Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Heraud, John Abraham

HERAUD, JOHN ABRAHAM (1799–1887), poet and dramatist, was born in the parish of St. Andrew's, Holborn, on 5 July 1799. His father, James Abraham Heraud, of Huguenot descent, a law stationer, first in Carey Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, and then at 25 Bell Yard, Temple Bar, died at Tottenham, Middlesex, on 6 May 1846, having married Jane, daughter of John and Elizabeth Hicks; she died 2 Aug. 1850. John Abraham, the son, was privately educated, and originally intended for business, but in 1818 began writing for the magazines. His knowledge of German, then a rare accomplishment, secured him a conspicuous position. He attached himself to the school of Schelling, and endeavoured to popularise the speculations of that philosopher in England. In 1820 he published his local poem ‘Tottenham,’ and in 1821 his ‘Legends of St. Loy.’ He was an author of varied erudition, and made two attempts at epic grandeur in his poems ‘The Descent into Hell,’ 1830, and ‘The Judgment of the Flood,’ 1834. He was in poetry what John Martin was in art, a worshipper of the vast, the remote, and the terrible. His ‘Descent’ and ‘Judgment’ are psychological curiosities, evincing much misplaced power. He had a large circle of acquaintances, including Coleridge, Southey, Wordsworth, and Lockhart. With the Carlyles he was very intimate, assisting them in their house-hunting, and it was partly on his recommendation that the house 5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea, was taken in 1834. He wrote for the ‘Quarterly’ and other reviews, and from 1830 to 1833 assisted in editing ‘Fraser's Magazine.’ He edited ‘The Sunbeam. A Journal devoted to Polite Literature,’ in 1838 and 1839; the ‘Monthly Magazine’ from 1839 to 1842; and subsequently the ‘Christian's Monthly Magazine.’ In 1843 he became a contributor to the ‘Athenæum,’ and afterwards served as its dramatic critic until his retirement in 1868.

Heraud was a keen critic of acting. His memory carried him back to John Kemble and Edmund Kean. He was himself the writer of several dramas. The tragedy of ‘Videna’ was acted at the Marylebone Theatre with success in 1854, and ‘Wife or No Wife’ and a version of M. Legouvé's ‘Medea’ were afterwards produced with equal favour. From 1849 to 1879 he was also the dramatic critic of the ‘Illustrated London News.’ Ultimately he was in receipt of a pension from that journal as well as from the ‘Athenæum.’ On 21 July 1873, on the nomination of Mr. W. E. Gladstone, he was appointed a brother of the Charterhouse, Charterhouse Square, London, where he died on 20 April 1887.

On 15 May 1823 he married, at Old Lambeth Church, Ann Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Baddams, and by her, who died at Islington on 21 Sept. 1867, had two children, Claudius William Heraud of Woodford, and Edith Heraud, an actress.

Heraud was the author of:

  1. ‘The Legend of St. Loy, with other Poems,’ 1820.
  2. ‘Tottenham,’ a poem, 1820.
  3. ‘The Descent into Hell,’ a poem, 1830; second edition, to which are added ‘Uriel,’ a fragment, and three odes.
  4. ‘A Philosophical Estimate of the Controversy respecting the Divine Humanity,’ 1831.
  5. ‘An Oration on the Death of S. T. Coleridge,’ 1834.
  6. ‘The Judgment of the Flood,’ a poem, 1834; new ed. 1857.
  7. ‘Substance of a Lecture on Poetic Genius as a Moral Power,’ 1837.
  8. ‘Voyages up the Mediterranean of William Robinson, with Memoirs,’ 1837, 12mo.
  9. ‘Expediency and Means of Elevating the Profession of the Educator,’ a prize essay, printed in the ‘Educator,’ 1839, pp. 133–260.
  10. ‘The Life and Times of G. Savonarola,’ 1843, 12mo.
  11. ‘Salvator, the Poor Man of Naples,’ a dramatic poem, privately printed, 1845, 12mo.
  12. ‘Videna, or the Mother's Tragedy. A Legend of Early Britain,’ 1854.
  13. ‘The British Empire,’ written in conjunction with Sir A. Alison and others, 1856.
  14. ‘Henry Butler's Theatrical Directory and Dramatic Almanack,’ ed. by J. A. Heraud, 1860, &c., 12mo.
  15. ‘Shakespeare, his Inner Life as intimated in his Works,’ 1865.
  16. ‘The Wreck of the London,’ a lyrical ballad, 1866.
  17. ‘The In-Gathering, Cimon and Pero, a Chain of Sonnets, Sebastopol,’ &c., 1870, 18mo.
  18. ‘The War of Ideas,’ a poem, &c., 1871.
  19. ‘Uxmal: an Antique Love Story. Macée de Léodepart: an Historical Romance,’ 1877, 16mo.
  20. ‘The Sibyl among the Tombs,’ 1886.

[Powell's Living Authors of England, 1849, pp. 250–1; Chambers's Cyclopædia of English Literature, 1876, ii. 415; Illustrated London News, 30 April 1887, p. 485; Athenæum, 23 April 1887 p. 554, 30 April p. 577; Men of the Time, 1887, p. 523; Wilson's Noctes Ambrosianæ, No. xlviii. April 1830; information from C. W. Heraud, esq.]

G. C. B.