Trelawny, Edward John

BORN 13 Nov 1792, London - DIED 13 Aug 1881, Sompting, West Sussex (near Worthing)
GRAVE LOCATION Roma, Lazio: Cimitero Acattolico, Via Caio Cestio 6 (Zona Vecchia, 16.1 (103))

Trelawny served in the navy, but he left it when he was nineteen years old. He returned to England where he married Julia Addison in 1813. She ran away with a captain Coleman and a divorce followed in 1819. He received an allowance of three hundred pounds a year and he decided to leave England and live in a cheaper country.

He went to Italy, where he falsely claimed to have led the life of a corsair. He met Lord Byron and he knew Shelley in his last days in 1822. Trelawny conducted the cremation of Shelley after his death 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, who 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. In Greece he had married a local woman, Tarsitsa Kamenou, but he divorced her in 1827. They had a surviving daughter, Zella (c1826-1907).

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 conventional, 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. He returned to England in 1835 and was politically active with the group the Philosophical Radicals.

He had started an affair with Augusta Goring (born Harvey) and in 1839 he withdrew from London society and settled in a villa on Putney Hill owned by his political friend John Temple Leader. In that year Augusta gave birth to a son. Her husband divorced her in 1841 and they married. They bought a farmhouse in Usk in Wales and their daughter Laetitia was born in 1848. The marriage ended in 1857 after he 'took up with a Miss B'. It was never discovered who she was.

Around 1870 he settled in a cottage at West Street in Sompting near Worthing, Sussex. 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 would not 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.

Towards the end of his life, he lived with a woman named Emma Taylor. He told others that she was his niece. Back in 1822 Trelawny had purchased the plot next to Shelley at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. After his death in 1881 his remains were cremated, and Emma brought them to Rome where they were buried.

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 mostly made up by himself. He had never even met his 'friend' Keats for example and the famous corsair The Ruiter did not exist.

• Daughter: Trelawny, Zella
• Wife: Goring, Augusta (1846-1857, Gloucestershire) (divorce or separation)

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
• visited Kemble, Adelaide
• was a friend of Kemble, Fanny
• was a friend of Medwin, Thomas
• knew Medwin, Thomas
• was painted by Millais, John
• was a friend of Norton, Caroline
• was a friend of Rossetti, William Michael
• knew Severn, Joseph
• has a connection with Shelley, Mary
• was a friend of Shelley, Percy Bysshe
• was attacked by Whitcombe, William
• knew Williams, Edward Ellerker
• knew Williams, Jane

31/12/1816Trelawny finds out that his wife Julia has committed adultery. He found out that she had a lover, Thomas Coleman, a captain in his Majesty's 98th Regiment on Foot. Trelawny filed for divorce and the divorce became final in 1819. 
14/1/1822Edward John Trelawny arrives in Pisa. He was a friend of the Williams family and he admired Lord Byron. He soon met the Shelleys. [Shelley, Mary][Shelley, Percy Bysshe][Williams, Edward Ellerker][Williams, Jane]
18/8/1822Trelawny 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. [Byron, George Noel Gordon ][Hunt, Leigh][Shelley, Mary][Shelley, Percy Bysshe]
24/7/1823Byron and Trelawny leave for Greece [Byron, George Noel Gordon ]
11/6/1825William Whitcombe shoots two bullets in the back of Trelawny. Young Whitcombe was encouraged to do so by J.W. Fenton. Trelalny was badly injured but he survived the attack. Fenton was immediately killed by one of Trelawny's Greek soldiers. Whitcombe was caught and the soldiers wanted to roast him alive. But Trelawny insisted on his release. [Whitcombe, William]
15/11/1828Mary Shelley is reunited with Trelawny [Shelley, Mary]
14/4/1836William Godwin is buried at St. Pancras' Churchyard. He was buried next to Mary Wollstonecraft, who had died in 1797. The ceremony was attended by Percy Florence Shelley (chief mourner), E.J. Trelawny, James Kenney, Thomas Campbell, Dr. Uwins and Mr. Caunter. The Times reported on the funeral on 16 Apr 1836. [Godwin, William][Wollstonecraft, Mary]
6/11/1876Last meeting between E.J. Trelawny and Augusta Draper. They had been friends since 1817 and Augusta had emigrated to Canada in 1822. Augusta arrived unexpectedly by train to spend the day with him. In her diary she noted that after sixty years they had both changed, but not in their perfect understanding of each other. 
0/2/1881Sidney Colvin visits Trelawny in Sompting. He was one of Trelawny's last visitors because Trelawny died soon afterwards. Colvin wrote a careful account of the visit. 


"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)


• Armstrong, Margaret, Trelawny, A Man's Life, Robert Hale, London, 1941
• Crane, David, Lord Byron's Jackal, The life of Edward John Trelawny, Harper Collins Publishers, London, 1998
• Feldman, Paula R. and Diana Scott-Kilvert, The Journals of Mary Shelley, 1814-1844, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1987
• Roe, Ivan, Shelley: The Last Phase, Hutchinson & Co, London, 1955
• St Clair, William, Trelawny, The Incurable Romancer, Vanguard Press, New York, 1977
Edward John Trelawny - Wikipedia

Trelawny, Zella

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 06 May 2024