Medwin, Thomas

POET, TRANSLATOR, BIOGRAPHER (ENGLAND)
BORN 20 Mar 1788, Horsham, Sussex - DIED 2 Aug 1869, Horsham, Sussex: Carfax House
GRAVE LOCATION Horsham, West Sussex: Denne Road Cemetery, Denne Road

Thomas Medwin was the son of Thomas Charles Medwin, a solictor, and Mary Pilford. He was second cousin of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and they were childhood friends. In 1805 he entered University College in Oxford, but he left without a degree to work in his father's law firm.

He quarreled with his father and he after living beyond his means for a considerable time he joined the army in India in 1812. He didn't see much action but was present at the siege of Hathras in 1817. His regiment was discontinued in 1818 and he went on half-pay and returned to Europe. In 1820 he reached Geneva where he stayed with Edward and Jane Williams. There he finished his poem "Oswald and Edwin, An Oriental Sketch".

Late in 1820 he joined Shelley in Pisa and moved in with him. His relations with Mary Shelley were strained. Edward and Jane Williams came to Pisa as well in 1821. In November 1821 he met Lord Byron and they became friends. He left Pisa in April 1822 and went to Rome, where he met Canova. He continued his travels to Naples and Genoa. When he arrived in Geneva he heard that Shelley and Williams had drowned and he returned to Italy, arriving in Pisa hours after the bodies had been cremated by Trelawny, another member of the Pisa circle.

In 1824 he met Washinton Irving in Paris and soon afterwards he learned of Byron's death in Greece. In July he published his "Conversations of Lord Byron" to the outrage of many that had known Byron. However, it was a financial succes and it was translated in French and German soon after its publication.

On 2 November 1824 he married Anna Henrietta Hamilton, Countess of Starnford. They married in Vevey and lived in Florence. They had two daughters, but when his father died in 1829 he was in financial difficulties and he abandoned his wife and children. In Genoa he worked on a play, "Prometheus portarore del fuoco". In 1831 he returned to England alone. In 1832 he published a memoir of Shelley in monthly episodes and it was published in 1833 as "The Shelley Papers; Memoir of Percy Bysshe Shelley".

Allthough his writings earned him money, his creditors were still after him and in 1837 he moved to Heidelberg. There he befriended Caroline Champion de Crespigny (1797-1861), a former acquaintance of Byron, but both were still married. In the Keat's former fiancee 1840s Fanny Lindon came to live in Heidelberg and she showed him letters from Keats.

In 1845 he started his biography of Shelley, corresponding with his son Percy Florence Shelley. Mary Shelley refused to cooperate. The book was published in 1847 and it was famous for its errors, allthough it gave a lot of information on Shelley's childhood. In 1848 he was visiting London when revolution broke out in Germany. He moved to Weinsberg in Württemberg with Caroline and stayed with Justinus Kerner.

He lived for several more years in Heidelberg until he returned to England in 1862 (Caroline Champion de Crespigny probably died in Heidelberg in 1861). In 1869 he was visited by Trelawny. He died that same year at the house of his brother Pilford Medwin (1794-1880) in Horsham and he was buried there.

His wife had died in Siena on 28 Jun 1868. His daughter Henrietta married the aristocrat Ferdinanco Pieri Nerli and their son Girolamo Nerli (21/2/1860-24/6/1926) painted Robert Louis Stevenson.

Related persons
• knew Byron, George Noel Gordon
• corresponded with Irving, Washington
• corresponded with Lamb, Caroline
• is cousin of Shelley, Percy Bysshe
• was a friend of Williams, Edward Ellerker

Events
1821/11/20: Shelley introduces Thomas Medwin to Lord Byron
Medwin had arrived in Pisa in November 1821. They got along well and he often dined with Byron and his circle. They also went pistol shooting. When Medwin left Pisa in April 1822, Byron organised a party for him.

Sources
• Spark, Muriel, Mary Shelley, Constable, London, 1988
Thomas Medwin - Wikipedia

Images

The grave of Thomas Medwin at Denne Road Cemetery, Horsham, West Sussex.
Picture by Androom (16 Feb 2017)

 


Mehring, Walter

Published: 26 Mar 2017
Last update: 27 Mar 2017