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

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9781568581439: Lord Byron's Jackal: A Life of Edward John Trelawny
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The life of the violent, deceitful man who was present at--and some say responsible for--the deaths of both Percy Bysshe Shelly and Lord Byron is chronicled here in a new biography of the darker side of the Romantic poets.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

In his first book, a sweeping narrative, blending biography with history and travelogue, Crane debunks many of the untruths about Byron, Shelley, and the Greek War of Independence preserved in the memoirs of Edward Trelawny, a 19th-century adventurer, Romantic acolyte, and impostor. Steeped in Romantic literature, Trelawny had masqueraded as a Byronic hero ever since his service in the British navy. When he eventually met Shelley and Byron in Italy, his social graces and athletic skills facilitated his entry into their intimate circle. His active role in their lives led circuitously to their untimely deaths. In 1822, Shelley's pleasure boat, built to Trelawny's specifications, sank during its first storm, with the poet aboard. Byron died two years later in Greece; he had followed Trelawny there to support the Greek revolt against the Turks, only to be abandoned by his ambitious companion, who was unwilling to play second fiddle to the renowned poet. Once Shelley and Byron were gone, Trelawny staged a fictionalized drama of their lives, casting himself as the high priest of English Romanticism. Crane's fascinating parallel investigation of the Greek revolt presents the heirs to Hellenism as arrogant, greedy, cruel, and manipulating. Greek guerrillas committed atrocities against the Turkish civil population one moment and struck profitable deals with their sworn enemies the next. The Greek War of Independence soon degenerated into a civil melee, with each chieftain seeking only his own enrichment and power. Crane reveals that Byron was popular with the insurgents more for the money entrusted to him as agent of the London Greek Committee than for his fame as a poet. Byron viewed the Greeks without illusions and demonstrated sober insight into the pitfalls that awaited the European volunteer on Greek soil. While Crane occasionally fails to hold the reader's attention, his portrayal of Greecerent by internal contradictionsand of Byron's ``un-Byronic'' personality is truly a boon to both history and literature buffs. (16 pages b&w illustrations) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Dismissed by a contemporary as "Lord Byron's jackal," Trelawny (1792-1881), the 19th-century adventurer and companion of the English Romantics, traded on his celebrity as a survivor all his life. He had burned Shelley's drowned body on the beach at Viareggio and accompanied Byron to Greece, reinventing afterward the Missolonghi deathbed scene he had actually missed. Crane's biography (his debut) is more detailed and more melodramatic than William St. Clair's 1977 life, devoting much of its space to the two years and 10 days of Trelawny's escapades among the motley volunteers helping to liberate Greece from the Turks. In Trelawny's last 50 years, he made the most of his hard-won notoriety, producing two compelling, if mendacious, memoirsAAdventures of a Younger Son (1831) and Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron (1858). Tough and stoic, brutal and brave, he was an attractive scoundrel who had a way with women. He married one of his four wives when she was 13, and had mistresses into very old age. He also won literary admirers among the Victorians, and was memorably painted by Millais (in North West Passage) as the old sea captain he never was (he had been a midshipman before his encounters with the romantics). Although Trelawny's own propensity to romanticize tempts Crane into verbal excess, most strikingly when the adventurer at 40 allegedly attempts to swim the rapids of the "Hudson" (actually the Niagara) below Niagara Falls, Trelawny's vitality keeps one engrossed. 55 b&w illus., two maps.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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