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the DeviVs Ducat do what you please. I shall see
you to-morrow.

" Believe me, dear Whittle,
" Your ever truly,

" D. J."

It is possible that the dramatist's corre-
spondent was connected with the Adelphi
Theatre, as it was there that The DeviVs Ducat
made its appearance. That Whittle was
evidently a familiar friend the terms of this
note sufficiently indicate, but I have found
no further mention of him. Another friend
made at this time was John Abraham Heraud,
a journalist and minor poet of the period. It


was in this year that Heraud published a
volume of poems the title of which gave
Jerrold the opportunity for a jest. The poet
meeting the dramatist asked, " Have you seen
my Descent into Hell?" "No," retorted the
latter, " but I should like to." It was Heraud,
too, who was delightfully satirized a dozen
years later in what is accepted as Thackeray's
first contribution to Punch, " The Legend of
Jawbrahim Heraudee."




The quarrel that set Jerrold and Elliston
wide as the poles asunder, left the dramatist
free to place his work elsewhere than at the
Surrey, and also probably left him freer for
journalism. That the varied work which he
had done for the stage had made his name
known beyond the circle of friends and ac-
quaintances, is to be seen from such occasional
mention in the periodicals of the time as
troubled to note the fact that plays had authors.
Among men of kindred tastes and work he
was taking his place as a keen-witted and
ready-tongued companion, who was always
welcome. His brilliant conversational wit was
readily recognized, and his bonhomie won him
many friends among those who knew him as
a man of real earnestness of spirit, of great
kindliness and of keen sensibility, one whose
incisive remarks were frequently made for the
wit of the thing rather than with any cruel
intent. The man to whom the stroke was
delivered would know whether it was a rapier
thrust or a mere brilliant touch — a hit, a
palpable hit — with a fencing foil. There were

VOL. I 177 n


some who looked askance at him, who feared
the point of a weapon of which they lacked
the mastery, but they were probably those who
had given good cause for some specially biting
bit of sarcasm, some rankling point of wit.

It was somewhat about this time that a
number of young men, of whom Jerrold was
one, banded themselves into the Mulberry
Club. One of the prime movers in the scheme
appears to have been William Godwin's very
promising son, who about two years later was
untimely cut off by cholera. 1 The club met
at first once a week at " a house of entertain-
ment " in Vinegar Yard, Drury Lane, and
had a special dinner on that significant
anniversary, the twenty-third of April. Mem-
bers read original papers or poems relating
only to Shakespeare, and, as many artists
belonged to the club, they exhibited sketches
of some event connected with the poet's life.
A number of the youthful aspirants who fore-
gathered at this lowly place of meeting were
destined in after years to win for themselves
notable niches in the temple of fame. The

1 William Godwin the Elder in a preface to his son's
novel Transfusion said of the Mulberries : " It was part of
the plan of this club that each member should in rotation
produce and read before his fellows, on certain select
occasions, an original essay on any subject he might think
proper, provided it bore some reference to the object of
the club. Accordingly two of the essays produced by
him [William Godwin the Younger] were, the first entitled
On Shakespeare's Knowledge of His Own Greatness, and
the second A Dissertation on the Dramatic Unities, which
were after his death published in the Court Magazine."


three friends, Douglas Jerrold, Laman Blan-
chard and Kenny Meadows, all of them
ardent worshippers at the shrine of the great
poet, were, of course, of the coterie; Charles
Dickens, Serjeant Talfourd, Thackeray,
Charles Knight, Charles and Thomas Landseer,
Frank Stone, George Cattermole, Daniel Mac-
lise, " Bob " Keeley, and many other familiar
names, figured in the roll of membership either
in those early years or later, when the name
had been changed from the Mulberry to the
Shakespeare Club, and a more important
meeting place was fixed upon. 1

All the papers and poems which were read,
and the sketches which were shown, at the
" Mulberry " meetings, were kept together in
a book called Mulberry Leaves. This volume
on the expiry of the club remained in the hands
of William Elton, an actor member who was
drowned in 1843 while journeying from Edin-
burgh to London. The book, which presumably
remained with his family, has not been trace-
able. Only a portion of the volume's contents
was ever published, and it may be hoped that
the entire work is still in existence, and will
some day be made public, for it would be an
extremely interesting souvenir of the earlier
years and writings of a remarkable circle of
talented young men. Many of Douglas Jer-

1 It was evidently a member of the club who edited
BelVs Weekly Magazine in 1834, for in the third number
is given a conversation between the editor and his friends
(signed <£) in which the editor says " shall we smoke a
cigar more majorum, at the Mulberry Club."


rold's " leaves " were published in various
periodicals, and three of them are probably to
be recognized in his collected writings. 1 Of
his verse contributions to the club, but one
example remains in the form of a song on
Shakespeare's Crab Tree. 2 Many years after-
wards, speaking of the old circle, Douglas
Jerrold said that it was impossible to look back
to that " society of kindred thoughts and
sympathizing hopes without a sweetened
memory — without the touches of an old affec-
tion." In so looking back he was often moved
to sing again in a soft sweet voice, the Crab-
tree song which he had written in old " Mul-
berry " days.

It was probably in the Mulberry circle that
some one hit upon a novel method of testing
the members' knowledge of the works of
Shakespeare. A word was to be given to each
person by his table neighbour, and this he
was to define at once with an apposite quota-
tion from the poet. On its becoming Jerrold's
turn to respond, his neighbour probably plumed
himself upon having set a poser, for he sug-
gested the seemingly hopeless word " tread-
mill." Instantly came the wit's definition
of it in Lear's words, " Down — thou climbing
sorrow." This readiness of wit seems to have
been an early characteristic, for it is one of
the first things insisted upon by those of the

1 Shakespeare at Bankside, Shakespeare in China and
The Epitaph of Sir Hugh Evans in Cakes and Ale.

2 The Essays of Douglas Jerrold, Introduction.


dramatist's friends who have left any account
of their intercourse with him. It may reason-
ably be doubted whether Sydney Smith is
altogether in the right when he says that wit
may be mastered by patient study, that in
effect we may all become in our own way
Talleyrands, Sheridans, Sydney Smiths or
Jerrolds, yet we cannot doubt that, given the
mental alertness on which true wit depends,
the incessant exercise of it makes it seem yet
more remarkably ready. Douglas Jerrold as
a sociable and convivial companion and as a
dramatist was in a double manner keeping
his talent always polished and always in play.
The DeviVs Ducat had been produced at the
Adelphi a fortnight before Christmas, 1830;
on the following Easter Monday, April 4, 1831,
leaving the romantic drama in verse, Jerrold
was represented on the boards of the Pavilion
Theatre by an original domestic drama in
three acts called Martha Willis, the Servant
Maid. The story is laid nearly a century
before the time of its production, and its
characters are grouped more or less closely
around one, Nunky Gruel, a miserly and hypo-
critical pawnbroker. This man is a notorious
receiver of stolen goods, and encourages the
young men who come within his influence to
" make money " by fair means or foul. The
hero, Walter Speed, is a highwayman who is
" wanted " for stopping a coach and a former
lover of Martha Willis, a country girl who has
entered service in London with the hope that


she may encounter him. Martha and several
others are placed in Newgate for robbery and
are sentenced to death; she refusing to say
that which by freeing her would make Speed's
guilt known. Speed, who has given the girl
the stolen ring which brings about her con-
demnation, determines to work what repara-
tion he may; he kills the usurer and receiver
of stolen goods who has been his undoing, and
disguised gains admission to Newgate, where
making himself known, he clears the girl,
takes poison, and dies. The play, which is
perhaps more notable for the pointed dialogue
than for any strong interest in the highly
sensational story, enjoyed such success as to
warrant its revival more than once during
the next few years.

Slug, who professes to be a reformed char-
acter, has a passage at arms with Scarlet, the
guard of the Derby Highflyer :

" Scarlet. Reformed, eh ? and what's become of
your friend, Nat Fell ?

Slug. My friend? Why, didn't he and two others
stop your coach on the Derby road ?

Scarlet. Yes ! and if my blunderbuss hadn't
missed fire, he'd have had lead enough in his head
for an alderman. So you've dissolved partnership
have you ?

Slug. I tell you, Master Scarlet, he was never a
friend of mine ; you see, he was new from the country,
and a fine dashing fellow with money in his pocket,
when I first knew him — then he went to gaming
houses, and then


Scarlet. I know — it is but a handsbreadth from
a dice box to a pistol. Gambler and pickpocket !
Why, they back one another like the head and tail
of a penny piece ! toss, and 'tis a chance which comes
uppermost. And so Nat Fell

Slug. Ay, that's his name here, though when he's
at home at Chesterfield, he's called Walter Speed.
Well, he, I tell you, has gone bad enough — but as for
me, I'm a respectable professional man — I'm a lawyer,
and an honest man.

Scarlet. Ay, that is, you only rob according to act
of Parliament. Well, good-day.

Slug. Good-day. Master Scarlet, you'll take
nothing ?

Scarlet. No, and I'll see you don't.

Slug. Ha ! you will have your jest. But good-day
to you ! You're a fine, open, worthy, (aside) sneaking,
pettifogging rascal. [Exit.

Scarlet. Turned honest ! Then black's turned

The usurer, gloating over " the last of his
lordship's plate," as he puts it with his hoard,
murmurs to himself, " Humph ! a lord without
gold and silver is marvellously like a peacock
without his feathers." Says a convicted thief
to the mother who had taught him thievery :
" When parents give life, they give a curse
if they do not teach that which makes life

Jerrold was at about this period devoting
much of his time to journalism. When Thomas
Wakley — celebrated as founder of the Lancet,
and for many years as coroner for Middlesex —
started a journal called the Ballot during the


great Reform agitation, he chose Douglas
Jerrold to assist him in the triple capacity
of sub-editor, reviewer and dramatic critic.
Later, when the Ballot was merged in the
Examiner, Jerrold continued for a while as
sub-editor under Albany Fonblanque. It was
about this time, too, that Jerrold became a
contributor of original essays to the Athenceum
and also is reported to have written a very
violent political pamphlet which was sup-
pressed. The actual subject of this pamphlet
it now seems impossible to trace, although
from the fact of its having been written when
the question of Reform was agitating men's
minds to an unusual degree it may be imagined
that it, too, dealt with the topical matter.
It is something characteristic of the man's
ardent, outspoken nature that what was
apparently his first essay in political writing
should so shock the sensibilities of the powers
that were that they should require its with-
drawal from circulation. When his pen was
further trained in the mastery of sarcasm and
invective it was destined to become a very real
power in the sphere of political journalism.

In the summer of 1831, T. P. Cooke, the
actor who, as William in Black-Eyed Susan,
had made so decided a hit, contemplated — it
may be presumed in the rdle of sailor — giving
a series of " Entertainments " in the manner
which Charles Mathews and Frederick Henry
Yates had made popular. With this aim in
view he communicated with the author of


the piece which had been the means of so
considerably adding to his reputation, inquiring
if he would undertake the literary part of such
an " Entertainment." The terms which he
offered did not apparently err on the side of
munificence, as may be gathered from Jer-
rold's reply, dated from 4, Augustus Square,
Regent's Park, on June 23 :

" My dear Cooke, — I feel assured that I should
not be able to do anything worthy of you, or credit-
able to myself, on the terms you propose. The
work would employ me — to do it as I should wish,
and to make it something like a standard thing —
some weeks. I could not do it — forming as it must a
whole night's entertainment, under £100. Moncrieff
and Peake have each had £300 off Mathews for his
At Homes. It is not, I hope, too much vanity in
me to rate myself at about one-third the value of
either of those gentlemen. I am aware that the
At Homes are established things, and that yours
would, from its very novelty, be something of a
speculation, yet to give that speculation any chance
of success it is necessary that great attention should
be directed to it, which attention I could not pay
under the terms I have above specified."

Cooke's scheme, apparently, did not come
to anything, or if it did, he must have found
a more amenable writer to prepare his " book,"
for Jerrold turned his attention to the writing
of a comic drama, by which he should once
more seek to gain the suffrages of a Drury
Lane audience.

On December 8, 1831, The Bride of Ludgate


was duly produced at that theatre, and proved
a better example of finished comedy than the
author's previous essays; it may indeed be
looked upon as the first of that series of
brilliant dialogue plays which ends with A
Heart of Gold more than twenty years later.
Two years had passed since the failure of
The Witchfinder, and in the interval the author
had strengthened his position and acquired
a greater sureness of touch; the new piece
was distinctly successful, despite the fact that
in a fit of pique Farren, who was cast for one
of the leading characters, " declined the part
the day before the performance." As " D. G."
put it, assuredly the fate of the dramatist
is hard, seeing that the attitude of one of the
" puppets " may destroy the chances of a
piece which represents six months of work.
The critic in his preface to Cumberland's
edition of this play waxed wroth, in capitals
and italics, over this defection of one of the
actors — " To destroy the hopes of an author is
a matter of small moment to the mimic ! to
whom all feelings are alike. What is his
success to him, even though the decent com-
forts of a family depend on it ? The puffed and
pampered player lacks even the small charity
of the Fine Gentleman in Garrick's Prologue —

" Let the poor devil eat, — allow him that ! "
The poor devil may be damned in a double
sense, ere he abate one inch of his dignity —
unless to cry quits with some stipendiary hack,
some penny-a-line man, or brother buffoon."


Among the other " wrongs " of dramatists
which galled Jerrold at various times was the
censorship exercised by the Examiner of Plays.
George Colman — the worthy who then wielded
this autocratic power — refused to license the
Bride of Ludgate for performance because the
plot required King Charles to wear the disguise
of a clergyman, and the habit of a lawyer had
lamely to be substituted. But of this trouble
with the Examiner we shall see something
more in the account of the next of the plays.

The story of The Bride of Ludgate is laid in
the Restoration days, when the Merry Monarch
and his licentious courtiers were ready to
engage in all manner of amorous escapades.
The King and his boon companion Sedley
have gone to a certain vintner's in disguise,
on the pretence of dealing in wines, but in
reality to make the acquaintance of the
merchant's pretty young wife. There they
find themselves let in for a series of amusing
adventures. Andrew Shekel, a rich old money-
lender of Ludgate, is about to marry a young
girl, Melissa, whose affections have previously
been engaged by young Mapleton, the son of
a Cromwellian. After a series of amusing
scenes in which Mapleton is half married to
Melissa's maid, and the King is arrested as a
traitor by one of his own boon companions,
Charles in royal fashion puts all right by
restoring Mapleton the family estates which
had been confiscated, by insisting upon his
marrying Melissa forthwith, while he further


rewards the disappointed old Shekel with a
promise of knighthood. The play sets forth
a pretty story and has much of sparkling
dialogue in it. " Our loyalty," says one of
the swaggerers to the disguised King, " is
clear as crystal." " Is it so ! " exclaims Charles
in an aside, " I'll try my diamonds on it."
After his bribery has seemed successful, when
the expose takes place, he turns and says,
" La ! dost not blush to take a bribe ? " to
receive the disarming retort, " La, sire, 'twould
have looked ill to blush to take, when your
Majesty didn't blush to offer."

Here is a scrap of dialogue between the
disguised King and Sedley in the house of the
vintner :

" Charles. Why, Sedley, surely some one hath
threatened you with matrimony, you seem so dull
of late.

Sedley. In truth, I begin to reflect that

Charles. Then you are a lost man; for reflection
to a rake is fatal as singing to a swan. Why, you
are so irrevocably lost that even your virtues, could
you filch any, would undo the world.

Sedley. The world is in no danger ; yet, how ?

Charles. How ! Why, your sobriety would shut up
the taverns, your frugality would ruin the money-
lenders, and your chastity make a desert of West-
minster Hall.

Sedley. But then the virtue that would rejoice at
my conversion

Charles. She'd have little reason; for virtue her-
self, with you for an admirer, would lose her reputa-
tion. Ha ! here returns our watchdog, the valorous


Captain Mouth. That fellow looks as warlike, yet,
withal's as harmless as an unloaded field-piece.

Sedley. Nay, the captain has seen service.

Charles. So have the chamberlains at the Blue Boar.
He has the constitutional courage of a post — he'll not
run away. When science thought of gunpowder, she
thought of such fellows as he to expend it on."

Captain Mouth is a delightful swaggerer, and
his gasconading about the court, repeated in his
presence by the vintner to the disguised King,
is part of a diverting scene. In story, situation
and dialogue taken together, the playwright
had up to this time done nothing better than
this piece, which is written in the very spirit
of the drama of the period in which its scenes
are set.

The beginning of 1832 was notable in Jer-
rold's life for two reasons, for it was in January
that he started on its brief career a comico-
satirical paper called Punch in London, proto-
type of the Punch which ten years later was
to come and stay, and it was signalized by the
production of the second most popular of his
plays. Punch in London, which appeared on
January 14, was not a pretentious journal,
but it was clear and outspoken in its attacks
on the triple giants, snobbery, toadyism and
humbug. The new paper was undoubtedly
suggested by the production, a month earlier,
of Figaro in London, under the editorship of
Gilbert Abbot a Beckett; it was not in any
sense a close imitator of its more successful
rival, although somewhat obviously an " after-


thought." Because of this a Beckett's paper
has been referred to as the prototype of the
Punch with which we are all now familiar;
the connection is, however, more apparent
than real. Punch in London came out not so
much as a periodical as an individual, and
addressed his audience in very much the same
way as his successor was to do twenty years
later. He came out frankly as a critic who
would " spare nobody," and had some lively
comment on men and affairs. Jerrold was
connected with it but for the first few of the
not many weeks of its existence, and as I have
dealt with his work on it already in an earlier
volume * it is unnecessary to enlarge upon it
here. It may be said that in his contributions,
in the very opening address, the editor insisted
upon " the purpose " which inspired his pen.

Just when Douglas Jerrold was severing
his connection with Punch in London the
curtain went up at Drury Lane, on January 25,
on a new play in which that " purpose " was
put in another and perhaps more widely
telling fashion. The success of the comedy
of the preceding month had made the manage-
ment alive to the fact that in their new writer
they had an original dramatist of some power.
He was, indeed, justifying his explosive state-
ment of a few years earlier, " I will come into
this theatre as an original dramatist, or not
at all." But if the Bride of Ludgate with its
air of old-world comedy proved popular, how

1 Douglas Jerrold and Punch (Macmillan & Co.), 1910.

C l) J




Douglas Jerrold

From ii printjirst published in 18S6 "« "from « picture in the possession
of Douglas Jerrold"


much more likely to enlist the sympathetic
admiration of a Drury Lane audience was a
piece, a " domestic " drama, based on the
homely subject of The Rent Day. Sir David
Wilkie's celebrated picture of the same name
gave the dramatist all the hint that he wanted,
and the result was a play which, while it was
marked with all his peculiar brilliance of
dialogue, had a closer grip on life, was more
sustainedly of human interest, than many
other of his plays. That The Rent Day —
described asa" fine specimen of the slandered
dramatic genius of the age " — was not, how-
ever, written for Drury Lane is to be seen
from the following paragraph which affords
a curious sidelight on the ways of " star "
actors, and is an interesting item in the history
of Jerrold's connection with the stage. It
appeared in the first number of The English
Figaro, another of the numerous imitators of
Figaro in London.

" Jerrold's domestic drama in two acts, entitled
The Rent Day, is to be produced at Drury Lane next
week. This is the same piece which was lately
withdrawn from the Adelphi Theatre after it had
been put in rehearsal. The Bashaw Yates wanted
the drama to be denuded of half its fair proportions
and likewise permission from the author to allow
the comic part to be played ad libitum, because the
torn fool of Yates's company forsooth ' had a bad
study.' To this proposal, Mr. Jerrold very properly
demurred, not wishing to father all the obscenities
which the said torn fool might perpetrate in the course


of an evening, and straightway took the piece to
Drury Lane, where it was instantly accepted, and
underlined in the bills the next day. 1

" But here another obstacle presented itself to
mar the fair prospects of the author in the person
of William — a gentleman drawing forty pounds a
week from the treasury, thirty for himself and ten
for Mrs. Faucit Farren — who objected to play the
part assigned to him, because (impertinent coxcomb !)
he did not consider it to be ' the best part in the
piece ! ' The affair was not arranged when we went
to press. Really it is high time such fellows as these
should be taught that they are dependent upon the
public and not the public upon them."

The drama duly appeared on January 25,

and William Farren was not in the cast !

The piece achieved an instant and marked

success which must have been galling indeed

to the actor who had withdrawn in a fit of

temper. " Bashaw Yates " too must have

felt particularly sore over the matter, for after

compelling the author to take his play from

the Adelphi boards, he had later on to flatter

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Online LibraryWalter JerroldDouglas Jerrold, dramatist and wit (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 24)