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Douglas Jerrold








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It is now more than twenty years since the editor
of St. Nicholas invited the last surviving daughter of
Douglas Jerrold to contribute a paper on her father's
early life to that magazine ; this my aunt was unwilling
to do, and asked that I should be permitted to write the
article instead. Later she expressed the hope that I
would some day undertake the work which I have here
completed, and gave me to that end such materials as
remained in her possession. A biography of Douglas
Jerrold was written shortly after his death by his eldest
son, William Blanchard Jerrold, but in the years that
have elapsed since then nearly all the people who knew
the dramatist, who had listened to his wit, have passed
away; some of these lived to write their reminiscences
of the old time, others have in turn become the subjects
of biography, and the belongings of others — including
such letters, papers and books as are the raw material
for the biographer — have been scattered by the rise and
fall of the auctioneer's hammer. Thus it is that fresh
material has become available for giving more completely
the story of the life of Douglas Jerrold.

Such fuller story should at least prove serviceable in
correcting the errors concerning Jerrold which are to be
found in most works of reference, as well as certain
others which have been quoted again and again as facts
but which research shows to be fictions. It may be said
that where in this work statements and dates differ
from those given in the established works of reference, in
the earlier biography, or biographical articles, the present
work has the authority of immediately contemporary
documentary or printed evidence.

Novelist and essayist, satirist and wit, journalist and
dramatist, Douglas Jerrold exercised his pen in so many
directions that in the regard of those who think that the
cobbler should stick to his last his reputation may have
suffered from the very multiplicity of ways in which his
talents were manifested. He is said to have been im-
patient of the fact that that which was not the best of
his work was that which gave him the greatest popularity.



The writer of close upon seventy plays, he realised
that there were among them many better than Black-
Eyed Susan, which was the most widely known of
his writings for the stage; and when he described the
Chronicles of Clovernook as containing some of his best
work, he knew that its vogue was not a tithe of a tithe
of that of the Caudle Lectures. Then, too, the fact that
he was a wit militated somewhat against full recognition
of the strong purpose which informed most that he wrote,
and he chafed against that knowledge. In this volume
I have sought simply to tell the story of his life, to indi-
cate something of the character of his varied work, and
to show what manner of man he was in the regard of
those who knew him.

For generous assistance I offer grateful thanks : To
Mr. Bertram Dobell for thoughtful help over many years ;
to him I owe the only copy I know of the Anti-Punch
booklet, herein first drawn attention to, a copy of the
scarce twopenny pamphlet, Life of Douglas Jerrold, pub-
lished in 1857, several of the rarer printed plays and
other materials. To Mr. Theodore Watts-Dunton for
the gift of his copies of Jerrold's dramas — a prized collec-
tion including some that appear to be unique. To Sir
James Yoxall, M.P., for a precious specimen of the
"Caudle" bottle (depicted opposite p. 4, vol. ii. To Mr.
Thomas Catling, who entered the service of Lloyds in 1854,
and in due course succeeded to the editorial chair, for
friendly help. To the late Mr. T. F. Dillon -Croker for assist-
ance in tracing the early plays. To Mr. E. Y. Lowne for a
copy of his Elliston letter concerning the writing of Black-
Eyed Susan — though that letter destroys a time-honoured
story ! To Captain Christie-Crawford for additions to
ray portraits of Douglas Jerrold. To Mr. A. S. E.
Ackermann for the photograph of West Lodge. To Mr.
William Roberts for a copy of the rules and list of members
of " Our Club " and other assistance. To Miss Hutchison
Stirling for my grandfather's letters to her distinguished
father; and to Miss F. Rathbone, Mr. A. M. Broadley,
Mr. H. B. Wheatley and others for the loan of letters.

W t alter Jerrold.
May 1914.


I Childhood and Youth. 1808-1816 . . 1

II The Printing House — First Plays —

Marriage. 1816-1824 .... 37

III Dramatist-of-all-Work. 1825-1828 . . 70

IV " Black-Eyed-Susan." 1829-1830 . . 103

V "Thomas a Becket " — "The Devil's

Ducat." 1830-1831 135

VI " The Rent Day " and Early Comedy.

1831-1882 177

VII The State of the Drama — "Nell
Gwynne" — The Mulberry Club. 1882-
1834 201

VIII In Paris. 1885-1886 246

IX An Experiment — "Men of Character"
— "The Handbook of Swindling."
1836-1839 274

X Boulogne — "The Prisoner of War" —

"Bubbles of the Day." 1840-1843 . 316

XI Illness — Letters from Dickens — The

First Shilling Magazine. 1848-1844 . 349



To face puyt
DOUGLAS Jerrold .... Frontispiece

(From an unsigned oil painting in the possession of the Author)

A Christmas Piece 18

(Written by Douglas Jerrold in lSli')

Douglas Jerrold, 182 — 68

(From an unsigned oil painting)

The Coburg Theatre in 1826 .... 82

(From an engraving by Daniel Hdvell)

The Surrey Theatre in 1826 . . . .116

(From an engraving by Daniel ffavell)

Douglas Jerrold, 183 — 190

(From a print first published in ISS'J, as "from a picture in tht possession

of Dougla* Jerrold ")

Douglas Jerrold in Caricature . . . 236

Copied by Miss Daphne Jerrold after the following —
1. John Leech. 2 and 3. A JFurd with Punch. 4. Kenny
Meadows. 5. John Tenniel. 6. Richard Doyle. 7. W. M.
Thackeray. 8. Kenny Meadows. 9. John Leech.

A Letter of Douglas Jerrold's, 1839 . . 296
Firwood House, Herne Bay .... 350

(From a water-colour sketch by Mr. Hv.'jh Thornton, R.I., in the possession
of the Author)





Much as the theatre has been written about
in these days, there is one aspect of theatrical
life which seems, except in personal memoirs
and as episodical in theatrical histories, to have
escaped the attention of the student — it is
that of the provincial theatres and the theatrical
' circuits " of the eighteenth and early nine-
teenth centuries. Of the central establish-
ments in London, the places in which stage
plays were represented by companies that
retained the title of royal servants long after
princely salaries had been substituted for
royal wages, much has been written, but of
those strolling companies which periodically
visited the various towns and villages on their
particular " circuits," we have apparently no
tentative chronicle — anything approaching a
complete history would probably now be
impossible. There are references to such com-
panies in the lives of some of the players who
won to wider fame, in letters and memoirs and
in the periodicals of the time, but of connected
history as yet it appears nothing. Such a

history is too wide and too remotely connected
vol. i B


with my present subject to call for treatment
here, for I have particularly to deal with but
one strolling player, and with him only as intro-
ductory to the story of his son. From the
scattered scraps in lives and reminiscences
of actors who passed from the position of
" strollers " to that of " stars," the story of
those old days may, perhaps, yet be pieced
together. We see the actors moving from
place to place with almost bewildering rapidity,
but it is generally as a genial, friendly company,
accepting the rough with the smooth in a
delightfully philosophic fashion — professional
nomads who by day were sometimes in diffi-
culties as to where they could find lodgings,
and by night were playing the parts of spectac-
ular heroes and kings. Heroes many of them
were, it would seem, in their daily lives, though
the heroism was not of a kind to impress the
onlookers. Rogues and vagabonds * in the
eyes of the law, they were carrying the glamour
of wonder and poetry into all sorts of unex-
pected places in days before the schoolmaster
was abroad. It is small wonder that the
appearance of the players often moved adven-
turous youth to throw in its lot with them, and

1 In illustration of this old status of the actor I
have come across an amusing story of Charles Macklin.
Having to visit a fire office in connection with the in-
surance of some property, the actor was asked how he
would be pleased to have his name entered. " Entered ? "
said the veteran. " Why, I am only plain Charles Macklin,
a vagabond by Act of Parliament; but in compliment to
the times, you may set me down Esquire, as they are
now synonymous terms."


to seek fortune in their company. The way in
which the old circuit companies moved about
is amusingly shown by one who ran away from
the City life to which he was indentured, and
who subsequently justified his running away
by the position which he took after serving a
new apprenticeship to the fascinating life of
the strolling player. The circuit companies
seem to have had, as the name implies, a regu-
lar round of towns and villages in which they
appeared, and to have dated happenings and
events by their successive appearances in such

In 1789, the earliest date to which I can
trace him, Samuel Jerrold, a member of the
Dover company of players, and also, it is said,
their printer— a doubling of parts which may
well appear strange in the twentieth century —
was acting at Eastbourne. Thither came a
youth of eighteen, a runaway apprentice from
London, who was accepted as a member of
the company under the name of " S. Merchant,"
but who was to become known to fame as
Thomas John Dibdin. To Dibdin's Reminis-
cences, published nearly forty years later, we
owe a first glimpse of the Jerrold family.

It was in 1789 that Dibdin, at the age of
eighteen, set out with an introduction to Mr.
Mate of the Margate Theatre, got there to
learn that the company was full up and to be
sent on with a letter — " not such a letter as
this advising, but one commanding my deputy
manager, Mr. Richland, to give you an imme-


diate engagement, and put you on a footing
with the first actor in the company." Dibdin
tramped from Margate to Dover, only to find
that the company was at Eastbourne, and on
to that town he was compelled to continue his

' On entering the village, I felt no small anxiety
lest the ' Dover Company ' should have again moved
forwards, and my journey, consequently, be not at
its close; but, to my great delight, I saw the last
night's playbill affixed to a post ; and while I was loud
in my mirth at something whimsical in its style of
commencement, a farmer, who supposed me one of the
corps dramatique, exclaimed as he passed, ' Addrott'n,
there you be laughing at your own roguery ! '

" When we came to the inn, the first thing I saw
was my little valise, which had arrived the day before,
addressed to the care of the manager : I wished to
have improved my dress a little before I waited on the
great man, forgetting that it would be first necessary
to receive my wardrobe from himself. The moment
I claimed acquaintance with the parcel, and asked a
waiter where the manager lived, a very shrewd-looking
and rather handsome lad of about fourteen replied,
' Mr. Richland, sir, is in the house ; and if you are the
new gentleman he expects, will be very happy to see
you.' This youth was nephew of the manager, his
name Jerrold, to which he subsequently added a
Fitz, and afterwards became manager of the Theatre
Royal, York, in which circuit he some two years
since died.

' The idea of meeting the manager in my dusty
dishabille was rather unpleasant, but before I could
express myself to that effect, young Jerrold threw


open a door, and I was instantaneously in the presence
of Mr. Richland, manager; Mr. Russell (the since
far-famed ' Jerry Sneak ' of Drury Lane Theatre,
and now the merry manager of Brighton), deputy
manager . . . Mr. Parsons, a serious actor who always
laughed, sat next to a melancholy comedian, father
of the youth Jerrold, who had so suddenly ' let me
in,' to this long-sought society; and whose greatest
professional importance arose from the inspiring
circumstance of his being possessed of ' a real pair of
the great Mr. Garrick's own shoes,' in which the happy
Jerrold played every part assigned to him, and conse-
quently maintained a most respectable standing in
the theatre. I still see the delight with which his
eyes sparkled when he exhibited these relics of the
mighty Roscius to me for the first time, and his stare
of admiration on learning that the ' new gentleman '
was really and truly no more nor less than a genuine
godson of the immortal G."

Dibdin gave the company a taste of his
quality in a song which was well received,
and " Jerrold swore by Garrick's shoes it was

" When I obtained leave to retire, and got pos-
session of my valise, it was on condition I returned in
an hour to dine with the jolly set, and bring my
travelling companion with me. Little Jerrold was
printer to the corps ; and as I was leaving the room,
he asked under what name he should have the honour
to insert my debut in the playbill. ' Sir,' replied I,
' my name is Norval.' ' True, sir, upon the Grampian
Hills; but your real name.' "

The new gentleman chose the name of
Merchant — his own name, as the son of Charles


Dibdin of sea-song fame, and as a runaway
apprentice, not yet being safe for use in his
new work.

" Little Jerrold " presumably refers to Samuel,
— for Robert, a boy of fourteen, was not very
likely to be the printer to the corps.

From Dibdin we learn that at Eastbourne
the Dover Company was acting in a large barn,
and that the members of the company were
not salaried, but were playing on sharing terms,
the arrangement being that after a certain
amount of the money taken had been put
aside for rent, servants and tradesmen, the
rest was divided into a certain number of
parts, six of which went to the manager, and
one to each other member of the company,
with a little extra for the one who added to his
other duties that of prompter. Most of these
companies of itinerant Thespians were formed
on such lines. From an old account of one
of them I find that, supposing the number of
the company to be sixteen, " the profits of
each night are divided into twenty parts or
shares, and the extra four assigned to the
manager for clothes, scenery, etc. The only
advantage a good actor has in such a scheme
is the attention paid to his benefit, because
nightly, Macbeth and the Murderer retire with
the same mass of wealth."

Another glimpse of the Jerrold family is
shown by Dibdin. When the time came for
the " new gentleman " to claim a benefit he
thought that he would like to play Werter,


but the play had not been printed, and the
company had no copy of it.

' What then ? They were acting it at Brighton
only eighteen miles distant; and as my mother hap-
pened to be there, I determined to visit her, obtain
amnesty for my elopement and use her interest with
good-natured Jem Wild (prompter at Brighton and
Covent Garden), to borrow or copy the tragedy. As
I played every night, and had to rehearse every day,
I had no other mode of accomplishing my wish than
that of leaving Eastbourne on a Saturday night after
the farce was over, staying Sunday at Brighton, and
returning on Monday morning. Young Jerrold, or
Fitzgerald, offered to accompany me : we left East-
bourne as the church clock struck midnight ; but the
moon was up, the breeze was beautiful, the road
romantic, and we had cheered our spirits with a good
supper at the Lamb. We marched merrily along till
near Seaford; when the moon having retired, our
direct road grew rather difficult to be distinguished,
as it lay over a waste down, bordered with tremendous
cliffs. As the sky became more obscure, a propor-
tionably brilliant, but terrific effect was produced
by the sudden glare of innumerable signals of fire
along the whole line of coast, proceeding from flash-
boxes ; and as we passed the end of a gloomy defile,
cut in a chalk road in the direction of the sea, we were
suddenly met by about two hundred horses, ridden or
led by perhaps half that number of smugglers, all
well armed, and each horse carrying as many casks
of ' moonlight ' as could be slung on his back. They
challenged us with much simplicity, asked where we
were going ; and on being informed, said we must not
proceed further in that direction, but accompany
them for a few miles, when they would set us down in


a place much nearer Brighton than we then were :
this arrangement was imparted in a good-natured
tone, but yet one of so much decision, that we had no
alternative but to fall in with their humour. They
insisted on our each just tasting a glass of godsend,
as they chose to christen some excellent brandy;
and the next moment the godson of Garrick, the
Incledon of Eastbourne, and the pupil of Sir William,
was seated between two tubs on a tall black mare;
and little Bob Jerrold, bestriding a cask of contraband,
on the back of a Shetland pony. We rode silently
along for a few minutes, when an athletic horseman,
in a white round frock, came close to me with rather a
meaning air, and asked whether I could not sing
' Poor Jack ' ; and before I could answer, burst into a
laugh, by which I discovered him to be the brother of
my landlord at Eastbourne : he added, they had made
a capital night's work, and should soon be ' at home '
— meaning, as I afterwards learned, their general
depot in another part of the cliffs ; but that if we had
continued our advance and happened to mention the
sort of cavalcade we had encountered, there might
be those upon the alert who would probably have
pursued, and given them some trouble. In about an
hour we were liberated with a caution, that it would
be ' as well ' to say nothing about the good company
we had been in. It was now daybreak; and by the
directions they gave, we reached Brighton at an
early hour, breakfasted at an inn, and as soon as I
thought my mother would be visible, I sent young
Jerrold to her with a letter."

One reference in Dibdin's remarks is puzzling,
and that is where he refers to Robert Jerrold
as nephew to Richland. If the statement is
correct Mrs. Richland must have been Samuel


Jerrold's sister, but of his parentage and family
I have been able to ascertain nothing. The
most probable explanation is that Dibdin's
memory was at fault, and that instead of
" Richland " he should have written " Cope-
land," for I have found no other mention than
Dibdin's of a theatrical Richland.

The Dover Company seems to have had its
circuit about the Kent and Sussex towns, and
in 1800 the name of Samuel Jerrold still appears
in it when the players were at Lewes — perhaps
by then he had his own company. The
actor who had the Dover circuit at this time
was Robert Copeland — of the Copelands of
Belnagan, co. Neath — whose son, born in 1799,
was also to become an actor in due course, and
to marry a daughter of Samuel Jerrold. 1
When Dibdin met Jerrold in Eastbourne, the
latter, presumably already a widower — his
first wife, nee Simpson, is said to have been an
actress — was the father of two sons, the Robert
mentioned, and a younger one named Charles.
Between 1789 and 1800, however, Samuel
Jerrold seems to have sought his fortunes
further afield, and may possibly for a time
have been a member of the Derbyshire or
York circuits. Possibly several members of

1 The Jerrold and Copeland families again intermarried,
for a daughter of this union in 1858 married a son of
Douglas Jerrold — in consequence of which the author
of this biography and his brothers and sisters all bear
the mid-name of Copeland. Robert Copeland's daughter,
Fanny Elizabeth (1801-1854), at fifteen " leading actress "
in her father's company, is best remembered under her
married name as Mrs. Fitzwilliam.


the Dover Company may thus have travelled
north, for Robert Copeland's wife is said to
have been a member of a Yorkshire family
named Longbottom, with traditional descent
from the family of Bishop Fell immortalized
in epigram. Certainly Samuel Jerrold was in
Derbyshire, for at the small town of Wirks-
worth, some miles to the south of Matlock,
he married his second wife. He may have
been thus far from his usual " circuit " pro-
fessionally, for his second wife was presumably
already an actress, as also possibly was her
mother. That there was certainly a theatre
at Wirksworth I have ascertained, for in 1801
the Stafford Company of actors is reported to
have had a season there. At Wirksworth
Church " Samuel Jerrold and Mary Reid both
of this parish " were married on April 20,

The second Mrs. Samuel Jerrold was much
younger than her husband, being about two and
twenty — indeed, her mother (nee Douglas) is
said to have been younger than her son-in-law.
Within nine years two daughters and two sons
were born to this couple, 1 who seem at once to
have removed to the south, and the usual
scenes of Samuel Jerrold's professional activi-
ties, for, as has been said, Jerrold's name appears
in a contemporary paragraph as among the

1 Elizabeth Sarah, who married William Robert
Copeland; Jane Matilda, who married William John
Hammond ; Henry, at different times a printer and
actor; and Douglas William, the subject of this memoir.


actors in 1800 at the Lewes Theatre, though
the " Mr. Jerrold " there noted may possibly
have been his son Robert. It is, however,
significant that the company also included a
" Mrs. Read " who may have been his mother-
in-law. Lewes was probably but the temporary
headquarters of the circuit company. In 1802,
Samuel Jerrold's company was acting at Wat-
ford, for thither in that year one William
Oxberry " fled from his former shackles on the
wings of hope," duly obtained an engagement,
made a start as Antonio in the Merchant of
Venice, and began a successful career as a
comedian. Another actor of some import-
ance in his day also made his start under
Samuel Jerrold's auspices at Watford, for it
is recorded of Thomas Cobham (1789-1842)
that his " first public essay took place at
Watford in Hertfordshire, fifteen miles from
the Metropolis. The company assembled at
this place was collected by Mr. Jerrold, father
of the late York manager. The members for
the most part were young in their calling,
but we are to infer that they possessed consider-
able talent, for most of them have risen to
eminence in their profession. Among them was
the late Mr. Oxberry, whose rich comic powers
were here first called into action. From Wat-
ford the company went to St. Albans." 2 It
is worthy of note that Cobham was another
instance of a printer's apprentice becoming an

1 Mirror of the Stage, July 26, 1824.


In the winter of 1802-3 the Jerrolds appear
to have been in London, whether professionally
or in the green-room euphemism of a latter day
" resting," it is now impossible to determine.
During this visit Mrs. Samuel Jerrold gave
birth on January 3, 1803— it has been said in
Greek Street, Soho — to a son who duly received
the names of Douglas William; the first of

Online LibraryWalter JerroldDouglas Jerrold, dramatist and wit (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 24)