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these being the maiden name of the child's
maternal grandmother, a Scotswoman.

In youngest infancy Douglas was carried
down into Kent, to the village of Willsley,
(Wilsby in the earlier biography is obviously a
misprint) near the small town of Cranbrook,
where his father had the theatre — he was
described as " proprietor of many Theatres
Rural " — and there he passed his earliest years.
Very little is definitely known of his childhood,
except that, owing to the fact of both his
parents being upon the stage, his bringing up
largely devolved upon his grandmother Reid.
To-day it may seem remarkable that over a
century ago a little town such as Cranbrook
should have possessed a theatre, even of the
humblest character. It would, of course, have
only been occupied for brief seasons during the
circuit of the company, but it may well have
been that this was the manager's family head-
quarters. Thither came some aspirants to
stage honours, and at least two actors who
were to achieve popularity made their debut
here, for it is recorded in Oxberry's Dramatic
Biography that :


" In the year 1806 John Pritt Harley bade adieu
to quill-driving, and quitting declarations, records,
and pad, padded off to Cranbrook (Kent), where the
late Mr. Jerrold was astonishing the natives, with a
company particularly select, but by no means numer-
ous. Harley had but little knowledge of the techni-
calities of his new profession, or what is usually termed
the ' business of the stage,' and, as most managers
look on this as the criterion of merit, Mr. Jerrold cast
him but few characters and those of no considerable
importance. At this period Wilkinson (now of the
Adelphi and Haymarket) was a fellow labourer in
the same vineyard, and in possession of most of the
parts to which our hero aspired. Here Mr. Harley
paid his addresses to Miss Riley (daughter of Mrs.
Inchbald, a well-known provincial actress), but, alas,
his suit miscarried."

Not for very long, however, were the lines
of the child cast in places as pleasant as amid
the pastoral peacefulness and simplicity of the
country around Cranbrook, for in January 1807
his parents removed their household and pro-
fessional lares and penates to Sheerness, where
Samuel Jerrold had recently acquired the lease
of the theatre situated in High Street, Blue
Town. He had been acting there in the
autumn of the year in which his famous son
was born, but Willsley appears to have been
the family home.

Despite his extreme youthfulness at this
time of leaving the open air and quiet country
life for the dinginess and turmoil of a busy
seaport at a period of great naval activity,
Douglas Jerrold carried away with him lively


recollections of rural Kent, and an abiding love
for country sights and sounds. That love is
manifested in many of his writings, and notably
in the Chronicles of Clovernook, where we seem
to get some actual reminiscences of the pastoral
scenery around Cranbrook.

Sheerness, when the Jerrold family entered
into regular possession of the theatre situated
in the High Street of " Blue Town," was an
important and lively naval centre. Napoleon's
projected invasion of England was but of
very recent occurrence, and the Corsican
was each year more thoroughly dominating
Europe. The Kentish seaport was always
full of seamen and officers about to join their
ships, or loitering ashore while those same
" wooden walls of old England " were being
refitted or repaired. British enthusiasm with
regard to the Navy was perhaps during those
stirring times at its very height; but two
years earlier Trafalgar had been fought and
won, Nelson's name was enshrined in every
heart, Dibdin's songs were heard on every

Of the theatre of Sheerness few facts appear
now recoverable. It is not represented in the
interesting series of views of provincial theatres
given in the Theatre Tourist of 1805, and
it received but scant attention in the brief
notes about the doings at country theatres
contributed to those periodicals which recog-
nised the exploits of actors in the provinces.
There is, however, one early notice that may


be quoted of a performance shortly after the
Jerrolds had entered into possession. It was
sent by a correspondent to the Monthly Mirror,
that repository of things theatrical. The
theatre at Sheerness, wrote this correspondent
on November 17, 1803 :

" Opened about a month since, with a respectable
company, under the management of Mr. Jerrold.
On Monday, November 14, the theatre was honoured
by the presence of the Port Admiral and a very
brilliant assemblage of elegance and fashion, to see
the comedy of John Bull. Job Thornberry was repre-
sented by a Mr. Cobham, who entered fully into the
spirit of the part, and exhibited, with much pathos,
the manly energy and parental affection which the
author intended to portray. Sir Simon, Frank
Rochdale and Shuffleton, were respectably performed
by Messrs. Jerrold, Holding and Moore, and the
sentiments of Peregrine were delivered by Mr. Sealy
with correctness and propriety. Dennis Brulgruddery
was performed by Mr. Davis, who merits a very high
degree of approbation, for the comic humour he
exhibited, and Mr. Oxberry's "Dan "was certainly
a most humorous and correct performance. Miss
Henderson in the character of Mary Thornberry was
extremely interesting, and Mrs. Jerrold and Mrs.
Simcock deserve praise for their performance of Lady
Caroline Braymore and Mrs. Brulgruddery. The farce
(Of Age To-morrow) was received with very consider-
able approbation, and the company seems likely to
be successful. The theatre is fitted up with more than
usual elegance."

It is probable that this was only a seasonal
visit to Sheerness, for according to Blanchard


Jerrold it was not until January 27, 1807, that
Samuel Jerrold became actual lessee of the
theatre there.

In one of John Duncombe's small theatrical
publications — The Roscius, of August 9, 1825 —
there are some references to the Sheerness
Theatre under Samuel Jerrold's management,
which were, it seems not unlikely, contributed
by Samuel Jerrold's son, who, as we see later,
was among Duncombe's writers. The refer-
ences occur in a brief biographical notice of
James Russell, one of the stars of the English
Opera House at the time :

" He was destined at an early age for the study of
medicine; but as he more frequently looked into
Shakespeare than Galen, the drama won an adherent
from the disciples of physic, and our hero, at the very
mature age of eighteen (in 1807), engaged with the
manager of the Sheerness Theatre, and commenced
his dramatic labours as (we believe) Hogmore in
Colman's comedy of Who wants a Guinea ? This
effort, we are informed, gave promise of the young
adventurer's ability, and Monsieur La Rolle, in The
Young Hussar, confirmed every hope of his future
success; and young Mr. Russell was considered an
acquisition to a theatre which has had many of our
first actors on its boards, but which never boasted
an audience capable of distinguishing humour from
vulgarity — passion from bombast. The Sheerness
folks were not the most punctilious critics — a clog-
hornpipe and a comic song were their most dainty
delights; and we are well assured that the talented
Edmund Kean never won such ' golden opinions ' by
his then exquisite delineation of Jaffier and young


Selim, as by the elasticity and sprightliness of his
quaint Harlequin.

" At the time Mr. Russell joined the Sheerness
Company, Messrs. Harley and Wilkinson were enrolled
in that splendid corps, and even then, the actors who
now retain the highest places on the London stage
may have mutually exchanged the loans of comedy-
wigs and shoe-buckles. At this period, nothing
augmented Mr. Russell's fame in the opinion of the
town as the truly exquisite, though now somewhat
antique, air of Mrs. Waddle was a Widow, which
gained for the vocalist a most flattering estimation
among the frequenters of the theatre, almost wholly
composed of ' hearts of oak,' with the ivy (valgo, sea-
port nymphs) clinging around them."

Douglas Jerrold was, we are told — and his
later writings would have alone sufficed to
show it — a remarkably impressionable boy,
and amid such surroundings it is not surprising
to find that he early evinced a desire to go to
sea, a desire that was not, we may be sure, in
any way lessened by his being brought into
contact with the seamen and officers who
crowded to the theatre, and made Sheerness an
important centre in the Kentish circuit. About
the same time that, or shortly after, his
family took up their residence at Sheerness,
Samuel Jerrold also acquired the lease of the
Southend Theatre, at the opposite side of the
Thames estuary.

His earliest education Douglas received at

the knees of his grandmother Reid, later he

had lessons from one of the stock actors in his
vol. i c


father's company, Wilkinson by name, who
had made his first appearance on the boards
at the little Cranbrook playhouse under the
management of Samuel Jerrold, and who in
later years was to be one of the popular actors
of the metropolis. In 1809, then a child
of between six and seven years of age, he
went to school for a short while with a
Mr. Herbert at Sheerness, and later with
a Mr. Glass at Southend; but at the age
of ten, all schooling in the ordinary sense
of the word was at an end, and Douglas, a
small, slightly built, fair-haired and fair-com-
plexioned child, full of fire and energy, began
the battle of life at a time when many boys are
but just beginning the more serious stages of
their schooling. His term under the tuition
of Mr. Glass must have been very brief, for I
have in my possession a " Christmas piece "
carefully written out in a boyish hand which
Douglas prepared at Christmas 1812, and this
is said to have been written while he was at
Mr. Herbert's school. This piece, with its
crudely daubed representations of incidents in
the life of Christ, its moral lesson and its
signature, " Ds. Wm. Jerrold, Dec. 25, 1812,"
is a pleasant relic not only of Jerrold's boy-
hood but of school fashions at the beginning
of the nineteenth century.

A letter written by one of his sisters about
the same time is another interesting relic of
a past style. This letter, directed to "Mrs.
Jerrold, Theatre, Sheerness," was written on

1. BL




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fj&jt /'/&■// /&r// '/<>//( // ///'/(



Christmas Piece

(Written by Douglas Jerrold, Dec. 15, 1812)


December 5, 1812, from Restoration House,
Rochester, the place which owes its name to
the fact that there Charles II rested for the
night on his way to London when he returned
from exile. It runs :

" I have deferred the pleasure I now feel in address-
ing my dear Mamma untill I could announce the
Vacation, which commences on the 17 inst., when I
hope on rejoining the family circle to find you and my
Sister have perfectly recovered your health, and I
trust the improvement I have endeavoured to make
in those studies your kindness permits me to pursue
will afford you some small degree of pleasure.

' My Governess presents her Compliments begging
you to offer my affectionate duty to my Papa and
Grandmamma, love to my Brothers and Sister and
Kind remembrances to all friends, believe me, dear

" Your affectionate Daughter,

E. S. Jerrold."

Not thus formally do children address their
parents nowadays. Elizabeth Jerrold, the
writer of that letter, who was then somewhere
about sixteen or seventeen years of age, was
evidently the only member of the family at
boarding school; her sister, Jane Matilda, was
presumably at school at Sheerness, but of her
schooling, and that of Henry, who perhaps
preceded Douglas at Mr. Herbert's, there is
no record. Indeed, of the family life there is
little that is now recoverable. They probably
had a dwelling-house at the theatre situated
in that one of the four divisions of Sheer-


ness then known as Blue Town, but now
largely annexed by the docks. The theatre,
for which Samuel Jerrold paid one Jacob
Johnson fifty pounds a year, was long since
demolished, and its site taken for dock ex-

When Blanchard Jerrold visited Sheerness
in 1858, already the theatre had gone, and only
here and there from old inhabitants could he
gather scraps of data about the family to whom
that theatre had for about eight years been
home. The most interesting of these old
inhabitants was one Jogrum Brown, then
sexton, who, employed in the dockyard by
day, had acted as doorkeeper at the theatre
in the evening. He had some unpretentious
recollections :

" Mr. Samuel Jerrold played, too, sometimes. . . .
He couldn't say how big the theatre was, but he did
remember well that on the night when the Russian
Admiral was at Sheerness, and gave a ' bespeak,'
there was £42. 18. in the house. This was the largest
sum they ever took in a night. The prices were three
shillings to the boxes, two shillings to the pit, and one
shilling to the gallery. . . . Ay, many strange things
happened to him while he was doorkeeper. He
remembered Lord Cochrane well. He used to be
often at the theatre when he was at Sheerness in
the Pallas, and his lordship would always insist upon
paying double."

The fact that Cochrane " paid double " ap-
pears to have been the only " strange thing "
he could recall, but he did offer a little personal


testimony by saying that Samuel Jerrold and
his wife were much liked by the Sheerness

" She was the more active manager, and was very
kind. Once there was a landslip near Sheerness that
carried a house and garden into the sea. Mrs. Jerrold
was very good to the poor sufferers, and gave a benefit
for them which realized £37."

The theatre no doubt prospered in those
days of activity in the busy centre, and across
the Thames Samuel Jerrold had, besides, the
theatre at the then village of Southend, where
he and his wife also acted. That Southend was
already utilised as a holiday resort we gather
from the correspondent of a theatrical journal
of over a century ago :

" This theatre has been but thinly attended this
season; we are sorry to say the spirited exertions of
the manager have not been seconded either by the
visitors or the inhabitants. The company consists
of Messrs. Gladstanes, Ladbroke, Jerrold, Phillip,
Burton, Thomlinson, St. Clair, Pym, Smith, Wilton,
Mesdames Jerrold, Ladbroke, Thomlinson, Pryce,
Miss Hartley and Miss West. It would be invidious
to speak individually of performers where the whole
are of the first respectability." *

1 Theatrical Inquisitor, October 1812. In the same
periodical three years later it is stated that John Pritt
Harley (1786-1858) in July 1807 "became a member
of the companies of Mr. Gerald (sic) and Mrs. Baker the
managress of the Southend and Canterbury Theatres,"
and that he remained as principal comedian until
February 1813.


The fact that Samuel Jerrold and his wife
acted both at Sheerness and at Southend
suggests that many must have been the trips
of Douglas as a boy across the broad Thames'
mouth from the one place to the other, trips
that may have served to increase the desire
for a sea life, and that love of the salt water
which remained with him a lifelong passion.

As a child Douglas Jerrold is reported to
have mixed but little in the sports and games
of other children. Indeed, talking in later
years of these early Sheerness days, he was wont
laughingly to remark that his only companion
had been " the little buoy at the Nore," and that
" the only athletic sport he ever mastered was
backgammon ! " These remarks must not per-
haps be taken too seriously, for as companion
he had his brother Henry, who can have been
at the most but three or four years older than
himself, while many years afterwards one of
" the oldest inhabitants " of Blue Town pro-
fessed to remember the boy Douglas as a leader
in the conflicts which took place between
rival youthful factions of the locality. But
even if we are to take the author's jocular
remarks in all seriousness and to consider him
as not altogether like other children in his
ways, he certainly was not so in the catholicity
of his reading, a passionate fondness for which
was a notable characteristic. Gessner's Death
of Abel and Smollett's Roderick Random were
among his earliest books, and assuredly the
child for whom such antipodal works could


have attraction must have been an omnivorous

The glitter and excitement of the life of an
actor do not seem to have attracted the boy,
though once or twice as a very young child he
appeared on the stage, notably when he was
carried on by Edmund Kean in Rolla ; and when
he appeared as the child in The Stranger.
Very many years afterwards his own good
memory, aided by what he had heard from his
father, enabled him to write for his friend
B. W. Procter (Barry Cornwall), some inter-
esting recollections of Edmund Kean's early
acting days under the Sheerness manager.
These recollections are given in Procter's life
of the great tragedian, but may well find a
place here, as they deal with Samuel Jerrold's
theatre during the childhood of Douglas :

" Mr. Kean joined the Sheerness Company on
Easter Monday, 1804. He was then still in boy's
costume. 1 He opened in George Barnwell and Harlequin
in a pantomime. His salary was fifteen shillings per
week. He then went under the name of Carey. He
continued to play the whole round of tragedy, comedy,
opera, farce, interlude and pantomime, until the close
of the season. His comedy was very successful. In
Watty Cockney and Risk, and in the song ' Unfortunate
Miss Bailey,' he made a great impression upon the
tasteful critics of Sheerness. On leaving the place,

1 Kean was then in his seventeenth year. Later
authorities put his first appearance at Sheerness as one
year earlier, but according to a chronicler of the 'twenties,
" In the year 1805 we find him playing every line at


he went to Ireland, and from Ireland to Mrs. Baker's
company at Rochester. It was about this time (as I
have heard my father say, who had it from Kean
himself), that Mr. Kean, being without money to pay
the toll of a ferry, tied his wardrobe in his pocket-
handkerchief, and swam the river.

" In 1807 Mr. Kean again appeared at Sheerness :
salary, one guinea per week. He opened in Alexander
the Great. An officer in one of the stage boxes annoyed
him by frequently exclaiming ' Alexander the Little ! '
At length, making use of his (even then) impressive
and peculiar powers, Mr. Kean folded his arms, ap-
proached the intruder, who again sneeringly repeated :
' Alexander the Little ! ' and with a vehemence of
manner and a glaring look that appalled the offender,
retorted, ' Yes — with a great soul ! ' In the farce of the
Young Hussar which followed, one of the actresses
fainted in consequence of the powerful acting of Mr.
Kean. He continued at that time, and even in such a
place, to increase in favour, and was very generally
followed when, at the commencement of 1808, in con-
sequence of some misunderstanding with one of the
townspeople, he was compelled to seek the protection
of a magistrate from a pressgang employed to take him.
Having played four nights, the extent of time guaran-
teed by the magistrate (Mr. Shrove of Queensborough),
Mr. Kean made his escape with some difficulty on
board the Chatham boat, having lain perdu in various
places until a nocturnal hour of sailing.

" The models of the tricks for the pantomime of
Mother Goose, as played at Sheerness, were made by
Mr. Kean, out of matches, pins and paper. He also
furnished a programme of business, and notes, showing
how many of the difficulties might be avoided for so
small an establishment as that of Sheerness. In
allusion to the trick of ' An odd fish,' in particular, he


writes, ' If you do not think it worth while to go to
the expense of a dress, if the Harlequin be clever,
he may jump into the sea to recover the egg.' "

Towards the close of the year 1813— his half-
brother Charles was already in the Navy,
having presumably run away and become a
sailor— young Jerrold's ambition for a " life on
the ocean wave " seemed in a fair way towards
realization. On the 22nd of December in that
year he was entered as a " first-class volunteer "
on board the Namur, His Majesty's guardship
at the Nore, a vessel which, as I gather from
its log, was as often to be seen anchored in
Sheerness Harbour as actually at the Nore.
Captain (afterwards Admiral) Charles J. Austen,
a brother of Jane Austen the novelist, the com-
mander of the Namur, to whom indeed it is said
that Douglas owed his commission, was a kindly
disposed and indulgent officer, who allowed the
boy to keep pigeons on board and, more signifi-
cant privilege, permitted him the run of such
books as his necessarily limited library contained.
It was in the captain's cabin on the Namur that
Jerrold came upon the fascinating volumes of
Buffon's Natural History, and devoured them
with enthusiastic avidity, and to such good
purpose that the work always remained with
him in memory, and when he came to be a
writer provided him with many happy similes
and quaint illustrations. That which must
have made the guardship yet more homely
to the small boy than the keeping of pets and
the run of a library, was that the captain's


wife and two children also lived on board
with him, as we learn from the very interesting
volume on Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers,
published a few years ago. 1 Captain Austen,
whose children must have been very young,
for he married in 1807, was a kindly, affection-
ate man, by whom it may well be believed that
his boy-midshipmen would be treated con-

There was another lad aboard the Namur
who was destined to win fame other than that
which comes to the successful seaman. This
was foremastman Clarkson Stanfield, who had
earlier run away to sea on a merchant ship,
but had in 1812 been made a victim of a
pressgang. Young Jerrold, Stanfield and
some kindred spirits were wont to relieve the
tedium of life aboard the guardship by getting
up private theatricals, Stanfield's early lean-
ing towards art making him an invaluable
assistant in improvising and arranging scenery.

The library in Captain Austen's cabin was of
necessity small, and the eager, youthful reader
soon devoured all that he could find congenial
there; the keeping of pet pigeons could not
provide a permanent interest, and even occa-
sional private theatricals could but in part
relieve the dulness of life on the guardship.
In these circumstances it is not surprising to
find that the boy looked longingly forward to
something more stirring than he had as yet

1 Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers, by J. H. Hubback and
Edith C. Hubback.


experienced of naval life. Captain Austen had
been succeeded by a Captain James Richards
for a single month, and he by Captain George
McKinley for nearly five months; when, on
April 24, 1815, Douglas Jerrold was trans-
ferred with a company of forty-four men to
His Majesty's gun-brig Earnest " in lieu of the
same number drafted to the Namur."

Napoleon had but recently escaped from
Elba, to be declared " the general enemy of
Europe," so that now the young naval enthu-
siast seemed in a fair way to experience some
of that action of which it may be supposed
in his boyish fancy he dreamed. The Earnest
was required at first, however, for the useful
though not showy work of convoying trans-
ports and military stores to Ostend, men and
materials to be heard of again, before many
weeks had passed, on the field of Waterloo.
Within two months of Jerrold's transfer from
the guardship the great battle had been fought,
and the Earnest may have carried some of
the men from the front when in the Downs
she transhipped from H.M.S. Nymph an
ensign, forty-seven invalided soldiers, five
women and two children, and took them home
to Sheerness. It is said that in the cockpit
of the brig the boy-sailor, keenly sensitive and
imaginative, saw and heard enough of the
horrors of war to influence him for the whole of
his life. He was brought in close contact
with the ghastly reality, apart from the

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