Trench, Melesina (1768–1827)

views updated

Trench, Melesina (1768–1827)

Irish writer best known for her journals and correspondence. Born Melesina Chenevix on March 22, 1768, in Dublin, Ireland; died on May 27, 1827, in Dublin; married Richard St. George (a colonel), in 1786 (died 1788); married Richard Trench (a barrister), in 1803; children: (first marriage) one son; (second marriage) three sons, including Francis Chenevix Trench (1806–1886) and Richard Chenevix Trench (1807–1886).

Principal works:

Campaspe: An Historical Tale (1815); Thoughts of a Parent on Education (1837); Remains (edited by Richard Chenevix Trench, 1862).

Melesina Trench was born in Dublin, Ireland, on March 22, 1768, to parents of Huguenot descent. After their deaths early in her childhood, she was raised by her paternal grandfather, the bishop of Waterford. He died in 1779, and she was transferred to the care of her mother's father, Archdeacon Gervais, whose library provided the bulk of her education. Melesina was much celebrated as a beauty by 1786, the year she married Colonel Richard St. George. The couple had one son before Richard's death two years later. Beginning in 1797, Trench spent ten years living in Germany and in France, where she met leaders and prominent citizens from all over Europe, including Lord Horatio Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton . During this time, she wrote a series of journals and letters that are now hailed both as important historical documents and as literary achievements.

While in Europe, Melesina met Richard Trench, a barrister who was six years her junior. Shortly after their marriage in 1803, he was captured and imprisoned in France by Napoleon Bonaparte. Melesina petitioned Napoleon for her husband's release in 1806, and the following year they and their first son escaped from France and returned to Dublin. The marriage proved happy, and three of their sons would survive childhood. Two of these achieved fame in their own right as writers and theologians; Francis Chenevix Trench attended Oriel College at Oxford University and became rector of Islip and a well-known essayist, while Richard Chenevix Trench became a noted Irish philologist, poet, and theologian, and served as archbishop of Dublin from 1864 until his death in 1886. Trench lived the rest of her life in Dublin, writing novels, poetry, and essays until her death in 1827. None of these achieved the success of her posthumously published journals about her life and acquaintances in Europe during some of the years of Napoleon's reign, which her son Richard edited and released under the title Remains in 1862.


The Concise Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Kunitz, Stanley J., and Howard Haycraft, eds. British Authors of the Nineteenth Century. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1936.

Gillian S. Holmes , freelance writer, Hayward, California