In 1822, after having been discharged from the British navy, deserted by his wife, and as good as disowned by his father, the thirty-two year old Edward John Trelawny set off for Italy to make the acquaintance of his hero, Lord Byron. “I have met today the personification of my Corsair,” Byron wrote in a letter. “He sleeps with the poem under his pillow, and all his past adventures and present manners aim at this personification.” But though Byron enjoyed the company of his admirer, and was eventually to embark with him on his ill-fated final expedition to aid in the War of Greek Independence, he had grown guarded and ironical with age, and the perfect meeting of minds that Trelawny had envisioned was not to be. Shelley, however, enchanted him. In the months before his death at sea, he and Trelawny were frequent companions, and the young poet emerges from these pages in all his splendid carelessness and otherworldly concentration.
In “his” Byron and Shelley [Trelawny] created two figures that in their compelling solidity are fit to stand alongside any literary memoir short of Boswell’s Johnson.
— David Crane, Lord Byron’s Jackal
Your portrait of Shelley is full of truth—it is him in all his unaffectedness, in his simple tastes so fond of woods, seas, lakes, mountains; of birds and of music. There was in his manner of speaking, a touch of the woman, even of the girl…that appears most vividly in your description.
— Claire Clairmont, Letter to Trelawny