Jeaffreson, John Cordy (DNB12)

JEAFFRESON, JOHN CORDY (1831–1901), author, born at Framlingham, Suffolk, on 14 Jan. 1831, was second son and ninth child of William Jeaffreson (1789–1865), surgeon of that place, who revived in England, after long disuse, the operation of ovariotomy in 1836. His mother was Caroline (d. 1863), youngest child of George Edwards, tradesman, also of Framlingham. He was named after his mother's uncle by marriage, John Cordy (1781–1828), a prosperous tradesman of Worlingworth and Woodbridge. After education at the grammar schools of Woodbridge and Botesdale, he was apprenticed to his father in August 1845, but, disliking surgical work, he matriculated from Pembroke College, Oxford, on 22 Juno 1848. Among his undergraduate friends were Henry Kingsley [q. v.] and Arthur Locker [q. v. Suppl. I]. After graduating B.A. in May 1852 he settled in London, and was for some six years a private tutor and lecturer at private schools.

In his leisure he tried his hand at novel writing, publishing 'Crewe Rise' in 1854 and next year 'Hinchbrook,' which ran serially through 'Fraser's Magazine.' During the next thirty years a long series of novels in the orthodox three-volume form followed; some like 'Live it down' (1863) and 'Not dead yet' (1864) were well received on publication, but none won a permanent repute. In 1856 he abandoned teaching for journalism and for literature of a journalistic quality. From 1858 to his death he was a regular contributor to the 'Athenæum,' and on the recommendation of the editor of that paper, Hepworth Dixon, he collaborated with Prof. William Pole [q. v.] in the authorised biography of Robert Stephenson, engineer (1864 2 vols.). A volume, 'Novels and Novelists from Elizabeth to Victoria' (1858), which he compiled at the British Museum, evinced facility in popularising literary research, which became Jeaffreson's main work in life. Five works, each in two volumes, which he designed to illustrate anecdotally social history, appealed to a wide audience. The first, 'A Book about Doctors,' came out in 1860. Like ventures were 'A Book about Lawyers' (1866); 'A Book about the Clergy' (1870); 'Brides and Bridals' (1872); and 'A Book about the Table' (1874).

Jeaffreson became a student at Lincoln's Inn on 18 June 1856 and was called to the bar on 30 April 1859. He did not practise law, but he joined the Inns of Court volunteers, and was a familiar figure in legal as well as in literary society. In 1860 he joined 'Our Club,' then a dining club, meeting weekly at Clunn's Hotel, Covent Garden. There he often met Thackeray and leading members of most of the professions. In 1872 Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy, a literary friend, who was deputy keeper of the Public Records, invited Jeaffreson to become an inspector of documents for the Historical MSS. Commission. Jeaffreson protested that he had no qualifications for such a post. But Hardy was persistent, and after a two years' discursive palæographical training at the Public Record Office Jeaffreson began work as an inspector of MSS. in 1874. Although he did not abandon his literary pursuits, he chiefly devoted the next fourteen years to reporting on and calendaring manuscript records. Between 1876 and 1887 he published reports of twenty-nine MS. collections in various parts of the country. Apart from private collections, he dealt with the archives of the boroughs of Chester, Leicester, Pontefract, Barnstaple, Plymouth, Ipswich, Wisbech, Great Yarmouth, Eye, Southampton, and King's Lynn, as well as of the West Riding and North Riding of Yorkshire and the county of Essex. His most laborious work was done at Leicester, where, besides preparing a general report, he also compiled an index to the muniments (1881). For the Middlesex County Record Society he edited four volumes of Middlesex county records (1886-92). Jeaffreson's work as an archivist proved his industry, but it exhibited many traces of his lack of historical training.

In his official capacity Jeaffreson inspected the valuable collection of MSS. formed by Alfred Morrison [q. v. Suppl. I], and he obtained the owner's permission to work up into connected narratives, independently of his official report, unpublished correspondence of Byron and Nelson. In 'The Real Lord Byron: New Views of the Poet's Life' (2 vols. 1883) Jeaffreson wrote with candour, but not always with full knowledge, of both Byron and Shelley. Abraham Hayward [q. v.] denounced the book in the 'Quarterly Review,' and J. A. Froude sought to expose its defects in the 'Nineteenth Century' (Aug. 1883). Jeaffreson defended himself at length in the 'Athenæum,' and then proceeded in 'The Real Shelley: New Views of the Poet's Life' (2 vols. 1885) to expand in detail his frank censure of that poet's career and character. Prof. Dowden condemned Jeaffreson's methods and conclusion both in the 'Academy' and in his authorised 'Life of Shelley' next year. Jeaffreson in a like spirit digested the Nelson papers in the Alfred Morrison collection. 'Lady Hamilton and Lord Nelson ' appeared in 1888 (2 vols.), and 'The Queen of Naples and Lord Nelson' in 1889 (2 vols.; new edit. 1897). In all these volumes Jeaffreson described himself as a 'realistic' biographer, but his work was done too perfunctorily to be exhaustive, and although he gave new and important information from unpublished sources he failed to cover adequately the field of research.

After many years of failing health, which brought his work to an end, Jeaffreson died on 2 Feb. 1901 at his house in Maida Vale, and was buried in Paddington cemetery, Willesden Lane. He married on 2 Oct. 1860, at St. Sepulchre's Church, Holborn, Arabella Ellen, only surviving daughter of William Eccles, F.R.C.S.; she survived him with a daughter who died 28 Sept. 1909. A portrait in oils belonging to Mrs. Jeaffreson was painted after his death by Mary Hector (Mrs. Robb), youngest daughter of 'Mrs. Alexander,' the novelist [see Hector, Mrs. Annie French, Suppl. II].

Jeaffreson's chief works, besides those cited, were: 1. 'The Annals of Oxford,' 1870 (a popular compilation which was severely criticised). 2. 'A Young Squire of the Seventeenth Century, from the Papers of [an ancestor] Christopher Jeaffreson of Dullingham House, Cambridgeshire,' 2 vols. 1898. 3. 'A Book of Recollections,' 2 vols. 1894.

[Jeaffreson's Recollections, as above; The Times, 5 Feb. 1901; Athenæum, 9 Feb. 1901; Men of the Time, 1899; Allibone's Dict. Engl. Lit.; W. M. Rossetti's Some Recollections, 1911; private information.]

S. L.