetites, especially in these times of unprecedented distress and suffering, when the poor, even with the sweat of their brows, and the heart-wringing agonies of sleepless nights and overwrought days…Landlady, I’ll trouble you for a thimble full of Hollands [i.e. gin], and let the claret be iced into a delicious coolness by the time we return. . . . Here I hoist my pennon…”
Many more pages were devoted to the fishing adventures of the party, uproarious and amusing, including an encounter with Hogg, who had not previously been mentioned, an opportunity for Maginn, the author, to indulge in some Scottish dialect, and more wild adventures. Jerdan was not mentioned again until Hogg, believing he was dying from having swallowed poison (which was only cold punch) spoke to “Maister Jergun” telling him
“Farewell, also, thou son of mirth, and grandson of pun! I leave to thee a legacy. When I am no more, if perchance sorrow reaches the bosom of my friends when they turn their ee and see my place vacant, dash awa the tear. Solace them wi’ your wit, your humour; and, in the Literary, dinna be ower severe on their warks or mine, Maister Jergun – or mine. De mortuis, ye ken, is a Christian maxim.” “Your works can never die,” said Mr Jerdan impressively; “they are imperishable while memory lives. – Bonny Kilmeny has wreathed your brow with unfading laurel.” “Ah!” murmured the dying man, a smile for a moment lighting up his pallid countenance, “ye are ower favourable, but it’s kindly meant.”
Last modified 29 June 2020