DOUGLAS JERROLD'S CLUBS
One of the chapters in "The Life and Remains of Douglas Jerrold," by his son, Blanchard Jerrold, discourses most pleasantly of the several Clubs to which Mr. Jerrold became attached. He was of a clubbable nature, and delighted in wit-combats and brilliant repartees, the flash of which was perfectly electric.
In this very agreeable précis, we find that towards the end of the year 1824, some young men at a humble tavern, the Wrekin, in the genial neighbourhood of Covent Garden, with Shakspeare as their common idol; and "it was a regulation of this Club that some paper, or poem, or conceit, bearing upon Shakspeare, should be contributed by each member." Hither came Douglas Jerrold, and he was soon joined by Laman Blanchard. Upon Jerrold's suggestion, the Club was called the Mulberries, and their contributions were entitled Mulberry Leaves. In the Club were William Godwin; Kenny Meadows, the future illustrator of Shakspeare; W. Elton, the Shakspearean actor; and Edward Chatfield, the artist. Mr. Jerrold wrote, in the Illuminated Magazine, a touching memoir of the Society—"that knot of wise and jocund men, then unknown, but gaily struggling."
The Mulberry Club lived many years, and gathered a valuable crop of leaves—contributions from its members. They fell into Mr. Elton's hands, and are now in the possession of his family. They were to have been published, but no one would undertake to see them through the press—an office which, in most cases, is a very un-thankful one. The Club did not, however, die easily: it was changed and grafted. "In times nearer the present, when it was called the Shakspeare Club, Charles Dickens, Mr. Justice Talfourd, Daniel Maclise, Mr. Macready, Mr. Frank Stone, etc. belonged to it. Respectability killed it." But some delightful results of these Mulberry Club meetings are embalmed in Mr. Jerrold's Cakes and Ale, and their life reminds one of the dancing motes in the latter. Then we hear of other clubs—the Gratis and the Rationals, of which Jerrold was a member.
"But," says the gentle Memoir, "with clubs of more recent date, with the Hooks and Eyes, and lastly, with Our Club, Douglas Jerrold's name is most intimately associated. It may be justly said that he was the life and soul of these three gatherings of men. His arrival was a happy moment for members already present. His company was sought with wondrous eagerness whenever a dinner or social evening was contemplated; for, as a club associate said of him, 'he sparkled whenever you touched him, like the sea at night.' A writer in the Quarterly Review well said of him: 'In the bright sallies of conversational wit he has no surviving equal.'
"He was thus greatly acceptable in all social literary Clubs. In the Museum Club, for instance, (an attempt made in 1847 to establish a properly modest and real literary Club,) he was unquestionably the member; for he was the most clubbable of men." When members dropped in, sharp shots were possibly exchanged: here are a few that were actually fired within the precincts of the Museum Club—fired carelessly, and forgotten:
Jerrold defined dogmatism as "puppyism come to maturity;" and a flaming uxorious epitaph put up by a famous cook, on his wife's tomb, as "mock turtle." A prosy old gentleman, meeting him as he was passing at his usual quick pace along Regent Street, poised himself into an attitude, and began: "Well, Jerrold, my dear boy, what is going on?"—"I am," said the wit, instantly shooting off.
At a dinner of artists, a barrister present, having his health drunk in connexion with the law, began an embarrassed answer by saying he did not see how the law could be considered one of the arts, when Jerrold jerked in the word black, and threw the company into convulsions.
A bore remarking how charmed he was with a certain opera, and that there was one particular song which always carried him quite away—"Would that I could sing it!" ejaculated the wit.
A dinner is discussed. Douglas Jerrold listens quietly, possibly tired of dinners, and declining pressing invitations to be present. In a few minutes he will chime in, "If an earthquake were to engulf England to-morrow, the English would manage to meet and dine somewhere among the rubbish, just to celebrate the event."
A friend is anxious to awaken Mr. Jerrold's sympathies in behalf of a mutual acquaintance who is in want of a round sum of money. But this mutual friend has already sent his hat about among his literary brethren on more than one occasion. Mr. ——'s hat is becoming an institution, and friends were grieved at the indelicacy of the proceeding. On the above occasion, the bearer of the hat was received with evident dissatisfaction. "Well," said Douglas Jerrold, "how much does —— want this time?"—"Why, just a four and two noughts will, I think, put him straight," the bearer of the hat replied. Jerrold—"Well, put me down for one of the noughts."
"The Chain of Events," playing at the Lyceum Theatre, though unsuccessful, is mentioned. "Humph!" said Douglas Jerrold, "I'm afraid the manager will find it a door-chain strong enough to keep everybody out of the house,"—and so it proved.
Douglas Jerrold is seriously disappointed with a certain book written by one of his friends, and has expressed his disappointment. Friend—"I have heard that you said —— was the worst book I ever wrote." Jerrold—"No, I didn't; I said it was the worst book anybody ever wrote."
A supper of sheep's-heads is proposed, and presently served. One gentleman present is particularly enthusiastic on the excellence of the dish, and, as he throws down his knife and fork, exclaims, "Well, sheep's-heads for ever, say I!" Jerrold—"There's egotism!"
During a stormy discussion, a gentleman rises to settle the matter in dispute. Waving his hands majestically over the excited disputants, he begins: "Gentlemen, all I want is common sense."—"Exactly," says Douglas Jerrold, "that is precisely what you do want."
But the Museum Club was broken up by troubled spirits. Then succeeded the Hooks and Eyes; then the Club, a social weekly gathering, which Jerrold attended only three weeks before his death. Hence some of his best sayings went forth.
Jerrold ordered a bottle of old port; "not elder port," he said.
Walking to his Club with a friend from the theatre, some intoxicated young gentleman reeled up to the dramatist and said, "Can you tell me the way to the Judge and Jury?"—"Keep on as you are, young gentleman," was the reply; "you're sure to overtake them."
Asking about the talent of a young painter, his companion declared that the youth was mediocre. "Oh!" was the reply, "the very worst ochre an artist can set to work with."
"The laughing hours, when these poor gatherings," says Mr. Blanchard Jerrold, "fell from the well-loaded branch, are remembered still in the rooms of Our Club; and the hearty laugh still echoes there, and will, it is my pride to believe, always live in the memory of that genial and refined circle."
The Whittington Club originated in 1846, with Douglas Jerrold, who became its first President. It was established at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand; where, in the ball-room, hung a picture of Whittington listening to Bow-bells, painted by Newenham, and presented to the Club by the President. All the Club premises were destroyed by fire in 1854; the picture was not saved, but fortunately it had been cleverly engraved. The premises have been rebuilt, and the Club still flourishes.
Club Life of London Vol. I