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William Jerdan

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Published : 4 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : N/A
Death : N/A
Views : 1318

Journalist. Received what he described as "a common Scottish provincial education" (Autobiography, IV, 377); early had literary ambitions. About 1805, began his long and industrious journalistic career, during which, as reporter, contributor, editor, and proprietor, was connected with numerous publications. Longest service was as editor, 1817-1850, of Literary Gazette—the periodical that stood during the 1820s as critical arbiter in British literary world. Forced by financial and other difficulties to terminate connection with Gazette; thereafter continued to contribute to periodicals, e.g., Fraser's, the Gentleman's Magazine, Leisure Hour, Notes & Queries. Edited and wrote nearly whole of National Portrait Gallery of Illustrious and Eminent Personages of the Nineteenth Century, 1830-1834; author of Men I Have Known, 1866, and other works. Member of many societies and clubs; one of founders of Royal Society of Literature. In 1853 granted Civil List pension of £100 a year "In consideration of his services to literature for many years, and his distressed circumstances at an advanced period of life" (ColIes, Literature and the Pension List).


"With Dickens", wrote Jerdan in his Autobiography, "I can claim long friendly relations". Jerdan contributed to Bentley's Miscellany under Dickens's editorship. As a friend of both Bentley and Dickens, he represented Bentley in the final negotiations that terminated Dickens's association with the publisher. Jerdan contributed an item to The Pic Nic Papers, 1841, the volume that Dickens brought out for the benefit of John Macrone's widow. Dickens was one of the young writers for whom Jerdan prophesied literary fame and whose books he noticed favourably in the Literary Gazette. On the appearance of Sam Weller in the pages of Pickwick, Jerdan was "so charmed", he stated, "that I could not resist the impulse to write to the author, express my admiration, and counsel him to develop the novel character largely—to the utmost". Jerdan was much gratified at being invited to the Pickwick celebration dinner; he was present, also, at other Dickens celebrations. Dickens, in turn, accepted an invitation to a Literary Gazette anniversary celebration and sent Jerdan cordial congratulations on the occasion. Dickens was a member of the committee that organized a testimonial in Jerdan's honour on the cessation of Jerdan's editorship of the Gazette; he contributed also to the subscription raised for Jerdan (Autobiography, IV, 364-66, 370-75).

Jerdan's connection with H.W. came toward the end of his long journalistic career; he was almost seventy-five when he sent the first of his four contributions to the periodical; thereafter, according to Ley (Dickens Circle, p. 122), he contributed also to A.Y.R. In a friendly letter to Jerdan, July 21 1857, Dickens wrote, obviously in answer to Jerdan's query, that he was sure that both of Jerdan's "brief contributions" to H.W. had been published, though he did not have at hand the means of verification. According to the Office Book, Jerdan had contributed only two items by the date of Dickens's letter. The Office Book records payment (or both, as also for Jerdan's fourth contribution, but not for the third. Wills's cheque (amount not stated) in payment for that contribution Dickens sent to Jerdan in a letter of August 19 1857 (cited in Grubb, "Dickens the Paymaster Once More", Dickensian, Spring 1955).

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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