Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb
Introduced by Philip Mansel
Translated by Robert Baldick
Chateaubriand requested that his memoirs remain unpublished until after his death lest he be forced to be ‘less frank and truthful’. The result is a hugely entertaining autobiography, providing a vivid picture of France during the most tumultuous period of her history.
‘Thank you very much for sending me the beautiful-looking volume of Chateaubriand’s memoirs you’ve published. It looks glorious’
- Andrew Roberts
By the time he came to write his memoirs, François-René de Chateaubriand had lived enough to fill the biographies of ten men. Born in St Malo in 1768 to a wealthy family, he was to become a soldier, a traveller, a politician and a celebrated writer. Disturbed by the violent excesses of the Revolution, he fled to America in 1791, where he claimed to have interviewed George Washington. Always a monarchist at heart, he joined a Royalist army on returning to France in 1792 and reluctantly got married, but was wounded in battle and exiled to England, leaving behind his new bride.
Returning to France for a second time – on this occasion leaving behind an English mistress – Chateaubriand became a favourite of Napoleon, who appointed him minister to Valais. However, disgusted by Napoleon’s decision to execute Louis XVI’ cousin, Chateaubriand left once again and travelled through Greece, Palestine and Egypt. On his return to France he wrote a damning criticism of Napoleon, who threatened to have him ‘sabred on the steps of the Tuileries’.
Following the Hundred Days War and Napoleon’s final defeat, Chateaubriand became a French peer and state minister, eventually rising to the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs. However, after the July Revolution, he refused to swear allegiance to the new king and effectively ended his political career. Living as a recluse in Paris he spent the last 15 years of his life writing his memoirs, which were published to great acclaim after his death in 1848. In his day Chateaubriand was the most celebrated author of the First Empire, and his influence on French literature, especially on Lamartine and Victor Hugo, is incalculable.
Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb is an extraordinary account of a uniquely adventurous and frenzied life, described by historian Philip Mansel in his introduction as ‘a masterpiece’. Bristling with exotic adventures, heroic battles and ‘the loneliness of a restless soul’, it conveys not just the character of the man but the character of an age. This edition features 12 pages of colour plates and a frontispiece, as well as 8 integrated pencil sketches sourced from the Louvre, depicting the life of the author, and printed endpapers.
‘The hard cover edition is excellent, and worthy of the great man!’
- Philip Mansel
Abridged edition using the 1961 Robert Baldick translation
Bound in blocked cloth
Set in Van Dijck
Frontispiece and 12 pages of coloured plates, and 8 black & white integrated images
10˝ x 6¼˝
About François-René de Chateaubriand
François-René de Chateaubriand (1768–1848) was a French writer, politician and diplomat, and was considered the founder of French Romanticism. Born in St Malo, the last of ten children to an aristocratic family, Chateaubriand received an army commission aged 17 in 1786. Disturbed by the excesses of the Revolution, he departed for America in 1791 but returned the following year after receiving news of the arrest of Louis XVI. After marrying, he joined the royalist army but was wounded at the battle of Thionville and was exiled to England for seven years. His Romantic novel Atala was published in 1801 to immediate success, and shortly afterwards his apology to Christianity, Le Génie du christianisme (1802), won favour with both royalists and Napoleon alike. Appointed secretary to the legation to the Holy See in 1803, he resigned his post the following year in protest at the execution of the Duc d’Enghien. After the Bourbon Restoration, Chateaubriand was made a viscount and state minister, and eventually became ambassador to Prussia, and the UK, and Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1822. He spent the last 15 years of his life in Paris, writing much of his Mémoires, which were published to great acclaim shortly after his death.
About Robert Baldick
Robert Baldick (1927–72) was a fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, and of the Royal Society of Literature. He was a scholar of French literature, a writer, joint editor of the Penguin Classics series with Betty Radice and a well-known translator. His books include biographies of Joris-Karl Huysmans, Frédérick Lemaître and Henry Murger, and a history of the Siege of Paris. Baldick edited and translated The Goncourt Journals, as well as works by Gustave Flaubert, Chateaubriand, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jules Verne, Henri Barbusse and Georges Simenon.
About Philip Mansel
Philip Mansel (1951–) is a historian of France and the Middle East, whose books include Louis XVIII (1981), The Court of France 1789–1830 (1989), Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire 1453–1924 (1995), Paris between Empires (2001), Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean (2010) and Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria’s Great Merchant City (2016). Mansel is also editor of The Court Historian, journal of the Society for Court Studies, and is currently working on a biography of Louis XIV.