Records of Shelley, Byron, and the Author
by Edward John Trelawney
A somewhat notorious book, this claims to be a faithful recollection of Trelawney’s experience with the two poets, and as well a discussion of his own military adventures. It is frankly beyond me to disentangle fact and fiction, and indeed has been a primary preoccupation of Shelley and Byron biographers for the past hundred and fifty years. What I can say is that it’s swiftly written and engaging in its own right.
Trelawney’s recounting of his escapades after the death of the poets (justifying the “and the Author” portion of the title) is particularly engaging; you get the sense that the subject which most interested Trelawney, at a basic level, was Trelawney. Shelley and Byron are useful insofar as it allows Trelawney to recount his experience of the two men. It’s impossible not to be sceptical, therefore, of that recounting. Certainly I had the sense of biography like a sun setting behind clouds: glints of something bright and real, shining behind a screen which was made fascinating by the light it obscured. Which is to say that the book’s intensely readable, but you take it for truth at your own risk.