The Marquis de Custine's unique perspective on a vast, fascinating country in the grip of oppressive tyranny
In 1839, encouraged by his friend Balzac, Custine set out to explore Russia. His impressions turned into what is perhaps the greatest and most influential of all books about Russia under the Tsars.
Rich in anecdotes as much about the court of Tsar Nicholas as the streets of St Petersburg, Custine is as brilliant writing about the Kremlin as he is about the great northern landscapes. An immediate bestseller on publication, Custine's book is also a central book for any discussion of 19th century history, as - like de Tocqueville's Democracy in America - it dramatizes far broader questions about the nature of government and society.
Astolphe Louis Leonor, Marquis de Custine, was born in 1790. Both his grandfather and father were executed during the Terror. Raised by his remarkable mother, Custine became a diplomat and attended the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Custine's homosexuality became the subject of a public scandal in 1824 and ended his career. He devoted the rest of his life to travel and literature. In 1839 he made the journey that resulted in his masterpiece, Letters from Russia. Custine died in 1857.