Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Williams, Edward Elliker

WILLIAMS, EDWARD ELLIKER (1793–1822), the friend of Shelley, was born on 27 April 1793. His father, a merchant chiefly resident in India, died before his son attained his majority. Williams was for a short time at Eton, and on leaving entered the navy, but about 1811 obtained a cavalry commission in the East India Company's service, and spent several years in India. Possessing talent as a draughtsman, he devoted much of his spare time to making drawings of Indian scenery and architecture, most of which are still preserved. On or just before his return he united himself to the lady afterwards celebrated in Shelley's verse, and in 1820, perhaps in consequence of losses sustained by the failure of an Indian bank, took up his residence with her at Geneva, where he renewed acquaintance with a brother Indian officer, Thomas Medwin [q. v.], a kinsman and acquaintance of Shelley. Edward John Trelawny [q. v.] joined their circle, and Medwin's stories of Shelley made him and Williams resolve to seek the poet out. The Williamses arrived at Pisa in the summer of 1821, and soon became intimate with the Shelleys. Many of Shelley's later poems are addressed to Jane Williams; and Williams co-operated in Shelley's pursuits, writing down a translation of Spinoza from Shelley's dictation, copying his 'Hellas' for the press, and even composing a tragedy under his tutorship. He is the ‘Melchior’ of Shelley's ‘Boat on the Serchio.’ His previous experience in the navy combined with Shelley's passion for the sea to effect the construction of the ill-starred yacht Don Juan, in which both perished on their return from Leghorn to Lerici, 8 July 1822 [see Shelley, Percy Bysshe]. Williams left a son, afterwards employed in the home service of the East India Company, and a daughter, married to a son of Leigh Hunt. Both had children, now living. Williams's body was cremated in the same manner as Shelley's; the ashes, preserved by his widow during her protracted life, were, by her direction, interred with her own remains in Kensal Green cemetery.

[Biographies of Shelley, Dowden, Medwin, and Trelawny; private information.]

R. G.