Sketches in Williams's notebook. Click to view larger image.

A page of sketches in
Williams' notebook.**

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A collection of books, articles, and manuscripts by, about, and directly relating to Edward John Trelawny (1792–1881), author of several popular and influential works and memoirs about Byron and Shelley, is now part of the Libraries of The Claremont Colleges and is housed in Special Collections, Honnold/Mudd Library. Accumulated over a period of fifty years by Donald B. Prell, the core of the Collection is composed of more than 65 works comprising more than 115 volumes.

Trelawny perhaps is best known for his memoir, Adventures of a Younger Son (1831), present in the Collection in the rare first and subsequent editions. Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron (1858) is an important—and contested—source document about the named poets and their circle. It established Trelawny as the authority on Shelley until the mid–20th century.

Trelawny's writings were popular during his lifetime, witness the many editions of his works published in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and those various editions are present in the Prell Collection. Of particular note in the Collection is a manuscript notebook of Edward Ellerker Williams dating from about 1819–1820. Williams, a retired military officer, was living in Switzerland with Shelley's cousin Thomas Medwin when he was introduced by Medwin to Shelley. Also, about this time, Trelawny joined Medwin, Williams, and Shelley, living together during those fateful days leading up to the sailing accident in which Shelley and Williams were drowned.

In his notebooks Williams recorded his travels during his stint in the Navy then afterward on the Continent with his friends and family, and are an important source for study of Shelley's last days. The notebook in the Prell Collection contains many sketches, botanical specimens, fragments of poems, and one particular pencil portrait that might be of Shelley. Other libraries that hold Williams' notebooks include the British Library, the Carl H. Pforzheimer collection at the New York Public Library and The Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford.

The Prell Collection of Edward Trelawny enhances the Honnold/Mudd Library's excellent collection of British authors in Special Collections' rare book collection; it has been accessioned into the Clary Oxford Collection in recognition of Shelley's time at Oxford as well as Mr. Prell's friendship with William Clary.

** Transcription of text that appears at top of page from Williams' notebook:

Must people render themselves ridiculous, not by appearing what they are, but by appearing what they are not?

For more information:

To see a list of items in the Collection, search "Prell Collection" in our online catalog, Blais, using either keyword or title searches.

Contact Special Collections

Other collections of interest:

William W. Clary Oxford Collection

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