In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

‘Trick Mirror’

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

He ate peas with a knifeJohn Sutherland
Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close
Douglas Jerrold: 1803-57 
by Michael Slater.
Duckworth, 340 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 7156 2824 0
Show More
Show More

The tenth and central chapter of Michael Slater’s biography is entitled ‘Jerrold, Dickens, Thackeray’. This, as Slater reminds us (often), is the company his contemporaries expected Douglas Jerrold to keep. Some partisans might even have thought Slater right to put him first. Dickens and Thackeray were pall-bearers at Jerrold’s funeral and, according to their contemporary David Masson, ‘the three do form a triad so that it is hardly possible to discuss the merits of any one of them without referring to the other two.’ Posterity has found it very possible. And, richly informative as Slater’s biography is (he has been at it for thirty years), critical resuscitation of Jerrold is unlikely. He is doomed to remain in the obscure sump of Victorian writing, famous for a lifetime only.

Jerrold was born in 1803, the son of a ‘melancholy comedian’ and his second wife, an actress. Few records survive of his childhood, and little is known about the family’s circumstances. In their place Slater reconstructs the seedy world of the Minors – the companies that scraped a livelihood outside the orbit of the licensed London theatres. It was a nomadic upbringing. A dull boy, at the age of nine Douglas could barely read. The only school prize he ever won, it pleased him to recall, was for the largest ringworm.

In 1813 he was sent to sea as a ‘boy entrant’, to serve on HMS Namur, a 74-gun man-of-war. The vessel’s captain was Jane Austen’s younger brother, Charles (there are no references to Douglas in the Austen family correspondence). He entered the Royal Navy not as a cabin-boy but as officer material, and was (probably) instructed in reading, writing and seamanship by the ship’s schoolteachers. He had, however, been thrust into what he called the ‘moral mildew of a man-of-war’ at a vulnerable age. The Namur saw no active service, but it was charged with transporting Waterloo casualties back to English hospitals and, according to his son, the ‘raw stumps and festering wounds’ made a horrific impression on the 12-year-old. He had witnessed not war, but the consequences of war. He was, for the rest of his life, fiercely anti-militaristic.

In 1815 Jerrold left the Navy. With the final victory over Napoleon his career prospects were diminished and it may well have been, as Slater surmises, that he was disgusted by what he had seen in the service, particularly the flogging of men and the caning, or worse, of boys. It may also have been that his increasingly distressed family needed him to pitch in. For a while – and still, at 13, a child – Douglas was apprenticed to a London printer (the trade was, notoriously, a nursery for radicals) before drifting back into the unlicensed theatrical world. In 1824 he married. Little is known of his wife. She ‘may’, Slater hazards, have been an actress like his mother. She may have been a scold like Jerrold’s most famous fictional character, Mrs Caudle, and given to ‘curtain lectures’ (bed-time nagging). There were two children in two years and ‘hunted pauperdom’ for ten.

Just before he married, Jerrold began the most important friendship of his life. Laman Blanchard, a glazier’s son, was, like Jerrold, a hopeful writer. He was possessed of ‘dark, handsome, Jewish features’ and a melancholy disposition (in 1845, in a fit of depression, he would cut his throat). Slater suggests that they had an ‘intensely romantic’, by which I understand homosexual, relationship in which Blanchard assumed a ‘wifely’ role and Jerrold was reciprocally ‘husband-like’. There is little to support this, beyond the conventional warmth of the letters reprinted in the pious memorial written by Jerrold’s son, who was named after Blanchard.

Jerrold had his first notable success in 1829 with Black Eyed Susan, a nautical melodrama. He wrote one other hit play, The Rent Day. But in the absence of copyright protection (which would not come in until the 1840s) it was hard even for a popular playwright to keep body and soul together. In the early 1830s, Jerrold drifted into penny-a-line journalism. It was, like everything he had so far tried his hand at, a ‘low’ occupation: ‘below street sweeping as a trade’, according to Carlyle. But after the agitations of the 1820s and the Reform Bill, there was a market for radical and comic writing. Jerrold was fluent, sharp-witted, and had the right populist voice for an angry and insurgent era. He made a small name for himself but did not get rich – or even, most of the time, get by. Throughout the 1830s he was harried by duns and on one occasion fled to France to avoid arrest.

Jerrold’s breakthrough came with the founding of Punch in 1841. For five years (until Thackeray out-starred him) he was the paper’s lead humorist. His hallmark contributions were the 67 savagely sarcastic ‘Q Papers’. Week in, week out Jerrold scourged the Government, the Monarchy, the Army. He hated uniforms, bigwigs, aristocrats and, above all, judges and law-makers. A scathing article of 1843 on the case of Henry Bull (in the rival Pictorial Times) is typical. An elderly, insignificant man, Bull was imprisoned for ten days for begging in the London streets with his little daughter. He had absconded from the workhouse because he couldn’t bear to be separated from his child, ‘like cattle in the pens at Smithfield’. The magistrate’s heartlessness provoked Jerrold’s scorn: Bull ‘ought to have known the penalty of his poverty. He should have remembered that he was a pauper; a human weed; so much human offal; a foul noisome creature, the modern leper; the blotched Lazarus of our highway; the nuisance to be put down, got rid of, swept aside like the ordure of beasts.’ Dickens’s ‘Move on!’ chapter in Bleak House is anodyne by comparison.

Punch, even in its radical infancy, was never entirely happy with Jerrold’s ultraism. His biggest circulation-boosters for the magazine were the apolitical ‘Mrs Caudle’ papers, which appeared in 1845. Slater calls this year ‘the summit’ of his career. But Jerrold chafed at being merely a comic writer on a comic paper and complained to Dickens in 1846: ‘I am convinced that the world will get tired (at least I hope so) of this eternal guffaw at all things. After all, life has something serious in it.’ Dickens, who disliked Punch, as he tended to dislike all successful rivals, wrote back: ‘I feel exactly as you do.’ Thackeray did not feel the same way. In 1846, he was enjoying an even greater triumph than Jerrold with his ‘Mr Snob’ papers. He was at the same time urging the magazine to follow a mellower, less radical line. Thackeray wanted Punch to be ‘gentlemanly’.

Jerrold was no gent. Years later it was recalled at the Punch table that he had mortified Thackeray because ‘he ate peas with a knife and therefore was not fit company for him.’ Thackeray, the Charterhouse and Trinity toff, was affronted by the rough and ready manners of the lower deck. There were larger issues at stake too. The two writers strongly disagreed about the Sikh Wars. Thackeray, with his Anglo-Indian background, heartily approved of the annexation of the Punjab (‘a noble deed’) and the massacre that accompanied it. Jerrold was appalled at ‘folks who are as glad the Sikhs are slaughtered as though they’d been no more than so many locusts’. Above all the two men disagreed as to the ‘tone’ Punch should adopt. As Thackeray later recalled, ‘Jerrold and I had a sort of war and I came off conqueror.’ An appropriately gentlemanly tone was installed at Bouverie Street. Punches were henceforth pulled.

The conquered writer took his radicalism elsewhere, founding Douglas Jerrold’s Shilling Magazine and Douglas Jerrold’s Weekly Newspaper. They were not successful – at least, not on Punch’s scale. The times were changing. Revolutions on the Continent had terrified the British middle classes. The working classes, after the Chartist debacle, were neutered. Jerrold’s historical moment had passed. Nor did he have the energy for the exhausting routines of editorship. Since the 1830s he had been afflicted by ‘rheumatism’ – a vaguely diagnosed condition that particularly affected his eyes. Slater does not speculate, but like Wilkie Collins’s ‘gout’ (which reduced his eyeballs to bags of blood), Dickens’s ‘little malady’ and Thackeray’s stricture of the urethra (which made his later years hell), Jerrold’s disorder may have been venereal in origin. Whatever its nature, it broke him down. Mrs Gaskell described him, in his last decade, as ‘a very little, almost deformed man with grey flowing hair, and very fine eyes’. He died in 1857, still in his early fifties.

Jerrold was renowned as the wittiest conversationalist in England. Relatively few of his ‘impromptus’ survive, and they tend, on the page, to have a deadening Victorian archness about them. At his friend W.H. Wills’s wedding he instructed the bride and groom to ‘go off at once and make their wills’. He liked the half-profits contract, he observed, ‘because it never leads to division between author and publisher’. Idly picking up a pencil, he observed it to be the exact counterpart of John Forster: ‘short, thick, and full of lead’. A luckless would-be comrade once told him that, politically, they were rowing in the same boat: ‘but not with the same skulls,’ Jerrold replied. The most durable relics of his wit concern his fellow authors. ‘There is no God,’ he proclaimed, ‘and Harriet Martineau is his prophet.’ Dickens, he said, ‘had the showman instinct so strongly developed that if you only gave him three square yards of carpet, he would tumble on that like a street acrobat’. ‘I have known Thackeray for 18 years,’ he once sighed, ‘and I don’t know him yet.’

Victorians liked to see Jerrold, Dickens and Thackeray as scourges of the age: not just holding up the satirist’s mirror, but wielding his corrective lash. Each of them was fascinated by the whip, but in different ways. At the age of 11 Jerrold was obliged, with the rest of the Namur’s company, to witness a shipmate called Michael Ryan (Slater has discovered the name) receive 18 lashes from the bosun’s mate with the cat-o’-nine-tails: ‘a particularly vicious instrument consisting of nine strips of leather bound to a handle with lead shot sewn to the ends of the thongs’. Jerrold later recalled that he had been ‘frequently’ required to see this ‘cold-blooded and brutalising operation’. He may also, Slater believes, have been present at the even more brutal spectacle of delinquent sailors being ‘flogged through the fleet’: that is, whipped alongside every ship in harbour – a punishment which often, after five hundred or so strokes, resulted in death.

The whip symbolised everything Jerrold wanted to overthrow in England. A debate in the House of Commons in July 1846, after a soldier had been flogged to death, elicited a typical diatribe. Unsurprisingly, Member after Member had risen to justify flogging as one of the great British institutions. This ‘wisdom’, Jerrold observed, was

clubbed to by both sailors and landmen in the House of Commons; for a great part of Monday evening was devoted to the praises of the cat-o’-nine-tails. The eulogies were so glowing, so ingenious – the natural and social benefits of knotted cord administered by the boatswain’s mate till the flesh blackens and the blood gushes, so deep and manifold that, after the eloquence, the fancy, bestowed upon the scourge, we do not despair to hear sweet things said of the rack.

The soldier who died, Frederick White, had attacked his sergeant in the Seventh Hussars with a poker. He was sentenced to 150 lashes, from which he died. At his inquest, the regiment’s commanding officer, Colonel Whyte, claimed that Farrier Evans (as in the Navy, the punishment was traditionally delegated to those with the brawniest arms, here the blacksmith) ‘hardly struck at all. He is a nervous, mild dispositioned man, and always flogs lightly.’ As a result of the uproar – which even the flagellomaniacs at Westminster could not talk down – the maximum permitted sentence in the Armed Services was reduced to 50 strokes.

Thackeray wrote about the event in his Punch paper on the ‘Snob Civilian’ (1 August 1846). He initially took a Jerroldian line on White’s crucifixion (as critics including Jerrold had called it). ‘Do you know as much about the Army and the wants of the soldier, as Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington?’ Mr Snob enquired of the Punch reader:

If the Great Captain of the Age considers flogging as one of the wants of the Army, what business have you to object. You’re not flogged. To lash fellow-creatures like hounds may be contrary to your ideas of decency, morals and justice; to submit Christian men to punishments brutal, savage, degrading, ineffectual may be revolting to you; but to suppose that such an eminent philanthropist as the great Captain of the Age would allow such penalties to be inflicted on the troops if they could be done away with, is absurd.

But then, in his usual enigmatic way, in his next week’s paper (‘On Radical Snobs’) Thackeray turned to attack those, like Jerrold, who had attacked the Army; and, when he came to reprint his series as The Book of Snobs in 1848, he didn’t include the article.

Thackeray was, like other English gentlemen, in two minds on the question of flogging. His formative experiences had been at prep and public school – institutions that he renamed in his writing Dr Birch’s Academy, the Swishtail Seminary and Slaughterhouse (i.e. Charterhouse, then located alongside Smithfield’s shambles, off Fleet Street). When he arrived at Charterhouse, the first thing said to him by an older boy was: ‘Come into the bog and frig me.’ For the ten-year-old, corporal punishment seems to have been mixed in with the sexual excitement of the privy.

Of the triad, Dickens appears to have had the sanest view on the whip. He hated it, of course, but on the evidence in the novels his formative experiences were domestic. The beating of David Copperfield by his wicked stepfather, Mr Murdstone, is very much more sadistic than the pantomime flagellomania of the schoolmaster Wackford Squeers.

In London’s phone boxes (particularly those, it’s interesting to note, around the Inns of Court) ladies of the night still offer ‘Strict Victorian Punishment’. Not that the respectable classes think of it, even now, as a ‘vice’. In December 2002, a group of 40 independent Christian schools lost their legal battle to have punitive caning, banned since 1998 on human rights grounds, restored as one of the privileges of an English education. Jerrold died too soon.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.