Medwin, Thomas

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 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. The truth of its contents was questioned by many who had known Byron and Shelley, but it was a financial success and it was translated in French and German soon after its publication. Nowadays the book is seen as inaccurate in several details but generally accurate.

On 2 November 1824 Medwin married Anna Henrietta Hamilton, Countess of Starnford (1788-1868) in Vevey. They lived in Florence and they had two daughters. But he lived once more beyod his means and lost money in trading Italian works of art. When his father died in 1829 he was in such financial difficulties that it damaged his marriage and he abandoned his wife and children. Many of his debts were paid later by his brother Pilford.

In Genoa he worked on a play, "Prometheus portarore del fuoco". It was published in 1830 in Italy and reviews were positive. But his next play "The Conspiracy of the Fieschi" was believed to be propaganda against the government and he was expelled. He returned to England alone in 1831. 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".

Although 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 1840s Keat's former fiancee 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, although 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 Ferdinando 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 Trelawny, Edward John
• knew Trelawny, Edward John
• was a friend of Williams, Edward Ellerker

20/11/1821Shelley 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. [Byron, George Noel Gordon ][Shelley, Percy Bysshe]


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


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

Mehring, Walter

Published: 26 Mar 2017
Last update: 03 Jul 2022