ucked away in his cottage on Bushey Heath with a tribe of young children, Jerdan was utterly cut off from his former life and from his friends. Most painfully, he missed his exchanges with Francis Bennoch. Henry had been unwell and had come home to recover, nursed by “Mop”. Jerdan wrote to Francis Bennoch on 18 March 1858,
I long exceedingly to see and converse with you. I have been poor and poorly all the winter, and thrice to London in nearly four months. Without any thing to stir me after my busy life I am snuffing out, with little intercourse with society even by letters. The last two days, I have hobbled about the garden, looking at green things breaking through the clod, and picking up stones with the bairns off the borders. I look back, and seem to have lost my identity. Perhaps I have. But I am not altered with regard to the friends I esteem and love. While this lowly life lasts, they, and they are wondrous few, will occupy their warmest place in my affections. [MsL J55bAc Iowa]
One bright spot had occurred in their lives: “ Matilda has been proposed to, by a worthy fellow, yet only a merchant’s clerk, and that one of our perplexities brings you both so home to our minds was, O, that we could advise with Mrs Bennoch about marrying and marriage preparations.” The lack of a wife at such a delicate time would have been a real problem for Jerdan.
Bennoch apparently did not respond to this letter as on 10 May 1858 Jerdan wrote to him again, regretting the “absence of all correspondence between us [which] makes a melancholy blank to me,” using as excuse for his letter a question about some contribution of Bennoch’s to Welcome Guest publication (MsL J55bAc Iowa). Always grateful for Bennoch’s sound advice, Jerdan explained that he had, two months previously, proposed to Fields a new publication which he “wished to give, in the first instance anonymously, from America”. Not having received a reply, he asked Bennoch what he should do: to wait, to write again, or let the matter drop. Tilly’s marriage, he told his friend, was set for 26 June, “a very important event in a family like mine, and in such circumstances. God send it well through! She is a fine girl and of economical disposition – of habits I will say nothing for necessity has formed in a cruel school.” He did not discuss with Bennoch the fact that before she could marry, Matilda had to be christened. This event took place on 30 May, and on 26 June the twenty-one year old Tilly married Charles Condamine Bickley, aged twenty. Their witnesses were her father and her sister Marion. Charles’s father Samuel was a merchant of Albion Grove Islington, with two younger children. Tilly was making a good match, considering that her father was in dire penury and her mother in a lunatic asylum.
In the same newsy letter Jerdan told Bennoch that he had been invited to the Surrey Archaeological Meeting, and intended to go. “I so rarely go anywhere that such things appear to be quite events.” More interesting, he then divulged that he had been looking at records of the huge sums he had deposited at Drummonds Bank in 1825-29: “and to think how I am, raises a doubt of my identity. It is however but too true, and my chief consolation is like your own that I was guilty of as many kindnesses as I well could commit. If the gratitude you meet with is equal to what I have experienced ‘O save me from my friends’ may join in the voice of My Dear Bennoch. Yours most sincerely.”
Inevitably, Jerdan was still completely unwilling to accept that his present condition had anything to do with his poor judgment in financial matters, his carelessness about keeping accounts, or his bad management of all his affairs. His poverty now was due solely to his “kindnesses”, and not to his failings. He had enjoyed a considerable income in those early years, and this was likely to have continued for several years after that until the Literary Gazette started its rapid decline.
Jerdan was still producing as much as he could; one piece was “A Chapter on Dogs”, which appeared in the July issue of Chambers’s Journal. This, as other pieces in Chambers’, was unsigned, and has been identified only by a note in which Jerdan sent a copy to Bennoch, using his son Henry as a messenger. His inspiration was the recent novel by Edward Bulwer Lytton entitled What Will He Do with It? By Pisistratus Caxton, which had as its hero a poodle called Sir Isaac. Acknowledging this work as his starting point, Jerdan discoursed on the subject of dogs in general. He referred to a pair which had been exhibited fifteen years previously in the Regent’s Circus. They had been trained by a Frenchman, Adrien Leonard, who had produced an octavo book of over four hundred pages on the education of animals. Jerdan said this book contained “some new, and much curious matter”. The subject was not unworthy of science, as Descartes was inclined to the belief that animals had souls, and many other eminent men had examined canine attributes. Jerdan carefully analysed Leonard’s discussion, comparing the training of dogs with that of children and weighing evidence for intelligence versus instinct. Lightening the tone at the end of his four page article, Jerdan chose to quote from Leonard’s book what happens when a dog is spoilt and petted. “ ‘With such an education,’ observes our author severely, ‘a dog cannot fail to be surly and mischievous, and occasion very unpleasant scenes; all which would be avoided if he were taught promptly to obey.’ Perhaps we might for ‘dog’ read ‘child’”, concluded Jerdan who should have learnt this lesson from his vast experience as father of at least twenty-three children.
There was nothing in this article of Jerdan’s originality but, as he had done many times before, he took a weighty book and made it accessible and digestible to a lay readership, with a light touch that avoided being patronising to those less well educated or well read than he was himself. He felt, however, that he was out of step with the times. He complained to Bennoch on March 27th: “The popular rising Periodicists of the present day are so smart that old prosers, like me, seem dull and heavy; but I cannot say I admire all the sparkling froth which swims a-top. I do like a little depth, and do fancy that even clever men must read a little before they can write what is either truly entertaining or useful” (MsL J55bAc Iowa). Perhaps he had not yet read the just-published books, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, or John Stuart Mill’s Essay on Liberty, which would have given him the ‘depth’ he desired.
In December 1858 and January 1859 the Leisure Hour published Jerdan’s recollections of London in two instalments, entitled “About Sixty Years Ago.” Remarking that the adage about ‘nothing new under the sun’ was inaccurate, Jerdan anticipated many new changes would occur in the future, as they had in the past sixty years, even until the year 2000, “the commencement of a new millenary”. He described how, when he came to the capital, “My London was comparatively a quiet and sober city…with a few small clumps of suburban cottage retreats within a mile or two.” He had planned to describe the London of his youth, but found it easier to compare then and now by small homely details, such as the cries of the street vendors no longer heard, the difficulty of striking a light before the invention of matches, even the act of letter-writing, sealing and posting a letter in those days before envelopes and stamps.
Left: Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery appears at the left, St. Martin-in-the-Fields at the right. Right: The Charing Cross Hotel, a Grade II listed building by E. M. Barry, built 1863-64. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
He mused on the filth of Butchers Row in his youth and the present fine new squares of Russell and Tavistock, walked to Charing Cross through what had become, when he was writing, Trafalgar Square, and remarked on the respectable shops of earlier times which did not, as now, sport “indistinct and dubious prices”.
Jerdan noted that one of the most significant differences between now and sixty years previously was the advent of street lighting. In his youth shopkeepers had been forced to close by eight, it being too dark to see; the shopboys retired to bed, “their masters went to their evening relaxation or symposium”. He found here the greatest difference: in earlier times tradesmen and shopkeepers of all kinds, “as well as persons engaged in professional pursuits – resided and slept in the houses in which their several occupations were carried on”. This encouraged frequenting of nearby taverns, to talk over politics and news. This train of thought led him inevitably to recall the ‘Charlies’, night-watchmen with lanterns, he had reason to know from his more bibulous and riotous evenings out as a younger man. Now there were ‘Bobbies’, Sir Robert Peel’s policemen, patrolling the streets which were lit with fifteen hundred miles of gas lights. The Thames, back at the turn of the century was truly silver, now he called it a “desperately polluted stream”. The peace of 1814 had marked a great change in English society, said Jerdan, and noted the rapid growth in learning both for the elite and the masses. Chiswick and Regents Parks had not been created nor the Zoological Gardens. The closest one could get to a wild animal were those caged in at Exeter ’Change.
Railways and omnibuses had replaced sedan chairs, but he felt that people had “less individuality of character” now. Jerdan had been in Parliament to hear the debate about allowing its proceedings to be reported in the newspapers, and the papers themselves were poor things compared to the modern variety. He closed his reminiscences of London by agreeing with Racine, “Everything changes, arts, habits, wit and wisdom’s self. We are not as we were, and we shall not remain as we are.”
These recollections must have met with approbation, as in December he wrote the first instalment of “A Walk from London to Edinburgh about Sixty Years Ago”, with a footnote referring readers back to his London articles . The nineteen-year old Jerdan had shaken off the sights and sounds of London with only a change of shirt and stockings, “a little bit of coxcombry in dress and decoration to demonstrate, at first sight, that I did not walk from sheer poverty”, a handsome purse with ten guineas, a gold watch and chain, and a sparkling ring. He walked forty or sometimes fifty miles a day, refusing an offer to ride in the carriage of an acquaintance. On the Great North Road he encountered vast herds of cattle destined for London cooking pots, losing weight after a four hundred mile, three week journey. What he remembered from such a long-ago adventure was that there was opportunity to talk to local people who knew everything about their area, unlike the days of railway travel rushing one between places, so that one knows “as little (or less) of the country and its inhabitants, as of the polar regions and the Esquimaux. New forms of transport are a wonderful improvement”, he acknowledged, “but only that all is not gain.” The remainder of his article recounted the highlights of his journey, via Holy Isle, Alnwick Castle and the banks of his beloved Tweed. He finally arrived in Edinburgh, “castle-crowned and palace-footed, splendid and filthy, philosophical and foolish, refined and rude, sober and drunken, religious and licentious.”
Left: Edinburgh from the North. Chambers 1838 Gazetteer of Scotland. Right: The View from Calton Hill. 1879. Etching by A. Brunet-Debaines from a drawing by W. E. Lockhart, R.S.A. Click on images to enlarge them.
The second article dealt with the city itself. There was a considerable English as well as Scottish military presence there and Jerdan recalled the social structure of the civilian population, notably as a city of ministers and of “lawyers, par excellence”. He noted the preponderance of the unfortunate results of in-breeding, and how they were treated kindly as characters, but not reviled. He recollected Edinburgh nights with their “superabundance of wine and spirits…Edinburgh was very considerably drunken”, and from his distance of almost sixty years, wondered “that so much, both of physical and moral abomination, was ever endured”. He believed that “the New Town was a necessity of the period: it was the creation of a civilizing crisis”, and recounted some of the mad exploits of earlier days to amuse the Leisure Hour readers. Jerdan spoke of the ‘caddies’, Highland Celts who were found on street corners, ready to run errands, and told how he despatched one man to run with an urgent message forty miles over hilly countryside and return, a feat accomplished at a steady trot of seven-and-a-half miles per hour. He surveyed the intellectuals who had sprung from Edinburgh, highlighting the start of the Edinburgh Review in 1802, and acknowledged that these men “created a new political and literary era, not only for the north, but extending to the utmost limits of the British empire”. Blackwood’s and the Quarterly’s were mentioned, and Jerdan moved on to the famed wit of legal men and some quaint Scottish phrases of the day. He recalled the romance of Calton Hill, “then uninvaded by unfinished Parthenons and monumental memorials” and the miles of open country with only a few ‘country seats’, now covered by the modern populous city. He wrote about the Highland pipes at Leith race week, with their clan tartans, and the “vivid remembrance of the ‘45’ and a feeling of sympathy and passionate admiration for Jacobite legend, song and music.” Burns had only recently died, Wallace was still revered as a hero. Bringing what he called his “desultory retrospect” to a close, Jerdan quoted Montaigne: “Old men should retreat from life backwards” and hoped that his look at the past would prove instructive, “looking back with experience, that we may look forward with warning, wisdom and hope.”
Such optimistic words seem particularly cruel when in February, life gave Jerdan another terrible blow. His son William Freeling died aged 41, of “pulmonary consumption”, the fifth of his children by Frances to predecease him. His obituary in the March 1859 Gentleman’s Magazine revealed that he had tried several careers:
By his birth connected with the literary world, he did not, however, devote himself to literature, and was only a casual contributor of lighter matter to the press. In office business he was very able and expert, and had realized a moderate competency, when the fearful railway crash (he being then secretary to the Great Northern of France) wrecked him in the gulph of extended ruin. He afterwards turned more assiduously to literary employment; became a principal shareholder in, and administrator of, the ‘Literary Gazette’, out of which he retired to make room for Messrs Benham and Reeve. For several years, and at the time of his premature death, he was a clerk in the General Post Office. Gifted with more than common talent, he was one of the kindest-hearted beings that ever existed, and his loss is not only sincerely lamented by his family and relatives, but by a numerous circle whom he had attached by his ever-obliging disposition and readiness to serve by any means that lay in his power. 
Of all his children William Freeling had been the closest to Jerdan in terms of working with him and for him, even though this was plainly not his son’s first choice of occupation. Once more life had drawn a sad parallel between Jerdan and Leigh Hunt, whose beloved son Vincent had also died of TB in 1852, at not yet thirty years old. As one son was dying, Jerdan tried to use his remaining influential friends to find positions for others, writing to Bulwer-Lytton on 1 January 1859 he asked, “Can you do nothing for my lads? My back is broken with an aimless burden. Has Columbia no opening for youth and activity?” (Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, D/EK 025/231).
By July Jerdan had heard from Fields that “publishing in the US is quite stagnant” and that therefore his proposed anonymous volume would not happen. He had wanted to write about “the miseries incident to the middle classes in our condition of civilization, interspersed with short, poetical sketches.” It was half done already, but Jerdan was discouraged and thought that now it would never be completed. “I must be content to rust out,” he ended his letter to Bulwer. “I am afraid I am not quite so happy, but I am sure I am always happy in the happiness of those I love.”
He was not the only one of his old circle unhappy in 1858. Edward Bulwer Lytton incarcerated his wife Rosina into a lunatic asylum, after many years of mutually distressing and abusive treatment, even though they had long been separated. She had written to prominent people accusing her husband of mistresses and illegitimate children, and even suggested a sexual relationship between him and Disraeli. She had been a successful writer herself, publishing thirteen novels and other works. She quickly proved that she was sane and was released after three weeks. Although Jerdan now rarely socialised with Bulwer, who was now an eminent politician as well as a successful novelist, they were still on friendly terms. At the end of July 1858 he asked Bulwer to use his influence with Lord Stanley to promote Irwin to the Auditorship of the East India Board (Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, D/EK 025/231). His daughter Agnes’s husband was currently employed in the Audit Office and seeking a better position to support his growing family. Jerdan may have offered to approach Bulwer on his behalf not only in his daughter’s interest, but also as an effort to compensate Irwin for the failed Literary Gazette partnership which had landed his son-in-law in Court. Jerdan reinforced his request with another note to Bulwer a few days later on August 4th, but heard nothing from him (Herts. D/EK 025/231). In September he asked for a brief interview, but in November had to acknowledge that Irwin’s claim had been supplanted by another appointment (Herts. D/EK 025/231). He hinted broadly that he would welcome an invitation to Knebworth the following summer, and noted that Irwin’s cousin William Grove had been offered the Chief Trusteeship of Bombay (Herts. D/EK 025/231).
At a dinner in Park Lane Edward Bulwer-Lytton had introduced Jerdan to the Private Secretary to Lord Malmesbury, to whom Jerdan wrote a long letter on 28 November 1858 apologising for his “garrulous intrusion” (Herts. D/EK 025/231). At the dinner conversation had turned to ciphers and the purpose of Jerdan’s letter was to mention the “secret cypher” which he had invented back in 1802, and which seemed to be still in use. Jerdan was not seeking any reward but was merely “curious about it, though far too late for any ground to augment the recognition of my literary deserts by even a government composed of such literary elements as the present – upon whose productions, including those of two Secretaries of State and a Chancellor of the Exchequer, I have had the honour and imprudence to sit in critical judgment”. He enclosed an article referring to the time when, as he wistfully recalled, “I was much in the confidence of eminent official men and knew as much as some members of the Cabinet. I was engaged in higher pursuits then.”
On Monday 29 November 1858 The Times reported that Bulwer, in his capacity as HM Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, had “at once instituted a most searching inquiry, sparing no exertion by day or night, until he succeeded in obtaining evidence which justified him in authorizing the present prosecution against the prisoner at the bar.” The prosecution concerned Sir John Young’s Ionian Despatches which the prisoner was accused of steailing from the Colonial Office and allowing to be printed in the Daily News. Bulwer was “fearful that some person in the public service had betrayed his trust by disclosing a private communication.” Jerdan leapt to his defence against The Times implied criticism. On two large sheets of blue paper he set out his arguments in Question and Answer form, and enclosed this to Bulwer’s secretary on December 4th, expressing his ire at Bulwer’s treatment. “The attack upon Sir EBL in The Times – setting the sordid against the noble in spirit – has induced me to throw a few thoughts (loosely) together on the subject of that Journal, and, as far as I know, supineness of the government in relation to its unrelaxing hostility. I have known much of newsprint matters, and I am sure that in neglecting this continual outpouring of rancour Ministers avoid a duty (disagreeable and difficult no doubt) and leave a dangerous field open to the injury of the Country as well as of their government” (Herts. D/EK 025/231).
Jerdan’s mood was more cheerful the next day when he wrote jovially to an old friend, Mrs. Darby, on December 5th: “Fuk show chuang tseven – oh! I forgot that, with all your knowledge of languages, French, Italian, German, Hebrew, Sansskrit, Pali, Russ, Cherokee, etc. etc. you do not understand Chinese and so began my letter thoughtlessly in an unintelligible tongue, but have therefore good reason and better, for not going on with it” (Pierpont Morgan Library MA 3553). He mentioned receiving an invitation to attend the Burns Centenary the following month, which he had “declined on three sufficing accounts, viz. distance, expence and old age. It wd have been a temptation, ‘Ere I was old!’” Jerdan had not lost his sense of humour, regaling his correspondent with his “last Jeux”, and then giving her a “family abstract” of each of his children still at home, from Mop who “blows me up like a wife for spoiling the young uns”, to Teddy, “a marvellous pretty pet”. He seems never to have hidden his almost-worship of small children and enjoyment of their company.
A reminder of Jerdan’s former life and activities was the fight between Dickens backed by Charles Dilke and John Forster, and Jerdan’s erstwhile favourite charity, the Royal Literary Fund. In a sixteen-page pamphlet entitled “The Case of the Reformers in the Literary Fund”, they accused the Fund of mismanagement and of spending too much on administration. Their other complaint was of a more technical nature and concerned the constitution of the Managing Committee. The Fund responded by issuing an eighteen-page refutation, pointing out that some of the reformers’ allegations referred to incidents that had occurred thirty years earlier. Charles Dickens’s involvement was not new. His fight to reform the Royal Literary Fund had been waged for several years without much effect. In March 1856 Dickens in Household Words, and Dilke in the Athenaeum had bitterly attacked the extravagant administration of the Fund. Dickens repeatedly tried to reform the Fund, but his censure motion was defeated by seventy votes to fourteen. In March 1859 Forster made an anonymous and generous offer, through Dickens, in a final attempt to reform the Royal Literary Fund. “a magnificent library…and the sum of ten thousand pounds for its maintenance and enlargement in perpetuity” on condition of an amended Charter. Still the Fund refused to reform and Forster’s library was eventually left to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Jerdan watched these efforts from the sidelines, willing Dickens and his supporters to succeed, but no changes to the Fund occurred during Jerdan’s lifetime, and the Fund for which he had worked so hard and to which he had made applications for so many destitute writers, went on in the same way until the turn of the century.
In the summer of 1859 Jerdan had been overjoyed to be once again with his treasured friend Bennoch, who had been experiencing some difficulties in his business. Jerdan’s delight bubbled over in his letter of July 14th: “I cannot explain to you the extent of the pleasure I felt at our late meeting. The present enjoyment seemed to be not only a proof that the storm was over but a pledge that the prospect was bright. Old as I am I may live to see you as high, and more firm in the struggle of this weary world than ever before, and believe me not those nearest and dearest to you will rejoice more fervently than I” (MsL J55bAc, Iowa). In a change of mood, Jerdan told Bennoch that he had been “inexpressibly shocked” by the suicide of William Cumming, an underwriter at Lloyds and a neighbour at Charlton, who had died aged 48, leaving a wife and children. Jerdan felt guilty as they had quarrelled, “(or rather he had quarrelled), but he was deceived by the most base and artful hypocrite that ever it was my lot to encounter, or even to fancy as a possibility in human nature. Quilp is the only prototype of the wretch that I can imagine – the villainy of his plotting is incredible.” Jerdan was convinced that had they remained friends, Cumming would not have taken his life. Ending on a lighter note, Jerdan gave Bennoch some “Apothegms” (sic)
For Bennoch. No more pipe, no more dance – Experienced. Begin to play again and dancing will be renewed; but you have learnt the worth of the Dancers. For Jerdan. When the candle is snuffing out, people forget the light it shed on their early meeting and how it shone on their continued company. They can now clearly see their own way. I refer to all the past as an Inward Sight!” So be it! You I trust will make a good use of the tunes you hereafter play and I, Dear Bennoch, gratefully and affectionately yours, will flicker out regardless of matters too late to mend. Love to the Wife.
In a faint echo of his heyday in the literary world, Jerdan introduced John Blackwood to an old friend, B. P. Ainslie, who had a manuscript he wanted published. “He neither cares for nor expects profit”, Jerdan advised Blackwood on 15 December (NLS 4140/11). Presumably neither did Jerdan, whose days as an agent were long over.
However he embarked on a new project in the autumn, one which was to carry him through the next few years. This was a series for the weekly magazine the Leisure Hour, entitled ‘Men I Have Known’, and published anonymously. Commencing on 20 October 1859 with Lord Chancellor Truro, a friend from his youth, six subsequent issues that year featured George Canning, the Ettrick Shepherd, Henry Hallam, the Earl of Ripon. and Bishop Burgess. These articles covered between two to three pages of the Leisure Hour, and were written very much from Jerdan’s personal knowledge of those he discussed. He leavened the plain biographical details with personal observations and opinions, and chose only subjects who were now dead. The editors must have received positive responses from readers as the series continued for some time.
Leigh Hunt, whose life experiences so often ran parallel to Jerdan’s own, died in August 1859 having become increasingly frail. Not until ten years later did Samuel Carter Hall, an unlikely champion of one who was the star of the ‘Cockney School’, arrange for a monument to be erected on Hunt’s tombstone. Dickens, Bryan Waller Procter, Thomas Carlyle, Robert Browning, and others helped to provide the funds. Joseph Durham sculpted a bust of Hunt, the whole being unveiled in October 1869, three months after Jerdan’s own death.
As 1860 began, the New Year brought back many memories to Jerdan, and whilst thinking of the past, he wrote to Bennoch with good wishes for the future. He was seldom in town, he told his old friend in a letter of January 12th, and
I get dumpish sometimes from so little intercourse with the few for whom I entertain a sincere affection, and my new neighbourhood, though pleasant in many respects, does not compensate for the old relations. So
I walk by myself,
And say to myself
By way of reverie –
Look to thyself
And take care of thyself
For nobody cares for Thee!
There is great quiet humour, as it appears to me, in this quaint old humdrum, and especially in one word
Then I answered myself,
And said to myself,
By way of Repartee
Look to thyself
Or look not to thyself
‘Tis the selfsame thing to me! [MsL J55bAc Iowa]
He had been “strongly invited” to go to the Masonic Lodge at Watford, but was “bare of ‘clothing’”, asking Bennoch if he could borrow his apron etc. The invitation was important to Jerdan: “My object is to show a leetle to two or three men hereabouts who have not shown as they should to an In-comer, whilst strangers have done much more.” He went on to say that “Miss Marion Jerdan is a little over age on Tuesday 17th. She has been a great comfort to me. And she is of good family, do you know? A Hist. of my native county has just appeared wherein my ancestor (I believe) John Jerdone is mentioned as the proprietor of land, held of the Abbot of Kelso – a field or two only – but the same is in the possession of my nephew John Jerdan. It is remarkable that so small a holding should date from AD 1300.” The comment about Marion’s birthday may mean that she was to be 22, but she might have been older, as no birth record has been found for her, indicating that she was born before records began in 1837.
The Leisure Hour provided Jerdan with an outlet for ‘Men I Have Known’ as well as for some other articles, and therefore with a vitally necessary income. In the issue of 23 February appeared one entitled “Pickles and Preserves”, identified as Jerdan’s by a letter in March to Crowquill, (Alfred Forrester) mentioning it. Without such confirmation it would be impossible to identify this as Jerdan’s work, it being of an entirely new nature and content, although the subject of food adulteration was something the Literary Gazette had discussed in 1843; the topic had now come to the forefront of public awareness, following articles in The Lancet. This latest piece, like the one he wrote for Trotter’s Soho Bazaar, read more as an extended advertisement for the products of Crosse & Blackwell, the company he discussed, coincidentally also of Soho Square. (Mr Blackwell had advised the House of Commons’ Committee on the adulteration of food, in 1855, that his company no longer used colourants.)
Jerdan had visited their factory in July at the height of the season, and described in great detail every aspect of their various processes under separate headings of Pickles, Sauces, Preserves and Preserved Provisions. He described the different methods, and set out an impressive number of statistics for the quantities of jars produced. He was careful to record the source of the vegetables, meats and fish used in the various preparations, and discussed the size of the workforce required to carry out the work. Jerdan compared their work with that of the women in Thomas Hood’s famous poem, “The Song of the Shirt”:
Stitch, stitch, stitch,
Seam, and gusset and band,
Band and gusset and seam. [complete text of poem]
He was gratified, he wrote, to learn that “the average wages were two shillings, and that a clever picker could earn half a crown by her day’s work.” Crosse & Blackwell’s calf’s foot jelly he noted, had been “sent to the Crimea as presents, was found to be so beneficial to our sick soldiers that it is now being ordered for all the government hospitals.” Jerdan was particularly impressed by the company’s policy not to use artificial colourings, and he concluded that “it seems to me that this immense business was the triumph of the grand principle that honesty is the best policy.” The firm treated its workers well, thought Jerdan, who was amazed that in their newest building in Dean Street a system of ventilators drew off the steam and hot air from the pickling process and brought in fresh air to “invigorate the exhausted workers”. In this article Jerdan brought his long-dormant journalistic abilities to the fore, producing an article that was full of facts yet written in an interesting and entertaining style.
The subject continued to interest him, as he told Crowquill on 6 March 1860: “I have a fancy for doing a small volume on the Adultery of Food, first title, Death Dinnering” (Huntington 130). He suggested that Crowquill might care to provide relevant illustrations, and set out his own ideas for the cover: “My notion is a table, the front so far open as to show that it was supported upon grotesque skeleton claws, and perhaps a thigh bone or two as cross pieces. Several Courses set like Sancho Panza at Baratgaria, a figure like the Doctor forbidding the touch of a splendid dish, a butler of the skeleton genus doing the wine duties - another servant deadly bringing in a tray …etc etc.”
Crowquill appeared to like the project, as a few days later Jerdan told him that his “dish gets me into a scrape.” Everyone wanted to keep his sketch, but on March 12th Jerdan gleefully recounted how his visitors coveting Crowquill’s work were shown “some of your old treasured fancies, held in lavender by sons and daughters of this wealthy house; and it is quite painful to notice what envy and malice are excited!” (Huntington). Crowquill had enquired about paper sizes and publishers, but Jerdan had not thought his project through. “My idea was to produce a lot of copies and go with them in hand to Smith & Son, or other great Vendor, and sell them in the lump of one, two, three or more thousands.” He asked Crowquill’s advice as to price, thinking himself of a one shilling volume. In addition to the Leisure Hour article on Crosse & Blackwell, he referred the illustrator to his own papers in the Literary Gazette of 1843, “Accum’s Death in the Pot”. “The work will treat of the deleterious and fraudulent extent of deterioration – exemplified in a multitude of ways and instances”, he explained. Despite Jerdan’s enthusiasm and Crowquill’s agreement, the book does not appear to have ever been published.
The Leisure Hour provided Jerdan with the opportunity to add four more characters to his ‘Men I Have Known’ series. In July he wrote on Sir Mark Isambard Brunel, in August on Sir James Mackintosh and Sir Joseph Jekyll, and then there was a gap until the November issue on Samuel Rogers.
Only two letters survive from 1861, one being from Bulwer on May 3rd, thanking Jerdan for a “little volume” he had sent, which must have been a manuscript as Bulwer, in praising it most warmly, told Jerdan, “it is a book that should be published and its merits will be appreciated in proportion to the intellect of the reader – the judgment of the Few will make it a permanent addition to the literature of the many” (Bodleian 48f.24). The tone of Bulwer’s comments, and his remark that “it has the chance of a classic in its great truthfulness and unconscious power,” suggest that this was not Jerdan’s planned book on food adulteration, but some other work of a more literary nature, possibly his biography of Thomson. The second surviving letter, dated on the penultimate day of the year, was from solicitors concerning a debt of Jerdan’s to a Mr Collis.
‘Men I Have Known’ continued to appear in the Leisure Hour: February covered Captain Crozier, whilst Gifford of the Quarterly’s and Sir Walter Scott appeared in the Spring. Mountstuart Elphinstone and Richard Brinsley Sheridan shared an issue in June, and in July was the turn of Lord Chancellor Eldon. An August issue featured the odd pairing of William Huskisson and Thomas Campbell, and Jerdan’s last contribution in 1861 was in October, on Sir John Malcolm.
1861 was again a Census year, and Jerdan’s little cottage on Bushey Heath was recorded as home to him as Head of the household, aged 78; he listed himself as “Widower”, a clear reference to Frances’s death five years earlier, and a sure sign that he did not marry Mary Maxwell thereafter. His unmarried daughter Marion aged 24, was listed as housekeeper, together with five sons and one other daughter, Agnes, ranging in age from 19 to five years, Edward being the youngest, born to Mary Maxwell in the Barming Heath lunatic asylum. A daughter, Emma, who appeared on the 1851 Census as a five-year old was not mentioned on this one.
Although Jerdan had long ago resigned from the many societies of which he had been a member he had remained on the list of the Garrick Club, which he had helped to establish in 1831. In February 1862 he wrote to Lord William Lennox, regretting that he had to ask for his name to be withdrawn:
The infrequency of my visits to town, and the increase of the subscription determined me to forgo the pleasant tie (almost the last) with old and gratifying associations. I have thought that in forming the new rules an exception might have been made with regard to those who, like yourself and myself, went through the labour of the foundation. I, in my case, as you may remember, went to considerable expense towards furnishing the cellar, and other provisional arrangements. I should have been well content to catch a glimpse of my old friends now and then before the fall of the curtain, but having laid my small share of ashes in the original fire, I must now only hope that the Phoenix about to arise from the nest may flourish and grow great in the good system of love and literature, and patronage of the Drama. Your plate and crockery will still remind you of the inventor of your symbol, and suggest to the youthful and sanguine that 'All the World's a Stage'. [Lennox 2.42]
The ‘Phoenix’ to which Jerdan referred was probably the new home for the Garrick then being built, to which the Club moved in 1864.
Jerdan’s isolation, loneliness and sadness is palpable. He did receive occasional visits from the poet Eliza Cook, who came in the summer months to visit friends in Heath Cottage on Bushey Heath.
In April 9th, Jerdan sent a note to an unnamed person, saying apologetically, “I daresay it is hardly worth your remembrance that you asked for and I had the pleasure to send you some memoranda for the first edition of your Biographical Dictionary” (MsL J55bAc Iowa). He mentioned some additional information on the sculptor Durham, and ended rather pathetically, “I am still alive at Bushey Heath and if I can render you any little service you may call on [me].” The addressee was most likely to have been Edward Walford, whose Biographical Dictionary was published in 1862. The entry on Durham was a new insertion into his existing Dictionary, and its style suggests that Jerdan was the author. The entry for Jerdan himself was a straight-forward sketch of his working life, which could have been taken directly from his Autobiography.
Jerdan’s own biographical endeavour was picking up speed, as in the first half of the year the ‘Men’ he knew for the Leisure Hour were Sir John Franklin, Lisle Bowles and Charles Dibdin. He had a break over the summer, reappearing in October to present Richard Martin of Galway, and Coleridge. Three issues in December were devoted to Richard Porson, Sharon Turner, Barham and Douce.
In July Jerdan made a rare visit to London, to the Reading Room of the British Museum. He tried to find the works of Lt. Holman, the Blind Traveller, which he had reviewed long ago in the Literary Gazette. Failing to find what he sought, he wrote to ask J. Winter at the Museum whether it was his “blundering, not being a very customary visitor to the BM”, or a lapse in their Catalogue (British Library 70850/29). He could not resist remarking that “in the course of the day I had the pleasure of shaking hands with both Sir H Ellis and M. Panizzi.” His love of “tuft-hunting”, or name-dropping, was a lifetime trait. Henry Ellis had been the ineffective but titular head of the British Museum who had resigned aged seventy-nine, in 1856, while Sir Anthony Panizzi, keeper of printed books, had been Head in all but name, until finally appointed to the post on the resignation of Ellis.
The end of summer found Jerdan in pensive mood, dwelling on the past, and musing on the inherent problems of literature. He unloaded what he called his “periodical prosing” to Bulwer in a letter of September 21st:
When the lamp is flickering out, there are shadowy intermittent periods during which the reflections of its early light and burning assume vivid hues from their nature imperceptible to the world. It is at such times that I am apt to recall the memory of friends who were near and dear to me – much in Communion – and of circumstances once so deeply interesting. Even not yet forgetting the past, and hoping against being quite forgot, accidental matters will stir up the lambent flame of former years and get one a-wishing for some intercourse to prove that I am the Ipse [he himself] I fancy to have been. [Hertfordshire D/EK/C/11/26]
Moving on to mention a recent article in Blackwood’s on literary pursuits, Jerdan continued:
The mechanical and the intellectual cannot be co-ordinate. The simple act of putting pen to paper will ever affect the thought desired to be expressed. The emanation cannot be transferred to a material medium so pure and so entire as the conception and shaping in the mind. Thus no man of any genius could be satisfied with what he wrote. The nearer he approached the standard, he would be the better pleased; but he never could reach it. Grateful readers might applaud the greatness of his achievement – the while he was lamenting the measure in which it fell short of his ideal. Their triumphale is to him almost an aggravation of his sense of failure.
His own sense of failure, added to his sense of isolation, intensified when on 12 September his long-time partner, Mary Maxwell, died of ‘chronic mania’ in the asylum at Barming Heath, Maidstone. She was forty-five years old. Unfortunately for posterity, she left no known letters or diaries to illuminate her life with Jerdan, unlike Leigh Hunt's Marianne, who had also succumbed to years of stress and poverty, but kept a journal partly as a defence against accusations levelled against her (Holden 242). The diagnosis of “chronic mania” as cause of death might, in today’s terms, have covered conditions which had nothing to do with lunacy but rather be depression, which would not be surprising given her thirteen children in less than twenty years, her ageing sick ‘husband’, and several house moves whilst endeavouring to support Jerdan in his struggles to create some income for his large family. Other conditions for which women were sent to asylums were hysteria, anorexia and perceived sexual problems. A woman could be incarcerated for no longer permitting conjugal relations, but it would seem this is not the reason why Mary was put away, as she gave birth whilst in the asylum. Jerdan would have known that in the 1840s Thackeray’s wife became depressed after the birth of her second child, and stayed in an asylum for the rest of her life. Mary Wollstonecraft’s Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman published in 1798 involved a woman whose marriage broke down due to her husband’s misbehaviour, and was imprisoned by him in a madhouse. Things had improved in the intervening years, and Jerdan had been interested in the treatment of madness since the early days of the Literary Gazette. He made reference to this topic throughout his editorship; one instance was in August 1828 when there was a review of Commentaries on the Causes, forms, Symptoms and Treatment, Moral and Medical, of Insanity (516). This treatise traced insanity “in all items forms of mania, melancholia, demency, idiocy etc. etc. to the various moral and physical causes which produce that almost worst of human afflictions.” Jerdan devoted over two pages to this book, an indication of his own interest in the subject at a time long before it became a factor in his own life.
Later, in July 1830 he drew attention to the second edition of An Inquiry as to the Expediency of a County Asylum for Pauper Lunatics, mentioning that this was a subject of general interest, and that the author had striven to campaign for “a suitable asylum in his native county for the proper care and treatment of a most helpless class of our afflicted fellow-creatures” (445). The reviewer referred to a paper published the previous year, revealing that more than one in a thousand “was actually mad”, and that “the disease” was increasing. Parliamentary figures now confirmed that nearly fourteen thousand people in England and Wales were insane. There had been no attempt at a cure, merely incarceration, even in private madhouses, a practice which exacerbated mental problems. Now that the “magnitude of evil” was known, it was to be hoped that proper provision would be made for the afflicted. In response to the call for county asylums, the 1845 Lunatics Act compelled local authorities to provide asylum care. Bryan Waller Procter, a barrister better known as the poet Barry Cornwall who had been an early contributor to the Literary Gazette, had become one of the first two legal Metropolitan Commissioners in Lunacy from 1832 until his death in 1861. Jerdan would have been keen to hear his inside knowledge of the matter. Jerdan’s campaigning interest in the subject reappeared in the Literary Gazette in March 1840, in a review of Aphorisms and management of the insane, with consideration on public and private lunatic asylums, pointing out the errors in the present system (1407). The reviewer noted, “the disease is a frightful one and ages have passed over generations of man and women without its being sufficiently investigated or understood. In later days, some steps have been taken towards remedying this crying evil, but much, very much, yet remains to be done; and with such a guide before us, we trust it will not be long before that great desideration is partially if not wholly accomplished…” An issue of the Literary Gazette in 20 April 1844 gave the front pages to a review of The General Report for 1843 of Bridewell and Bethlem. Most unusually, extracts formed only one-third of Jerdan’s article which rejoiced that treatment of the insane had, over time, moved from the punitive to the gentle; science had at last realised that there was still “a spark among the ashes which, by care and skill, may be fanned into the natural and regulated illumination of soul, and the rational be reclaimed from the irrational, and the wretched restored to society, usefulness and peace.” He told readers that “when our Gazette was young”, “it was the first public journal in England to direct attention to the course of remedial and alleviating lunatic treatment adopted at Aversa in Italy…at Massachusetts, at York and at Perth.” To write his article, Jerdan himself went to visit Bethlem and described in much detail the excellent conditions he found there. He then quoted some statistics from the Report, highlighting the benefits of providing useful employments for the insane. He made a case for England to have a “self-supporting asylum” on the lines of one in Paris, explaining how his would work.
An article in the November 1849 on “Insanity from Chloroform” highlights the possibility of understanding what might have happened to Mary Maxwell (861). It discussed three cases of insanity following the administration of chloroform during childbirth, reported at a meeting of the Westminster Medical Society. One woman became maniacal and was removed to an asylum where, after twelve months, she recovered her reason and was released. A second woman never recovered at all, whilst the third became excitable and behaved like a child, a condition which lasted five months. Chloroform could also cause instant death, a high price to pay for “stupefaction during labour”. By the 1850s there was a huge increase in the number of women admitted to asylums and this was, perhaps, one of the reasons. The 1850s was also the time when Jerdan’s general interest became more personal. He devoted the front pages of the Literary Gazette to several publications under the heading of “Treatment of Insanity”. As he had in his article six years earlier, he referred to the Gazette’s early notice of progressive treatment in Italy and other places, where “lenient or soothing treatment” superseded whips, chains and dark dungeons. The achievements of Dr John Conolly of the Middlesex Lunatic Asylum at Hanwell were discussed and praised, and extracts from his ‘Croonian Lectures’ delivered to the Royal College of Physicians took up most of the remaining review. Brief mentions were made of other writings on “Lunatics.”
Jerdan also strongly supported the efforts of Dr Haslam, noting affectionately that he had “a tinge of that eccentricity which seems frequently to have accrued from scientific devotedness to the medical treatment of insanity, and mingling much with insane patients.” By the time Jerdan wrote this, he could add a footnote in his autobiography, saying that “the aberrations of the afflicted have not the same tendency to affect the minds of those who are charged with the most trying and interesting of all human trusts, the care of them, and the device of means to restore them to their sorrowing friend” (3.279).
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Holden, Anthony. The Wit in the Dungeon: A Life of Leigh Hunt. Little, Brown, 2005.
Hall, Samuel Carter. The Book of Memories of Great Men and Women of the Age, from personal acquaintance. 2nd ed. London: Virtue & Co. 1877.
Hawthorne, Julian. Hawthorne and his Circle. 1903. Project Gutenberg etext 6982.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The English Notebooks. London: Modern Language Association, 1941.
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Lennox, Lord William Pitt. Celebrities I Have Known. London: 1876.
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Last modified 15 July 2020