F. Marion Crawford was born on August 2, 1854, in Bagni de Lucca, Tuscany, Italy. He was the son of the American sculptor Thomas Crawford. He was educated by a French governess; then at St. Paul's School, Concord, N.H.; in the quiet country village of Hatfield Regis, under an English tutor; at Trinity College, Cambridge, where they thought him to become a mathematician; at Heidelberg and Karlsruhe, and at the University of Rome, where a special interest in Oriental languages sent him to India with the idea of preparing for a professorship. He spent a short time as a newspaper editor there. His first novel, Mr. Isaacs, was published in 1882. During his lifetime, he wrote over forty novels and one play, Francesca da Rimini. His novels include Dr. Claudius, A Roman Singer, A Cigarette Maker's Romance, The Witch of Prague, The Heart of Rome, and The Diva's Ruby. He died on April 9, 1909.
In the year 1844, modern civilization had not yet set in, and Subiaco was, within, what it still appears to be from without, a somewhat gloomy stronghold of the Middle Ages, rearing its battlements and towers in a shadowy gorge, above a mountain torrent, inhabited by primitive and passionate people, dominated by ecclesiastical institutions, and, though distinctly Roman, a couple of hundred years behind Rome itself in all matters ethic and ¾sthetic. It was still the scene of the Santacroce murder, which really decided Beatrice Cenci's fate; it was still the gathering place of highwaymen and outlaws, whose activity found an admirable field through all the region of hill and plain between the Samnite range and the sea, while the almost inaccessible fortresses of the higher mountains, towards Trevi and the Serra di Sant' Antonio, offered a safe refuge from the halfhearted pursuit of Pope Gregory's lazy soldiers.Ê