Lord Byron's Jackal: The Life of Edward John Trelawny

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9780002556316: Lord Byron's Jackal: The Life of Edward John Trelawny

‘A wonderful adventure story about a man who invented himself in the image of the Byronic hero and lived to the hilt the final passionate and violent flowering of Romanticism in the cause of Greek independence.’ STELLA TILLYARD

‘There is a mad chap come here – whose name is Trelawny… He comes on the friend of Shelley, great, glowing, and rich in romance… But tell me who is this odd fish? They talk of him here as a camelion who went mad on reading Lord Byron’s ‘Corsair’.’

In his brilliant first book, David Crane seeks to answer Joseph Severn’s famous question and investigates the life and phenomenon of Edward John Trelawny – writer, adventurer, romantic and friend to Shelley and Byron.

Trelawny’s is a story inextricably linked with Byron, and with the Greek War of Independence – a war which provided both Romantic Europe and Edward Trelawny with their most extravagant challenge.

There has been no general biography of Trelawny for nearly twenty years, no history of the philhellene role in the Greek war of Independence for even longer.

Reminiscent of Patrick French’s Younghusband, Lord Byron’s Jackal is not a life of Trelawny in the conventional sense. It is biography and travel writing of the highest calibre; it is an evocation of landscape and an exploration of the ways we can see and recover the past.

It is a sparkling debut for a talented new biographer.

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From the Back Cover:

High above the 'Dancing Floor of Ares' on the remote northern slopes of Parnassus lies one of the most improbable and dangerous of all literary monuments – the cave of Edward John Trelawny – writer, adventurer, fantasist and chronicler of the Romantic circle of Shelley and Byron. Reached only by rusting iron ladders snaking up a vertical cliff, the cave has been a place of refuge since the time of Xerxes's invasion, but its presiding spirit is indisputably Trelawny's. It was in this mountain fortress that he lived out his Byronic fantasies during the Greek war of independence as the companion of the bandit chief Odysseus; it was here he married his thirteen-year-old bride; it was here that he was shot twice in the back by two English assassins; and from here that he was eventually rescued in August 1825 by a retired English officer called Francis D'Arcy Bacon.

Trelawny spent the first thirty years of his life preparing for his adventures in Greece and the last fifty living off them, and in the story of the assassination attempt can be found the key to English literature's most maverick personality. 'Lord Byron's Jackal' is part biography, part an account of a brutal war, part a work of literary history. It is also a work of detection whose prize is the romantic imagination itself.

David Crane's book draws on a wealth of archival material in Britain and Greece, and on contemporary diaries and memoirs, to describe how the impoverished younger son of an old Cornish family invented a romantic personality for himself, bluffed and charmed his way into the Pisan circle and turned himself into a celebrity and mouthpiece for both Shelley and Byron. What transformed an ill-educated ex-midshipman into one of the great storytellers and prose writers of the nineteenth century? What made his contemporaries believe the lurid fantasies with which he embroidered the story of his life? How, in his splenetic old age, a relic of the past and an icon to the generation of Swinburne and Rossetti, did he face up to the possibility of exposure?

'Lord Byron's Jackal' addresses all these questions. It is a biography of one of the most compellingly eccentric figures of English literature and an adventure story where the boundaries between fantasy and reality were blurred with often fatal consequences.

"There is a mad chap come here – whose name is Trelawny…He comes on the friend of Shelley, great, glowing, and rich in romance…I ought to have seen that this Lord Byron's jackal was rather weak in all the points I could judge, though strong enough in stilettos…But tell me who is this odd fish? They talk of him here as a camelion who went mad on reading Lord Byron's 'Corsair'."
JOSEPH SEVERN

"In 'Lord Byron's Jackal,' David Crane brings Edward Trelawny – seaman, scoundrel, friend of Byron and Shelley and the original of Squire Trelawny – startlingly to life. Here is a wonderful adventure story about a man who invented himself in the image of the Byronic hero and lived to the hilt the final passionate and violent flowering of Romanticism in the cause of Greek independence."
STELLA TILLYARD

About the Author:

David Crane's first book, ‘Lord Byron’s Jackal’ was published to great acclaim in 1998, and his second, ‘The Kindness of Sisters’ published in 2002, is a groundbreaking work of romantic biography. His most recent book for Harper Collins is the highly acclaimed 'Scott of the Antarctic' (published 2005). His next book: a collection of 19th Century naval biographies with the working title of 'Men of War' is published by Harper Collins in 2009. He lives in north-west Scotland.

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