Walter Jerrold.

Douglas Jerrold, dramatist and wit (Volume 1) online

. (page 18 of 24)
Online LibraryWalter JerroldDouglas Jerrold, dramatist and wit (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

compel her to accept her old wooer, which she
has pledged herself to do if her lover, in whom
she has the strongest faith, agrees. Prosper has
accepted the terms to save her from the prison
from which he had refused to save himself.
Then the uncle comes forward, returns the
bond, and explains that it has merely been a
trial of their affections— he is not ruined : "It
was my wish to teach you the true knowledge
of each other — 'twas for that you here


encountered ; for well I knew that they who in
hours of gaiety and freedom seem mere birds
of idle song, touched by adversity become —
doves in a cage."

There are many ready hits in the give-and-
take of the dialogue. Cherub says of Car-
buncle, the Fleet parson, " He'll talk of marriage
till you almost think there's little harm in
it. . . . It's hard to pass him and walk on a
bachelor; " and from his experience of the
Fleet finds the philosophy, "Depend on't,
there's nothing like a prison pavement to
ring our old friends upon." (Here the author
was doubtless recalling his own recent ex-
periences.) Says Prosper of Mabillah, " like
the girl in the story, she speaks [pearls and
diamonds;" "I wish you joy, sir," comes
the reply, " that's a wife you'll never blame
for talking." Stephen, a countryman who
has just been married by the Fleet parson,
asks him, " Please you, sir, and truly now —
my wedding knot, is it fast tied ? " " Fast ! "
says Carbuncle, C4 so fast, the king in his robes,
with the crown on his head, and his sword of
justice in his hand, could not cut it." " Not
with the sword of justice ? " echoes the lout.
" Not even with the sword of mercy," says
Carbuncle, having securely pocketed his fee.





The hope, possibly but shortly indulged, of
establishing himself in Paris as correspondent
was not fulfilled, and within a few weeks of
writing his letter to Forster Douglas Jerrold
was home again at Thistle Grove, and about
to engage in a new enterprise. Thence he
replied on February 5, 1836, to a letter from
the secretary of the Cambridge Garrick Club,
which informed him that it had been proposed
to make him an honorary member of that
body. With evident pleasure at the honour
done him the dramatist wrote :

" Sir, — I must plead absence from home in excuse
of this delayed acknowledgement of your favour of
the 28th ult.

" I shall feel much gratification at being found
worthy of admission into a Society, the enlightened
objects of which are the encouragement of a dramatic
literature in opposition to a state of things at present
warring with its very existence. When translation,
spectacle and foreign opera have all but excluded
the intellect of the country from the theatre — it is
cheering to find a body, such as the Cambridge



Garrick Club, actively strong in the good cause —
strenuously supporting ' the simple way — the good
old plan.' Wishing the Club great and speedy success
in its high purpose,

" I remain, Sir,

" Your obedient servant,

" Douglas Jerrold."

The dramatist was duly elected on Feb-
ruary 22 a " free and Honorary Member of the
Club." »

In The Album of the Cambridge Garrick Club
for 1836, Jerrold's verses on Shakespeare's Crab
Tree are printed with a note stating that they
1 have the authority of a legend current at
Stratford-on-Avon, though probably not gen-
erally known." In the same volume will be
found the following short notice of " Mr. Douglas
Jerrold and Mr. Clarkson Stanfield, R.A. (with
an etching from an original portrait of Mr.
Jerrold in his own possession)." A note is
appended to the portrait of Jerrold to the
effect that it is believed to be the first ever

' Some eighteen years ago," runs this brief record,
' two heedless boys, yclept ' Middies ' on board the
Namur, one of the old First of June timbers, practised,
as may readily be believed, all the freaks and follies
for which the cockpit was once so renowned. Jerrold,
albeit not even yet of herculean frame, had even then
less than the appearance of a stripling, but the blood
of Douglas would protect itself in the contentions of

1 The Cambridge Garrick Club gave performances
of Jerrold's Law and Lions in the following May and June.


boyhood ; and it would seem that the son of an actor
could usurp, as a patronymic, what as author he has
since become entitled to claim in dramatic right. In
the cockpit the Middy Jerrold would ' strut his hour
on the stage,' and aspired to the important character
of the Robber in the Iron Chest. Stanfield was scene
painter to the company, principal decorator and
master of the ceremonies to the gentlemen and ladies
who might be selected from such as, at the period
we describe, were in the habit of visiting a man-of-
war. Stanfield now ranks the very first in that
branch of the profession which he may be truly said
to have created ; while Jerrold takes the lead as a
dramatist, and naturally enough, in nautical drama,
makes the sea talk. Pause reader, and think."

That brief note, it may be mentioned, was
lifted bodily from the Freemason's Quarterly.

The new enterprise into which Douglas
Jerrold entered was the dual one of acting and
theatrical management. William John Ham-
mond, who had some years earlier married
Jerrold's sister Jane, had been lessee of the
little Liver Theatre at Liverpool for three or
four years, and while retaining his interest in
that and the Doncaster Theatre, moved to
London, where he and Jerrold together took the
Strand Theatre. It was an interesting ex-
periment in actor-management, for Hammond
was an actor, his wife was an actress, and
Douglas Jerrold came to the partnership in
the triple capacity of part-lessee, playwright
and actor. Only the year before the Strand
Theatre had been compelled to close its doors


in consequence of the action of a common
informer. The particular evasion of the law
here was selling tickets at the theatre for
another playhouse — tickets which also admitted
the bearer to the Strand Theatre ! By this
time the danger of such a contretemps was
done away with and it was duly announced
that " the little theatre in the Strand has at
last obtained a legal right to a money-taker
and a company of comedians. We hope the
office of the first will be no sinecure, for we
cannot doubt that the exertions of the second
will be well directed by the new lessees; to
wit Mr. J. W. Hammond, 1 a lively and agree-
able comedian from Liverpool, and Mr. Douglas
Jerrold, a dramatist who is henceforth to be
known as a tragedian also." That Hammond
had a ready humour is suggested by the follow-
ing anecdote taken from a newspaper of 1838 :
Hammond of the Strand Theatre observing
Salter the comedian to be a little behind time
at rehearsal, gave him one of those managerial
glances which the latter well knew to be
significant. " I was nabbed by a shower of
rain in the city," said Salter, " and therefore
stood up till it was over." " My boy," re-
torted Hammond, " you had better have
attended to your business here. You may
walk through the city all your days and
nobody will mistake you for a dry Salter."
With this auspicious combination the doors

1 Should be W. J. Hammond, but I have not infre-
quently come across his initials thus transposed.


of the theatre were opened on April 25, and
the curtain went up on two new pieces from
Jerrold's pen — a tragic play, The Painter of
Ghent, and a rollicking farcical comedy, The
Man for the Ladies. In the first of these the
author himself sustained the principal char-
acter in a way which thoroughly justified the
attempt— his acting being " marked with strong
intellect and quick sensibility " — while in the
second play Hammond took the chief part.
Jerrold was scarcely the man for an actor's
life— especially seeing that he was busy with
the pen at the same time, and the nightly
task was sure to pall. It was, indeed, only
for a couple of weeks that he impersonated
his creation, and in after years was known to
refer to this experiment as his " folly," as a
kind of escapade out of which he had come as
well as he deserved. In a Theatrical Alphabet,
published shortly afterwards, the episode was
celebrated in the following clumsy couplet —

"I is an Ivanhoff — I like his voice,
J, Jerrold who played a few evenings from choice."

While Hammond and Jerrold continued their
joint tenancy of the Strand Theatre, the two
families lived in a house at the lower end of
Essex Street, Strand, at the top of the steps
leading to the riverside. During the time of the
partnership besides the plays named the follow-
ing pieces of Jerrold's were produced : The
Bill- Sticker ; The Peril of Pippins, " a travestic
drama in four acts," and The Gallantee Showman,


or, Mr. Peppercorn at Home, both founded upon
his own magazine sketches. On December 16
" Brothers Hammond and Jerrold " lent their
theatre to the Bank of England Lodge for
an amateur performance for the benefit of a
Masonic charity.

When the season came to an end an address
to the public, evidently written by the drama-
tist, was delivered by the actor-manager :

" We began with a tragic drama, The Painter of
Ghent ; but as the aspect of the boxes and pit was
much more tragic than we could wish, we in sailor's
phrase ' let go the painter.' We tried something
like a ballet, which, after a few nights (but purely
out of mercy to the reputation of Taglioni and
Perrot), we withdrew. We found that our legs were
not very good, and so we resolved to produce a
comedy of words and character, in other phrase,
mistrusting our legs, we resolved henceforth to stand
only upon our — head. . . . We dedicate this theatre
to comedy and farce. We shall endeavour to ' catch
the living manners as they rise ' ; though, with respect
for pre-occupied ground we shall select no cases from
the Old Bailey. And should there happen so unto-
ward an event as a war with France, be under no
apprehension for your supplies, as we depend upon
no emissary in Paris."

At about this time, according to the late
Henry Vizetelly, with Jerrold's friends it was
an open secret that he was also the contri-
butor of some biting comments to the
Columns of the " grandmotherly " Morning


Herald. Vizetelly goes on to say that it was
about the mid- 'thirties, when he and young
John Leech lived as fellow apprentices in the
house of Orrin Smith, the engraver, that he
first met Douglas Jerrold, who, with his close
friend, Laman Blanchard, was a rather frequent
guest at Orrin Smith's dinner-table. Another
friend in the same circle was a promising
young artist, Edward Chatfield by name, who
was also a member of the Mulberry Club. It
may have been Chatfield who painted the
portrait of Jerrold which is reproduced as
frontispiece to this volume. Personal glimpses
of Jerrold during these earlier years of his
career as a successful writer for the magazines
and the stage are all too few, and therefore it
will not be out of place to quote the reminis-
cences of the veteran engraver-publisher. He
speaks of Douglas Jerrold as :

" a youngish man of three or four-and-thirty. [He
was thirty-four on January 3, 1837-1 There was a
peculiarity about his personal appearance certain to
strike even the most casual observer. His small, and
even then slightly stooping figure, his head with its
long light falling hair, which in moments of excite-
ment he tossed about as a lion does its mane, and
his prominent searching blue eyes that seemed to
penetrate everywhere, invariably attracted the at-
tention of strangers. He was a great gain to any
company, for he always enlivened the dullest of
conversation with his irrepressible wit. The many
good things he said were evidently unpremeditated.
They escaped from his lips on the spur of the moment,


instead of being ingeniously led up to after the manner
of professional wits. Even his puns were singularly
felicitous and far beyond most feats of verbal

This scrap from Vizetelly's Glances Back
Through Seventy Years is interesting not only
on account of the glimpse which it gives us
of the personality of Douglas Jerrold at this
time of his life, but also as the earliest recogni-
tion of him as a conversational wit. That he
had already given evidence of ready repartee
we have seen once or twice in the preceding
pages, but it was especially during the time
that he was a successful and prominent
author, journalist and dramatist that he came
to be recognized as a " wit." A dangerous
recognition for him, if we are to believe his
own gloss on the proverb " Give a dog a bad
name and hang him," " now certainly the
shortest and worst name you can give him is —
wit." Nearly all the people who met him
either casually or frequently during the last
twenty years of his life have recorded the
remarkable impression made by his ready wit.

For three or four years Jerrold made no
fresh appearance as dramatist, and indeed,
with the exception of The Painter of Ghent,
the pieces which he wrote during 1836 and
1837 were not altogether worthy of the reputa-
tion or of the powers of which he had many
times shown himself to be undoubtedly pos-
sessed. The " lengthened leave of the drama '
to which he had looked forward some years


earlier was in the long run useful to him, and,
as we shall see, resulted in the production of
a fresh brilliant series of comedies. But if
not devoting his own attention to the stage,
he was evidently ready to render assistance
to a friend, for in November of 1837 a nautical
drama entitled Wapping Old Stairs was pro-
duced at the Haymarket Theatre and was
introduced by the author, Henry Holl, in the
following words : " I am happy in acknowledg-
ing the obligation I am under to my friend
Mr. Jerrold for the suggestion of the idea of
this piece. I have not only to thank him for
the suggestion of the subject, but for the
pleasure of being, as I trust I always shall be,
his sincere friend."

It was of this Henry Holl — uncle of Frank
Holl the painter — who quitted the stage and
re-started life as a wine-merchant, that Jerrold
said in discussing the change with a friend :
" Ay, and I hear that his wine off the stage is
better than his whine on it."

At the beginning of 1838 Douglas Jerrold
published his first work in volume form — unless
we count his plays, many of which had been
issued from time to time. He was then
thirty-five years of age, so that he had, to use
his own conceit, been in no hurry to take the
shutters down before there was something in
the window. The three volumes (it was during
the very heyday of the three-volume system)
with which he first sought the suffrages of the
book-buying public were entitled Men of Char-


acter, and they comprised nine fiction-sketches
which had appeared in the pages of Blackwood's
and other magazines. The nine " men of
character " whose stories are told in these
volumes need not detain us, for they are all
to be found in Jerrold's collected works except
Titus Trumps, the Man of Many Hopes, and
his place is taken by Christopher Snub who was
" born to be hanged" The quaint preface is
not given with the Men in their re-issued form,
and therefore no apology is necessary for
quoting it in its brief entirety :

" John British, in the bigness of his heart, sat
with his doors open to all comers, though we will
not deny that the welcome bestowed upon his guests
depended not always so much upon their deserving
merits, as upon their readiness to flatter their host
in any of the thousand whims to which, since truth
should be said, John was given. Hence a bold,
empty-headed talker would sometimes be placed on
the right hand of John — would be helped to the
choicest morsels, and would drink from out the
golden goblet of the host — whilst the meek wise
man might be suffered to stare hungrily from a
corner, or at best pick bits and scraps off a wooden
trencher. With all this, John was a generous fellow ;
for no sooner was he convinced of the true value of
his guest than he would hasten to make profuse
amends for past neglect, setting the worthy in the
seat of honour, and doing him all graceful reverence.
In bis time John had assuredly made grievous
blunders : now twitting him as a zany or a lunatic,
who, in after years, was John's best councillor — his
blithe companion : now stopping his ears at what,


in his rash ignorance, he called a silly goose, that
in later days, became to John the sweetest nightingale.

" John has blundered it is true. It is as true that
he has rewarded those he has wronged; and if — for
it has happened — the injured have been far removed
from the want of cakes and ale, has not John put his
hand into his pocket, and with a conciliatory, penitent
air promised a tombstone ? To our matter —

" Once upon a time two or three fellows — ' Men of
Character,' as they afterwards dubbed themselves —
ventured into the presence of John British. Of the
merits of these worthies it is not for us to speak,
being, unhappily, related to them. That their
reception was very far beyond their deserts, or that
their effrontery is of the choicest order, may be
gathered from this circumstance; they now bring
newcomers — other ' men,' never before presented to
the house of John, and pray of him to listen to the
histories of the strangers and at his own * sweet will '
to bid them pack, or to entertain them." x

The three volumes, which contain some
happy examples of the author's power of
writing short stories, rich at once in satire
and quaint philosophy, have come to have a
special value from the collector's point of
view on account of the dozen plates from
the pencil of W. M. Thackeray with which
they were illustrated — plates the originals of
which (with one unused) are in the Forster
Collection at South Kensington. Those water-
colour originals are delightful examples of

1 Men of Character, it may be said, was published in a
Russian translation during the first year of the Crimean


Thackeray's pictorial humour, but the repro-
ductions in the volumes are so woodeny that
a reader might well have thought that the
stories in which they were set would have been
better unadorned than so adorned. Happily
the illustrator found out in time that he had
mistaken his vocation, and the result was
that the greatest novelist of his generation
eventually took his proper place, and utilized
his humorous pencil for the play of fancy more
than for the work of illustration.

The author had by now quitted Chelsea
and was residing on Haverstock Hill— Sinton's
Nursery — whence the preface to Men of
Character is dated in January. Here he was
visited either in the preceding or following
summer by Henry Mayhew, whom he had
met in Barnett's rooms in Paris, and who has
left this pleasant glimpse of what Haverstock
Hill was like over seventy years ago :

' On my return to town I soon made out the little
man again, and found him located in a market-
gardener's house, up at Haverstock Hill, revelling
day by day in the perfume of the acres of roses in
which his new homestead was literally embedded.
For the sense of smell in Jerrold was exquisitely
acute ; so that it did one's heart good to walk round
the nursery grounds with him, and watch his nostrils
work as he kept sniffing up now the rich aroma of
the ' attar ' vapour diffused through the air — then,
drinking in the odour of the clematis, as though he
really tasted the essence of it — and then feasting his
nose with the cherry-pie-like scent of the heliotrope."


In February 1838 the correspondence with
Forster was renewed with the following brief
note. There is, it will be observed, a gap of
years in the existing letters between these two.
Jerrold had during that time been abroad, and
had removed his residence, but when in town
it is quite likely that they saw one another
frequently at their clubs, at the Wrekin
Tavern in Broad Court, Drury Lane — a place
much frequented at the time by the literary
men of the day — and at other resorts. The
particular Club referred to in the note may
have been the Mulberries, or one of the various
social coteries which Jerrold himself was largely
influential in forming. It is written from
Haverstock Hill :

" My dear Forster, — I have ventured to promise
my juveniles Covent Garden on Monday next; they
are the most enviable of mortals, never having seen
a pantomime, yet big with the thoughts of it ! Will
you get me the box from Macready, and drop me a
line here, or (should you be at the Piazza on Saturday)
resolve me at the Club ? For the party — we are
seven. I have not yet been able to get an evening
in town in your service, but name any night (save
Monday) and place next week. Colburn has, of course,
sent you my nothing by this time.

" Yours truly,

" Douglas Jerrold."

The next note, also to Forster, is dated
March 19 :

' My dear Forster, — Can you — without feeling
that you are asking too much — obtain me the box,


for Thursday, for Lady of Lyons? And if so will
you drop me the document per post, time enough
for me to transmit it to the party by the same
medium ? I have been an invalid ever since I saw
you, or should have been at the Club on Saturday.

" Yours truly,

" D. Jerrold."

" I have been an invalid " — this is a recurring
note, for from early manhood Jerrold seems
to have been a victim of rheumatism in various
forms. But despite ill-health he was busy
with the pen, and during the spring completed
a new play. This play seems to be glanced at
in an undated letter to Benjamin Webster
asking " when can you hear my comedy ? "
and whether there is a nook in the theatre for
that night for his human belongings — " any
way I shall send them on the chance, and in
the course of the evening, descend like a moun-
tain torrent upon your dressing-room, sweeping
your flocks and herds." In a postscript Jerrold
added : " I have written a new verse for 4 God
Save the Queen,' in which I have (I think) very
neatly introduced Her Majesty's new box,
retiring room and gold sandwich-case — would
you let me sing it to an oboe accompaniment ? "
The play was read and duly produced — but
judging by the following letter to Webster, not
duly honoured — at the Haymarket :

" May 23 [1838], Haverstock Hall.

" My dear Webster, — After half-an- hour's earnest
application at the bill, I did yesterday discover


my unhappy Mother cruelly jammed in the posters
between the White Horse and Mr. Willis Jones.
Can't you allow the lady a little more elbow-room ?
I have as great a contempt as anybody can have for
the vanity of large type, and all the seductive arts
of the printer, but as it has been and is the system,
and as things are, by the judicious public, prejudged
by the size of the letter they are announced in, I
think I may put in my claim for equal courtesy with
the author of Rory O'More, both as to dramatic
success and dramatic standing.

" I write this in perfect good humour, notwith-
standing a sense of my filial obligations compels me
to ask for better treatment of my Mother.

" Yours truly,

" D. Jerrold."

Beyond that letter to the actor- manager-
playwright, Benjamin Webster, and a few
press notices, but little is recoverable about
the simply named drama which was produced
at the Haymarket on May 31, 1838. The
following paragraph from an obscure little
periodical entitled Actors by Daylight is only
tantalizing : " The long-promised drama by
Jerrold was produced : the plot is very slender,
and were not the incidents clothed in the most
charming and eloquent language that ever
emanated from the pen of Jerrold, we should
have some doubt of its success." One of the
press notices — from the Theatrical Observer —
gives something of the story :

" A new drama, in two acts, called The Mother,
from the pen of Douglas Jerrold, author of The Rent


Day, etc., was produced at the Haymarket Theatre
last night, and went off with unanimous applause.
It is said to be founded on a fact; the following is
the story : a Captain Davenant (E. Glover) and his
lady Eulalie (Celeste), at the opening of the drama

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryWalter JerroldDouglas Jerrold, dramatist and wit (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 24)