1855 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Jerdan

Charles Rogers, in Modern Scottish Minstrel (1855-57) 5:30-31.



The well known editor of The Literary Gazette, William Jerdan, was born at Kelso, Roxburghshire, on the 16th April 1782. The third son and seventh child of John Jerdan, a small land proprietor and baron-bailie under the Duke of Roxburghe, his paternal progenitors owned extensive possessions in the south-east of Scotland. His mother, Agnes Stuart, a woman of superior intelligence, claimed descent from the Royal House of Stuart. Educated at the parochial school of his native town, young Jerdan entered a lawyer's office, with a view to the legal profession. Towards literary pursuits his attention was directed through the kindly intercourse of the Rev. Dr. Rutherford, author of the View of Ancient History, who then assisted the minister of Kelso, and subsequently became incumbent of Muirkirk. In 1801 he proceeded to London, where he was employed as clerk in a mercantile establishment. Returning to Scotland, he entered the office of a Writer to the Signet; but in 1804 he resumed his connexion with the metropolis. Suffering from impaired health, he was taken under the care of a maternal uncle, surgeon of the Gladiator guard-ship. On the recommendation of this relative, he served as a seaman for a few months preceding February 1806. A third time seeking the literary world of London, he became reporter to The Aurora, a morning paper, of temporary duration. In January 1807, he joined The Pilot, an evening paper. Subsequently, he was one of the conductors of The Morning Post, and a reporter for the British Press. Purchasing the copyright of The Satirist, he for a short time edited that journal. In May 1813, he became conductor of The Sun, an appointment which he retained during a period of four years, but was led to relinquish from an untoward dispute with the publisher. He now entered on the editorship of The Literary Gazette, which he conducted till 1850, and with which his name will continue to be associated.

During a period of nearly half a century, Mr. Jerdan has occupied a prominent position in connexion with literature and politics. He was the first person who seized Bellingham, the murderer of Percival, in the lobby of the House of Commons. With Mr. Canning he was on terms of intimacy. In 1821 he aided in establishing the Royal Society of Literature. He was one of the founders of the Melodist's Club, for the promotion of harmony, and of the Garrick Club, for the patronage of the drama. In the affairs of the Royal Literary Fund he has manifested a deep interest. In 1830 he originated, in concert with other literary individuals, The Foreign Literary Gazette, of which he became joint-editor. About the same period, he wrote the biographical portion of Fisher's National Portrait Gallery. In 1852-3 appeared his Autobiography, in four volumes; a work containing many curious details respecting persons of eminence. In 1852 Mr. Jerdan's services to literature were acknowledged by a pension of 100 on the Civil List, and about the same time he received a handsome pecuniary testimonial from his literary friends.