Europe in the Looking Glass – Robert Byron, Jan Morris (Foreword)
Three rich young Englishmen cross pre-World War II Europe in an old car with a mixture of laugh-out-loud humor and perceptive commentary on art and architecture
Turning a corner we suddenly found ourselves sliding down a precipice, tilted so far forward that it was necessary to hold ourselves back with our hands pressed against the dashboard, as half a dozen Apennine valleys beckoned invitingly below. Here [St Peter’s] Popes with black faces and golden crowns are wallowing twice life-size in the titanic folds of marble tablecloths, their ormolu fringes festooning upon the arms of graceful skeletons to disclose some Alice-in-Wonderland door or the grim hinges of some sepulchral grill . . .
Best known as the author of The Road to Oxiana, published in 1937, Robert Byron had developed his considerable writing skills on this travel book which has not been in print since 1926. It describes a journey Byron made with three friends, driving across Europe between two world wars, and mixes political and historical analysis with architectural insights, classical scholarship, and the day-to-day adventures of three young and not very experienced travelers. For fans of Robert Byron’s work this will be a discovery; for others it will be an introduction. Includes nine original sketches made by the author during his travels.