In 1790, as a young officer in the Piedmontese army, Xavier de Maistre participated in a duel. It is not known whether his opponent perished or was wounded; de Maistre records no injury to himself. As punishment for the duel he was confined to his own quarters in Turin for 42 days. During his house arrest he wrote this short book. The conceit is that although the author is incarcerated, he is free to travel in his imagination.