Trench, Melesina Chenevix (1768–1826), writer, was born 22 March 1768 in Dublin, the only child of the Rev. Philip Chenevix , vicar (1768–71) of Kilmeadan, Co. Waterford, and chancellor (1769–71) of the diocese of Waterford, and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Archdeacon Gervais (d. 1790). Orphaned before she was four years old, she was sent to live with her grandfather, Dr Richard Chenevix (qv), bishop of Waterford, and on his death resided for a year with her kinswoman, Lady Lifford, before going to her maternal grandfather, Archdeacon Gervais, where she remained until her marriage (31 October 1786) to Col. Richard St George of Carrick-on-Shannon and Hartley St George, Cambridgeshire. She was an heiress through both grandfathers and inherited from them, in addition, her habit of study. St George's regiment was quartered in Cork, and there the couple spent most of their brief married life, until she took her ailing husband to Portugal, where he died in March 1790. The next ten years she lived in seclusion with the only child from the marriage, but in October 1799 she embarked on a long visit to Germany, where she spent a year, travelling extensively and staying always with prestigious hosts, including the duke of Brunswick and the British consul in Dresden. This awoke her spirits and she began a journal, which she kept until her death. On her return she was in Ireland for a year. When visiting property she owned in Ballitore, Kildare, she met the quaker writer Mary Leadbeater (qv), with whom she began a lifelong friendship and correspondence. Leadbeater left a memorable description of their first meeting, which testifies to the beauty, charm, and dignity for which Trench was known.
Visiting Paris in 1802, she met and married (3 March 1803) a barrister, Richard Trench (1774–1860) from Co. Galway, the younger brother of Frederick Trench (1755–1840), who was made Lord Ashtown in 1800. Both the Chenevixes and Trenches were of huguenot origin. The end of the peace of Amiens meant the Trenches were five years in France before they were allowed to return to England. Thereafter they visited Ireland frequently but never lived there. To Mary Leadbeater's request that she return, Trench replied that the religion, education, and care for the poor in England made it a far superior country to bring up children. She divided her time between an estate in Hampshire and a house in London, and used the former to immerse herself in reading and educate her children, and the latter to socialise. She died in Malvern on 27 May 1826; her youngest son died soon after and was the fourth of her children to die young. Of her four surviving sons, two were rectors and authors; the third, Richard Chenevix Trench (qv), became archbishop of Dublin.
Like her favourite author, Madame de Sévigné, Trench wrote neither for an audience nor fame but gained both posthumously through letters and journals. A number of poems were privately and anonymously issued in 1815 and 1816, but she did not reach a wide readership until 1862, when her son, Richard Chenevix Trench, published the Remains of the late Mrs Trench, consisting of extracts from her letters, journals, and poems. That year also The Leadbeater papers, containing a large part of her correspondence with Leadbeater, were published. These volumes revealed to an admiring public a mind alternately lively, satirical, and socially observant, and interior, philosophical, emotional, and melancholic. The former attributes are seen to best effect in her German diary, which contains excellent and bitingly malicious descriptions of Admiral Nelson and Lady Hamilton; the latter in her accounts of her lonely childhood and the deaths of a son and her only daughter, which also occasioned her most moving verse.
Edward FitzGerald, author of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, compared her letters with those of Walpole and Southey. She differs from these, however, by a preoccupation with women's education and position in society, and by that marked and almost neurotic straining for self-improvement discernible in other educated women of the period.