Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jordan, John
JORDAN, JOHN (1746–1809), ‘the Stratford poet,’ eldest son of John and Elizabeth Jordan of Tiddington in the parish of Alveston, near Stratford-on-Avon, was born at Tiddington on 2 Oct. 1746. Though he had little education he early developed a taste for reading, which received a great stimulus from the legacy of a copy of Thomas's edition of Dugdale's ‘Warwickshire.’ His first literary production was a poetical address to Garrick when the latter accepted the stewardship at the Shakespeare jubilee of 1769. Thenceforth, while continuing to carry on the trade of a wheelwright, to which he had been apprenticed by his father, he devoted his leisure to Shakespearean and local antiquarian studies. In 1777 appeared his only separately published work, ‘Welcombe Hills, near Stratford-upon-Avon. A Poem by J. J.,’ London, 4to. Jordan subsequently sent a description of the same hills to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for June 1794. By 1780 he completed a work entitled ‘Original Collections on Shakespeare and Stratford-on-Avon,’ and entered into correspondence with Mark Noble, the continuator of Granger, with respect to its publication, but the work was so confused that Noble refused to undertake the responsibility. Jordan nevertheless continued his exploration of Shakespearean byways, and by 1790 completed another volume of the same character, entitled ‘Original Memoirs and Historical Accounts of the Families of Shakespeare and Hart, deduced from an early period and continued down to the present year, 1790.’ In the meanwhile Jordan became well known to visitors at Stratford as cicerone to the various places of interest in the town and neighbourhood. Malone commenced a correspondence with him in 1790, mainly on the subject of the Combe and Clopton family pedigrees and the Shakespearean traditions concerning Sir Thomas Lucy, the crabtree, &c. When Jordan was in London in 1799, he visited Malone and described his treatment as ‘most respectable and genteel.’ He died on 2 July 1809, and was buried in Stratford churchyard at the back of Shakespeare's monument, a small tablet being placed to his memory outside the church wall. Jordan's wife, Sarah, died 8 April 1798; he left no family.
On his death Jordan left his manuscripts to Malone, from whom they passed into the possession of James Boswell the younger, and thence through the booksellers' hands into a private collection, where Halliwell, having access to them, printed Jordan's ‘Collections’ in 1864 and his ‘Original Memoirs’ in 1865. Many of Jordan's MSS. are now in the Shakespeare's Birthplace Library at Stratford-on-Avon. Jordan's writings, says Halliwell, ‘are of considerable value as supplying hints for the true sources of some of the traditional stories respecting the great dramatist, and containing scraps of local information nowhere else to be met with.’ But Jordan showed more zeal than aptitude for Shakespearean research. Malone frequently detected errors in the information which he supplied. Many of his tales respecting Shakespeare were obvious inventions. William Henry Ireland, the Shakespearean forger, speaks slightingly of him in his ‘Confessions,’ but it is evident that his father, Samuel Ireland [q. v.], derived a number of hints from Jordan for his ‘Picturesque Views on the Warwickshire Avon,’ 1795, 8vo.
[Biog. notice prefixed to the 1827 edition of Welcombe Hills, with portrait; Gent. Mag. 1809, pt. ii. p. 885; Cat. Shakespeare [Birthplace] Museum, 1868, Nos. 6, 17, 19, 42, 145, 382.]