Jerrold became a well-known wit and playwright, and even turned his hand at novel writing, but his beginnings were humble at best. Born into a theatrical family, he was educated haphazardly as a child. He was enrolled for a short time in a school in Sheerness, but in 1813, at the age of 10, he enlisted in the navy, serving in the final phases of the Napoleonic wars. In the 1820s he returned to the theater and became the dramatic author for the Surrey Theatre. In 1829 his first big hit, Black-Eyed Susan, was produced, and his career as a dramatist began. Other dramatic successes included Fifteen Years of a Drunken's Life (1828), Rent Day (1832), and The Prisoner of War (1842), but none ever equaled the success of Black-Eyed Susan either in popularity or in quality. By 1835 Jerrold had also established himself as a prominent journalist, writing for works like Blackwood's Magazine and, along with Henry Mayhew and J. S. Coyne, helping to found Punch magazine in 1841. His was the dominant satiric voice of the magazine until 1847, when he was replaced by William Makepeace Thackeray. At about the same time, he undertook to establish Douglas Jerrold's Shilling Magazine and Douglas Jerrold's Weekly Newspaper. Both ultimately failed. In 1845 he published what John Sutherland has called "his one novel proper," The History of St. Giles and St. James. In it, his politics are at their most liberal, and his intense loathing of tyranny, which he apparently developed in the navy, is articulated in an attempt to demonstrate "the ignorant disregard of the social claims of the poor upon the rich, of the governed millions on the governing few" (Preface, 1851 edition). Most scholarship on Jerrold concentrates on his contributions to the theater or is included in works on the history of Punch. His biographies The Life and Remains of Douglas Jerrold, by W. Blanchard Jerrold, and Douglas Jerrold, Dramatist and Wit, by Walter Jerrold, by his son and grandson, respectively, are somewhat flawed by their sentimental and anecdotal character. Nevertheless, they remain fairly good sources for information about Jerrold's life.