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flesh, shall she be forgotten ? Gratitude, forbid !
Do they not contribute more to human comfort than
all the feats of conquerors and kings ? The philo-
sopher who said the sun was red-hot metal was a fool
to Dr. Moore, who has thoroughly solved the doubts
of mankind, showing that the moon is not green
cheese, but, in fact, a moon. The brilliancy of Day
and Martin, Warren and Larnder, will remain as long
as Homer's. The Elements of Euclid are not so
relishing to a fried sole as Burgess's Essence of
Anchovies. The labours of Money are greater than
those of Hercules, for the ancient did at length slay
the hydra ; but the bear of Mr. Money has been killed
a thousand times, and stripped of its wealth of fat,
and yet survives. Charles Wright makes us abhor
the creed of Mahomet; and many a Cherokee chief
who has scalped his neighbour has been immortalized


in pantomime, while Rowland and Atkinson, who
have fresh-haired many a naked pate, have remained
in obscurity. The epicure who fed off peacocks'
brains (it is lucky he did not choose men's ; at least,
it would be, were he now living in some countries),
is less valuable than Henry Hunt, who makes us
full as grateful with a little corn well singed. What
was Semiramis who struck off heads to the present
Mrs. Johnson who softens our infant mouths ? Are
the ancients to be for ever apostrophized, and the
great living to be unhonoured and unsung? No;
the writer, fired with honourable zeal, has plucked
a quill from the largest goose in Lincolnshire, has
spread open a foolscap sheet, has soused into the
ink-bottle his newly made pen, and thus registers —
The Spirits of the Age."

That puff-preparatory to the play was repro-
duced in the London Magazine (Charles Lamb's
London), with a comment that makes us regret
the more that the text of the play has appar-
ently not survived in any form. After quoting
what is described as the proprietor's bill of
fare, the critic says : " This, it must be con-
fessed, is approaching very close to the l very
age and body of the time ' ; and promises a
very interesting exhibition of the great men
of London. Several of these originals, which
may be said to be caricatures of mankind, are
well caricatured by the actors. But no one
complains ! We must fear that this is one
other specimen of the talent of advertisers;
and that all the worthies whose names are thus
billed, have clubbed together to dramatize


their popularity. The piece ought to pay a
duty to government."

The piece thus characteristically prefaced
by the author was very well received. The
reference to the men of " bold advertisement "
as the true spirits of their age was obviously
suggested by William Hazlitt's well-known
volume first published in the same year.
The years which have elapsed since its produc-
tion have eliminated the names of some of the
" spirits of the age " from their accustomed
places ; many of them, however, are as familiar
now as they were to readers of the journals
when George the Fourth was king.

After the production of that skit its author
apparently remained unrepresented on the stage
for some months, for it was on June 5, 1826,
that his next traceable piece was produced, also
at the Coburg Theatre, under the title — and
nothing more of it remains — of Popular Felons.

One of the least pleasant parts of a writer's
connection with the " minor ' theatres of
ninety years ago must undoubtedly have been
the having now and again to prepare a piece
on a subject similar to that which was already
proving attractive at one of the other houses.
Thus when John Liston had been for some
months drawing crowds to the Haymarket
Theatre to laugh over his frequent intrusions
as Paul Pry in John Poole's play of that name,
Jerrold was called upon to write a play on the
same theme for the Coburg, and there on
November 27, 1826, his farcical comedy of


Paul Pry was acted for the first time. Liston,
an unrivalled comedian of his day, undoubtedly
made the great success of Poole's piece, and
the very name of the inquisitive Paul is always
associated with those of Liston and Poole. So
much so, indeed, that in the British Museum
Catalogue there long appeared under the name
of Douglas Jerrold the astounding entry —
" Paul Pry, a comedy . . . or rather by John
Poole ! ' And the stupid error is blindly
repeated — without the slightest attempt at
verification — in the Dictionary of National
Biography. The two plays are quite distinct;
they both record mainly the pryings and
intrudings of the unmitigated bore, Paul,
otherwise their dramatis personce are different
— the dialogues are certainly distinct. Jerrold
adopted as the motto for his comedy the
suggestive sentence from Lavater — " Avoid him
who, from mere curiosity, asks three questions
running, about a thing that cannot interest

Jerrold's play contains some very pointed
pieces of dialogue, even the ubiquitous Pry
varying " Hope I don't intrude," with occa-
sional smart retorts. Part of one of the scenes
between Sir Spangle Rainbow and his French
valet Pommade will serve to show that the
witty conversation on which the comedies
written in Jerrold's maturity mainly depended
for their success was also characteristic of the
dramatist's work at a time when he was but
little over three-and-twenty.

VOL. i o


" Sir Spangle. Yes, Pommade (using his box), this
pinch has decided it. I'll cut his throat — he dies.
I always follow two plans on great occasions — I first
take a pinch of snuff to arouse my valour, and then
a cigar to compose it.

Pommade. Ah, ha ! So your valour begins in
sneezing and ends in smoke.

Sir S. What, puppy ?

Pom. M'lud, I say you tak' de tabac — de snuff to
clear your head — (aside) — and a ver' great deal you
must tak* to do it.

Sir S. Get me my foils, Pommade. I shall touch
him with cold steel. I don't like these unmannerly
bullets ; they might blow my brains out before I
knew it.

Pom. Oui, my lor' — (aside) — but dey must find
before dey blow.

Sir S. You know with the sword I'm inimit-
able. . . . Don't you remember how, at the humane
request of the Dowager Duchess of Duckspool, with
one pass I pinned with my sword the leg of a spider
against her Grace's bureau ; and don't you remember
— he, he, he ! — the epigram I made on it — the — the
point that was in it, Pommade — the point, you know ?
He, he, he, I have point.

Pom. Oh, you all point ! You'd mak' a ver' good

The supposed original of Paul Pry was an
old man named Tom Hill, a friend of Theodore
Hook, the Brothers Smith and other convivial
men of letters. It was a standing joke among
his friends always to be chaffing Hill on his
great age; they pretended to look upon him
as a modern Methusaleh, but no one knew how

v. *

K ft.

_P fe

H g


old he actually was. James Smith said that
Hill's age could never be really ascertained,
for the parish register had been destroyed in
the Great Fire of London. " Pooh, pooh ! "
broke in Theodore Hook, "he is one of the
little Hills that are spoke of as skipping in the

As no plays from Jerrold's pen are traceable
for nearly two years after the production of
Paul Pry, it seems probable that the arrange-
ment by which he became dramatist-in-ordinary
to the Coburg did not begin until the autumn of
1828 and lasted but for a few months. In
1826 and 1827 he seems largely to have been
engaged in journalism and free-lance contribu-
tions to the magazines. In the summer of
the earlier year there was started the Weekly
Times, sl Sunday journal for which he un-
doubtedly wrote, of which he is said for some
years to have been editor, and of which he is
believed to have been now or a little later
part proprietor. The paper begun on June 15,
1826, and in the second number Ned Sadget
(a Sketch of Character) which is signed " J."
is surely his, and no less surely the dramatic
criticism, signed with a capital D. (for some
weeks inverted Q.), are his. In an early article
he paid pleasant tribute to his old friend
Wilkinson, whose " Geoffrey Muffincap is a
statue of crystal in a niche of the Temple of
Comedy." In the autumn of 1826 he con-
tributed several pieces in prose and verse to
the pages of the Monthly Magazine— -then one


of the leading monthlies edited by Thomas
Campbell — in which were appearing many of
those charming sketches of village life and
character which, despite her poems, and her
plays at Drury Lane, are the best-remem-
bered of Mary Russell Mitford's writings.
In the September number of the Monthly
Jerrold appears to have begun his connection
with this magazine — a connection which con-
tinued for several years — with a couple of
poems, one of them preceding and the other
immediately following Mary Russell Mitford's
sympathetic sketch of A Quiet Gentlewoman.
The first is a fanciful piece, " Upon being asked
in the course of conversation of which the
limited knowledge and action of human nature
formed the subject ' What I wished ? ' " The
second is shorter, and may fittingly find a
place here, as the aspirations to which it gives
expression were distinctly characteristic of
the writer. It is entitled Pen and Ink : an
Invocation :

" Ye fates, that give to scribbling men,
The drops that trickle from the pen,
To me a precious inkstand give,
To feed my goose-quill while I live : —
I would not have the ebon tide
A stream where rust and acid glide ;
For words to trace with bitter spell
As from Medusa's head they fell ;
And like those drops in th' olden age,
Turn each a serpent on the page :
Neither weak dew-gems should my quill
Drink till a dropsy made it ill ;


Nor would I have the honey's slime

To toil a snake-like piece of rhyme :

But dip my pen in some rich stream

Where brightness, strength and beauty beam,

And from my quill let notes be heard

As though from some celestial bird

Who in the skies hath left its rest

And built within my pen a nest.

Know'st not from whence this ink can start ?
Give me, ye fates — a Poet's Heart !
Seek'st thou a bard ? Why, then, in sooth
Yield to my pen— the Note of Truth ! "

In the same magazine for the following
month the ex-volunteer of the Earnest was
represented by an enthusiastic and sympathetic
sketch — the first of a series of Full-Lengths —
of The Greenwich Pensioner. 1 The famous
Hospital must then have numbered among its
occupants men who had borne their part in
Nelson's victories, so that a typical pensioner
must truly have represented a " breathing
volume of naval history," and Jerrold's per-
oration not have sounded extravagant :

" Who has kept our houses from being transformed
into barracks, and our cabbage markets into parades ?

" Again, and again, let it be answered — the Green-
wich pensioner. Reader, if the next time you see the
tar, you should perchance have with you your wife
and smiling family, think that if their tenderness has
never been shocked by scenes of blood and terror,
you owe such gratitude to a Greenwich pensioner.
Indeed, I know not if a triennial progress of the

1 Reprinted in The Handbook of Sivindling and Other
Papers, 1891.


Greenwich establishment through the whole kingdom
would not be attended with the most beneficial
results — fathers would teach their little ones to lisp
thanksgivings unto God that they were born in
England, as reminded of their happy superiority by
the withered form of every Greenwich pensioner ! '

The second of the Full-Lengths, which ap-
peared a month later, dealt with the Drill
Sergeant, 1 and is interesting as one of the
earliest expressions of Douglas Jerrold's de-
testation of war ; here, however, it is even more
interesting on account of the writer's reference
to his own shortcomings in the way of stature :

" We shrink lest he mentally has approved of
us as being worthy of ball-cartridge. He glances
towards our leg, and we cannot but feel that he is
thinking how it will look in a black gaiter. At this
moment we take courage, and, valiantly lifting off
our hat, pass our luxuriant curls through our four
fingers — we are petrified; for we see by his chuckle
that he has already doomed our tresses to the scissors
of the barrack barber. We are at once about to take
to our legs, when turning round, we see something
under a middle-sized man looking over our head. On
this we feel our safety, and triumph in the glory of
five feet one. Something must always be allowed
for weakness — something for vanity ; which, indeed,
philosophers denominate the greatest weakness.
Hence all these cogitations, foolishly attributed by the
little individual to the Sergeant, arise from the Civil
man's self-conceit; the Sergeant always treating
with ineffable contempt persons of a certain size."

1 Handbook of Swindling and Other Payers.


The number of the New Monthly which
contained this limning of the drill-sergeant had,
it is believed from the same pen, a pretty story
of Oriental life, The Moth with the Golden Wings, 1
and during the following year the writer con-
tinued his presentation of Full-Lengths, making
plain the characteristics of the tax-gatherer,
the Jew slop-seller and the ship's clergyman,
and also contributed further pieces of verse,
from one of which, What is Fame ? a few pas-
sages may be quoted. With the disillusion-
ment of four-and-twenty the writer dealt with
fame in a cynical, satiric strain :

" And thou wouldst write ? for what ! — a name ?
Thou'rt dead, and left behind some books,
Which, neatly bound, fill up the nooks
Of some dull-headed plodder's room,
Well ponder'd o'er by — housewife's broom ;
Or yet, less lucky, doomed to sleep
On bookworms' stall, with label — ' cheap ' ;
And all the wit thy brain has wrought
May, with good fortune, fetch a groat.
Yet still thy fame neglect rebuts,
If, midst the care of cracking nuts,
Some fop avers he's read the lines,
Plucks off the shell, — then talks of wines . . .
Yet, in a senate-house debate
(As beetroot beautifies a plate
Of salad for a supper course),
Thy lines may deck a green discourse ;
Quoted in very timely season
To save by rhyme, when lost to reason ;
Then, if thou'st been a civil beast,
Nor gored a king, nor tost a priest,

1 Handbook of Sivindling and Other Papers.


Nor lived of courts and place a s corner,
Thou'lt stand in stone in Poets' Corner . . .

This, this is Fame, — to be well bound,
Sold for the sixtieth of a pound.
Now spoken of by petit-maitre,
Now lost in cry of ' wine ' and ' waiter ' ;
By peer well prized thy carved -out head,
Which, living, perhaps, had wanted bread ;
Cited to aid a new taxation,
To stuff a king, and starve a nation ;
A statue raised above thy grave,
To tell the world thou wert no knave . . .

This, this is Fame ! — O flattering ill !
Bards, cut to toothpicks every quill ! "

On December 22, 1826, Douglas Jerrold's
second child and eldest son was born in Little
Queen Street, and was christened William
Blanchard at St. George's, Bloomsbury, one
of his godfathers being Laman Blanchard.
During the following year the family removed
to Seymour Street, St. Pancras, and there
another son, Douglas Edmund, was born
July 18, 1828.

To the year 1827 is traceable one of those
ready conversational witticisms on which
Jerrold's fame was ultimately largely to rest.
Crockford's splendid edifice of white stone had
recently been completed, when Jerrold was
passing one day along St. James's Street with
a friend who, contrasting the new palatial
building with the adjoining old houses, de-
clared that it was " quite swanlike." " Very
swanlike indeed," came the answer, " for you
don't see the black legs working underneath."

Davidge was not, it may be easily imagined


from what his dramatist said of him, a par-
ticularly considerate employer, and numerous
as are the pieces written for his stage which
are distinctly traceable to Douglas Jerrold's
pen it is quite possible that there is no record
of the hardest part of the work — the supplying
of plays that did not happen to hit the popular
taste and so called for an early superseding.

On June 2, 1828, a one-act vaudeville of
Jerrold's, The Statue Lover, or Music in
Marble, was produced at Vauxhall. This was
no more than it was described, a ludicrous
little episode telling how a young man won a
young woman's heart as himself, won her
guardian-uncle by pretending to be an Italian
singer — and reconciled the two by posing as a
statue of Apollo. It is a slight thing, suggest-
ing the hurried rough-and-tumble of the modern
cinematograph rather than the comedy with
which its author's name was to be more par-
ticularly associated. It was, however, appar-
ently designed for the uncritical audience of
Vauxhall Gardens rather than for that of the
regular theatre.

Somewhere about this time there seems to
have been some slight falling out of faithful
friends between Jerrold and Laman Blanchard,
for they were drawn together in the closest
bonds, and are said to have shared such a
friendship as is all too rare. The latter looked
to his elder companion with something more
than a brother's love and admiration. Slight
misunderstandings might arise, but the affec-


tion of the two was not of a kind to be impaired
by such. The impulsive outspokenness of the
poet, and something of the reflected character
of his friend, may be gathered from the follow-
ing portions of a letter inviting the young play-
wright to take part in an outing to Richmond.

" Dear Doug., . . . I need not say, at least I think
not, how much of the pleasure and profit of the
ramble will depend upon your joining it. Wednesday
is selected as your convenient day, and I hope you
will make some little exertion to join us, if it were
only to afford me an opportunity of renewing, or
rather of terminating, our conversation of Sunday
night, and to convince you how little excuse you have
for misinterpreting my conduct when you, of all
persons in the world, are the very one that should
most clearly understand it. Such as my nature is,
it is not too much to say that it has been almost
moulded by you ; and certainly, of late years, nothing
has been admitted into it that has not received your
stamp and sanction. It has been, and is, my pride
to think and act with you on all important subjects ;
and for lesser matters, as they are the mere dirt that
adheres to the scales of opinion, let them not turn the
balance against me, nor prevent me from retaining
that fair and even place in your thoughts which it is
one of the best consolations of my life to believe that
you have assigned me.

" If you can, independently of any occasional fit
of perverse temper, conceive seriously that I do not
give you credit for the many, or I should say, the
numberless marks of sympathy and kindness towards
me during our intercourse ; or if you think I can share
my mind with others as I have done with you, let


me refer you to a passage in Childe Harold com-
mencing —

" ' Oh, known the earliest and esteemed the most.''

If you should wonder why I have taken the pains to
write all this dry detail of feelings which we mutually
recognized and appreciated long ago, it is because
the conversation that occasions it has made a deeper
impression than you are aware of, perhaps than you
intended, and more particularly as the feeling has
displayed itself in two or three less important quarters
at the same time. What is only teasing in indifferent
persons, is something approaching to torture when
conveyed by the hand which has been so long held
out in faithful and undoubting friendship, and which
has never allowed the worldly pressure of calamity
to weaken its grasp.

" I shall be glad to hear from you to-night by some
means. Can you call ? It will be necessary to start
at nine for half-past on Wednesday. Believe me
ever, dear Jerrold, yours most sincerely,

" S. L. Blanchard."

Whatever may have been the temporary
misunderstanding, one is almost glad it oc-
curred, seeing the true friendly declaration
which it occasioned. Of early letters to or
from Douglas Jerrold this of Blanchard's
appears to be the only one left, no other being
obtainable until we come to the congratula-
tions which Miss Mitford wrote on the success
of Thomas a Becket. Wednesday being Jer-
rold's convenient day for an outing suggests
that he was journalistically engaged most of
the week — possibly on the Sunday paper to


which reference has already been made, or— for
the letter is undated— later when he was acting
as sub-editor of the short-lived Ballot.

In the autumn of this year (1828) plays from
Jerrold's pen were produced at the Coburg
Theatre in such rapid succession as to suggest
that it was then that he began his salaried
appointment to write pieces as often as they
were required. On September 1 there were
given two melodramas in two acts by Douglas
Jerrold. One of these, entitled Descart : the
French Buccaneer, was a romantic story of the
theft by an African slave of the infant daughter
of his master, a French officer, and that officer's
subsequent revelation as no less a person than
Descart himself. The scene is laid on a wild
part of the African coast, and several savages
are among the dramatis personce. The dialogue
of this play is more pointed than that of the
one just mentioned, a certain cowardly English
traveller named Luckless Tramp — the part was
taken by Davidge himself — being entrusted
with many of the good things. He is given
to making Radical remarks, too, which suffi-
ciently indicate the lines on which, politically
speaking, Jerrold's mind was then working.

" You see, Smouch, I have wisdom," he says.

" Oh, enough for a statesman."

" Why, as for that, a little will serve, as
times go."

And again, Tramp says that in a fight, as
in a game at whist, like a well-bred gentleman,
he never minds standing out, adding, " But


seriously, as for fighting, you know, a delicate
mind shrinks from observation — I'll choose the

" Come, let's first go and get well victualled."
" There, I don't mind if I proceed in the van."
" Why, you cowardly dog, and won't you
blush to take what you don't earn? "

" Lord bless you, not at all ; if that was the
case how many high noddles would redden at
pay day."

The second piece produced on the same
night at the same house " adapted for repre-
sentation " by the same author, was The Tower
of Lochlain, or the Idiot Son, a three-act melo-
drama, of no great merit, but sufficiently
successful to justify its publication. A fort-
night later, and another and a strongly con-
trasting piece was ready for the Coburg
audience, when there was produced Wives by
Advertisement, a one-act dramatic satire which
showed the young writer's readiness in making
effective use of the slightest materials which
happened to come to hand. It was summed
up at the time as a very clever hit at the
prevailing fashion of matrimonial advertise-
ments — a fashion that if no longer prevalent
is also not altogether unknown at the present

But three weeks passed, and on October 6
there was another play ready for the Coburg
boards in the form of Ambrose Gwinett, a drama
in three acts. The piece, which is further
described as a seaside story, is based upon the


hopeless love of Grayling, a prison smith, for
Lucy Fairlove, and his hatred and jealousy of
his successful rival Gwinett. Circumstances
favour his conspiracy to get rid of Gwinett
more thoroughly than he had dared to hope;
he had planned for Gwinett to be taken by a
pressgang ; Lucy's uncle, Collins, however, gets
carried off instead and Gwinett is found guilty
of murdering him and is hanged in chains,
but his body mysteriously disappears from
the gallows. Eighteen years elapse, and then
Ambrose and Collins both return unexpectedly
and all ends happily with the reuniting of the
lovers and the discomfiture and death of the
miserable Grayling. For those who may think
there is little of probability in the story it
may be said that in its essentials it is a his-
torical one. Early in the eighteenth century
one Ambrose Gwinett, a young man of
Canterbury, was wrongfully accused of mur-
dering at Deal a man who had been carried

Online LibraryWalter JerroldDouglas Jerrold, dramatist and wit (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 24)