Adventurer, Author. He is best remembered for his adventures with the poets Lord Byron and Percy B. Shelley. At his father's insistence, he spent six years of his youth as midshipman in the British Navy – but he left the Navy without being commissioned. Financial hardships and a failed marriage left him disenchanted, so he left behind his sedentary life to explore the continent. A lover of literature, he befriended the poets Byron and Shelley in Italy. Byron, it was said, used Trelawny as a model for his poem "The Corsair" – but, in reality, it was Trelawny who reinvented himself based on the protagonist of the poem. When Shelley's boat foundered in a storm, drowning the young poet, Trelawny recovered the body and arranged for him to be cremated on the beach in Italy where he was found. He reached into the burning ashes and recovered the poet's unburned heart, which he later gave to Mary Shelley for burial in England. Shelley's untimely death left Mary all but destitute, so Trelawny bought adjacent cemetery plots for him and his friend at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome and paid for Mary's passage back to England. Not long after Shelley was lost, he embarked for Greece in the company of Lord Byron to help the Greeks win their independence from the Turks. Byron died of a fever in Greece before he ever saw battle, but Trelawny remained in the service of a Greek warlord until an unsuccessful assignation attempt left him severely wounded. Trelawny, his body and spirit broken, returned home to begin a long recovery. It was during this time that he wrote "Adventures of a Younger Son". This brilliantly-written (though spurious) account of his adventures as a privateer – and his association with the poets – made him an instant celebrity in Britain. His greatest contribution to history and literature, however, were his memoirs entitled "Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron," published in 1858. This was revised and reprinted in 1878 as "Records of Shelley, Byron and the Author". These books give a veracious and detailed account of the last days of both poets, as well as rare insights into their personalities and private lives. Throughout his life he remained close friends with Mary Shelley and her half-sister, Claire Clairmont – but he and Mary had a falling-out in later years from which their relationship never recovered. Trelawny died peacefully in England at the age of 88. In accordance with his wishes, his ashes were buried in Rome beside those of Shelley, some 60 years after his friend's death.
Bio by: D. Lee Brandt