Elizabeth Bowen's account of a time spent in Rome is no ordinary guidebook but an evocation of a city - its history, its architecture and, above all, its atmosphere. She describes the famous classical sites, conjuring from the ruins visions of former inhabitants and their often bloody activities and speculates about the immense noise of ancient Rome, the problems caused by the Romans' dining posture, and the Roman temperament. She evokes the city's moods - by day, when it is characterised by golden sunlight, and at night, when the blaze of the moon 'annihilates history'.
Elizabeth Bowen was born in Dublin in 1899, the only child of an Irish lawyer and land-owner. She travelled a great deal, dividing most of her time between London and Bowen's Court, the family house in County Cork which she inherited. Her first book, a collection of shorts stories, Encounters, was published in 1923. The Hotel (1926) was her first novel. She was awarded the CBE in 1948, and received honorary degrees from Trinity College, Dublin in 1949, and from Oxford University in 1956. The Royal Society of Literature made her a Companion of Literature in 1965. Elizabeth Bowen died in 1973.