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nodding defyingly at me through the diamond panes
— and think the cottage, land, pigsty, all are mine,
evoked from an ink-bottle, and labelled ' freehold,'
by the call of Webster ! The only thing I am puzzled
for is a name for the property — a name that shall
embalm the cause of its purchase. On due reflection
I don't think Humbug Hall a bad one.

" If a man wanted further temptation to write
the ' best ' comedy, it would be found in the com-
position of the court that shall decide upon its merits.
Among the judges shall be authors and actors, male
and female, with dramatic critics. I am already
favoured with the names of some of these, which,
as you will persist, you may be interested in the
knowledge of . . . . Mind, you must send in your play
by Michaelmas — it is thought Michaelmas Day itself
will be selected by many of the competitors ; for, as
there will be about five hundred (at least) comedies,
and as the committee cannot read above two at a
sitting, how — unless, indeed, they raffle for choice —
can they select the true thing — the phoenix from the
geese — by January 1, 1844 ? You must make haste,
so don't go out o' nights. . . ."

To this Charles Dickens replied in " merry
pin " as follows :

" Devonshire Terrace,

" Thirteenth June, 1843.

" My dear Jerrold, — Yes, you have anticipated
my occupation. Chuzzlewit be d — d. High comedy


and five hundred pounds are the only matters I can
think of. I call it The One Thing Needful : or A
Part is Better than the Whole. Here are the char-
acters —

Old Febrile Mr. Farren

Young Febrile (his Son) . . Mr. Howe

Jack Hessians (his Friend) . Mr. W. Lacy

Chalks (a Landlord) . . Mr. Gough

Hon. Harry Staggers
Sir Thomas Tip


The Duke of Leeds

Sir Smivin Growler

Mr. Mellon
Mr. Buckstone
Mr. Webster
Mr. Coutts
Mr. Macready

Servants, Gamblers, Visitors, etc.

Mrs. Febrile .... Mrs. Gallot

Lady Tip Mrs. Humby

Mrs. Sour Mrs. W. Clifford

Fanny Miss A. Smith

' One scene, where Old Febrile tickles Lady Tip
in the ribs, and afterwards dances out with his hat
behind him, his stick before and his eye on the pit,
I expect will bring the house down. There is also
another point, where Old Febrile, at the conclusion
of his disclosure to Swig, rises and says : ' And now,
Swig, tell me, have you ever acted ill ? ' which will
carry off the piece.

' Heme Bay. Hum. I suppose it is no worse
than any other place in this weather, but it is watery
rather, isn't it ? In my mind's eye, I have the sea
in a perpetual state of smallpox; and the chalk
running downhill like town milk. But I know the
comfort of getting to work in a fresh place, and pro-
posing pious projects to one's self, and having the


more substantial advantage of going to bed early
and getting up ditto, and walking about alone. I
should like to deprive you of the last-named happi-
ness, and to take a good long stroll, terminating in
a public -house, and whatever they chanced to have
in it. But fine days are over, I think. The horrible
misery of London in this weather, with not even a
fire to make it cheerful, is hideous.

" But I have my comedy to fly to. My only
comfort ! I walk up and down the street at the
back of the theatre every night, and peep in at the
green room window, thinking of the time when
' Dick — ins ' will be called for by excited hundreds,
and won't come until Mr. Webster (half Swig and
half himself) shall enter from his dressing-room, and
quelling the tempest with a smile, beseech the wizard,
if he be in the house (here he looks up at my box),
to accept the congratulations of the audience, and
indulge them with a sight of the man who has got
five hundred pounds in money, and it's impossible
to say how much in laurel. Then I shall come
forward, and bow once — twice — thrice — roars of
approbation — Bray vo — brarvo — hooray — hoorar —
hooroar — one cheer more ; and asking Webster home
to supper, shall declare eternal friendship for that
public-spirited individual,

" I am always, my dear Jerrold,

" Faithfully your Friend,
" The Congreve of the Nineteenth Century
" (which I mean to be called in the
Sunday papers)

" P.S. — I shall dedicate it to Webster, beginning :
' My dear Sir, — When you first proposed to stimulate
the slumbering dramatic talent of England, I assure
you I had not the least idea — etc., etc., etc'

5 35


Webster's offer of a prize for the best
English comedy led to some member or mem-
bers of the Punch staff indulging in a pleasant
piece of parody in the manner of the Rejected
Addresses, and during the following winter
was published a shilling brochure from the
Punch office, entitled " Scenes from the Rejected
Comedies, by some of the competitors for the
Prize of £500 offered by Mr. B. Webster, Lessee
of the Haymarket Theatre for the Best
Original Comedy, Illustrative of English
Manners." The second " Scene," purported

to be from " Humbugs of the Hour, by D s

J d," and is a neat scrap of parody, stressing

some of the characteristics of Jerrold's dra-
matic writing, and especially the smartness of
repaitee used by all his people — " but perhaps
it is a piece of ungrateful hypercriticism to
complain of a dramatist for putting wit into
the mouths of all his characters."

To Jerrold this summer came sad news of
the death of an old friend of the Mulberry
Club days. William Elton, an actor of some
note in his day, was among the fifty-two
persons drowned in the wrecking of the Pegasus
off the Fame Islands on July 19, 1843, and
Jerrold, Dickens and many other friends joined
in raising a fund for his family. In an early
number of the Illuminated Magazine Douglas
Jerrold inserted two of Elton's " Mulberry
Leaves," prefacing them with the following
tribute to his friend and reminiscence of the


" These poems were written, sung and said by the
late Edward William Elton, whose awful death has
quickened public sympathy towards the children of
the departed — the orphans of a fond, shipwrecked
father. The lines were among the contributions of
a society — the Mulberry Club — formed many years
since, drawn into a circle by the name of Shakespeare.
Of that society William Elton was an honoured and
honouring member. Noble men had already dropped
from that circle. The frank, cordial -hearted William
Godwin, with an unfolding genius worthy of his
name, was smitten by the cholera. Edward Chat-
field, on the threshold of a painter's fame, withered
slowly into death. And now William Elton, with
his children left to the mercies of the world — and
well has the world vindicated its sympathies for his
hapless best beloved — has been called to his old

" The society in which the subjoined poems were
produced is now dissolved. In its early strength it
numbered some who, whatever may have been or
yet may be, their success in life, cannot but look back
to that society of kindred thoughts and sympathizing
hopes, without a sweetened memory — without the
touches of an old affection. My early boy-friend,
Laman Blanchard, and Kenny Meadows, a dear
friend, too, whose names have become musical in
the world's ear, were of that society; of the knot of
wise and jocund men, then unknown, but gaily

" I have given a place in these pages to the following
poems not, it will be believed, in a huckstering spirit
to call morbid curiosity to the verses of a drowned
actor, but as illustrative of the graceful intelligence
of the mind of one, for whose fate the world has
shown so just a sympathy. Poor Elton ! He was


one of the men whose walk through life is nearly
always in the shade. Few and flickering were the
beams upon his path ! The accident that led to the
closing of his life was only of the same sad colour
as his life itself. He was to have embarked in a
vessel bound direct for London. She had sailed
only half-an-hour before, and he stepped aboard that
death ship, the Pegasus ! If, however, the worldly
successes of Elton were not equal to his deserts, he
had a refined taste, and a true love of literature —
qualities that ' make a sunshine in a shady place,'
diminishing the gloom of fortune. As an actor,
Elton had not sufficient physical power to give force
and dignity to his just conceptions. In his private
character — and I write from a long knowledge of
the dead — he was a man of warm affections and
high principle; taking the buffets of life with a
resignation, a philosophy, that to the outdoor world
showed nothing of the fireside wounds bleeding

Elton was but forty-nine when he died,
journeying homewards to his young family of
seven children, after fulfilling a month's en-
gagement at the Edinburgh Theatre. He
was tragically unfortunate in his home life,
in that having been separated from his first
wife, his second wife went out of her mind
after bearing five children. Poor Elton !

It was at Heme Bay that Douglas Jerrold
set to work on that dainty imaginative piece
of philosophical fiction — containing according
to some critics some of the finest prose-writing
of his time — the Chronicles of Clovernook,


Much of this beautiful story — which began in
the magazine for August of this year, was
written at a time when the author was again
racked by his old enemy rheumatism; again
that enemy attacked his eyes, and his slight
frame was so tortured by the disease that — a
man in the early prime of his life, but just
over forty, he is said to have had to be carried
on an arm-chair on board the boat which was
to take him back to London. This was
presumably in October, for to the short in-
stalment of the story in the November number
was appended the following note :

" Here a sudden and sharp illness compelled the
writer to lay down his pen ; nor was he able to
resume it until too late in the month to continue
the narrative. When Louis XIV visited the death-
bed of one of his favourites, the moribund courtier
begged pardon for the ' ugly faces ' which the acute-
ness of his suffering wrought in him. In the like
spirit of contrition, a periodical writer feels that he
ought to beg pardon of the sovereign public for being
ill, when he is expected to be in the enjoyment of
working health, still ' to be continued ' with the
monthly task he has entered upon."

The old conditions of "to be continued "
when authors wrote from month to month as
their copy was required did not allow of a
man's falling ill — if he were so unfortunate as
to do so there was an awkward break in the
serial publication of his work. And Douglas
Jerrold was at this time writing two serials,
turning from the weekly instalments of the


Story of a Feather for Punch to the Clovernook
for the Illuminated. He had a bad bout of it
this winter. From the middle of October until
December the former story, nearing its close,
had to be suspended, and then the last three
instalments were written, while after November
the readers of the magazine had to wait until
March for the continuation of the Hermit of
Belly fuller 's account of his stay in the land
of Turveytop. The editor's illness is touched
upon in the following note to Henry F. Chorley,
sending a proof of a poem in memory of Victor
Hugo's daughter, Leopoldine, who, with her
husband — they had been married but a few
months — had been drowned in the Seine :

"3, Gothic Cottages, Park Village {East),

"Regent's Park, November 15 [1843].

" Dear Sir, — I herewith forward you the proof of
your touching and beautiful verse ; which, believe
me, I receive in the full spirit of cordiality with which
it is offered. I have been ill — very ill — for some
time, or should have acknowledged your kindness

" Yours faithfully,

" Douglas Jerrold."

Again and again this winter was the author
driven from his desk by illness which made
him in appearance a far older man than he
was in years, but even from his sickbed and
from a darkened room he dictated some of
his short, sharp bits for the pages of Punch,
and, convalescent again, turned to his un-


finished tasks with fresh zeal. In the number
for July 1844, the Chronicles were somewhat
abruptly terminated, and with the October
number — the completion of the third volume —
Douglas Jerrold ceased to edit the magazine,
having, as we shall see, a new and more am-
bitious project of a similar kind in view. The
Illuminated Magazine was a capital miscellany,
but the editor was perhaps a little too kindly
in the acceptance of contributions somewhat
over heavy in manner — it is a recurring story
in the record of his editorial experiences.
Thackeray nearly twenty years later was to
expatiate upon the " thorns " in the cushion
on which the editor of a popular maga-
zine sat, and Jerrold felt them too. Neither
was sufficiently pachydermatous for the

A note written by Richard Hengist Home
to Edgar Allan Poe in April 1844 indicates
that the Illuminated was not then flourishing
as it should. Poe's tale, it may be mentioned,
did not appear in the magazine.

"... I could most probably obtain the insertion
of the Article x you have sent in Jerrold's Illuminated
Magazine. Jerrold has always spoken and written
very handsomely about me, and there would be no
difficulty. But — I fear this magazine is not doing at
all well. I tell you this in confidence. They have a
large but inadequate circulation. The remuneration
would be scarce worth having — ten guineas a sheet
is poor pay for such a page ! And now, perhaps they

1 A tale entitled " The Spectacles,"


do not even give that. I will see. My impression,
however, is that for the reasons stated previously,
I shall not at present be able to assist you in the way
I could best wish."

Richard Hengist Home had in the previous
year published his remarkable epic, Orion,
and published it at the price of one farthing !
As Jerrold said in a three-page review of it
in the magazine, the author had " certainly
taken the most efficient means for enabling
everybody to obtain it." Though published
at that absurd price — probably in no small
measure because of that fact — Orion received
some share of that attention which it indubit-
ably deserved, and during the same year
reached its sixth edition at the greatly en-
hanced price of half-a-crown. At this time
Home was engaged in preparing a series of
studies of contemporary writers somewhat on
the lines of Hazlitt's Spirit of the Age. Douglas
Jerrold, who had found in Hazlitt's work
inspiration for a dramatic squib, was himself
to be considered as one of the authors through
whom was expressed the New Spirit of the

It has been stated that Douglas Jerrold at
times regretted that it had not when young
been his lot to be called to the bar, but it
must be recognized that he was scarcely fitted
for the life of a barrister, and his constant
gibes at the law and lawyers do not suggest
that he would have found the work congenial.
It was, however, possibly when called upon to


make speeches in public that he regretted not
having had such work as should have made
him get over the painful nervousness that
always attended him on the occasions when
he had felt compelled to do so. Such a call
came to him from Dickens, who had promised
to take the chair at a dinner at the London
Tavern on June 5, 1844, for the benefit of
" the Sanatorium, or the sick house for students,
governesses, clerks, young artists and so forth."
" Is your modesty a confirmed habit, or could
you prevail upon yourself, if you are moder-
ately well, to let me call you up for a word or
two at the Sanatorium Dinner? There are
some men (excellent men) connected with that
institution who would take the very strongest
interest in your doing so; and do advise me,
one of these odd days, that if I can do it well
and unaffectedly, I may."

Early in 1844 The Story of a Feather, having
completed its course in the pages of Punch,
was published in volume form — the first of
Douglas Jerrold's novels and one of an un-
conventional character. In following the
fortunes of an ostrich feather as told by itself
from its arrival in this country, the author
was enabled to tell a tender story, to delineate
some strongly marked characters, and to
indulge in that humorous and satiric com-
ment on society in which lay much of his
strength as a writer of fiction. He could rarely
divorce his pen from a purpose over and above
that of mere entertainment, and this perhaps


is one reason why stories acclaimed on their
original appearance have ceased to draw with
readers who have become impatient with
' purpose " rendered in imaginative work.
It is a tender, dainty, at times serious and
satiric story revealed in the autobiography of
an ostrich feather, that is now worn by Kitty
Clive, now lying in a sordid Bloomsbury
attic. It is not necessary here to recapitulate
that story, but the author's long connection
with the theatre lends an interest to his
summing up of the actor in one of the theatrical
chapters :

' An actor is a creature of conceit. Such is the
reproof flung upon poor buskin. How, indeed, is it
possible that he should escape the sweet malady?
You take a man of average clay ; you breathe in
him a divine afflatus ; you fill him with the words of
a poet, a wit, a humorist; he is, even when he
knows it not, raised, sublimated by the foreign
nature within him. Garrick enters as Macbeth.
What a storm of shouts — what odoriferous breath in
' bravos ' seething and melting the actor's heart !
Is it possible that this man, so fondled, so shouted
to, so dandled by the world, can at bed-time take off
the whole of Macbeth with his stockings ? He is
always something more than David Garrick, house-
holder in the Adelphi. He continually carries about
him pieces of greatness not his own ; his moral self
is encased in a harlequin's jacket — the patches of
Parnassus. The being of the actor is multiplied, it
is cast for a time in a hundred different moulds ;
hence, what a puzzle and a difficulty for David to
pick David, and nothing more than David, from the


many runnings ! And then, an actor by his position
takes his draughts of glory so hot and so spiced — (see,
there are hundreds of hands holding to him smoking
goblets !) — that he must, much of his time, live in a
sweet intoxication which, forsooth, hard-thinking
people call conceit."

In the introduction the satire of the story is
quaintly stressed in a defence of the ostrich
against the legends concerning it :

" For thousands of years my ancestors have borne
the weight of lies upon their backs. And first, for
the shameless scandal that the family of ostrichs
wanted the love which even with the wasp makes
big its parental heart towards its little ones.

" ' The ostrich, having laid her eggs, leaves them
to be hatched by the heat of the sun.'

" Such is the wickedness that for tens of centuries
has passed among men for truth, reducing the ostrich
to a level with those hollow-hearted children of
Adam who leave their little ones to the mercies of
the world, to the dandling of chance, to the hard
rearing of the poorhouse. There is Lord de Bowelless ;
he has a rent-roll of thousands ; he is a plumed and
jewelled peer. Look at him in his robes ; behold
' law-maker ' written on the broad tablet of his
comprehensive brow. He is in the House of Peers :
the born protector of his fellowmen. How the con-
sciousness of high function sublimates his nature !
He looks, and speaks, and lays his hand upon his
breast, the invincible champion of all human suffering
— all human truth. Turn a moment from the peer,
and look at yonder biped. There is an old age of
cunning cut and lined in the face of a mere youth.
He has counted some nineteen summers, yet is his


soul wrinkled with deceit. And wherefore ? Poor
wretch ! His very birth brought upon her who bore
him abuse and infamy : his first wail was to his
mother's ear the world's audible reproach. He was
shuffled off into the world, a thing anyway to be
forgotten, lost, got rid of. In his very babyhood, he
was no more to men than the young lizard that
crawls upon a bank, and owes its nurture to the
bounty of the elements. And so this hapless piece
of human offal — this human ostrich deserted in its
very shell — was hatched by wrong and accident into
a thief, and there he stands, charged with the infamy
of picking pockets. The world taught him nothing
wise or virtuous, and now, most properly, will the
world scourge him for his ignorance.

' And thus, because man, and man alone, can with
icy heart neglect his little ones — can leave them in
the world's sandy desert to crawl into life as best they
may — because a de Bowelless can suffer his natural
baby to be swaddled in a workhouse, to eat the pap
of pauper laws — to learn as it grows nothing but the
readiest means of satisfying its physical instincts —
because his Lordship can let his own boy sneak, and
wind, and filch through life, ending life the father
did him the deep wrong to bestow upon him, in
deepest ignominy, because, forsooth, the human sire
is capable of all this, he must, in the consciousness
of his own depraved nature, libel the parental feelings
of the affectionate ostrich ! Oh, that the slander
could perish and for ever ! Oh, that I could pierce
the lie to the heart ; with a feather pierce it, though
cased in the armour of forty centuries !

" Again, the ostrich is libelled for his gluttony.
Believe what is said of him, and you would not trust
him even in the royal stables, lest he should devour
the very shoes from the feet of the horses. Why, the


ostrich ought to be taken as the one emblem of
temperance. He lives and flourishes in the desert;
his choicest food a bitter, spiky shrub, with a few
stones — for how rarely can he find iron, how few the
white days in which the poor ostrich can, in Arabia
Petraea, have the luxury of a tenpenny nail ? — to
season, as with salt, his vegetable diet. And yet
common councilman Prawns, with face purple as the
purple grape, will call the ostrich — glutton ! '

It was during 1843 that the system which
gave Drury Lane and Covent Garden a strange
monopoly in matters theatrical was at last
repealed, a reform of which, as will have been
gathered, Douglas Jerrold was an emphatic

Mention has been made of Richard Hengist
Home's studies of contemporary writers en-
titled The New Spirit of the Age. It is known
that Home received in the preparation of this
work much helpful criticism from Elizabeth
Barrett — three years later to marry Robert
Browning — and therefore in this place there is
an interest in the following passage of a letter
which she wrote to the author while the work
was passing through the press. Home was a
warm admirer of Jerrold and his writings,
while Miss Barrett's admiration, it would seem,
was considerably qualified. When Wordsworth
died it may be said that Jerrold expressed
the view that if the Poet Laureateship was
not to lapse, it would be fitting that the
position should be given by the Queen to a
woman, seeing that her reign was distinguished


by so notable a poet as Elizabeth Barrett

4 With many thanks I return the proof. It is
excellent indeed ; and there is a passage about
Douglas Jerrold which is full of beauty. You will
see marked at the beginning, where I differ from you
on the subject of the employment of wit in satire,
which department of poetry you certainly seem to
overlook. All the great satirists have been ' on
virtue's side,' or on what they took for virtues ; and
if they sometimes struck the lash out recklessly, it
is no argument against their having generally an
intention. . . . Yes, the essay in this proof is excel-
lent. Still it does strike me that you raise Douglas
Jerrold a little above his natural level, and depreciate
Fonblanque and Sydney Smith a little below theirs,
by classing the three together — him, with them, I

In no spirit of undue partiality it may be
said that to-day it would be but a small
minority of readers who would, without looking
up some work of reference, know anything at
all of Albany de Fonblanque, who, brilliant
as he was as a journalist, was doomed to the

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Online LibraryWalter JerroldDouglas Jerrold, dramatist and wit (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 24)