In February 1822 the writer and adventurer Edward John Trelawny arrived in Pisa to make the acquaintance of his heroes Shelley and Byron, leaving a broken marriage and an exotic seafaring career behind him. He became a close companion to them and their circle, and this collection of his reminiscences is one of the most fresh and intriguing documents of the Romantic age. It records his initial meeting with a cynical and flippant Byron, his impressions of a youthful, otherworldly Shelley and, most memorably, the poet's death at sea and the subsequent burning of his body on the sand. Trelawny's Records combine vigorous prose, vivid description and mythmaking to create one of the most memorable portraits of an age.
Rosemary Ashton's new introduction explores the mysterious life and quixotic character of Trelawny, and this edition includes all the author's later revisions.
Edward John Trelawny (1792-1881) was one of the most curious figures of the English Romantic Movement, and spent his long life travelling extensively as a naval officer, biographer and adventurer. After a brief education, Trelawny was assigned as a volunteer in the Royal Navy by the age of thirteen, and led an unaccomplished naval career until his resignation at nineteen. He met Shelley and Byron in Italy in 1822, where he became fascinated, almost hypnotized, by the two poets. His Records of Shelley, Byron and the Author, written after both their deaths, is the end-product of this strange obsession. An incorrigible romancer, Trelawny had three marriages - the second of which was to Tersitza, sister of the Greek warlord Odysseus Androutsos, whose cause he had joined and whose mountain fortress he looked after when Odysseus was arrested. He died after a fall at the age of eighty-eight, in England, and his ashes were buried in Rome in a plot adjacent to Shelley's grave.
Rosemary Ashton was educated at the universities of Aberdeen, Heidelberg and Cambridge. She taught English literature at University College London from 1974 to 2012, and is Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature and an Honorary Fellow of UCL. She has published critical biographies of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas and Jane Carlyle, George Eliot, and George Henry Lewes, two books on Anglo-German literary and cultural relations in the nineteenth century, The German Idea: Four English Writers and the Reception of German Thought 1800-1860 (1980) and Little Germany: Exile and Asylum in Victorian England (1986), and two books about Victorian radicalism, 142 Strand: A Radical Address in Victorian London (2006) and Victorian Bloomsbury (2012).