Robert Byron was a British travel writer, best known for his travelogue The Road to Oxiana.
Robert Byron (Wembley, Middlesex, 26 February 1905 - off Cape Wrath, Scotland, 24 February 1941) was a British travel writer, best known for his travelogue The Road to Oxiana. He was also a noted writer, art critic and historian.
Byron was born in 1905, and 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. He died in 1941, during the Second World War, when the ship on which he was travelling was torpedoed by a U-Boat off Cape Wrath, Scotland, en route to Egypt.
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
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.
Robert died aged 35 in 1941 after his ship, the SS Jonathan Holt, was torpedoed by a U-boat in the North Atlantic. His body was never found.Prince Charles read Byron's prose All These I Learnt on BBC Radio 4 on National Poetry Day, 5 October 2006.