uch to his dismay in February 1841 Jerdan received a letter requesting his arrears of twenty-three pounds to the Royal Geographic Society, under penalty of being named a defaulter. He wrote to J. Barrow on the first of February 1841, with whom he had formed the society so eagerly back in 1830, protesting that had he been asked agreeably he might have paid the amount or retired from the expense. He had not attended more than ten meetings nor received the transactions. He had understood that there was a tacit agreement that annual subscriptions were not asked of him as he rendered “superior support” by promoting the Society through publicity in the Literary Gazette. “On other Societies”, he explained, not altogether accurately, “I have been elected an Honorary member under the notion that it was inexpedient to impose upon a friend whose press was devoted to their interests, the burthen of an expence which tho’ trifling in particulars, is a heavy charge in the aggregate” (Royal Geographical Society, RGS/CB3/428). Hoping the Society would not disrespect him he left the matter in Barrow’s hands. His letter was annotated, presumably by Barrow, “ordered to be taken no notice of”, and there the matter stayed.
Jerdan was no longer a member of his beloved Literary Fund, and now was expelled from the Royal Geographical Society but he still, nominally at least, retained his membership of the Society of Antiquaries. His final presentation to them was in November 1841, when he exhibited a “specimen of money from Ceylon, in the form of a double hook. Its name in the language of the Kandians is Andoo which means a hook. It is of silver, weighing about ten pence of our current coin, though its value in Kandy, where it is stated to have been in use for more than three centuries, is only four pence” (Archaelogia (29): 407). This specimen was probably sent to Jerdan by Edward Power, his son-in-law who was then living in Ceylon.
Jerdan’s family affairs were in some disarray. The Census for 1841 poses more questions than it provides answers. Of Frances Jerdan and the children who remained with her, no trace can be found, neither is there any mention of Ella and Fred Stuart or Laura Landon, the children of Jerdan and Letitia Landon. Jerdan and Mary Maxwell had, in accordance with the statutory regulations introduced in 1837, duly registered the birth of Charles and John, but those of Marion and Matilda were pre-1837 and as they were not christened, no record was made of their births. Having given their real names on their sons’ birth registrations, it is surprising that when the census-taker came to the door of 87 Hercules Buildings, he found there William Stewart, age 50, of independent means, born in Scotland; Maria Stewart age 25, Maria Stewart age 5, Matilda Stewart age 4, Charles age 3 and John, 18 months. There was also a female servant in the household. The underquoting of nine years in Jerdan’s age could perhaps be because he had told Mary that he was younger than his real age, or because of vanity, as he would have had to complete the householder’s schedule, the first time such forms were issued for every household in the country The 1841 census required less information than future ones concerning relationships, birthplaces or ages, but was supposed to cover every family in the country, except that it apparently omitted Jerdans, Stuarts and Landons. William and Mary’s sixth child, another son, was born on 28 July and named William, too late to be included in the census (Lambeth, Surrey, Registration IV, 233).
In 1841 the publisher John Reid sent a questionnaire to editors of all stamped papers, asking them to specify the politics of their publications. He published the responses, adding information on the number of stamps bought in 1839 (Pyle. This showed that the Literary Gazette, listed under “Stamped Papers, in which Politics are excluded, neutral or of secondary interest”, had purchased 27,030 stamps, whilst the liberal Athenaeum purchased 63,500. Assuming the ratio of stamped and unstamped copies was the same for both journals, the Athenaeum’s total sales were more than twice those of the Gazette. Taking into account fluctuations resulting from changes to the stamp tax, it has been calculated that in 1840 the Gazette’s circulation was about 2000 copies per week, about a third of sales a decade earlier.
In the Spring of 1841 Jerdan decided to make a last ditch attempt to pull the Literary Gazette back out of the mire. Presumably completely out of funds himself he used what he called “family connexions”, and proposed to buy out the shares held by Longman and Colburn. He received a partially illegible note from Colburn dated 11 May 1841, saying that he would “await the result of the valuation of Longman’s share to us both…I think Mr Thomas of the Court Journal would be a very proper person to undertake the office”. As the Court Journal was one of Colburn’s publications, Mr Thomas might not be quite as impartial as Colburn suggested. Nevertheless negotiations were completed and Jerdan became sole proprietor of the ailing Literary Gazette. Now he “set out again, sanguine, hopeful, uncontradicted and uncontrolled, on my own capital” (4.361). He had some degree of success, but admitted that “the counting by thousands which had been reduced to hundreds, did not rise to thousands again.”
Jerdan acquired total ownership of the Literary Gazette on 21 July 1841. We know the date as he wrote excitedly to Wright: “Are you alive or dead? If dead, write to me immediately – I leave Town on Monday and am this day sole owner of the Literary Gazette, having bought both Longman’s and Colburn’s shares” (W. Jerdan to T. Wright, University of St. Andrews Library MS PR4825 J.25). He announced the change of proprietor in the issue of 7 August. Determined to finally quash the old allegations he went on to declare:
Though [the editor] has exercised a despotic and independent control over the Gazette’s literature during all that period, it has been difficult to disabuse the public of a certain degree of belief in interested and inimical representations, - that, being connected with eminent publishers, it was sometimes biased in its views by prepossessions in their favour. There was not a particle of truth in this industriously circulated rumour; but it had, like all often-repeated falsehoods, a partial effect, which we take this opportunity to remove for ever, since the Literary Gazette is now entirely unconnected with “the trade.” 
The same notice was repeated in the Gazette of 21 August, and again on 4 September, when Jerdan added a response to the Athenaeum’s reaction to news of his sole ownership. “The Athenaeum has had the bad taste to step out of its way in order to comment on that with which it could have nothing to do, and the impertinence to misrepresent private transactions of the nature of which it could know nothing. To puff itself and depreciate the Literary Gazette seems to be the intent of this foolish exhibition.” Stung by the Athenaeum’s attribution of “a pining atrophy” as the cause of ownership change, Jerdan mentioned the “singular increase of circulation” which had recently occurred; and he went on to explain that Longmans had had a change in their own partnership, in consequence of which the firm was prepared to give up their share in the Literary Gazette; as for Colburn, “it is enough to state that he retired with great reluctance and on the ground alone that he took an economic and retrenching view.” There had thus been an “honourable separation” with no bad feelings. Had Jerdan left his argument here it might have been convincing, but he continued for another half-column to berate the Athenaeum for trumpeting its price reduction as the Literary Gazette “would rather supply a grain of gold or silver than a whole pit of lead, a column of pith, rather than a sheet of verbiage.” Winding up, Jerdan tried to take the high moral ground: “We will not be further provoked to trespass on our readers with controversy about our merits or defects.” At the same time that Jerdan took over the Gazette, there was a change of printer, and Messrs Robson, Levey and Franklyn who had worked on the Gazette for a number of years as employees of Moyes, now became its printers in their own names, while William Armiger Scripps remained as publisher for a further six years.
Jerdan’s sympathy was aroused by the premature death of John Macrone, Dickens’s first publisher, leaving his young family unprovided for. Dickens decided to produce a publication to benefit Macrone’s family and Jerdan’s contribution to this duly appeared in Pic Nic Papers published by Henry Colburn (1.256). Jerdan’s covering letter was also printed, noting that the story was “a simple and curious sketch of Scottish manners, belonging to a not very distant time, yet so completely erased by ‘the march’ of modern ideas and changes, as to seem a tale of centuries gone by rather than of yesterday…” The story, ‘Aidy Eddie’, was not original to Jerdan, but related to him by his “loved and venerated father…whom he has often heard repeat the anecdote in that style of rich quiet humour for which he was so noted.” The punchline of the story was that Jerdan’s father, sitting as the magistrate at Kelso, tried the case of a man who had been arrested for begging. The culprit protested that he was merely singing to the landlady of a pub, hoping for a morsel for himself and his dog. Baillie Jerdan demanded to know who had most recently given the beggar alms, as it was then believed that the donor was as culpable as the recipient. Reluctantly the beggar replied, “I dinna like to do that, but if it maun be, it maun be; the last amous I got was frae yer ain sel; yer worship gae me sax-pence, yue’ll mind when we foregathered yestereen at Maxwell-heugh”. Baillie Jerdan saw the joke, joining in the roars of laughter which filled his courtroom, and freed the beggar, who was given alms by everyone present. Jerdan chose this story for Macrone’s benefit publication, thinking it was “not inappropriate to a work on behalf of a worthy Scotsman’s bereaved relatives”. It is also an illuminating glimpse of the character of his father, and the severe social conditions of his childhood.
The Literary Gazette still attempted to review all important new books, but did not always select those which have stood the test of time. Jerdan had found Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus too challenging when it appeared in 1838, passing lightly over it in the issue of March 20 1841, describing it as “the oddest patchwork…a huge mass of imagination…made repulsive by form and manner.” Several other literary journals failed to give it even so much notice at the time of its publication. When it reappeared, Jerdan considered it “somewhat too German and Transcendental for our taste (for we, alas! have not time for books that require much poring over and speculation to be well understood” (177). Carlyle’s style and content was apparently too dense and inaccessible to tempt Jerdan’s interest, perhaps more especially at this time when he had such a huge drain on his resources and energies, now that he was sole proprietor of the Gazette. It is easy to criticise his superficial treatment of difficult literature as implying Jerdan’s lack of intellect; one writer decided that “At no time did Jerdan make a serious effort to understand Carlyle himself, or to interpret him to readers” (Duncan 185). In similar vein when Jerdan reviewed Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essays with Carlyle’s introduction on 25 September 1841, he sidestepped having to come to terms with Emerson’s transcendentalism by jovially, pseudo-intellectually, noting:
Mr Carlyle approves of this book; and no wonder for it out-Carlyle’s Carlyle himself, exaggerates all his peculiarities and faults and possesses very slight glimpses of his excellencies. It imitates his inflations, his verbiage, his Germanico-Kantian abstractions, his metaphysics and mysticism; but wants the originality, the soul, the high and searching intellect, which, in spite of these ‘pribbles and prabbles, look ye’ ever and anon burst out with something to fill the reader with admiration and set the mind to work upon noble expressions and striking and grand ideas. 
Jerdan made little or no attempt to understand Emerson’s work. He knew enough to use the jargon or language of a serious review, but fell back upon his usual recourse of generalisations to fill columns. In spite of his difficulties, he somehow recognised that Emerson was an author whose work the Gazette should review, and must have considered that it had sufficient interest to his readership to choose it in the first place. This was Jerdan’s journalist’s instinct taking over, as it often did, from his intellectual instincts which could be submerged by “difficult” writers.
Even though the Literary Gazette no longer had the magical aura it had once enjoyed, Jerdan’s opinion was still believed by some to carry weight. The prolific historical novelist G.P.R. James asked him to “make much” of his latest work, Morley Ernstein, or The Tenants of the Heart. James had recently left Longmans who had been his publishers for years, explaining to Jerdan in a letter of 19 April 1842 that he had reason to suspect them of bad-mouthing a book he had published elsewhere; he was not so concerned about his “old enemy, the Athenaeum”, but assured Jerdan that he had taken great pains with the present book, and that Jerdan should “not let it be injured if you can help it – which you can entirely if you like” (Bodleian Library MS. Eng.Lett. d. 113, f263). In the same letter James brought Jerdan up to date with the campaign he had been waging for five years, to exclude French piracies of literature from England by regulating Customs, “and secondly the active prosecution of negociations for international treaties for the security of copyright”. These were matters that anyone involved in literature had to be interested in, as cheap foreign reprints could ruin business for English publishers. The copyright question was still unresolved, but James told Jerdan that his campaign on the first issue had been successful, so that “even single copies of foreign reprints to pass in travellers luggage must now be old and used. No more cutting of leaves and writing names on the outside will do.” The Copyright Act of 1842, which repealed earlier Acts, extended intellectual property rights for the author’s lifetime and seven years after his death; if this was less than 42 years from first publication, copyright was for 42 years regardless of date of death. For posthumous publication, the owner of the MSS was protected by the same 42 years. James urged Jerdan to mention the details of the new copyright law in the Gazette as “Galignani, Baudry and their agents are zealously assuring all English Travellers abroad that the reprints pass without difficulty”. One wonders how James responded to Galignani’s publishing of a foreign edition of Morley Ernstein at the same time as the English edition.
James planned to see Jerdan at the Literary Fund dinner in March but was unsure what the situation now was: “I forget whether you have had anything to say to that Institution after the ungrateful manner in which some of the people connected with it treated you, but I know you still wish well to it whether you take any share in its proceedings or not.” In his Autobiography Jerdan spoke highly of James, recalling twenty-five years of happy memories. James enjoyed a private income, so did not fall within Jerdan’s theme of writers relying on literature for survival. James, observed Jerdan, had a nobility of nature and was admired for his high morals, practising in private life what he preached in his books. Jerdan could not have failed to notice the difference between his friend and himself.
Jerdan was thinking now not of morals but of his own busy plans. Money was still a problem. On 13 February, probably of 1842, Jerdan offered Bentley a “half laugh Valentine”, and the balance of his debt the following week, as “it will save my decency at the bankers.” Despite this, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Literary Gazette, he held a dinner party for “a brilliant intellectual company of about sixty” of its friends, at the Freemasons Tavern. Dickens postponed a planned trip to Yorkshire so that he could attend, assuring Jerdan that of all the congratulations he would receive, “there will be none more cordial and warm-hearted than mine” and he looked forward to the Gazette’s 50th birthday. Jerdan reported in his Autobiography that the party was agreeable and satisfactory (4.365).
In July 1842 Forster organised a welcome home dinner for Dickens at Greenwich, following the author’s unhappy American tour. Hood was too ill to take the Chair although he was present, so Captain Marryat presided with Jerdan as Vice-Chair. Hood recalled much singing, toasting of ‘the Boz’, a response from Dickens, and more singing; he also remarked on “Jerdan, as Jerdanish as usual on such occasions – you know how paradoxically he is QUITE AT HOME IN DINING OUT.” Certainly it seems that ‘dining out’ was a prerequisite for any man who wished to be seen about town and known for his connections which were, in Jerdan’s case at least, vital for the content of his Literary Gazette.
The grumpy actor Macready noted another occasion when Jerdan “dined out”. In May a dinner party of journalists and critics were invited to Bulwer’s home at Fulham; Jerdan, Forster, Ainsworth, Leigh Hunt and others were included in the group. Macready complained to his Diary that it was “One of the dullest, most uncomfortable days I have spent for some years. I asked Quin once the time ; he said, ‘A quarter-past nine; you thought it was eleven’. I was not very well pleased with Bulwer inviting me to indifferent company and a very bad dinner” (Macready Diaries). As several of the company were Macready’s chosen acquaintance and his frequent guests, it is possible that he was merely in a bad mood and no company would have satisfied him on that occasion.
The time-honoured habit of ‘salons’ was continued by Anna Maria Hall, who entertained literary and artistic guests on Thursday afternoons at ‘The Rosery’, her home in Old Brompton, adjacent to Landon’s home when Jerdan first saw her. He does not mention attending one of these modest gatherings, and perhaps fought shy of them, feeling that his reputation had waned so far as to be embarrassing.
Jerdan’s path crossed so often now with Forster’s, usually because of some association with Dickens, it is tempting to speculate whether either of them mentioned the dangerous name of L.E.L; one had been her lover for several years, the other had broken his engagement because of the rumours surrounding her, Jerdan’s name being one of these. By now, four years after her death, any awkwardness would likely have worn off and they had both moved on with their lives. Jerdan, certainly, was fully occupied on the domestic front as his home with Mary Maxwell was now busy with six small children.
On 21 November 1842 William Jerdan wrote his Preface to the Rutland Papers, which he had edited. These were “original documents illustrative of the Courts and times of Henry VII and Henry VIII, selected from the Private Archives of His Grace the Duke of Rutland.” This was a project he undertook for the Camden Society, which had been founded four years earlier and named after an early English historian, William Camden. Its purpose was to publish early historical and literary remains, unedited manuscripts and to republish selected scarce printed books. The parliamentary printer and proprietor of the Gentleman's Magazine, John Bowyer Nichols, had initiated the Society and printed its publications. Its first secretary was Thomas Wright, an editor of early texts. Membership soared and in 1843 Prince Albert joined the Society and remained a member until his death. By March 1840 the limit on membership had risen to one thousand two hundred and fifty, with a list waiting for deaths and resignations, although ten years later membership had dropped considerably. Each publication was sent to every member and to the five major libraries. Jerdan’s work in 1842 was therefore seen by well over a thousand knowledgeable and interested people, and was a task which combined his love of antiquarianism with his lifelong interest in literature. It also brought him into contact with men he already knew, some his close friends like Crofton Croker, and others with whom closer ties developed such as James Orchard Halliwell, Thomas Wright, and Sir Henry Ellis, Director of the British Museum, all also members of the Society of Antiquaries, as well as on the Council of the Camden Society in 1842-43.
Jerdan’s Preface thanked the Duke of Rutland for access to his papers and, contrary to Jerdan’s frequent practice, said that he had no apology to make for his editorial work, as having had the expert assistance of John Bruce and Thomas Wright, he was assured of their integrity, and also was (probably only very slightly) ashamed at being named the principal author of the work. The Rutland Papers is 130 quarto pages, bound as a book, the forerunner, Jerdan hoped, of future projects from the same fertile source. One document he included was ‘A Device for the Coronation of King Henry VII’, a detailed schedule of arrangements, ceremonies and dress for the occasion; another was a list of those present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, followed by an account of the meeting between Henry VIII and Emperor Charles V. The collection contained other historical sixteenth-century documents, each with brief editorial notations. The book’s review in The Mirror of January 1843 commented that “it is a collection of great interest and the editor has well performed his task by directing attention to many of the items which are most worthy of notice”. This was a work of serious historical scholarship, akin to Jerdan’s occasional presentations to the Society of Antiquaries, and shows a side of his character which was not often evident in his daily labours.
His association on the Camden Society with Halliwell and Wright developed into friendship, especially as all three men were also members of the first Council of the Percy Society, for which Wright was secretary and treasurer. This scholarly book club was founded in 1840 and lasted for twelve years. The Percy produced bound books of text, carefully copied from original sources in the Bodleian, British Museum and other collections, with special emphasis on Elizabethan ballads, for which they attempted to find the appropriate tunes, plays, poetry and popular literature. Jerdan had intended to produce ‘Jacobite Ballads and Fragments’ for the Percy, but this does not appear to have been published. Jerdan’s old crony Crofton Croker was also a member of both these scholarly societies and still friendly, despite the débacle at the Literary Fund. Halliwell married in November, and Jerdan wrote to congratulate him. Three weeks later he corresponded again with Halliwell on a more prosaic matter. A row had erupted at the Percy Society:
In our friend Wright’s absence, I attended the Percy on Thursday when there was something of a stormy discusson and the general question of your rather lengthy letter was postponed till next month. Meanwhile I should be glad if you have kept and could send me any letters from the Secretary or Treasurer to you especially one requiring you in the name of the Council to return the transcripts made for intended publications. Is there a letter from you to the Treasurer saying you would see the Society or the Council damned first, and if so, what provoked it? [Edinburgh LOA 21/78]
A further letter the following week put him firmly on Halliwell’s side in the argument, and discussed yet another society:
I have no objection to be a Council Man on the Shakspere; and shall probably be on the Camden having finished one Volume for it and begun another. But I fear it will be nearly all for the honour of the thing, as my time. By the by, we aught to have an elaborate article on the Shakspere and Shakesperiansy of Knight, Collier and Halliwell. Your letter is very satisfactory – I think it is probable enough that both Wright and I may bid the Percy goodnight. Nous verrons. [LOA 21/1]
The Shakspere (sic) Society had been founded the previous year by John Payne Collier, also one of the twelve founders of the Percy. Jerdan’s name was on a ‘London Committee for the purchase of Shakespeare’s House’, so his association with the Shakspere Society continued for several years. He did not bid the Percy “goodnight”, but continued his connection for a few more years (Literary Gazette, 4 September 1847). The Percy’s search for genuine old ballads from Scotland may have inspired Jerdan to write a song of his own, ‘Go Along at the Time’. He sent it to the composer Herbert Rodwell to set to music. He received a disappointing response on 12 November 1852: “I have returned your very clever lines, not because I do not admire them, for I really do, and think the idea excellent, but because my ass of a genius is a stubborn beast and will not always trot along as he is bidden” (Edinburgh LA II 647/331).
Jerdan wanted the Literary Gazette to represent every aspect of contemporary life – except politics. All cultural activities formed part of the regular content of the magazine, but there was one topic of great interest to everybody which formed the focus of ‘Sketches of Society’ that appeared in February and August 1843. This was the adulteration of food, brought to the forefront some years earlier by Frederick Accum a chemist of Soho, whose treatise on the subject was known colloquially as "Death in the Pot". The Literary Gazette ‘Sketches’ came under the heading of ‘Cockney Catechism’ and were in the format of a play initiated by “the great increase of sudden deaths in London…complaints of the heart are often induced by unwholesome provisions taken into the system and affecting the vital fluid and its grand receptacle.” The subject, however, was anything but playful: the characters discussed the corruption of coffee and especially of sugar: “This Muscovado sugar, for instance, you would hardly believe that in bad hands it will take from 20 to 25 per cent of salt, without being detected; and is very often mixed to that extent!” Coffee could be made from “burnt or scorched beans, of roasted peas and other grain. Occasionally the sweepings of real coffee are thrown into the mess; but it sells very generally as coffee without the addition.” The noxious practices of butchery were the topic of another instalment, and the contents of a bottle of soda-water a further episode. “Here, it is ----‘s! The bottles are theirs but the contents are not. This imitation is advertised to cost fourpence per dozen, and not to have a single grain of soda in the whole composition…cheating you of what you want and furnishing a noxious instead of a beneficial beverage.” The Literary Gazette was by no means the first or only paper to raise public awareness of the practices of food manufacturers but nothing was done about the problem for many years; it took until 1855 when articles in The Lancet sparked a huge response and calls for reform and legislation, which eventually became effective in 1875. Jerdan was to take up the cudgels on this subject again in 1860.
Jerdan’s long association with the Royal Society of Literature and his present affiliations in various societies with Thomas Wright, combined when he reviewed a book of Wright’s which had been published under the superintendence of the RSL. Jerdan had sent his manuscript to the editor of the Edinburgh Review (Macvey Napier), on August 1st, suggesting that if it could be published in October “it would be a great consideration as in that case the Review would prelude the winter session and Meeting of the Society in November” (British Library, MSS. 34624/41). Running to more than seventeen pages, the review duly appeared in the October 1843 issue of the Edinburgh Review. Jerdan discussed Wright’s Biography of Literary Characters of Great Britain and Ireland, arranged in Chronological Order. Anglo-Saxon Period. Before approaching the work itself Jerdan took the opportunity of recounting the history of the RSL in great detail including the prizes which were awarded initially. Amongst the many names listed as members of the new Society was Jerdan’s, appearing four times. The delays and postponements were carefully noted culminating with the current situation of the Society, its premises and its library. The article then linked this history, which consumed nine full pages, with the speech made by the President in his address of 1838, recommending a biographical undertaking of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman works, the first of which was now, finally, to be reviewed, whilst the second, also by Wright, was in preparation. An extract from the President’s speech filled another page, until Jerdan had at last to confront his task of reviewing Wright’s Biography.
Sketching in the previous absence of any such literary history of England, Jerdan, following Wright, mentioned the earliest attempts in the sixteenth century and others which followed. He praised Wright for not merely copying older texts but for checking on their authenticity. True to his Literary Gazette practice, Jerdan quoted long extracts from the book as this “affords a fair example of the author’s style, reasoning and learning”, followed by a further lengthy extract on King Alfred. The review went on to mention dozens of the names in Wright’s book, commenting that the whole “exhibits the greatness and energy of the Anglo-Saxon character”. In his overview of the work, Jerdan concluded that it was a credit to the RSL and to the scholarship of Mr Wright, as would, no doubt, be the Anglo-Norman volume to come.
Jerdan’s name as reviewer did not appear in print, but it is clearly his work from the emphasis on the foundation of the Royal Society of Literature, which he reprised in his Autobiography a decade later, and his literary style. Macvey Napier sent Jerdan a generous twenty guineas for his contribution, remarking that he would be interested in any literary news Jerdan could not use in the Literary Gazette. The venerated Edinburgh Review had a more serious literary tone than his own paper and Jerdan did his utmost in this review to come up to the high standard expected. He had the education and interest to have become an expert in many different fields of learning, but his nature was not that of an academic, preferring as he so reliably demonstrated, the more social life of a literary editor. This was more superficial perhaps, skimming over all topics rather than diving in, but he was able nevertheless to participate in matters of especial interest such as archaeology and the more arcane reaches of literary endeavour.
Writers were never shy of taking advantage of Jerdan’s famous kindness. A note from Thackeray dated only 16 October promoting a friend’s work sycophantically asked, “If you delight in performing good actions (as you notoriously do) pray insert the inclosed para about a really clever novel…and count on the gratitude of your Titmarsh” (Bodleian Library MS. Eng. lett. d. 114, f102). Dickens felt some affection for Jerdan, although the wordly affairs of the two were so different, one at his peak, the other on a decline. Possibly in response to a note from Jerdan praising Martin Chuzzlewit, Dickens replied on 9 October 1843, “A thousand thanks for your kind and genial letter…it is not a weak cheer, but good cheer, strong cheer, heart cheer, and cheer I love to have. It satisfied me more than I can tell you, My Dear Jerdan. Faithfully, your friend” (Dickens).
Bentley asked Jerdan on 3 March 1847 to assist him at the Literary Fund’s General Meeting to re-elect officers (Bodleian d. 113, f40). He also used Jerdan to mediate with one of his authors, Anna Eliza Bray, whom he believed should return to him £25 advanced for her book Henry de Pomeroy. In a letter of 5 April 1845 he complained, “I shall still be a great loser by the publication” (Bodleian Eng. lett. d. 113, f42). Mrs Bray was struggling with illness, and and was also ailing. Jerdan was acting as her agent, and she told him that she hoped Bentley would reprint her former novels.
By having one now, I trust, so likely to do well in his hands…I would consent to the terms he offered you on my account – namely to publicize my new work on the principle of ‘Holy Pupils’ allowing him to deduct from my share of the same the £25 in question. This £25 (unsolicited by him), I told him, I had offered to repay him if “Henry de Pomeroy” sold for only twenty-seven shillings. That work, however, sold for twenty-eight shillings and sixpence. I could not therefore feel that I was in his debt. But rather than he should be disappointed, I was willing to accede to the terms named. To this I added he must allow me 25 copies of my new work, gratis, on publication.
Plainly, Bentley drove a hard bargain, but times were unfavourable to him: sales of the Miscellany had dropped to one third of the original level and he was forced to sell “huge numbers” of his books to the dealer Tegg; moreover, he could no longer pay his printers in cash so that his costs rose and his profits fell (Gettman 23). Mrs Bray was “disappointed …that Bentley has offered me such poor terms – but I feel not the less thankful to you, because I know you would have done better for me if you could….” She hoped that Jerdan was recovered from his illness, and wished “Mrs Jerdan, yourself and the family many happy years.” She was presumably referring to the real Mrs Jerdan, Frances, and not to his new “wife”, Mary Maxwell; many literary figures had attended parties at Grove House in the good years, and it was unlikely that Jerdan would have brought Mary Maxwell into his established literary circles. Mrs Bray may not have known that his circumstances had changed so dramatically since the days of Grove House parties, and was merely being courteous in her good wishes.
Another son had been born on 20 January 1843 and named Walter (Marylebone Registration 1.223). On his registration on 8 March, Mary’s residence was given as 1 Melina Place, in St John’s, Marylebone,where a ‘Mrs. Stuart’ was listed at No. 1 in a Directory of 1844. None of Jerdan’s surviving correspondence used this address, so it is unclear whether he lived there with his family. Mary and Jerdan now had seven mouths to feed as well as their own. Jerdan’s perpetual state of penury was counterbalanced by flattering notes from friends and authors, but Jerdan was once again forced to turn to Bentley for help: “I write this lest I should not find you at home. Whilst I feel so greatly obliged by your kind help three weeks ago, I am the more unwilling to trespass farther, but I have been most vexatiously delayed in money matters, and if you will oblige me still more by holding over my draught till I can see you towards the end of the week, it will be a favour (like the rest) not to be forgotten” (20 May 1843).
His more cautious friend Macready had directed a play in February called Blot on the ’Scutcheon. Jerdan visited him in his room afterwards to tell him he had not liked it. Macready himself made his final stage appearance in June, as Macbeth, and was feted at a triumphant dinner a few days later. The year closed with a birthday party for his daughter Nina, which he was unable to attend. Although feeling ill, Jane Carlyle went along, dreading the event. As she wrote to Jeannie Welsh on 28 December, it proved however “the very most agreeable party that ever I was at in London – everybody there seemed animated with one purpose to make up to Mrs Macready and her children for the absence of ‘the tragic actor’…” Dickens and Forster performed magic tricks. Then began the dancing: “Old Jerdan of the Literary Gazette (escaped out of the Rules of the Queen’s Bench for the great occasion!), the gigantic Thackeray etc. etc. all capering like Maenades!!” The party was full of wild dancing, finishing at midnight. Jane Carlyle’s account gives a glimpse of Jerdan bent on enjoying himself, despite the problems which beset him on all sides.
Her reference to “the Queen’s Bench” tells us that Jordan was in a kind of debtor’s prison, and the Bench and Fleet were certain limits without the actual walls of the prisons, where the prisoner, on proper security previously given to the marshal of the king's bench, or warden of the fleet, may reside; those limits are considered, for all legal and practical purposes, as merely a further extension of the prison walls. According to the freedoctionary.com, the rules — or permission to reside without the prison — could be obtained by any person not committed criminally. The detainee was allowed to carry on his business as usual, allowing him to earn money to meet his debts.
His troubles made him slightly cynical and sour. Nearly four years had elapsed since his previous contribution to Bentley’s Miscellany but in February 1844 appeared “The Happy Family – A Tale of the Town”. He took as his theme the ancient tale (at least since Chaucer’s time) of the Dunmow Flitch. This is an award of a side of bacon offered to a married couple who can convince a jury of six maidens and six bachelors that in a year and a day they have not quarrelled or wished themselves unmarried. Jerdan noted that for the past eighty years the Flitch had not been claimed, leading him to muse on the reasons for this sad state of affairs. His researches led him to be told that there was only one Happy Family in all of London. Repudiating this idea he said he knew at least a dozen, but his opponent challenged this claim.
The first noble pair given as an example were in reality bored with each other and longed for any disturbance to their tedious, privileged lives. A step down the social scale, a merchant banker’s family were held up as an example of happiness. No, said the challenger. “They are about the most wretched in the metropolis.” The banker was incapable of feeling happiness as his sole interest was his fortune. Such a deadening lack of emotion had stifled his wife's affections, and their children neither esteemed their father nor loved their mother. Moreover the male offspring were gamblers and villains, whilst the girls had formed most unsuitable and low attachments. Within six months all their troubles would be public and their only consolation in disgrace would be their money. A further example of happy parents with six beautiful children was shown to be a sham: the children drove the parents to distraction, leaving the wife a nervous wreck and the husband unwilling to be at home. Balancing this was a childless couple in easy circumstances, sharing affection and mutual interests. However, their apparent happiness was blighted by the absence of children.
Bewildered, seeking in vain for a happy family amongst the rich, attention turned to the shopkeeper, clerk or mechanic. Each example was refuted: one was careworn in providing for his family; another worked away from home so much that his wife was lonely and sought company of whom he disapproved, and the third was so attached to his Institute that his neglected wife, although a member of the Total Abstinence Society, turned to secret drinking. Even a "millionaire millocrat” was in despair, wishing he were a pauper who could be taken to the Union (poor house) and thus separated from his wife. Next, the Queen was offered as an example of happiness, but “fatigues and ceremonies and cares of royalty were never allied with human happiness.”
However, said the challenger, there is one happy family, but not of humans. These were animals caged in Trafalgar Square. They exemplified different needs living together in a symbiotic relationship: “three rats, three owls, three guineapigs, a hare, rabbits, pigeons, starlings, daws, hawks and mice.” The secret was in their different tastes, so there was no fighting. Each animal in Jerdan’s story represented one of the major sources of strife in humans and if people followed their example, they would be happier. He posited that if all shrill “tabby aunts” were doped with opium, they would become calm and purr like cats; ratty political men should have their teeth drawn and become harmless and live in harmony with others; guineapigs represented sybarites whose only function was to cushion collisions of others; owls should be trusted only in the day and hawks at night, when they sleep.
The story concluded that Charles Fourier’s system of cooperation association (or phalanxes) would not work because it did not provide against dissension or allow for weakness. Jerdan’s moral was that the only ‘happy family’ had beastly habits, and happiness in human society can be achieved only by beastly means, such as “drugging, removing instruments of force, separating and governing with a discretion unknown to the social or family compacts of man.” This allegorical and thoughtful article represented a more serious side of Jerdan’s concerns, although he still needed to wrap his social comment in the guise of anecdotal episodes. Bentley may have found this contribution altogether too serious or too vulgar, as it was to be nearly two years before Jerdan's next article appeared in the Miscellany.
span class="tcartwork">The Duke of Wellington by Matthew Cotes Wyatt (1777-1862), with his son James Wyatt (1801-1893) acting as his assistant (see "James Wyatt"). 1840-43. Bronze (40 tons) on a base of red Corshill stone (see Page). Originally placed on the Wellington or Constitution (or Triumphal) Arch, near Hyde Park, London, in 1846, it was let down through the middle of the arch and moved to Green Park in 1883, when the arch was about to be repositioned to improve traffic flow. There it was dismantled and removed to the garrison town of Aldershot, Hampshire, in 1884. At Aldershot it was reassembled on Round Hill. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
He still had his finger in various pies, such as involvement with the sculptor Matthew Cotes Wyatt, for an enormous statue of the Duke of Wellington to be placed on top of the arch opposite Apsley House. He had received a note – almost illegible – from the Duke of Rutland dated 7 May 1843, thanking him for a description of the statue (Bodleian d. 114, f78), and one from Wyatt, suggesting that Jerdan write to the Duke of Rutland asking that an application be made for surplus metal required for making the statue. Sir Francis Chantrey sent over four tons of cannon; Jerdan, Rutland and a group of officers acquired about forty tons of cannon at a time when there was a shortage of metal (Hamilton 279). Wyatt urged him to hurry and get his request in “before Sir Peter”. Jerdan was present when the forequarters of the massive horse were cast in September 1845 (Bodleian MS. Eng. lett. d. 114, f338). He reported excitedly in the Literary Gazette for 13 September 1845,
The flow of so large a quantity of molten metal from the furnace to the receptacle whence it descends to fill the mould is a very grand and remarkable phenomenon…The dazzling red stream throws up clouds of vapour of every prismatic hue, the green tinges prevailing; but blues, yellows and various gradations of red, rolling along both in these clouds and in flames emitted from, accompanying and hovering over the lava torrent. 
Left two: Walter Scott Monument. George Meikle Kemp, architect. 1841-44. Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Right: Sir Walter Scott by John Steell (1804-91). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Another extra-curricular activity was Jerdan’s membership of the London committee attempting to raise funds to complete the monument to Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh. £3000 was needed, but subscriptions had been slow to accumulate and only £269 had been raised. A grand Waverley Ball was held in Willis’s Rooms on 8 July 1844, and £1100 was raised. The official unveiling of the Monument took place in August 1846, but fund-raising continued until the final thirty-two statuettes adorning the Monument were completed in 1882. Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton declined to join the committee, as did Dickens who told Charles Mackay in a letter of 7 March 1844, “that there is an idea abroad that the Edinburgh people, or Scotch people at all events, should finish their own monument, and that some prejudice is created by the incompleteness of the testimonials to their two great men, Scott and Burns” (Letters. 4.1844-46).
The Literary Gazette was still influential enough that the major Societies wished to be represented in the journal. Despite having expelled Jerdan for not paying his membership fees, Sir R. Murchison invited him to the Royal Geographical Society Dinner (22 May 1844, Bodleian Library MS. Eng. lett. d. 114, f97). Prince Albert was considering becoming a Vice-Patron and a notice in the Literary Gazette would be helpful.
In April Sir Peter Laurie, his friend from youth who was now a magistrate and on his way to becoming Lord Mayor, suggested that Jerdan arbitrate in a dispute between a writer and the man to whom he had entrusted his autobiography for editing, on the basis of friendship. After two years the so-called editor refused to return the manuscript, demanding fifty pounds for work done, or one hundred pounds to complete it. As the magistrate himself then offered to act as “a friend between them”, it is unlikely that Jerdan’s services were utilised.
Jerdan’s eldest daughter Frances-Agnes, at the advanced age of thirty-five, married on 30 April 1844. Her husband was Thomas Irwin, a year younger and styled as “Gentleman”. He was employed as a Clerk in the Audit Office, and lived at 12 Montpelier Square Brompton, but the marriage took place in Bentley, Hampshire, witnessed by the bride’s parents, her brother William Freeling Jerdan and by John Eggar. John Eggar was probably grandfather of the bride, if the clue in the story of The Hermit of Aroostook is correct, saying that Robert Eggar was the brother of Jerdan’s wife Frances. The newly married pair lost no time in having a family, and by 1852 had five children. In 1851 they lived at Park Walk Chelsea but ten years later had moved to Childs Hill in Middlesex, to have cleaner air and more space for their growing family.
Jerdan was satisfied with his new son-in-law, and together they attended many meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He enjoyed all aspects of his attendances at these annual meetings held each year at a different place: “A multitude of useful and pleasant connections were formed during a score of meetings, new scenes were visited, and new attractions of antiquities, arts and nature explored” (4.292). Only one incident marred this delightful occupation. It concerned Dr William Whewell who, according to Jerdan, had climbed the ladder of the British Association to become Master of Trinity College Cambridge. Jerdan admired his learning but found him arrogant. Once in post as Master, Whewell described the BA as “declining and unable to support itself, and proposed biennial or triennial meetings, that it might drop off gradually and die a decent and unmasked death” (4.293). Jerdan printed some “free remarks” upon this view which offended Whewell but the two glossed over their differences at the next meetings, with the intervention of the Marquis of Northampton. Whewell however had not forgiven Jerdan and created a scene at a College Dinner to which Jerdan and his son-in-law Irwin had been invited by another Professor. As they were seated in places of honour, a lackey sent by Whewell asked them whose guests they were; Jerdan prepared to reply when he became aware, from his neighbours, “that the communication was not such as could be tolerated by gentlemen belonging to the College”. On withdrawing to another room for dessert, Jerdan was again elevated near to Whewell at the top table, inciting the Master to fury. This was, as Jerdan said, “a silly matter”, but it had the consequence that “perfect turmoil ensued”. The next evening the college members boycotted the Master’s invitations, deserting his rooms, and congregating instead in the common-hall. Jerdan sent him a note on 23 June 1845: “Understanding that a question put to me from you in Trinity Hall on Friday must (from the customs of the place with which I was at the time unacquainted), be considered an offensive personality, I have to request from you, and as early as possible, an explanation of the matter” (Trinity College Cambridge Library, Add. MS.a.21630(1)). Whewell was not a popular figure; indeed “it was wittily said that science was his forte and omniscience his foible, [he] was notorious for his bearish ways” (Vizetelly 1.33) Only after much correspondence with “leading men” did he ungraciously apologise to Jerdan: “I am sorry that such representations have been made to you as to [show?] you when anything offensive in the message sent to you in College Hall on Friday. The question was put as the only obvious way of ascertaining a point which it was fit the College should know; and in my opinion could not reasonably be considered offensive by any one.” Thereafter whenever the two met Whewell would scowl angrily, so that Jerdan observed, “I have ever rejoiced that his caput did not possess the powers of the head of Medusa, for if it had, I should have been a paving stone and perhaps Macadamised long ago” (4.294). The whole sorry affair gave rise to squibs and epigrams from anonymous people who disliked the Master, but showed that Jerdan had enough confidence and support to stand his ground against such an eminent figure.
As sole proprietor of the Literary Gazette Jerdan now had to watch the financial side of his journal instead of leaving it all to Longmans as previously. Annoyed that the Royal Academy had not submitted paid advertising but had relied upon his good will he wrote to the organisation. In response, he heard on 4 April from its President, Sir Martin Archer Shee: “I always understood that your Paper was considered by the Academy as friendly to the Arts, and I was therefore surprised at the intimation conveyed in your note. To prevent however mistake or omission hereafter, the Council have given precise instruction that all the advertisements of the Academy shall be sent for insertion in the Literary Gazette” (Fitzwilliam Museum MS 206-1949). On the other side of the fence, the Statistical Society requested that the Literary Gazette pay for copies of their Papers for insertion into the journal. Jerdan scrawled a note on their letter of 18 December 1843: “Scandalous. Dun for contributions to benefit Society” (Bodleian Library MS. Eng. lett. d. 114, f303).
More enjoyable correspondence came in an invitation from John Forster to a dinner at the Trafalgar Tavern, Greenwich, where Lord Normanby was to take the Chair. The dinner was to say ‘Farewell’ to Dickens as he left for Italy. “You know the pleasure it will give Dickens to see you among his entertainers” wrote Forster (4.367). Over forty people attended and the Literary Gazette duly reported that there were “many speeches” but gave no details.
To posterity, Dickens was Jerdan’s most famous friend, but he felt closer to John and Ellen Carne, the family friends whom he had visited years earlier in Penzance. Carne died on 19 April 1844 aged 55, and in thanking Jerdan for his letter of condolence, Ellen in her turn consoled him in her note of 26 April 1844: “and above all when you are yourself suffering from an almost sudden loss and one so nearly related to you. I who know the strong affection you have to all who are related or connected to you know how deeply you feel these things” (Bodleian Library MS. Eng. lett. d. 113, f104). It is not clear whose death she meant; it does not appear to be a member of any one of Jerdan’s immediate families, and therefore, being “nearly related” might be an infant death of a grandchild, perhaps a child of Mary Power’s in Ceylon, or even one of Jerdan’s sisters. Ellen Carne went on to give Jerdan some information which would have touched him deeply:
And now, my dear kind friend, in regard to the Memoranda of my dear husband’s life about which I am most anxious merely from some words he dropped about six weeks ago. He was reading the Gazette and I don’t know what struck him at the moment, but he said if dear Jerdan should outlive me, I know no more hands I should most like to fall into so much for he knows the human heart! He had been talking much of you lately and saying what delight he should feel in shewing by the kindness of his manner when he met you, to make up for angry or irritable tempers he had ever shewn towards you at any time…it was curious that the last thing he read was the Gazette, and the last word was your name.
To assist Jerdan, she set out a brief biography of her husband. A four-line notice of Carne’s death was in the Literary Gazette of 27 April, with an obituary in the issue of 4 May (290).
Perhaps it was the loss of a cherished friend which made him reflective, or simply selecting a work to review in the journal, Jerdan decided to address Imagination and Fancy by his old enemy of the ‘Cockney School’, Leigh Hunt. He referred to the jibes Hunt had published against him in the Tatler back in 1830, stating that he had long forgiven them. In the Literary Gazette for 7 December 1844 he stated that Hunt’s writing had improved in the interval, praised the preface of the new book and his choice of poets ( p.778.). Jerdan’s overture for peace was immediately rewarded by a letter from Hunt, published in the Literary Gazette the following week, gladly accepting the hand of friendship, and recalling that back in those days of literary in-fighting they had both been “squibbed and squibbified in our turn”. They had both “survived a period of violent political warfare, during which to think differently was to feel angrily; and if all the writers of that period had the courage and good-nature of yourself and one or two more, I believe there is not one of us who would not find himself impelled to make similar acknowledgements.” Hunt, having only recently learnt about the troubles Byron suffered at the time he stayed with him in Italy, deeply regretted the book he had written which Jerdan had so denigrated in the Literary Gazette of the time. Had he known, said Hunt, “I would rather have had my hand cut off than ever written a syllable against him, but I would have devoted the best part of my time and faculties (such as they were) to whatsoever could have done him service.” Thus did Hunt make his peace with the dead Byron and the still very much alive William Jerdan.
Jerdan’s interest in the Percy Society was an incentive to introduce his friend Peter Buchan to Thomas Wright and others. Buchan was a collector of ballads, something which Jerdan himself had done as a youth encouraged by his father. His introductions and subsequent correspondence with the Percy assisted Buchan. In June 1845 the Percy Society published volume 17 of Scottish Traditional Version of Ancient Ballads whose preface explained was based on
two folio volumes of ballads, songs and poems taken down by Mr P Buchan of Peterhead, from the oral recitation of the peasantry of his country….[these volumes were] finally by a vote of the Council…placed in the hands of the Editor [ J. H. Dixon] and his friend W. Jerdan Esq. for them to decide on the authenticity and general merit of the Ballad portion of the volumes…in preparing the Ballads for the press, the editor’s labours have been pleasantly relieved by the assistance he has derived at the hands of Mr Jerdan, a gentleman on whose high scholastic attainments and sound critical taste, it were needless to expatiate.
Jerdan apparently suffered “a long and severe illness” in a letter of 26 October 1844 and was absent from town, he told Watts (Aberdeen University, Library and Historic Collections, 2303/2/182). On his return he arranged for the Percy Society to send Buchan £10 for his contribution. The warm relationship which had developed over this mutually beneficial collaboration did not last. Jerdan hung on to Buchan’s manuscript folios for two years. He claimed that the parcel had been ready to return but that Buchan had not sent him an address. Finally, he wrote angrily on 19 April 1847, “I have sent your MS addressed to Messrs Buchan Bros, 153 Queen Street Glasgow; and will offer no other reply to your scurrilous and ungrateful letter of the 6th than to say that I took much trouble and wasted much valuable time in my endeavours to serve you, and that I now almost rejoice in which I regretted before, viz. that I had not succeeded to a greater amount than I did accomplish for your benefit.” (Aberdeen University 2303/2/198). (The “almost rejoice” betrays Jerdan’s innate good-heartedness – he could not bring himself to entirely rejoice that he had not succeeded more on Buchan’s behalf.)
Another hand, possibly Buchan’s own, noted on this letter that Jerdan had “kept possession of several volumes of valuable MS Ballads for many years, and although written at least twenty times would not deliver them up till legal steps were about to be taken for the purpose – and this is the answer”. Jerdan clearly had kept the manuscripts long after he should have returned them, but his dereliction was more likely to have been carelessness and mislaying them in his heaps of papers, than malice in retaining them at no profit to himself.
Jerdan himself felt the passing of an era not just by his rapprochement with Hunt, but also in the fundamental changes that had taken place since he took up his editorial chair at the Literary Gazette of 31 August 1844:
That this is not the age of poetry and imagination is asserted on all hands, and we should think with no small degree of truth, though the general mislike may rather apply to the vast mass of imitation and mediocrity, than to originality and the true ore where it exists. But if we were to judge by the number of volumes published, some of them sumptuous, many exceedingly neat and ornamental, a portion of huge dimensions (out-epicking epics), and thousands of less ambitious-looking efforts besides, we should believe that there never was an age of poetry and imagination so prolific as our own.
To the shame, or the credit, of the Literary Gazette be it spoken, that periodical, so long the hot-bed and nurse of poetic genius, has of late been almost utilitarianised; and has forsaken much of the dutiful service of the Nine. What shall we say in our defence: Truly the affluence of the Muses hath not been altogether so rich as of yore; and there has been more of common metal than we could wish. We cannot, with relish, descend from gold to copper; and perhaps this feeling may have caused a neglect of some not unworthy silver. We must look about us, now that the bustle of the season is over, and we have a few weeks to spare.
Jerdan was mourning not only the passing of the glorious poetry of his youth and early years of the Literary Gazette, but implicitly mourning the passing of L.E.L. who had embodied the poetic values he held so dear.
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Last modified 10 July 2020