Memorial of Joseph and Xavier de Maistre in front of the Castle of Chambery
Xavier de Maistre (1763 – June 12, 1852) was a Savoyard military man. The younger brother of Joseph de Maistre, Xavier was born at Chambéry in October 1763. He served when young in the Piedmontese army, and wrote his delightful fantasy, Voyage autour de ma chambre (Journey Around My Room, published 1794) when he was under arrest at Turin in consequence of a duel.
Xavier shared the politics and the loyalty of his brother, and on the annexation of Savoy to France, he left the service, and took a commission in the Russian army. He served under Suvarov in his victorious Austro-Russian campaign and accompanied the marshal to Russia. He shared the disgrace of his general, and supported himself for some time in St. Petersburg by miniature painting.
On his brother's arrival in St. Petersburg Xavier de Maistre was introduced to the Minister of the Navy. He was appointed to several posts in the capital, but also saw active service, was wounded in the Caucasus, and attained the rank of major-general. He married a Russian lady and established himself in his adopted country, even after the overthrow of Napoleon, and the consequent restoration of the Piedmontese dynasty.
For a time, however, he lived at Naples, but he returned to St Petersburg and died there in 1852. He was only once in Paris (in 1839), when Sainte-Beuve, who has left some pleasant reminiscences of him, met him. Besides the Voyage already mentioned, Xavier de Maistre's works (all of which are of very modest dimensions) are Le Lépreux de la Cité d'Aoste (1811), a touching little story of human misfortune; Les Prisonniers du Caucase, a powerful sketch of Russian character, La Jeune Sibérienne, and the Expedition nocturne, a sequel to the Voyage autour de ma chambre (1825). His style is of remarkable ease and purity.
His work is mentioned in British author Alain de Botton's book The Art of Travel (2002, ISBN 0-375-42082-7).
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