Based on the latter years of the Vicomte Chateaubriand, this urbane, epigrammatic and splendid novel deals with the reluctant aging of a lover of women and worldly pleasures who finally returns to his wife. Chateaubriand at this time is 61, the French Ambassador to Rome, friend to the dying Pope, a lavish host, a man of letters. He is involved in two unsavory liaisons, one with a demi-mondaine who leaves him for Lord Bulwer-Iytton, and one with a Princess whose impotent husband tries to kill him. Opulent parties, filled with historical personages, and intimate bedroom scenes, are interspersed with the noble, terrible visions of the dying Pope. And through it all the assassin dogs the aging adulterer, failing again and again to kill him. This high drama, improbable and at times curiously cold, is nonetheless absorbing, elegantly intelligent and extremely well written. It is a darkling look at the later years which bring their humbling of desire and pride.