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Edward Trelawny & Percy Bysshe Shelley & Usk

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2015 12:20 pm    Post subject: Edward Trelawny & Percy Bysshe Shelley & Usk Reply with quote

The cedars planted by Edward Trelawney in memory of Percy Bysshe Shelley in Usk with seeds taken from those around his grave in was mentioned on Radio 4 Gardeners' Question Time recently, so I thought that I would gloggle them : one of them stands opposite the chapel at the head of the square with the clocktower in it.

I presume that this is Shelley's grave ...

... but what is the story of Edward Trelawney and his relationship with Percy Shelley ?


" Edward John Trelawny ( 13 November 1792 – 13 August 1881 ) was a biographer, novelist and adventurer who is best known for his friendship with the Romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. ... He was assigned as a volunteer in the Royal Navy shortly before he turned thirteen. ... Trelawny served on multiple ships as a naval volunteer while in his teen years. He traveled to India and saw combat during engagements with the French Navy. He did not care for the naval lifestyle, however, and left at nineteen years of age without becoming a commissioned officer. After retiring from the Navy he had a brief and unhappy marriage in England. He then moved to Switzerland and later Italy where he met Shelley and Byron. He became friends with the two poets, and helped teach them about sailing. He enjoyed inventing elaborate stories about his time in the navy, and in one he claimed to have deserted and become a pirate in India. After Shelley's death, Trelawny identified his body and arranged the funeral and burial. ...

... Trelawny then travelled to Greece with Lord Byron in order to fight in the Greek War of Independence. Byron and Trelawny split up near Greece and Trelawny travelled into Greece to act as the agent of Lord Byron. After Byron died, Trelawny oversaw the preparations for the funeral and the return of his body to England. He also wrote his obituaries. Trelawny joined the cause of the Greek Warlord Odysseas Androutsos and helped to provide him with additional arms. He also married Odysseas' sister Teritza. After Odysseas fell out of favour with the Greek government and was arrested, Trelawny took control of his mountain fortress. During this time, Trelawny survived an assassination attempt. After leaving Greece, he divorced Teritza and returned to England. ...

... Upon his return to England, Trelawny became very politically active with a group known as the Philosophical Radicals. The group advocated left wing politics and often focused its efforts on the rights of women. Trelawny began associating with its supporters, many of whom were among the upper class members of London society. Most of London society was willing to overlook his claims of disloyalty against the British after his claimed desertion and accepted him into society. At this time many women were attracted to him, and there was frequent speculation about his sexual escapades in many London tabloids, such as The Satirist. He soon had a falling out with Mary Shelley. He was offended in part because she turned to Thomas Jefferson Hogg for advice instead of asking him. He later described Mary as "the blab of blabs" in a letter to Claire Clairmont. Trelawny and Mary Shelley also disagreed about a custody reform bill that was proposed by the Philosophic Radicals. ...

... He moved into a villa on Putney Hill that was owned by John Temple Leader, a political friend of his. His affair with Augusta Goring began shortly after he returned to England. She claimed to have been badly treated by her husband, who was a member of Parliament. Many people in London society believed that he was practising a strict aesthetic routine there. Trelawny then eloped with Augusta. After she separated from her husband she began using a pseudonym. She gave birth to a son in August 1839. Her husband tracked her down, however, and filed for divorce. The divorce was granted in 1841. Trelawny married Augusta and they settled in a small country town Usk and bought a farmhouse. They had a daughter Laetitia there as well. They later moved to a large house on a 440-acre farm two miles outside Usk. He worked hard maintaining the farm and was friends with several leading citizens from the town. He lived in Usk for twelve years total, which was longer than he had ever lived in one place in his entire life. He planted trees and lawns and flower gardens. Townspeople were offended by him breaking the sabbath. In the mid-1850s he began writing a book about his memories of Byron and Shelley. His marriage split up in 1857 due to his relationship with a young woman who became his mistress and later common-law wife. The girl's name was never discovered; she is only known as Miss B. He frequently had tea with the vicar of Usk on Sunday afternoons. After he separated from his wife in Usk he sold a large amount of the furniture and books and held a well attended open house for villagers to come in and buy his possessions. After his third divorce, he criticised the institution of marriage in a letter to Claire. ... As he grew older, Trelawny's guests noted that he told them amazing stories about himself that he purported to be true, such as meeting with Captain Morgan and circumnavigating the Globe. ... "


Now Trelawny is mostly remembered for the events of but a few months in his life : in January 1822 he arrived in Pisa and met the Shelleys and Byron and Claire Clairmont [ Mary ( Wollstencraft ) Shelley's stepsister ] and having taught them how to sail he on 8th July he saw Percy Byshe Shelley, Edward Williams and Charles Vivian set off in Shelley's 24 foot schooner-rigged but un-decked racing boat " Ariel " [ built by Captain John Charles ( Dan ) Gawen-Roberts who built an identical boat " Bolivar " for Byron ] in which they were not to return : it capsized in a squall and they were drowned. Their bodies were found on 17th and 18th July and buried in the sand until in accordance with local laws Trelawny organised their cremation at Viarregio on the 15th August, a famous scene after which Shelley's ashes were taken to Rome ... which is possibly why cremation became associated with Republicanism in Wales ?

The Funeral of Shelley by Louis Édouard Fournier (1889); pictured in the centre are, from left, Trelawny, Hunt and Byron. In fact, Hunt did not observe the cremation, and Byron left early.


" ... On 8 July 1822, less than a month before his 30th birthday, Shelley drowned in a sudden storm on the Gulf of Spezia while returning from Leghorn ( Livorno ) to Lerici in his sailing boat, the Don Juan. He was returning from having set up The Liberal with the newly arrived Leigh Hunt. The name Don Juan, a compliment to Byron, was chosen by Edward John Trelawny, a member of the Shelley-Byron Pisan circle. However, according to Mary Shelley's testimony, Shelley changed it to Ariel, which annoyed Byron, who forced the painting of the words "Don Juan" on the mainsail. The vessel, an open boat, was custom-built in Genoa for Shelley. It did not capsize but sank; Mary Shelley declared in her "Note on Poems of 1822" ( 1839 ) that the design had a defect and that the boat was never seaworthy. In fact the Don Juan was seaworthy; the sinking was due to a severe storm and poor seamanship of the three men on board.

Some believed his death was not accidental, that Shelley was depressed and wanted to die; others suggest he simply did not know how to navigate. More fantastical theories, including the possibility of pirates mistaking the boat for Byron's, also circulated. There is a small amount of material, though scattered and contradictory, suggesting that Shelley may have been murdered for political reasons: previously, at Plas Tan-Yr-Allt, the Regency house he rented at Tremadog, near Porthmadog, north-west Wales, from 1812 to 1813, he had allegedly been surprised and attacked during the night by a man who may have been, according to some later writers, an intelligence agent. Shelley, who was in financial difficulty, left forthwith leaving rent unpaid and without contributing to the fund to support the house owner, William Madocks; this may provide another, more plausible explanation for this story.

... The boat was found ten miles (16 km) offshore, and it was suggested that one side of the boat had been rammed and staved in by a much stronger vessel. However, the liferaft was unused and still attached to the boat. The bodies were found completely clothed, including boots. ... In his Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron, Trelawny noted that the shirt in which Williams's body was clad was "partly drawn over the head, as if the wearer had been in the act of taking it off [. . .] and [he was missing] one boot, indicating also that he had attempted to strip." Trelawny also relates a supposed deathbed confession by an Italian fisherman who claimed to have rammed Shelley's boat to rob him, a plan confounded by the rapid sinking of the vessel. ... Shelley's body was washed ashore and later, in keeping with quarantine regulations, was cremated on the beach near Viareggio. ... Also, Trelawny, in his account of the recovery of Shelley's body, records that "the face and hands, and parts of the body not protected by the dress, were fleshless," and by the time that the party returned to the beach for the cremation, the body was even further decomposed. In his graphic account of the cremation, he writes of Byron being unable to face the scene, and withdrawing to the beach. ... "

Shelley's grave in Rome

" Shelley's ashes were interred in the Protestant Cemetery, Rome, near an ancient pyramid in the city walls. His grave bears the Latin inscription, Cor Cordium ( "Heart of Hearts" ), and, in reference to his death at sea, a few lines of "Ariel's Song" from Shakespeare's The Tempest: "Nothing of him that doth fade / But doth suffer a sea-change / Into something rich and strange." The grave site is the second in the cemetery. Some weeks after Shelley's ashes had been buried, Trelawny had come to Rome, had not liked his friend's position among a number of other graves, and had purchased what seemed to him a better plot near the old wall. The ashes were exhumed and moved to their present location. Trelawny had purchased the adjacent plot, and over sixty years later his remains were placed there. ... "

... Shelley's widow Mary bought a cliff-top home at Boscombe, Bournemouth in 1851. She intended to live there with her son, Percy, and his wife Jane, and had her own parents moved to an underground mausoleum in the town. The property is now known as Shelley Manor. When Lady Jane Shelley was to be buried in the family vault, it was discovered that in her copy of Adonaïs was an envelope containing ashes, which she had identified as belonging to Shelley the poet. The family had preserved the story that when Shelley's body had been burned, his friend Edward Trelawny had snatched the whole heart from the pyre. These same accounts claim that the heart was buried with Shelley's son, Sir Percy Florence Shelley. All accounts agree, however, that the remains now lie in the vault in the churchyard of St Peter's Church, Bournemouth. ...

Now ... if Shelley's heart is down in Bournemouth ... then I guess that all of those mates of his who suffered perennial wander-lust and never believed in going to either heaven or hell will probably be calling upon him ... and regularly ... ?


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