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Robert Byron Biography

(1905–41), Europe in the Looking-Glass, The Station, The Byzantine Achievement, The Road to Oxiana

British travel writer, born in Wembley, London, educated at Merton College, Oxford, where he cultivated the independent aesthetic values central to his writings. In his final undergraduate year he made the journey to Greece recorded in Europe in the Looking-Glass (1926), its buoyant tone anticipating the energetic style of later works. The Station (1928), dealing with the monasteries of Mount Athos, and The Byzantine Achievement (1929) advance his belief that classical Greek culture found its most mature realization in Byzantine art and architecture. During the early 1930s he travelled widely in India, Persia, Tibet, Russia, and elsewhere. He was drowned while making his way to Meshed as a newspaper correspondent after the ship on which he was travelling was torpedoed. The Road to Oxiana (1937), his most celebrated work, investigates the origins of Islamic architecture in the course of a journey from Italy to India; the book, which retains the vivid immediacy of the journals from which it was prepared, combines erudition and entertainment in a manner that influenced numerous succeeding travel writers. Byron's other publications include An Essay on India (1931) and First Russia, then Tibet (1933). His sister Lucy Butler edited his Letters Home (1991).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Burghers of Calais to Peter Carey Biography