A Mile or Two outside Worthing

Richard Jenkyns

  • Lord Byron’s Jackal: A Life of Trelawny by David Crane
    HarperCollins, 398 pp, £19.99, July 1998, ISBN 0 00 255631 6

And shall Trelawny die? It seems not, since David Crane’s book is the fourth life of him to have been published in the last sixty years. Yet it is an odd sort of immortality which leaves a man with someone else’s name in the title of his biography. It was Joseph Severn, the amiable artist whose kindness sweetened Keats’s last months, who referred to Trelawny as ‘Lord Byron’s jackal’. The phrase was less harsh than it may seem to a modern ear, since a jackal, in the parlance of the time, was someone who busied himself on another’s behalf; but for Crane the metaphor has both a keener and a darker edge. He calls his first chapter ‘The Wolf Cub’, and finds in Trelawny a variety of lupine characteristics: courage, fierceness, savagery and a prowling restlessness; both loyalty and ingratitude; the passion to attach himself to a leader and the readiness to turn on that leader should he faint or fail.

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