Edward John Trelawny Criticism - Essay

Henry E. Ward (essay date 1881)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Edward John Trelawny,” Temple Bar Vol. 63, November, 1881, pp. 325-42.

[Ward's essay, published just after Trelawny's death, reflects the general nineteenth-century acceptance of Trelawny's version of his own life and celebrates him as one of the last of the truly adventurous spirits.]

In the course of last season a collection of pictures was exhibited in Bond Street which not unnaturally attracted a good deal of notice. It was a small collection, comprising not more than eighteen or twenty canvases, and all the works were by one hand; but that hand was Mr. Millais'. Each step in the development of his genius and characteristics was illustrated by at least...

(The entire section is 8514 words.)

Edward Garnett (essay date 1890)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Introduction to Adventures of a Younger Son, by Edward John Trelawny, T. Fisher Unwin, 1890, pp. 7-25.

[In the essay that follows, Garnett provides a biographical sketch of Trelawny, and contends that he “quickly caught and reflected the spirit of his age” by cultivating a romantic role for himself.]


The sources for a memoir of Trelawny are few. That the following sketch of his life and character—slight as it is—is the fullest yet published is due to the publication last year of a number of his letters in Mrs. Julian Marshall's Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: Her Life and Letters. Other material is The Adventures of a...

(The entire section is 6155 words.)

The Athenaeum (essay date 1911)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Review of Letters of Edward John Trelawny, by Edward John Trelawny, The Athenaeum, No. 4341, pp. 7-8.

[In the following essay, the anonymous reviewer discusses Trelawny's letters, which contain the “Trelawniness of Trelawny”—both the superficiality of some of his judgments and the depth of his enthusiasms.]

Is there any other figure of the last century so well worth knowing and so knowable as Edward Trelawny? The volume before us is a picture of the man by himself, historically still unfinished, but, from a post-impressionist point of view, final. All that is most significant, all that distinguishes Trelawny from other men, is given; as the...

(The entire section is 2098 words.)

The Dial (essay date 1911)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Review of Letters of Edward John Trelawny, by Edward John Trelawny, The Dial, Vol. L, No. 595, April 1, 1911, p. 270.

[In the essay that follows, the reviewer comments on the most striking impressions of Trelawny's letters: that his character was “full of strange contradiction” and that the relationship that dominated his life was his friendship with Shelley.]

Of all the men who did “once see Shelley plain,” none survived him longer or loved to talk about him more than Edward John Trelawney [sic]. Byron, also, Trelawney knew well; and, though loving him less, followed him to Greece where they worked together for a common cause. Surviving these...

(The entire section is 634 words.)

Christopher Morley (essay date 1923)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “July 8, 1822” in The Powder of Sympathy, Doubleday, Page & Company, 1923, pp. 143-47.

[In the essay that follows, Morley examines Trelawny's dramatized depiction of Shelley's death and cremation.]

It is to-day a hundred years since that sultry afternoon when Edward John Trelawny, aboard Byron's schooner-yacht Bolivar, fretted anxiously in Leghorn Harbour and watched the threatening sky. The thunderstorm that broke about half-past six lasted only twenty minutes, but it was long enough to drown both Shelley and his friend Williams, very haphazard yachtsmen, who had set off a few hours earlier in their small craft. It was only some foolish red tape...

(The entire section is 1178 words.)

H. J. Massingham (essay date 1930)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Life and Letters (1822-1847)” in The Friend of Shelley: A Memoir of Edward John Trelawny, Cobden-Sanderson, 1930, pp. 221-88.

[In the following excerpt, Massingham characterizes Trelawny's letters as deeply inscribed by his short friendship with Shelley, although most of the letters date from the sixty-year period of Trelawny's life after Shelley's death in 1822.]

Trelawny's inner life pivots upon Shelley as integrally as the ocean tides take their motions from the moon. There is no doubt that he saw in Shelley the perfect man he wished to have been himself, had he not had poured into his composition something of the foreign matter of Byron the...

(The entire section is 6941 words.)

Edmund Blunden (essay date 1932)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Trelawny Interpreted” in Votive Tablets: Studies Chiefly Appreciative of English Authors and Books, Harper and Brothers, 1932, pp. 240-45.

[In the essay that follows, Blunden discusses the “hallucinatory” quality of Trelawny's autobiographical writings, in the absence of detailed independent information about his life.]

Trelawny insisted, while he was writing The Adventures of a Younger Son, that he was only recording his own life; fifty years later he was still pleased to assert the truthfulness of that romantic tale; and a biographer of the gentleman corsair who almost seemed able to outwit death itself is under the amusing necessity of at...

(The entire section is 2077 words.)

Edward Sackville-West (essay date 1950)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Review of Trelawny, by R. Glynn Grylls, The New Statesman and Nation, Vol. XL, No. 1017, September 2, 1950, pp. 254, 256.

[In the following essay, Sackville-West argues that Trelawny's writings suggest that his artistic talents remained largely unrealized, due to his essential “aimlessness.”]

He was a long, earnest man, and though born on an icy coast, seemed well adapted to endure hot latitudes, his flesh being hard as twice-baked biscuit. Transported to the Indies, his live blood would not boil like bottled ale. … Only some thirty arid summers had he seen; those summers had dried up all his physical superfluousness. But this,...

(The entire section is 1931 words.)

Cecil Roberts (essay date 1973)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “And Did Trelawny Lie?” Books and Bookmen, Vol. 19, No. 1, October, 1973, pp. 62-66.

[In the excerpt that follows, Roberts traces some of the egregiously “fabulous” features of Trelawny's accounts of his early life and his viewing of Byron's corpse, an incident which provoked a great deal of controversy in Victorian society.]

[Edward John Trelawny] was a light liar, an embroiderer of facts. He wrote two accounts of his life with Shelley and Byron. The first appeared in 1858, written after he was sixty, entitled Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron. Then, twenty years later, when an old man of eighty-five, he brought out another...

(The entire section is 1375 words.)

Mary Jacobus (essay date 1974)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Corsair in Person,” The Times Literary Supplement, No. 3799, December 27, 1974, p. 1461.

[In the following review of Adventures of a Younger Son, Jacobus emphasizes the extent to which Trelawny believed in his own Romantic fantasies, particularly regarding his early adventures.]

“If we could only make Trelawny wash his hands and speak the truth we could make a gentleman of him.” Byron—by now cultivating a more sophisticated image—was understandably embarrassed when the personification of his own Corsair turned up at Pisa. It was the Shelleys who fell for his piratical past and tall stories. Byron warned that they would mould him into a...

(The entire section is 634 words.)

William St. Clair (essay date 1977)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Storyteller Part 2,” Trelawny: The Incurable Romancer, John Murray, 1977, pp. 182-90.

[In the essay that follows, St. Clair discusses Trelawny's fantastical distortion of historical truth in his accounts of his travels and his encounters with Shelley and Byron.]

It is a matter beyond dispute that Trelawny was one whose constitutional fearlessness and unimpeachable honour, in every circumstance of a stirring life, raised him on a pinnacle beyond the reach of detraction. His masterful bearing and unflinching honesty compelled respect wherever he went.

Richard Edgcumbe, who knew Trelawny in old age....

(The entire section is 4985 words.)

Donald H. Reiman (essay date 1979)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Trelawny and the Decay of Lying,” Review, Vol. 1, 1979, pp. 275-94.

[In the following excerpt, Reiman contrasts two biographies of Trelawny and concludes that his work should neither be accepted as factual nor dismissed due to its interweaving of fantasy and reality, but rather read for its literary merits as “autobiographical fiction.”]

“My life,” wrote Edward John Trelawny to Mary Shelley on 19 January 1831, “though I have sent it to you, as the dearest friend I have, is not written for the amusement of women; it is not a novel. If you begin clipping the wings of my true story, if you begin erasing words, you must then omit sentences, then...

(The entire section is 7285 words.)