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Chateaubriand requested that his memoirs remain unpublished until after his death lest he be forced to be 'less frank and truthful'.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's 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