Copyright
Walter Jerrold.

Douglas Jerrold, dramatist and wit (Volume 1) online

. (page 9 of 24)
Online LibraryWalter JerroldDouglas Jerrold, dramatist and wit (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


and Miss Cawse as Susan, George Daniel
wrote in his Tatler notice the following amusing
comment on the actor's name : " By the way,
what are the Christian names of T. P. Cooke ?
Is he Theophilus Philip, or Thomas Patterson,
or what ? or is it necessary to the mystery of
his reputation that he should always remain
Mr. Tee Pee Cooke, as if he was Captain
Cook's son by a Chinese wife. We have a
grudge against these mysteries of initials.
What is Miss Eff Aitch Kelly ? and why is
Mr. Farren Mr. Double U Farren ? We were
in pain for the appellation of Miss H. Cawse,

1 In June, 1831, Black-Eyed Susan was revived at the
Surrey with Miss Scott in her original part, and was
given simultaneously at the Queen's Theatre (with T. P.
Cooke) and at the Co burg along with its author's Martha
Willis.



128 DOUGLAS JERROLD

till we learnt her name was Harriett. Harriett
is a good name, but Aitch was a vile precursor."

Before leaving the subject of this play, the
most popular of those traceable to Jerrold's
pen, it may be as well to refer to another
often-repeated error. It has frequently been
stated in works of reference and elsewhere,
that the famous nautical drama was written
before its author was one-and-twenty. One
authority, indeed, in one short paragraph in-
cludes a second error with this, for we read
in Knight's Penny Encyclopaedia that Jerrold's
" first dramatic production, Black-Eyed Susan
—the most popular drama of modern times or
any time— was written before Mr. Jerrold had
attained his twenty-first year." Thanks to
Elliston's letter, we know that the play was
not written until its author had completed
his six-and-twentieth year, and it was so far
from being his " first dramatic production "
that it was the twenty-first of those that have
proved traceable. This latter error may have
been helped by the fact that Black-Eyed Susan
was the earliest of his plays which Jerrold
included many years later in his " Collected
Writings."

Following on the success of the nautical
drama, and while it was enjoying a run then
unprecedented in theatrical annals, Jerrold
wrote other plays which Elliston duly produced
at the Surrey. On July 13 of the same year
— a month or so after the production of Black-
Eyed Susan — was presented also a two-act



DOUGLAS JERROLD 129

melodrama, Vidocq, the French Police Spy,
adapted for representation from the auto-
biography of Vidocq, with T. P. Cooke in the
title part. Here again the Coburg Theatre
appears to have stolen a march upon the
Surrey manager by producing a play with
the same title a few days earlier. Though
sufficiently successful to justify its publication,
the play did not repeat the success of its
predecessor. Vidocq, with his many disguises
and sudden and surprising appearances, must
have provided a capital part for T. P. Cooke,
and the French master of deceit have afforded
a strong contrast in characterization to the
actor who was still appearing several times
a week in the part of the frank and breezy
British sailor William.

The play is one of action rather than of
dialogue, but an amusing scrap of the latter
may be given where Vidocq escaped from the
galleys, and disguised as a recruiting sergeant,
patters to a mob to prevent suspicion falling
on him. Indeed, he declares that he has just
refused to enlist Vidocq, as " we have nothing
in the army but prime picked honest fellows."

" Vidocq. Now, silence ! Those gentlemen who

would wish to make their fortunes let them listen to

the offers of the Republic. You have heard of

India ! soldiers are wanted for that best of all places

— would you have gold, pearls, or diamonds ? The

roads are paved with them — if you don't like to

stoop for them, the savages will bring them to you !

Fanfan. Is this true ?
vol. i K



130 DOUGLAS JERROLD

Vidocq. True ! do I look like a man who would
lie?

All. No, no, no, it's all true — we believe the
gentleman.

Vidocq. Do you like women ? there they are of all
colours, black, white, blue and yellow — you may have
any one or all.

Fanfan. Is this true ?

Vidocq. True ! do I look like a man who would
lie?

All. No, no, no, we believe it.

Vidocq. Do you love wine? there it is of all sorts
— Malaga, Bordeaux, Champagne — no, I'll be honest
with you, there is no Burgundy, it will not bear
the voyage, but any other, at twopence, and sometimes
nothing a bottle. Then for the fruits ! you can't
walk without the pine-apples bumping upon your
heads — can't sleep without the peaches dropping
into your mouths — and for the oranges, why, you
walk upon them.

Fanfan. Is this true, do you think ?

Vidocq. True ! do I look like a man who would
tell a lie ?

All. No, no, no.

Vidocq. I know that if I were talking to women
and children, I might enlarge upon the delicacies,
but I am not, I am speaking to men who despise
such things. People may tell you savages eat white
men with salt — it's false, they don't. People may tell
you stories about the yellow fever — all inventions.
If the yellow fever were in India, would not the place
be full of hospitals ? Now, I can tell you, there's
not a single hospital there — isn't that convincing?

All. Yes, yes.

Vidocq. People will talk about mosquitoes and
rattlesnakes. Won't you have black men to fan



DOUGLAS JERROLD 131

away the flies ? And as for the snakes, don't the
rattles in their tails warn you to get out of the way ?

Fanfan. Now is this true ?

Vidocq. True ! do I look like a man who would
lie?

All. No, no.

Vidocq. Gentlemen, I don't want any of you to be
led away by my discourse — go, go to India and satisfy
yourselves.

1st Recruit. I'll go.

2nd R. And I.

3rd R. And I.

Vidocq. Come with me, then, gentlemen, come
with me, and I'll enlist you in the service of the
Republic. Three cheers for the Republic."

Apart from the escapades of Vidocq, the
only romantic story of the piece comes at the
close, when a certain wealthy farmer's house
is to be robbed, and the robbers include the
seducer of the farmer's daughter, and should
have included the farmer's errant son, only
he becomes his sister's champion, and the play
ends with a sensational picture in which the
girl throws herself before her attacked lover,
and the young man falls penitent at the feet
of his father. As something of a topical
piece — a piece the writing of which was presum-
ably ordered by Elliston, owing to the brief
popularity of Vidocq's supposed autobiography
— it is a good and spirited dramatization of a
series of episodes, but is not otherwise re-
markable.

In October came another play, one of those
written to order because of the success at



132 DOUGLAS JERROLD

another theatre of a piece on the same theme.
Elliston announced that on October 7 he
would stage The Flying Dutchman — the same,
presumably, as was then appearing at one of
the patent houses — but when the night arrived
he hastily substituted another play, and ap-
peared before his audience to explain that this
was rendered necessary owing to an injunction
having been obtained to forbid him carrying
out his promise ; but, he added, the patrons of
the Surrey Theatre should not be disappointed,
for in the following week he would produce
another Flying Dutchman, which should be
specially written by the author of Black-Eyed
Susan. Eight days passed, and the play had
been written, rehearsed, and was duly pro-
duced on October 15. Then on November 3
came another of his plays, The Lonely Man of
Study, but of neither of these pieces are any
particulars available.

If the following strange story, which I owe
to a cutting from an unnamed newspaper of
over fifty years ago, be true, it was apparently
shortly after the success of Black-Eyed Susan
that Douglas Jerrold came to know that
irresponsible man of many talents, William
Maginn :

Dr. Maginn's acquaintance with Jerrold
commenced under singular circumstances.
Douglas Jerrold, sitting one morning in Bald-
win's ante-room, in New Bridge Street, London,
Maginn came down from the editor's room
and approached him with great frankness, and



DOUGLAS JERROLD 133

asked him how he did. Jerrold, who was of
a retiring disposition, seeing a stranger accost
him so intimately, shrank back a little, and
returned his inquiries with an air of distant
civility. " Pooh, pooh ! " says Maginn; " my
name is Maginn, and you are Jerrold, the
author of Black-Eyed Susan ; and though not
formally acquainted with one another we should
be acquainted as brother writers and literary
men; therefore, without any ceremony, will
you sup with me at the British in Cockspur
Street, to-night, where you will meet with
half-a-dozen jolly dogs of the press, who,
I think, will please you ? " Jerrold, admiring
the frankness of the introduction, accepted
the invitation, and met the Doctor at the
appointed time. The party, which principally
consisted of Sir John Hamilton, Bob Hamilton,
Sir John Sinclair, and one or two editors, was,
as Maginn predicted, quite agreeable to Jerrold,
and the whisky-toddy was in the ascendant to
a late hour in the morning. A little before
the party separated Maginn went out of the
room, and, in a few minutes afterwards, his
voice was heard rather loud in the adjoining
passage in conversation with Elemont, who
then kept the British. Jerrold immediately
flew to his new friend to inquire what was the
matter, when Maginn, with great sang-froid,
replied, " Oh, a mere trifle — this blackguard
of a landlord has refused my note for the
reckoning." " You forget at the same time,"
says Mr. Elemont, " to tell Mr. Jerrold that



5?
55



134 DOUGLAS JERROLD

you owe me forty or fifty pounds already,
which I cannot get a penny of ; and since you
think proper to explain matters so publicly,
I now tell you I will neither take your note
nor your word any longer." " Well, well,"
says Jerrold, " let us have no words about it ;
it is not the first time a gentleman wanted
cash. Will you take my word for your bill ?
" Certainly, and for as much as you like.
" Ah, then," says Maginn, whispering to
Elemont, " send in brandy and water all
round and add it to the bill." The brandy
and accompaniment were accordingly sent in.
Jerrold pledged his word for the amount, and
in a few days afterwards paid it. To the credit
of Maginn he refunded the money to the
author, although, from circumstances, a lapse
of six years intervened between the loan and
its repayment.

Jerrold's words put into the mouth of a
character in one of his plays, embodied
advice, the usefulness of which he was to have
brought home to him more than once : " Give
a friend your hand as often as you like — but
never, never, let there be a pen in it."
When Punch started his first almanack,
Maginn, who died in the second year of the
paper and was never on the staff, is believed
to have been enlisted as a helper, though one
account says that that almanack was entirely
the joint work of Henry Mayhew and H. P.
Grattan.



(C



CHAPTER V

THOMAS A BECKET " AND " THE DEVIL'S

DUCAT "

1829-1831

The success of Black-Eyed Susan was of great
assistance to its author in helping him forward
in his career, by placing the stages of the
" patent houses " within easier reach of his
pen; and before the close of the year he had
plays in hand for both Drury Lane and Covent
Garden. The dramatist had removed from
Seymour Street, St. Pancras, and was living
at this time at No. 4 Augustus Square, near
Regent's Park — " a small two-storied, countri-
fied cottage at the junction of Park Village and
Augustus Street " — and was getting through
a considerable amount of miscellaneous writing
and journalistic work as well as supplying
manager Elliston with pieces as required. He
had a young family of three children, the eldest
of whom was but four, so that had not ambi-
tion been sufficient to spur him forward the
necessity of providing for the home would
have been enough effectually to do so. Within
four or five months after the production of
the popular nautical drama but three pieces,
so far as is now ascertainable, were required

135



136 DOUGLAS JERROLD

from Jerrold's pen, and the writer was thus
enabled to concentrate his powers upon a
more ambitious task. He was meditating a
higher flight than he had previously attempted ;
was at work upon a piece dealing with one
of the most dramatic periods of English
history.

On the thirtieth of November Thomas a
Becket, a historical play in five acts, was
produced at the Surrey Theatre, and was so
very well received as to afford much gratifica-
tion to the author— the " little Shakespeare
in a camlet cloak " as his friend Laman
Blanchard dubbed him. This was the most
ambitious piece of work which its author had
essayed, and some passages from the preface
to the rare first edition (it is not in the British
Museum and the preface is not given in later
issues) may be quoted :

" The reader will, on a perusal of this drama,
perceive that, whilst it has been the aim of the
dramatist rigidly to follow the great marks laid down
by history, he has, in a few instances, been compelled
to take some slight liberties with the less prominent
facts connected with the story of his high-minded
yet arrogant hero. It has been the chief purpose of
the writer to delineate the character, in all its various
modifications, of Thomas a Becket. ... It has been
necessary to introduce several characters of fiction,
for the more varied conduct of the drama. Still,
there may be some to complain of a want of theatrical
interest in the play. History is not to be degraded
or sported with by an impertinent alloy of invention,
or it would have been easy to make King Henry II



DOUGLAS JERROLD 137

fall in love with and wed a swineherd's daughter,
and the Archbishop of Canterbury to pronounce an
oration at the monarch's nuptials. What is often
thoughtlessly called for as " interest " (the commodity
abounding in French melodramas), becomes absurd-
ity, if wrought at the expense of truth or probability.
The writer conceives that the dramatist who succeeds
in justly delineating the feelings and passions of a great
historical character, and in giving a correct view of
his mind, working out one paramount object — is
certain of the voices of the reflecting and may hear
with a smile of indifference the crude objections of
the superficial.

" Perhaps the whole range of English history does
not offer to the dramatist a more tempting, and withal
a more arduous subject, than the life of Thomas a
Becket. . . . Mr. Rumball, to whom was assigned
the very arduous task of representing Thomas a
Becket, acquitted himself so as to impose a great
debt of obligation on the writer. The actor showed
the character alternately dignified and impassioned —
begetting in audiences, ' albeit unused ' to five act
histories, a respect and approbation highly flattering
to the capabilities of the performer. There are some
auditories from whom even an attentive silence may
be received as no mean mark of commendation."

The closing words suggest that the Surrey
audience was less demonstratively appreciative
than were some of the critics of the play. The
Prologue " written by a Friend " (probably
Laman Blanchard) reads as though it might
be the work of the author himself, with its
insistence upon the English drama, its hits
at the fashion of adapting from the French,



138 DOUGLAS JERROLD

and at the craze for making plays spectacular
settings for " real live " animals.

" To-night, a novel, but a noble guest,
Crowned with old wreaths, and clad in classic vest,
Comes here — a relic of our Golden Day —
That long-sought absentee, an English Play. . . .

Fain we'd have you find,
The play of fancy, and the flash of mind.
Dragons and demons, Counts bow'd down by

crime,
The pleasing horror of a German clime :
French sentiment, French feeling — richly clad
In sighs and songs, till melody runs mad —
Clipp'd and ' adapted to our stage ' — (weak wine
Translated into water; flavour fine !) —
All these are banished hence, old Fiction flies,
And English Manners — Habits — History,

rise :
We offer here — no masque or gaudy dream —
A native Drama on a native theme !
If in this effort, though all else should fail,
You own, while wearied with our author's tale,
A love of Nature and of Shakespeare reigns,
His wreath is won ! — the rest with you remains."

George Daniel may be quoted as showing in
brief the scope of the tragedy thus prologued :

" Mr Jerrold has availed himself of the reports
of the scandalous lives of the clergy, and exhibited
a profligate monk in the character of Philip de Brois,
implicating the archbishop, and making him in part
pimp to the base designs of his libidinous brother.
He has dramatized the council at Clarendon, brought
Henry and Becket into hot polemical discussion, and
dissolved it by a troop of armed knights, after the
summary fashion of the royal bully-rock. He has
marched Becket, bearing the silver cross, into the



DOUGLAS JERROLD 139

presence of the King, and, under the presumed pro-
tection of that sacred symbol, made him display a
constancy and courage worthy of so distinguished
a member of the Church militant. We lose sight
of him during his six years' exile in France, and meet
him, for a short season, when he returns to his ancient
quarters at Canterbury. But few incidents occur
between that period and his death; and the curtain
drops on his martyrdom at the altar. This play is
written in an ambitious style ; there is a continued
attempt at apophthegm between Moldwarp and Swart,
and every opportunity is seized to exaggerate the pride,
luxury and lasciviousness of the Church. It was
produced at the Surrey Theatre with great care by
Mr. Elliston, and received every justice in the
acting. Mr. Jerrold, actuated by the desire to
produce an English Play, drew entirely from his own
resources, and gained the applause he so justly merited
by his endeavour to render a highly interesting chapter
of British history popular with the million."

Though it gained applause, as Daniel says,
the piece did not altogether succeed, it did not
have such a run as might somewhat con-
fidently have been looked for after the success
of Black-Eyed Susan, but possibly the note
struck was too serious, the level of dramatic
dignity was too rare for an audience readier
to respond to the simpler emotions of more
striking incidents than to a play the motive
of which was the quarrel between Church and
State. Mr. Theodore Watts-Dunton has sug-
gested that it was the choice of motive which
militated against the play's holding the public
interest for long. Possibly it would have



140 DOUGLAS JERROLD

made more noteworthy a success could it have
been originally produced at one of the patent
houses. It was in reviewing Lord Tennyson's
Becket that Mr. Watts-Dunton criticized Jer-
rold's earlier play on the same theme, and
pointed out that there is in fact " but one way
of reading Becket's story that was in any way
calculated to enlist the sympathies of a popular
audience, and this reading is not the one
chosen by Lord Tennyson " or by Jerrold.

"A glance at Douglas Jerrold's play upon this
subject," continued the critic, " will show what we
mean. Jerrold's Thomas d Becket, brought out by
Elliston with great care and intelligence in 1829, was
as full of pregnant dialogue as any of Jerrold's works.
The character of Becket was exceedingly well con-
ceived, and such minor characters as Walter de Mapes,
Swart and Moldwarp were full of life and colour.
It is true that the play flagged in interest after the
third act, but it was never dull, and it exhibited a
command of true spectacular effects such as will
not be found in Jerrold's later plays. . . . Suppose,
however, that the motive of Jerrold's play had been,
not a struggle between Church and State, but a struggle
between the champion of an oppressed race and its
oppressors : suppose that this popular dramatist
had challenged the sympathies of his audience by
depicting a struggle between the archbishop as the
champion of his downtrodden Saxon fellow-country-
men, and the King as chief of the Norman oppressors
who held the land : would not an English audience
have risen to the play? " x

1 Athenceum, Jan. 8, 1885.



DOUGLAS JERROLD 141

As a literary performance Thomas a Becket
was unquestionably an advance on the author's
earlier dramatic work, whether regarded for
the larger treatment of a great theme or
whether considered for its full and pregnant
dialogue, its characterization, or its serious
attempt to render in worthy stage form a great
historical episode. The story opens in a hall
in Becket's London palace, with a couple of
his servants meeting :

" Moldwarp. Good-day, fellow Swart ; what hour
is on the dial ?

Swart. I know not, care not. Time has broken
his glass and thrown the sand into my eyes. I have
no use to put him to, save to whiten my hair and
scratch pits in my cheek. . . . And what a pair of
knaves are we ! Rascals, that eat and sleep, and
thicken our blood with idleness, casting away man-
hood as part of a bygone mode, and standing two
breathing statues, in a great man's hall ! I never pass
a beehive that I do not redden to the ears.

Moldwarp. Such statues as we, good Swart, are
the true furniture of wealth. Willow backs, and eyes
that say, ' I look but by your leave ' are the real house-
hold finery of your golden gentleman. Is't our fault
that our best employment is the counting our fingers ?
When Becket was Chancellor, he was full of show and
merriment : then, thou wast his falconer ; — looked to
his birds, and their Milan bells ; wast a gay fellow,
that could laugh with the loudest : then was I the
master of the dogs, and could chuckle too, and take
my quart of mulberry without breathing twice. Now,
Becket is archbishop : the birds have flown, the dogs
run away. I doubt if there be a kestrel or a



142 DOUGLAS JERROLD

trundle-tail left. . . . Ah ! what a fine Chancellor was
spoilt, when our master was made an archbishop !

Swart. Aye; we must now duck to Saint Becket.
He hath discarded glitter, and fallen in love with
sack-cloth.

Moldwarp. They say, he mortifies himself past
belief; that under his robes he wears a hair shirt,
next his skin.

Swart. Ha ! ha ! a piety of bristles !

Moldwarp. Nay, be not irreverent; all saints
have done as much.

Swart. Aye. Yet if sanctitude sprout from a
hair shirt, I marvel we do not canonize the bears.
Farewell."

When Swart goes off Moldwarp sums him
up saying, " That fellow can cover more brain
with his little ringer, than many with their
whole palm. There is no handling him ; touch
him where you will, and like a porcupine, he
pierces you. He keep falcons ! he is worthy
to bear Jupiter's eagle. I had rather hear
him growl than others sing."

The first act of the tragedy shows us the
Chancellor become Churchman, hints at the
growing rivalry of King and Archbishop, and
indicates the subsidiary romance of Lucia
Vincent, who has been forced to flee from
home owing to the unwelcome advances of
her late priest, Philip de Brois, and, thanks
to the assistance of Swart, is safely married
to her true lover, Walter Breakspear. Philip
— the villain of the piece — denounces her (un-
truly, of course) as one who has broken her



DOUGLAS JERROLD 143

vows, so that along with, and made part of,
the struggle between the powers temporal and
the powers spiritual is this of the young
maligned wife. With the second act, Becket,
a severe, serious and heroic Becket, appears on
the scene, and Philip emphasizes his charges,
to be met with a slight reprimand that gives
occasion to Becket for the telling of the
romantic story of his parents :

' Woman hath no constancy ! Wrong not her
who bore me by such censure. Hear a short tale,
then own the charge untrue. My father was a
soldier of the cross and fought in Palestine. He was
taken — enslaved — a hero of the faith, he wore his
bonds as garlands. His master had one lovely girl ;
my father taught the young heretic by stealth our
creed : she would weep over the Christian prisoner,
gemming his clanking fetters with her tears. My
father gained his freedom, reached his home; the
girl remained amidst the terrors of the war, — a tender
floweret in a soldier's helm. At length, urged by
uneasy thoughts, — guided as by a wand of flame, by
her new faith, — she left her golden clime, nor did
the terrors of the wilderness, or the billows of the sea
restrain her, till, with her heart brimfull of hope — her



Online LibraryWalter JerroldDouglas Jerrold, dramatist and wit (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 24)