An Interview with Edward John Trelawny from Forever Past by Marty Ambrose

We are going to talk today with Edward John Trelawny at the Palazzo Marciano in Livorno, Italy.  An adventurer, writer, and raconteur, he is known mostly as the most dashing member of the Byron/Shelley circle in historic Pisa; but, he is a complicated and brilliant man in his own right, whom Lord Byron referred to as the “personification of my Corsair.”  Welcome, Trelawny!

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  • Firstly, I want to ask you about Byron’s reference to you as the “personification of his Corsair”—a poem he wrote about a pirate.  Do you think that’s true?

Edward Trelawny:  [laughing]  Not exactly.  I was never a pirate but, as a boy, I did read about the French corsair, Robert Surcouf, and I went to sea because I was a rebellious sort of boy.  I ran away at the age of thirteen to join the Royal Navy as a volunteer (I was too young to actually take on a commission) and traveled on ships from Bombay to the Cape of Good Hope.  The rough lifestyle aboard a sailing vessel made a man of me.  But . . . I did not like the discipline of the Navy and was often sent to the masthead as punishment for some kind of minor infraction.  Perhaps I would have been better off becoming a pirate after all.

  • Before we talk about your relationship with Claire Clairmont, maybe you could tell us a little more about yourself.  I’m sure our readers would find your own history quite interesting.

Edward Trelawny:  Certainly.  As you can tell from my surname, I am Cornish.  My family had modest means but an extensive ancestral lineage and my father, though a baronet, had a fiery temper.  A tyrant really.  Hence, the reason I left home at such a young age.  And, of course, I always had a wanderlust to see the world.  After I left the Navy in my twenties, I lived in Switzerland, Italy, Greece, and then back to England.  I even visited America and thought about starting a Utopian community there, but something always drew me back to Europe.

  • Was that “something” Claire Clairmont?

Edward Trelawny:  Well, she has been at the center of my life for over fifty years.  My dearest friend.  My closest ally.  My one and only true love.  I will not deny that I have known other women and even married three times.  But my heart always, always belonged to Claire from the moment I met her in Pisa in 1822.   She was breathtaking with her exotic beauty and sparkling personality.  And, while she has grown more advanced in years (as I have), she has lost none of her spirted nature.  We have been separated by great distance at times during our lives, yet we never lost contact—and her witty letters have been such a comfort to me.  To be sure, I asked her to marry me more than once, but she preferred her independence, much to my dismay and disappointment . . . At least now I have the opportunity to be with her again on the quest to find Allegra.

  • Do you think other people have come between the two of you?

Edward Trelawny:  I assume you mean Lord Byron.  I will not deny that Claire has been haunted by his ghost, and I cannot blame her.  We all were caught up in his orbit.  He was like a comet in our lives, lighting up the world and then plunging it into darkness again when he died. There has been no one like him—before or afterward.  And it is difficult to describe what it was like to know him:  there was the famous poet, brilliant and erratic; the revolutionary who inspired us to follow him to fight for the Greek Independence; and there was the man whom I came to call my friend—amusing, loyal, and generous.  He had many different sides—a chameleon, as he called himself.  Certainly, he could be outrageous, even petty, at times, but who is perfect?  As Claire said, he was an easy man to love and admire but not an easy one to know, even though we all tried.

  • After Byron perished in Greece in 1824, you stayed in Greece and continued to fight for their cause.  How did that turn out?

Edward Trelawny:  Well, Greece declared its independence when the Treaty of Edirne was signed in 1829, so you may judge for yourself.  After Byron died in Missolonghi, I stayed and fought side-by-side with Odysseus, a warlord leader who was almost like a brother and, at one point, we commanded five thousand troops.  It was a long and arduous war, but it had a glorious conclusion.  Sadly, as is often the case, the men who risked their lives in battle are no longer needed when peace is declared.  Odysseus was executed, and I was a victim of an attempted assassination; the bullet is still lodged in my back.

  • Did you not marry Odysseus’s sister?

Edward Trelawny:  That is another story [he clears his throat].  But enough of an old soldier’s reminiscences.  I grow tedious . . .

  • Not at all.  Actually, I was going to ask if there was one incident that stood out as the most horrific for you?

Edward Trelawny:  Yes, though it did not occur during battle.  It happened when Shelley drowned in Italy during the summer of 1822.  I still recall it as if it were only yesterday.  He had gone out sailing with his friend, Edward Williams, and they ran into a squall near the Bay of Spezia which caused the boat to go down, killing the two of them.  We did not know for days what had happened, even though I met constantly with the Italian Coast Guard.  Eventually, their bodies washed ashore near Livorno, and I had to oversee their cremation on the beach.  Never will I forget that awful scene of seeing my dear friend consumed by fire into ashes.  Byron was there, but could not stand it and began to swim off shore, but I remained until the task was finished.  

  • What a tragic story.  

Edward Trelawny:  Indeed.  One of my greatest regrets is that I introduced Shelley to sailing.  If I had not done so, perhaps he would not have perished at sea.  Who can say for certain?  Life is full of these twists and turns.

  • Do you have any other regrets?

Edward Trelawny:  I will never stop reproaching myself for not telling Claire that her daughter, Allegra, might still be alive.  Byron swore me to secrecy, and I know that revealing the truth might have placed Allegra at risk, yet it was still a deception.  I am only grateful that Claire has forgiven me.

  • Do you think she might also reconsider sharing her life with you?

Edward Trelawny:  We shall see.

  • I can only hope!  Any final comments?

Edward Trelawny:  In spite of being friends with Byron and Shelley, I never wanted to be a great poet, but I wanted to have a great life.  And I did.

Thank you for speaking with us today.


Marty Ambrose is the author of a historical mystery trilogy: Claire’s Last SecretA Shadowed Fate, and Forever Past, all set around the Byron/Shelley circle in nineteenth-century ItalyHer novels have been published by Severn House (U.K. and U.S.) and Thomas Schluck (Germany), earning starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly, as well as finalist status in the Florida Writers Association’s Literary Palm Award. Her work has been featured internationally in blogs, journals, and websites.

Marty teaches English at Florida Southwestern State College and has been a faculty member in the SNHU Creative Writing MFA program; she was a NISOD winner for faculty excellence, grant award recipient, and Master Teacher. She completed her M.Phil. at the University of York (England) and teaches nineteenth-century British literature, composition, and fiction writing. She has also given numerous workshops in the U.S. and abroad on all aspects of creating/publishing a novel.

She has edited the FSW literary journal, served on student scholarship boards, and is a member of The Byron Society, Historical Novel Society, and Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

Meet Bella from Hotel Portofino by J. P. O’Connell

Hello Bella. I hear you’re about to move to Italy?

You heard correctly! I’m moving to the beautiful coastal town of Portofino to open a very special hotel. Not just me, of course. My family will be accompanying me: my husband, Cecil, and our grown-up children Lucian and Alice. 

Why are you opening a hotel?

It’s always been a dream of mine. And our lives in London had begun to feel rather stale and unprofitable. I’ve loved Italy ever since I was a girl and… to tell you the truth, we all need a change. Lucian was badly wounded in the Great War. Alice’s husband lost his life. I’m hoping this new venture will restore us and bring us closer together.

You and your husband included?

[Blushes] That’s a difficult subject. It’s true, we don’t always see eye to eye. And Cecil can be quite unpleasant when he’s had too much to drink. But he’s been very supportive of my hotel idea… I don’t know. People are complicated, aren’t they?

Tell me about your guests.

We’re fully booked all through the summer, which is quite an achievement. We have Cecil’s old flame Julia Drummond-Ward coming with her daughter, Rose. She’s supposed to be very beautiful and we’re hoping she might prove a suitable match for Lucian. Then there’s Lady Latchmere, a grand old dowager who I must admit is rather demanding. (I say ‘old’ – she can’t be much older than me.) We have a couple of Americans arriving next week: an art collector called Jack Turner and his wife, Claudine. At least, I *think* she’s his wife… She’s a singer in Paris. I hoped we might attract some Italian guests and I’m pleased to say we’ve had a booking from one Count Albani and his son, Roberto. The Count is something of an Anglophile and studied at Oxford, I believe.   

With so many guests, there can’t be much room for friends.

That’s true, though we do have Lucian’s close friend Anish staying. He’s a charming Indian gentleman. Very clever and kind – it’s no exaggeration to say he saved Lucian’s life. In a funny sort of way I count our cook, Betty, as a friend. I know one shouldn’t say such a thing, but she’s been with the family for such a long time. Sometimes I feel I know her better than my own children.

How are you finding Italy so far?

It’s exquisite – the climate, the view, the people. The political situation troubles me, of course. Mussolini is a thoroughly unpleasant character. But I’m an optimist by nature. As far as I’m concerned, Italy has always stood for truth and beauty and I can’t see that changing any time soon.

JP O’Connell is a writer and editor. He lives in south London with his wife and two children.

JP O’Connell has worked as an editor and writer for a variety of newspapers and magazines including Time Out, The Guardian, The Times, and the Daily Telegraph. JP has also written several books including a novel, a celebration of letter-writing, a spice encyclopedia, and, most recently, an analysis of David Bowie’s favorite books and the ways they influenced his music.

Publication Information
Title: HOTEL PORTOFINO
Author: J.P. O’Connell
Format: Trade Paperback Original
ISBN: 9798200875047
Pub Date: January 18, 2022
Price: $17.99
Genre: Fiction/Historical

An Interview with Lord Byron from A Shadowed Fate by Marty Ambrose

We are going to speak today with British poet, Lord Byron, at the Palazzo Guiccioli in Ravenna, Italy.  He is handsome, brilliant, pop-star famous and, most interestingly, a member of an Italian revolutionary movement.  Welcome, Lord Byron!

Q:  First of all, I want to ask you about your connection to Claire Clairmont.  Was she one of the great loves of your life?

Lord Byron:  That is a complicated question since I am not the type of man who talks about his lovers.  All I can say is I connected with Claire in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1816, during a dark period of my life.  I had left England under a scandalous cloud—bruised and battered, without hope of gaining any sense of redemption.  She was seventeen and like a balm on my soul.  And she introduced me to my fellow poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife, Mary Shelley—who became great friends.  I confess that I have had more than one great love in my life, but Claire was like no other woman:  passionate, stubborn, maddening.  Sadly, there were forces that drove us apart . . . I must keep that part secret since it involves our daughter, Allegra. 

Q:  Do you mind telling us about Allegra?

Lord Byron:  I named her Allegra, meaning “cheerful and brisk”—she is all of that and more.  Pretty. Intelligent.  And a devil of a spirit, like both of her parents.  I must admit that she wants her own way in everything, and I indulge her.  My love child.  Claire wanted her to live with me, so I could raise her with all the advantages of wealth and rank, but I also wanted my child to know the true affection of her own father.  Unfortunately, I did not realize how tenuous the situation would become in Ravenna and that I would need all of my resources to protect her.  My most trusted bodyguard, Tita, watches over her in the day, and I keep her close in the evenings, reading poetry to her in both English and Italian. But things are deteriorating quickly, and I may have to make other arrangements for my Allegrina—much as I cannot bear to part from her.   

Q:  Speaking of Ravenna, Italy, could you tell us why you chose to live in such a small town?

Lord Byron:  Ah, Ravenna.  I wrote about it in my poem, Don Juan:

                  SWEET hour of twilight! in the solitude

                  Of the pine forest, and the silent shore

                  Which bounds Ravenna’s immemorial wood, . . . 

I settled here in 1820, because my Italian inamorata, Teresa Guiccioli, lives in the city with her husband, Count Guiccioli.  It sounds shocking I know, but I became her cavaliere servant—a professed lover with her husband’s permission, of course.  The whole arrangement is accepted in Italy.  And I am not the type of man who wishes to live without love.  Claire and I can never be together again so, when I met Teresa in Venice, I knew love had come into my life once more.  And I bonded with her father and brother, becoming part of a family—something I never had when I was a boy.  They not only accepted me, but introduced me to the Carbonari, a secret society that is plotting against the Austrian oppressors. I cannot give too many details on this development, except that my interests have expanded beyond poetry to include rebellion.  It might be a lost cause, but I am committed to it.

Q:  Are you still writing poetry?

Lord Byron:  Oh, yes . . . “The Prophecy of Dante” in honor of the great Italian poet and in support of a free Italy.

Q:  Can you at least explain what the Carbonariare trying to accomplish?

Lord Byron:  Not at this time, except to say that it is a loosely-organized secret society based on the Freemasons, and the clusters are organized all around Italy.  I was inducted into the Ravenna lodge shortly after I became acquainted with Teresa’s brother, Pietro.  We believe in revolutionary idealism and will do anything to see a free and united Italy. I cannot reveal any more . . .

Q:  I’m intrigued, especially because of your fame and status.  Did you find being a well-known poet created a sense of respect for you among the Carbonari?

Lord Bryon:  Well, I have access to certain diplomatic channels that the Italians do not, and they know I would share any intelligence that I acquire.  I am not sure being a poet garners me respect more than my singular belief in the cause of liberty.  At least, I hope so.

Q:  You document everything in your memoir.  Did you ever think of publishing it?

Lord Byron:  Memoirs are a tricky thing.  They can be a recording of daily activities like my Ravenna Journal, but they can also contain a certain amount of detail which  could destroy reputations, maybe even end lives.  I would never want to see that happen.  There are events in my memoir that few people are aware of and a wider audience does not need to know, so I intend to keep the memoir hidden among only two of my closest friends:  Angelo Mengaldo and Edward Trelawny.  I trust them with my life.

Q:  Back to your fame:  Did it make it possible for you to “bend the rules” as an exile living in Italy?

Lord Byron:  I can bend the rules because I am known mostly as the “mad English lord,” which I use to my advantage.  I can come and go without being watched too closely—and my “fame” provides me cover as a man of words, not action.  I keep a large, chaotic household and travel with an entourage—but that is all pretense for my role in the Italian rebellion.  Nevertheless, I know not to “bend” the rules too far since flyers have circulated around Ravenna with my picture and a single word: Traditore!  Traitor.  So,  I am being more careful about my movements not only to protect myself but also Allegra.  She must not be harmed because of my allegiances in Ravenna.

Q:  You do everything in your power to shield your daughter, Allegra.  Can you tell us about her fate?  

Lord Byron:  I would sacrifice my life to keep her safe from harm, and I may have to remove her from Ravenna to a place where she can be sheltered from the insanity that has descended on the city.  A man was actually shot in front of my palazzo; he died in my study. After that I would not allow Allegra to outside these walls without Tita—and now I seek to shelter her far from this place.  It seems to be the only way, but my heart breaks at sending her away.  As her Papa,  I must think of her wellbeing first.  And I know Claire will not like it.

Q:  So you still think about Claire?

Lord Byron:  Every day.

Thank you for speaking to us today.

About the author:

Marty Ambrose has been a writer most of her life, consumed with the world of literature whether teaching English at Florida Southwestern State College, Southern New Hampshire University or creating her own fiction.  Her writing career has spanned almost fifteen years, with eight published novels for Avalon Books, Kensington Books, Thomas & Mercer—and, now, Severn House. 

A few years ago, Marty had the opportunity to take a new creative direction that builds on her interest in the Romantic poets: historical fiction.  Her first book in a trilogy, Claire’s Last Secret, combines memoir and mystery in a genre-bending narrative of the Byron/Shelley “haunted summer,” with Claire Clairmont, as the protagonist/sleuth—the “almost famous” member of the group.  Her second novel, A Shadowed Fate, begins where the first novel ends with Claire on an “odyssey” through Italy to find the fate of her daughter, Allegra, whom she now believes might have survived; her narrative plays out with Byron’s memoir from 1821, and Allegra’s own story.   It will be published by Severn House on 3/3/2020 in the U.S.

Marty lives on an island in Southwest Florida with her husband, former news-anchor, Jim McLaughlin, where they tend their mango grove.  They are planning a two-week trip to Italy to research the third book, Forever Past.  Luckily, Jim is fluent in Italian and shares her love of history, literature, and travel. 

Book Review: Waltz With Destiny by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

51teoT5RTyLAs Hitler and his Nazis march across Europe…

The splendors of Detroit’s ballrooms spin Esther (McConnell) Meir around like a princess in a fairy tale Here she meets junior engineer Eric Erhardt. But will Eric abandon his playboy ways for Esther?

When war comes to America’s shores, Esther questions whether she has the grit to carry on the McConnell legacy. Meanwhile, Eric comes face to face with death when he’s drafted into the Army and shipped to fight in Italy.

Once again, war separates a McConnell woman from the man she loves as the Destiny saga reaches a page-turning conclusion.

Award-winning historical fiction author Catherine Ulrich Brakefield weaves fiction with real-life events to create this inspirational fourth book of the Destiny series.

My Review:

Catherine Ulrich Brakefield’s Waltz with Destiny is the crown jewel of the Destiny series!
Brakefield brings 1940s Detroit to life, along with the WWII battlefields of Italy.

Esther Meier, daughter of Ruby (McConnell) Meier, has a legacy of faith to live up to and an unsure future with war looming and her annoying attraction to a man who seems to flirt with every girl who glances sideways at him.

Eric Erhardt is studying to be an engineer but also wants to win his father’s approval. Handsome and talented, he can’t see it in himself. When he meets Esther at the Vanity Ballroom, he finds there’s something different about her with her faith and the way she conducts herself. She captures his heart like no other girl. Though love grows between them, both are afraid to admit it and commit themselves to the relationship, especially with the war in full swing.

Brakefield has outdone herself in bringing to life battles of WWII as seen through Eric’s eyes: the angst, fear, deprivation, bravery, death, and injury that surrounded the men of the United States Army. It’s a good read to remind us of the sacrifices of those that have gone before us that have maintained our freedom at sobering cost, along with God’s grace and answered prayer.

Yet Esther is never far from Eric’s thoughts while he is away. And while she is faithful to write encouraging words to him she wonders … should she wait for him? It’s worth reading to find out! You won’t want to put this one down!