Trelawny, Edward John

ADVENTURER, RACONTEUR (ENGLAND)
BORN 13 Nov 1792, London - DIED 13 Aug 1881, Sompting (near Worthing), Sussex
GRAVE LOCATION Roma, Lazio: Cimitero Acattolico, Via Caio Cestio 6 (Zona Vecchia, 103 (= row 16, grave 1))

Trelawny served in the navy, but deserted it and went to Italy, where he claimed (untruthfully) to have led the life of corsair. He met Lord Byron and he knew Shelley in his last days. Trelawny conducted the cremation of Shelley in 1822 and took care of his ashes. Together with Byron he travelled to Greece in 1823, to help them with their struggle for independence against the Turks. Byron died in 1824 and Trelawny joined the clan of the greek chief Odysseus, that lived in a cave in the mountains. He returned to England after the clan fell apart and an attempt on his life was made by William Whitcombe on 11 Jun 1825.

Trelawny always remained a radical trying to impress people and he assumed the role of protector of the values and the work of his 'great friend' Shelley. Trelawny even accused Mary Shelley of betraying Shelley's ideals by living too conventiously, completely neglecting her position as a widow with a son to raise. In 1833 he travelled to the US and tried to swim across the Niagara Falls, almost drowning during the attempt.

Trelawny had already met the painter Millais at the funeral of the cartoonist John Leech at Kensal Green Cemetery in 1864, but when Millais asked him in 1874 to sit for a portrait he wouldn't know of it. Millais' wife Effie finally persuaded him and the grand old man became the model for the old sailor on "The North-West Passage" (1874, The Tate Gallery, London). Trelawny, who was eighty-two by now, hated the result and even threatened a duel to Millais.

Back in 1822 Trelawny had purchased the plot next to Shelley at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome and there his ashes were buried after his death in 1881.

Trelawny's book "Records of Byron, Shelley and The Author" (1878) proved fascinating reading for those interested in Byron, Shelley or the author himself, but in later years scholars proved many of his claims to be false. Slowly it turned out that many of the stories he been telling for over half a century in such a convincing way were made up by himself. He had never even met his 'friend' Keats for example and the famous corsair The Ruiter didn't even exist.

Family
• Daughter: Trelawny, Zella
• Wife: Goring, Augusta

Related persons
• was a friend of Byron, George Noel Gordon
• was a friend of Clairmont, Claire
• has a connection with D'Arcy Bacon, Francis
• knew Haydon, Benjamin Robert
• was a friend of Kemble, Fanny
• was painted by Millais, John Everett
• has a connection with Shelley, Mary
• was a friend of Shelley, Percy Bysshe
• was attacked by Whitcombe, William
• knew Williams, Jane

Events
1822/1/14: Edward John Trelawny arrives in Pisa
He was a friend of the Williams family and he admired Lord Byron. He soon met the Shelleys.
1822/8/18: Trelawny burns Shelley's body on the beach
Shelley's body was found on the beach and buried there. It was not allowed to move it because of the risk of diseases. A huge metal furnace was brought to the beach and his remains were cremated. The ashes were taken to the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. Trelawny snatched Shelley's heart from the flames. Leigh Hunt wanted to keep it, but after some pression he gave it to Mary Shelley. Lord Byron couldn't stand it and swam back to his nearby ship before the burning of the corpse started.
1823/7/24: Byron and Trelawny leave for Greece
1828/11/15: Mary Shelley is reunited with Trelawny

Sources
• Armstrong, Margaret, Trelawny, A Man's Life, Robert Hale, London, 1941
• St Clair, William, Trelawny, The Incurable Romancer, Vanguard Press, New York, 1977
• Crane, David, Lord Byron's Jackal, The life of Edward John Trelawny, Harper Collins Publishers, London, 1998

Images

"The Funeral of Shelley" by Louis Éduard Fournier. E.J. Trelawny, Leigh Hunt and Lord Byron watch the burning of Shelley's body. In reality Byron had left the scene before the burning took place.
 

The graves of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Edward John Trelawny at the Cimitero Acattolico, Rome.
Picture by Androom (23 Jan 2010)

 

The grave of Edward John Trelawny at the Cimitero Acattolico, Rome.
Picture by Androom (23 Jan 2010)

 


Trelawny, Zella

Published: 1 Jan 2006
Last update: 7 Feb 2010