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Robert Byron

critic , historian , writer

Robert Byron was a British travel writer, best known for his travelogue The Road to Oxiana. He was also a noted writer, art critic and historian.

Education

Byron was educated at Eton and Merton College, Oxford, from which he was expelled for his hedonistic and rebellious manner. He was best known at Oxford for his impersonation of Queen Victoria.

Career

Byron travelled to widely different places; Mount Athos, India, the Soviet Union, and Tibet. However it was in Persia and Afghanistan that he found the subject round which he forged his style of modern travel writing, when he later came to write up his account of The Road to Oxiana in Peking, his temporary home.

However, in his day, Byron's travel books were outsold by those of writers Peter Fleming and Evelyn Waugh.

An appreciation of architecture is a strong element in Byron's writings and he was a forceful advocate for the preservation of historic buildings, and was a founder member of the Georgian Group. A philhellene, he was also amongst the pioneers in a reinterest in Byzantine History and has been called 'one of the first and most brilliant of twentieth century philhellenes'.

Robert Byron's British Passport issued in 1923.

Achievements

  • Prince Charles read Byron's prose All These I Learnt on British Broadcasting Corporation Radio 4 on National Poetry Day, 5 October 2006.

    In February 2012, his book 'Europe in the Looking Glass' was serialised by British Broadcasting Corporation's Radio 4 Book of the Week. The program included detailed passages of Germany and an eye-witness report of the 1922 Greek refugee exodus and massacres following the Great Fire of Smyrna.

Works

  • The Road to Oxiana

  • The Station

  • First Russia, Then Tibet

  • The Appreciation of Architecture

Views

Realism

Interests

  • Politicians

    Prince Charles

  • Other Interests

    Travelling, literature

Connections

He attended the last Nuremberg Rally, in 1938, with Nazi sympathiser Unity Mitford. Byron knew her through his friendship with her sister Nancy Mitford, but he was an outspoken opponent of the Nazis.

Robert's great, though unreciprocated, passion was for Desmond Parsons, younger brother of the 6th Earl of Rosse, who was regarded as one of the most magnetic men of his generation.

They lived together in Peking, in 1934, where Desmond developed Hodgkin’s Disease, of which he died in Zurich, in 1937, when only twenty-six years old. Robert was left utterly devastated.