Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jerningham, Edward

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JERNINGHAM, EDWARD (1727–1812), poet and dramatist, born in 1727, was third son of Sir George Jerningham of Costessey, Norfolk, who died on 21 Jan. 1774, by his wife Mary, eldest daughter and heiress of Francis Plowden of Plowden, Shropshire. He was educated first at the English College at Douay in France, and afterwards in Paris, where he remained for some years under the care of Dr. Howard. In September 1761 he came to England to be present at the coronation of George III, and brought with him a fair knowledge of Greek and Latin, and a thorough mastery of French and Italian. His family were Roman catholics, but after he had examined the points of difference between the rival creeds he adopted protestantism. He lived with his mother until her death in extreme old age, and his chief friends were Lords Chesterfield, Harcourt, Carlisle, and Horace Walpole. At the request of the Prince Regent the library then kept at the Brighton Pavilion was arranged by him. He died at Green Street, Grosvenor Square, London, on 17 Nov. 1812.

Throughout his long life Jerningham dabbled in poetry. His first production was the ‘Nunnery,’ a close imitation of Gray's elegy, but he did not hit the taste of the public until he wrote a poem in recommendation of the Foundling Hospital, which Jonas Hanway [q. v.] declared to have greatly promoted its establishment. Miss Burney met him in 1780, and pronounced him ‘a mighty delicate gentleman: looks to be painted, and is all daintification in manner, speech, and dress;’ and Horace Walpole more than once speaks of him as ‘the charming man.’ His poems were severely satirised. Gifford, in the ‘Baviad,’ lines 21 and 22, depicted him as ‘snivelling Jerningham,’ and weeping at the age of fifty ‘o'er love-lorn oxen and deserted sheep.’ Mathias sneered at him in the ‘Pursuits of Literature,’ Byron, in ‘English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,’ ostentatiously spared him on account of kindness which he had received as a boy, and Macaulay said that his verses ‘were fit to be put into the vase of Lady Miller.’ He bequeathed all his manuscripts to Clarke, the publisher, of New Bond Street, who did not print them.

Jerningham's voluminous works comprised: 1. ‘The Nunnery,’ 1762? 2. ‘The Magdalens,’ an elegy [anon.], 1763. 3. ‘The Nun,’ an elegy [anon.], 1764. 4. ‘Elegy, written among the Ruins of an Abbey’ [anon.], 1765. It was reprinted in the ‘Collection’ of Pearch, ii. 117, &c. 5. ‘Yarico to Inkle,’ an epistle [anon.], 1766. 6. ‘Il latte,’ an elegy [anon.], 1767. 7. ‘Poems on Various Subjects,’ 1767, containing the whole of Jerningham's then-published poetry. The collection gradually expanded by the addition of new pieces, and passed through many editions, the last being the ninth, in four volumes, dated 1806. 8. ‘Amabella’ [anon.], 1768. 9. ‘The Deserter, a Poem,’ 1770. 10. ‘Funeral of Arabert, Monk of La Trappe,’ 1771; 3rd ed. 1772. 11. ‘The Swedish Curate, a Poem,’ 1773. The curate concealed Gustavus Vasa in the parish church at the risk of his own life. 12. ‘Faldoni and Teresa,’ 1773. 13. ‘The Fall of Mexico, a Poem,’ 1775. 14. ‘Margaret of Anjou, an Historical Interlude,’ 1777. It was acted at Drury Lane on 11 March 1777, but with no great success. 15. ‘Fugitive Poetical Pieces,’ 1778. 16. ‘The Ancient English Wake, a Poem,’ 1779. 17. ‘Honoria, or the Day of All Souls’ [anon.], 1782. 18. ‘Rise and Progress of Scandinavian Poetry, a Poem in two parts,’ 1784; based on ‘The Scandinavian Poetics, the Edda,’ and pronounced by Horace Walpole ‘far superior to Jerningham's other works.’ 19. ‘Enthusiasm, a Poem,’ 1789. 20. ‘Lines on a Late Resignation [by Sir Joshua Reynolds] at the Royal Academy,’ 1790. 21. ‘The Shakspeare Gallery, a Poem,’ 1791. In praise of Boydell's collection of pictures. 22. ‘Abelard to Eloisa, a Poem,’ 1792. 23. ‘The Siege of Berwick, a Tragedy,’ 1794. Produced at Covent Garden on 13 Dec. 1793, and on four other nights. On the first night the heroine died, but on the succeeding representations her life was spared. In 1882 it was re-edited by H. E. H. Jerningham, and to it was prefixed a print of the author from an original picture. 24. ‘The Welch Heiress,’ 1795. Acted at Drury Lane for one night only, with Mrs. Jordan as the heiress; 2nd ed. 1795; 3rd ed. 1796. 25. ‘Peace, Ignominy, and Destruction’ [anon.], 1796. Ironically inscribed to C. J. Fox. 26. ‘The Peckham Frolic, or Nell Gwyn; a Comedy,’ 1799 [anon. and never acted]. 27. ‘Biographical Sketches of Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans, and Louis of Bourbon, Prince of Condé; with Bossuet's Funeral Orations on them’ [anon.], 1799. 28. ‘Select Sermons translated from Bossuet’ [anon.], 1800, and again in 1801. Some letters from Miss Seward to him on this volume are in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1801, pt. i. pp. 113–17, 195–7. 29. ‘Mild Tenour of Christianity’ [anon.], 1803 and 1807. 30. ‘Dignity of Human Nature, an Essay’ [anon.], 1805. 31. ‘The Alexandrian School, a Narrative of its first Christian Professors’ [anon.], 1809; 3rd ed. 1810. 32. ‘The Old Bard's Farewell,’ 1811, and again in 1812.

Jerningham contributed to the ‘British Album,’ 1790, ii. 103–6; and an ode by him is ‘Beloe's Sexagenarian,’ ii. 357–9. Some lines by him on a fall of Mrs. Montagu at a drawing-room are in Mrs. Delany's ‘Correspondence,’ vi. 251, and in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1785, p. 151. Two letters from him are in Parr's ‘Works,’ viii. 41; and some verses which he addressed to Lord Chesterfield are acknowledged in a letter from that peer (Letters, ed. 1845, iv. 366–8).

[Gent. Mag. lxxxii. pt. ii. p. 501, lxxxiii. pt. i. p. 283; Notes and Queries, 1883, 6th ser. viii. 133; Suckling's Suffolk, ii. 46; Halkett and Laing's Dict. of Anonymous Lit.; Walpole's Letters, ed. Cunningham, viii. 458–9, ix. 24, 294, 424–7; John Taylor's Records of my Life, i. 160–73.]

W. P. C.