The Life of George Borrow
Herbert Jenkins

Part 8 out of 9

On 5th April 1856 Mrs Borrow wrote again, requesting Murray to return
the manuscript, but for what purpose she does not state. Two days
later it was despatched by rail from Albemarle Street.

Some years before, Borrow had met Rev. Whitwell Elwin, Rector of
Booton, somewhere about the time he (Elwin) came up to London to edit
The Quarterly Review, viz., 1853. {431a} The first interview between
the two men has been described as characteristic of both.

"Borrow was just then very sore with his slashing critics, and on
someone mentioning that Elwin was a 'Quartering reviewer,' he said,
'Sir, I wish you a better employment.' Then hastily changing the
subject, he called out, 'What party are you in the Church--
Tractarian, Moderate, or Evangelical? I am happy to say, _I_ am the
old HIGH.' 'I am happy to say I am NOT,' was Elwin's emphatic reply.
Borrow boasted of his proficiency in the Norfolk dialect, which he
endeavoured to speak as broadly as possible. 'I told him,' said
Elwin, 'that he had not cultivated it with his usual success.' As
the conversation proceeded it became less disputatious, and the two
ended by becoming so cordial that they promised to visit each other.
Borrow fulfilled his promise in the following October, when he went
to Booton, and was 'full of anecdote and reminiscence,' and delighted
the rectory children by singing them songs in the gypsy tongue.
Elwin during this visit urged him to try his hand at an article for
the Review. 'Never,' he said, 'I have made a resolution never to
have anything to do with such a blackguard trade.'" {432a}

Elwin became greatly interested in The Romany Rye. He endeavoured to
influence its composition, and even wrote to Borrow begging him "to
give his sequel to Lavengro more of an historical, and less of a
romancing air." He was not happy about the book. He wrote to John
Murray in March:-

"'It is not the statements themselves which provoke incredulity, but
the melodramatic effect which he tries to impart to all his
adventures.' Instead of 'roaring like a lion,' in reply, as Elwin
had expected, he returned quite a 'lamb-like' note, which gave
promise of a greater success for his new work than its precursor."

Borrow appears to have become tired of biding his time with regard to
The Romany Rye, and on 27th Feb. 1857 he wrote to John Murray to say
that "the work must go to press, and that unless the printing is
forthwith commenced, I must come up to London and make arrangements
myself. Time is passing away. It ought to have appeared many years
ago. I can submit to no more delays." The work was accordingly
proceeded with, and Elwin wrote a criticism of the work for The
Quarterly Review from the proof-sheets:-

"When the review was almost finished, it was on the point of being
altogether withdrawn, owing to a passage in Romany Rye which Elwin
said was clearly meant to be a reflection on his friend Ford, 'to
avenge the presumed refusal of the latter to praise Lavengro in The
Quarterly Review.' 'I am very anxious,' he said, 'to get Borrow
justice for rare merits which have been entirely overlooked, but if
he persists in publishing an attack of this kind I shall, I fear, not
be able to serve him.' The objectionable paragraphs had been written
by Borrow under a misapprehension, and he cancelled them as soon as
he was convinced of his error." {433a}

John Murray determined not to publish the book unless the offending
passage were removed. He wrote to Borrow the following letter:-

8th April 1857.

My Dear Borrow,--When I have done anything towards you deserving of
apology I will not hesitate to offer one. As it is, I have acted
loyally towards you, and with a view to maintain your interests.

I agreed to publish your present work solely with the object of
obliging you, and in a great degree at the strong recommendation of
Cooke. I meant (as was my duty) to do my very best to promote its
success. You on your side promised to listen to me in regard to any
necessary omissions; and on the faith of this, I pointed out one
omission, which I make the indispensable condition of my proceeding
further with the book. I have asked nothing unfair nor unreasonable-
-nay, a compliance with the request is essential for your own
character as an author and a man.

You are the last man that I should ever expect to "frighten or
bully"; and if a mild but firm remonstrance against an offensive
passage in your book is interpreted by you into such an application,
I submit that the grounds for the notion must exist nowhere but in
your own imagination. The alternative offered to you is to omit or
publish elsewhere. Nothing shall compel me to PUBLISH what you have
written. Think calmly and dispassionately over this, and when you
have decided let me know.

Yours very faithfully,

The reference that had so offended Murray and Elwin had, in all
probability been interpolated in proof form, otherwise it would have
been discovered either when Murray read the manuscript or Elwin the
proofs. By return of post came the following reply from Borrow, then
at Great Yarmouth:-

Dear Sir,--Yesterday I received your letter. You had better ask your
cousin [Robert Cooke] to come down and talk about matters. AFTER
Monday I shall be disengaged and shall be most happy to see him. And
now I must tell you that you are exceedingly injudicious. You call a
chapter heavy, and I, not wishing to appear unaccommodating, remove
or alter two or three passages for which I do not particularly care,
whereupon you make most unnecessary comments, obtruding your private
judgment upon matters with which you have no business, and of which
it is impossible that you should have a competent knowledge. If you
disliked the passages you might have said so, but you had no right to
say anything more. I believe that you not only meant no harm, but
that your intentions were good; unfortunately, however, people with
the best of intentions occasionally do a great deal of harm. In your
language you are frequently in the highest degree injudicious; for
example, in your last letter you talk of obliging me by publishing my
work. Now is not that speaking very injudiciously? Surely you
forget that I could return a most cutting answer were I disposed to
do so.

I believe, however, that your intentions are good, and that you are
disposed to be friendly.--Yours truly,


The tone of this letter is strangely reminiscent of some of the Rev
Andrew Brandram's admonitions to Borrow himself, during his
association with the Bible Society. Borrow bowed to the wind, and
the offending passage was deleted, and The Romany Rye eventually
appeared on 30th April 1857, in an edition of a thousand copies. The
public, or such part of it as had not forgotten Borrow, had been kept
waiting six years to know what had happened on the morning after the
storm. Lavengro had ended by the postilion concluding his story with
"Young gentleman, I will now take a spell on your blanket--young
lady, good-night," and presumably the three, Borrow, Isopel Berners
and their guest had lain down to sleep, and a great quiet fell upon
the dingle, and the moon and the stars shone down upon it, and the
red glow from the charcoal in the brazier paled and died away.

The Romany Rye is a puzzling book. The latter portion, at least,
seems to suggest "spiritual autobiography." It reveals the man, his
atmosphere, his character, and nowhere better than among the jockeys
at Horncastle. It gives a better and more convincing picture of
Borrow than the most accurate list of dates and occurrences, all
vouched for upon unimpeachable authority. It is impressionism
applied to autobiography, which has always been considered as
essentially a subject for photographic treatment. Borrow thought
otherwise, with the result that many people decline to believe that
his picture is a portrait, because there is a question as to the

Among the reviews, which were on the whole unfriendly, was the
remarkable notice in The Quarterly Review, by the Rev. Whitwell
Elwin:- {435a}

"Nobody," he wrote, "sympathises with wounded vanity, and the world
only laughs when a man angrily informs it that it does not rate him
at his true value. The public to whom he appeals must, after all, be
the judge of his pretensions. Their verdict at first is frequently
wrong, but it is they themselves who must reverse it, and not the
author who is upon his trial before them. The attacks of critics, if
they are unjust, invariably yield to the same remedy. Though we do
not think that Mr Borrow is a good counsel in his own cause, we are
yet strongly of the opinion that Time in this case has some wrongs to
repair, and that Lavengro has NOT obtained the fame which was its
due. It contains passages which in their way are not surpassed by
anything in English Literature."

The value of these prophetic words lies in the fine spirit of
fatherly reproof in which the whole review was written. It is the
work of a critic who regarded literature as a thing to be approached,
both by author and reviewer, with grave and deliberate ceremony, not
with enthusiasm or prejudice. From any other source the following
words would not have possessed the significance they did, coming from
a man of such sane ideas with the courage to express them:-

"Various portions of the history are known to be a faithful narrative
of Mr Borrow's career, while we ourselves can testify, as to many
other parts of his volumes, that nothing can excel the fidelity with
which he has described both men and things. Far from his showing any
tendency to exaggeration, such of his characters as we chance to have
known, and they are not a few, are rather within the truth than
beyond it. However picturesquely they may be drawn, the lines are
invariably those of nature. Why under these circumstances he should
envelop the question in mystery is more than we can divine. There
can be no doubt that the larger part, and possibly the whole, of the
work is a narrative of actual occurrences." {436a}

The Appendix itself, which had drawn from Elwin the grave declaration
that "Mr Borrow is very angry with his critics," is a fine piece of
rhetorical denunciation. It opens with the deliberate restraint of a
man who feels the fury of his wrath surging up within him. It tells
again the story of Lavengro, pointing morals as it goes. Then the
studied calm is lost--Priestcraft, "Foreign Nonsense," "Gentility
Nonsense," "Canting Nonsense," "Pseudo-Critics," "Pseudo-Radicals" he
flogs and pillories mercilessly until, arriving at "The Old Radical,"
he throws off all restraint and lunges out wildly, mad with hate and
despair. As a piece of literary folly, the Appendix to The Romany
Rye has probably never been surpassed. It alienated from Borrow all
but his personal friends, and it sealed his literary fate as far as
his own generation was concerned. In short, he had burnt his boats.

Borrow had sent a copy of The Romany Rye to FitzGerald, which is
referred to by him in a letter written from Gorleston to Professor
Cowell (5th June 1857):-

"Within hail almost lives George Borrow who has lately published, and
given me, two new Volumes of Lavengro called Romany Rye, with some
excellent things, and some very bad (as I have made bold to write to
him--how shall I face him!). You would not like the Book at all, I
think." {437a}

Borrow was bitterly disappointed at the effect produced by The Romany
Rye. On someone once saying that it was the finest piece of literary
invective since Swift, he replied, "Yes, I meant it to be; and what
do you think the effect was? No one took the least notice of it!"

The Romany Rye was not a success. The thousand copies lasted a year.
When it appeared likely that a second edition would be required,
Borrow wrote to John Murray urging him not to send the book to the
press again until he "was quite sure the demand for it will at least
defray all attendant expenses." He saw that whatever profits had
resulted from the publication of the first edition, were in danger of
being swallowed up in the preparation of a second. When this did
eventually make its appearance in 1858, it was limited to 750 copies,
which lasted until 1872.

Borrow's own attitude with regard to the work and his wisdom in
publishing it is summed up in a letter to John Murray (17th Sept.

"I was very anxious to bring it out," he writes; "and I bless God
that I had the courage and perseverance to do so. It is of course
unpalatable to many; for it scorns to foster delusion, to cry 'peace
where there is no peace,' and denounces boldly the evils which are
hurrying the country to destruction, and which have kindled God's
anger against it, namely, the pride, insolence, cruelty,
covetousness, and hypocrisy of its people, and above all the rage for
gentility, which must be indulged in at the expense of every good and
honourable feeling."

The writing of the Appendix had aroused in Borrow all his old
enthusiasm, and he appears to have come to the determination to
publish a number of works, including a veritable library of
translations. At the end of The Romany Rye appeared a lengthy list
of books in preparation. {438a}

In August 1857 Borrow paid a second visit to Wales, walking "upwards
of four hundred miles." Starting from Laugharne in Carmarthenshire,
he visited Tenby, Pembroke, Milford Haven, Haverford, St David's,
Fishguard, Newport, Cardigan, Lampeter; passing into Brecknockshire,
he eventually reached Mortimer's Cross in Hereford and thence to
Shrewsbury. In October he was at Leighton, Donnington and Uppington,
where he found traces of Gronwy Owen, the one-time curate and all-
time poet.

Throughout his life Borrow had shown by every action and word written
about her, the great love he bore his mother. When his wife wrote to
her and he was too restless to do so himself, he would interpolate
two or three lines to "My dear Mamma." She was always in his
thoughts, and he never wavered in his love for her and devotion to
her comfort; whilst she looked upon him as only a mother so good and
so tender could look upon a son who had become her "only hope."

For many years of her life it had been ordained that this brave old
lady should live alone. {439a} In the middle of August 1858 the news
reached Borrow that his mother had been taken suddenly ill. She was
in her eighty-seventh year, and at such an age all illnesses are
dangerous. Borrow hastened to Oulton, and arrived just in time to be
with her at the last.

Thus on 16th August 1858, of "pulmonary congestion," died Anne
Borrow, who had followed her husband about with his regiment, and had
reared and educated her two boys under circumstances of great
disadvantage. She had lost one; but the other, her youngest born,
whom she had so often shielded from his father's reproaches, had been
spared to her, and she had seen him famous. Upon her grave in Oulton
Churchyard the son caused to be inscribed the words, "She was a good
wife and a good mother," than which no woman can ask more. {440a}

The death of his mother was a great shock to Borrow. "He felt the
blow keenly," Mrs Borrow wrote to John Murray, "and I advised a tour
in Scotland to recruit his health and spirits." Accordingly he went
North early in October, leaving his wife and Henrietta at Great
Yarmouth. He visited the Highlands, walking several hundred miles.
Mull struck him as "a very wild country, perhaps the wildest in
Europe." Many of its place-names reminded him strongly of the Isle
of Man. At the end of November he finished up the tour at Lerwick in
Shetland, where he bought presents for his "loved ones," having seen
Greenock, Glasgow, Perth, Aberdeen, Inverness, Wick, Thurso among
other places. His impressions were not altogether favourable to the
Scotch. "A queerer country I never saw in all my life," he wrote
later . . . "a queerer set of people than the Scotch you would
scarcely see in a summer's day." {440b}

In the following year (1859) an excursion was made to Ireland by
Borrow and his family. Making Dublin his headquarters, where he left
his wife and Henrietta comfortably settled, he tramped to Connemara
and the Giant's Causeway, the expedition being full of adventure and
affording him "much pleasure," in spite of the fact that he was
"frequently wet to the skin, and indifferently lodged."

Borrow had inherited from his mother some property at Mattishall
Burgh, one and a half miles from his birth-place, consisting of some
land, a thatched house and outbuildings, now demolished. This was
let to a small-holder named Henry Hill. Borrow thought very highly
of his tenant, and for hours together would tramp up and down beside
him as he ploughed the land, asking questions, and hearing always
something new from the amazing stores of nature knowledge that Henry
Hill had acquired. This Norfolk worthy appears to have been
possessed of a genius for many things. He was well versed in herbal
lore, a self-taught 'cellist, playing each Sunday in the
Congregational Chapel at Mattishall, and an equally self-taught
watch-repairer; but his chief claim to fame was as a bee-keeper,
local tradition crediting him with being the first man to keep bees
under glass. He would solemnly state that his bees, whom he looked
upon as friends, talked to him. On Sundays the country folk for
miles round would walk over to Mattishall Burgh to see old Henry
Hill's bees, and hear him expound their lore. It was perforce
Sunday, there was no other day for the Norfolk farm-labourer of that
generation, who seemed always to live on the verge of starvation.
Borrow himself expressed regret to Henry Hill that it had not been
possible to add the education of the academy to that of the land. He
saw that the combination would have produced an even more remarkable

In Norfolk all strangers are regarded with suspicion. Lifelong
friendships are not contracted in a day. The East Anglian is shrewd,
and requires to know something about those whom he admits to the
sacred inner circle of his friendship. Borrow was well-known in the
Mattishall district, and was looked upon with more than usual
suspicion. He was unquestionably a strange man, in speech, in
appearance, in habits. He could and would knock down any who
offended him; but, worst of all, he was the intimate of gypsies, sat
by their fires, spoke in their tongue. The population round about
was entirely an agricultural one, and all united in hating the
gypsies as their greatest enemies, because of their depredations.
Add to this the fact that Borrow was a frequenter of public-houses,
of which there were SEVEN in the village, and was wont to boast that
you could get at the true man only after he had been mellowed into
speech by good English ale. Then he would open his heart and
unburden his mind of all the accumulated knowledge that he possessed,
and add something to the epic of the soil. Borrow's overbearing
manner made people shy of him. On one occasion he told John, the son
and successor of Henry Hill, that he ought to be responsible for the
debt of his half-brother; the debt, it may be mentioned, was to

There is no better illustration of the suspicion with which Borrow
was regarded locally, than an incident that occurred during one of
his visits to Mattishall. He called upon John Hill at Church Farm to
collect his rent. The evening was spent very agreeably. Borrow
recited some of his ballads, quoted Scripture and languages, and sang
a song. He was particularly interested on account of Mrs Hill being
from London, where she knew many of his haunts. He remained the
whole evening with the family and partook of their meal; but was
allowed to go to one of the seven public-houses for a bed, although
there were spare bedrooms in the house that he might have occupied.
Such was the suspicion that Borrow's habits created in the minds of
his fellow East Anglians. {442a}


After his second tour in Wales, Borrow had submitted to John Murray
the manuscript of his translation of The Sleeping Bard, which in 1830
had so alarmed the little Welsh bookseller of Smithfield. "I really
want something to do," Borrow wrote, "and seeing the work passing
through the press might amuse me." Murray, however, could not see
his way to accept the offer, and the manuscript was returned. Borrow
decided to publish the book at his own expense, and accordingly
commissioned a Yarmouth man to print him 250 copies, upon the title-
page of which John Murray permitted his name to appear.

In the note in which he tells of the Welsh bookseller's doubts and
fears, Borrow goes on to assure his readers that there is no harm in
the book.

"It is true," he says, "that the Author is any thing but mincing in
his expressions and descriptions, but there is nothing in the
Sleeping Bard which can give offence to any but the over fastidious.
There is a great deal of squeamish nonsense in the world; let us hope
however that there is not so much as there was. Indeed can we doubt
that such folly is on the decline, when we find Albemarle Street in
'60, willing to publish a harmless but plain speaking book which
Smithfield shrank from in '30."

The edition was very speedily exhausted, largely on account of an
article entitled, The Welsh and Their Literature, written years
before, that Borrow adapted as a review of the book, and published
anonymously in The Quarterly Review (Jan. 1861). The Sleeping Bard
was not reprinted.

The next event of importance in Borrow's life was his removal to
London with Mrs Borrow and Henrietta. Towards the end of the Irish
holiday (4th Nov. 1859), Mrs Borrow had written to John Murray: "If
all be well in the Spring, I shall wish to look around, and select a
pleasant, healthy residence within from three to ten miles of
London." Borrow may have felt more at liberty to make the change now
that his mother was dead, although whilst she was at Oulton he was as
little company for her at Great Yarmouth as he would have been in
London. Whatever led them to the decision to take up their residence
in London, Borrow and his wife left Great Yarmouth at the end of
June, and immediately proceeded to look about them for a suitable
house. Their choice eventually fell upon number 22 Hereford Square,
Brompton, which had the misfortune to be only a few doors from number
26, where lived Frances Power Cobbe. The rent was 65 pounds per
annum. The Borrows entered upon their tenancy at the Michaelmas
quarter, and were joined by Henrietta, who had remained behind at
Great Yarmouth during the house-hunting.

Miss Cobbe has given in her Autobiography a very unlovely picture of
George Borrow during the period of his residence in Hereford Square.
No woman, except his relatives and dependants, will tolerate egoism
in a man. Borrow was an egoist. If not permitted to lead the
conversation, he frequently wrapped himself in a gloomy silence and
waited for an opportunity to discomfit the usurper of the place he
seemed to consider his own. Among his papers were found after his
death a large number of letters from poor men whom Borrow had
assisted. His friend the Rev. Francis Cunningham once wrote to him a
letter protesting against his assisting Nonconformist schools. He
gave to Church and Chapel alike. This disproves misanthropy, and
leaves egoism as the only explanation of his occasional lapses into
bitterness or rudeness. When in happy vein, however, "his
conversation . . . was unlike that of any other man; whether he told
a long story or only commented on some ordinary topic, he was always
quaint, often humorous." {445a}

Miss Cobbe would not humour an egoist, because constitutionally
women, especially clever women, dislike them, unless they wish to
marry them. When she heard it said, as it very frequently was said,
that Borrow was a gypsy by blood, she caustically remarked that if he
were not he "OUGHT to have been." Miss Cobbe had living with her a
Miss Lloyd who, "amused by his quaint stories and his (real or sham)
enthusiasm for Wales, . . . cultivated his acquaintance. I,"
continued Miss Cobbe frankly, "never liked him, thinking him more or
less of a hypocrite." {445b}

On one occasion Borrow had accepted an invitation from Miss Cobbe to
meet some friends, but subsequently withdrew his acceptance "on
finding that Dr Martineau was to be of the party . . . nor did he
ever after attend our little assemblies without first ascertaining
that Dr Martineau would not be present!" This she explained by the
assertion that Dr Martineau had "horsed" Borrow when he was punished
for running away from school at Norwich. It appeared "irresistibly
comic" to her mind.

There is an amusing account given by Miss Cobbe of how she worsted
Borrow, which is certainly extremely flattering to her
accomplishments. Once when talking with him she happened to say

"something about the imperfect education of women, and he said it was
RIGHT they should be ignorant, and that no man could endure a clever
wife. I laughed at him openly," she continues, "and told him some
men knew better. What did he think of the Brownings? 'Oh, he had
heard the name; he did not know anything of them. Since Scott, he
read no modern writer; Scott WAS GREATER THAN HOMER! What he liked
were curious, old, erudite books about mediaeval and northern
things.' I said I knew little of such literature, and preferred the
writers of our own age, but indeed I was no great student at all.
Thereupon he evidently wanted to astonish me; and, talking of
Ireland, said, 'Ah, yes; a most curious, mixed race. First there
were the Firbolgs,--the old enchanters, who raised mists.' . . .
'Don't you think, Mr Borrow,' I asked, 'it was the Tuatha-de-Danaan
who did that? Keatinge expressly says that they conquered the
Firbolgs by that means.' (Mr B. somewhat out of countenance), 'Oh!
Aye! Keatinge is THE authority; a most extraordinary writer.'
'Well, I should call him the Geoffrey of Monmouth of Ireland.' (Mr
B. changing the VENUE), 'I delight in Norse-stories; they are far
grander than the Greek. There is the story of Olaf the Saint of
Norway. Can anything be grander? What a noble character!' 'But,' I
said, 'what do YOU think of his putting all those poor Druids on the
Skerry of Shrieks, and leaving them to be drowned by the tide?'
(Thereupon Mr B. looked at me askant out of his gipsy eyes, as if he
thought me an example of the evils of female education!) 'Well!
Well! I forgot about the Skerry of Shrieks. Then there is the story
of Beowulf the Saxon going out to sea in his burning ship to die.'
'Oh, Mr Borrow! that isn't a Saxon story at all. It is in the
Heimskringla! It is told of Hakon of Norway.' Then, I asked him
about the gipsies and their language, and if they were certainly
Aryans? He didn't know (or pretended not to know) what Aryans were;
and altogether displayed a miraculous mixture of odd knowledge and
more odd ignorance. Whether the latter were real or assumed I know
not!" {446a}

These were some of the neighbourly little pleasantries indulged in by
Miss Cobbe, regarding a man who was a frequent guest at her house.

"His has indeed been a fantastic fate!" writes Mr Theodore Watts-
Dunton. "When the shortcomings of any illustrious man save Borrow
are under discussion, 'les defauts de ses qualites' is the criticism-
-wise as charitable--which they evoke. Yes, each one is allowed to
have his angularities save Borrow. Each one is allowed to show his
own pet unpleasant facets of character now and then--allowed to show
them as inevitable foils to the pleasant ones--save Borrow. HIS
weaknesses no one ever condones. During his lifetime his faults were
for ever chafing and irritating his acquaintances, and now that he
and they are dead, these faults of his seem to be chafing and
irritating people of another generation. A fantastic fate, I say,
for him who was so interesting to some of us!" {447a}

On occasion Borrow could be inexcusably rude, as he was to a member
of the Russian Embassy who one day called at Hereford Square for a
copy of Targum for the Czar, when he told him that his Imperial
master could fetch it himself. Again, no one can defend him for
affronting the "very distinguished scholar" with whom he happened to
disagree, by thundering out, "Sir, you're a fool!" Such lapses are
deplorable; but why should we view them in a different light from
those of Dr Johnson?

What would have been regarded in another distinguished man as a
pleasant vein of humour was in Borrow's case looked upon as evidence
of his unveracity. A contemporary tells how, on one occasion, he
went with him into "a tavern" for a pint of ale, when Borrow pointed

"a yokel at the far end of the apartment. The foolish bumpkin was
slumbering. Borrow in a stage whisper, gravely assured me that the
man was a murderer, and confided to me with all the emphasis of
honest conviction the scene and details of his crime. Subsequently I
ascertained that the elaborate incidents and fine touches of local
colour were but the coruscations of a too vivid imagination, and that
the villain of the ale-house on the common was as innocent as the
author of The Romany Rye." {447b}

If Borrow had been called upon to explain this little pleasantry he
would in all probability have replied in the words of Mr Petulengro,
that he had told his acquaintance "things . . . which are not exactly
true, simply to make a fool of you, brother."

It is strange how those among his contemporaries who disliked him,
denied Borrow the indulgence that is almost invariably accorded to
genius. Those who were not for him were bitterly against him. In
their eyes he was either outrageously uncivil or insultingly rude.
Dr Hake, although a close friend, saw Borrow's dominant weakness, his
love of the outward evidences of fame. Dr Hake's impartiality gives
greater weight to his testimony when he tells of Borrow's first
meeting with Dr Robert Latham, the ethnologist, philologist and
grammarian. Latham much wanted to meet Borrow, and promised Dr Hake
to be on his best behaviour. He was accordingly invited to dinner
with Borrow. Latham as usual began to show off his knowledge. He
became aggressive, and finally very excited; but throughout the meal
Borrow showed the utmost patience and courtesy, much to his host's
relief. When he subsequently encountered Latham in the street he
always stopped "to say a kind word, seeing his forlorn condition."

Dr Hake had settled at Coombe End, Roehampton, and now that the
Borrows were in London, the two families renewed their old
friendship. Borrow would walk over to Coombe End, and on arriving at
the gate would call out, "Are you alone?" If there were other
callers he would pass by, if not he would enter and frequently
persuade Dr Hake, and perhaps his sons, to accompany him for a walk.

"There was something not easily forgotten," writes Mr A. Egmont Hake,
"in the manner in which he would unexpectedly come to our gates,
singing some gypsy song, and as suddenly depart." {448a} They had
many pleasant tramps together, mostly in Richmond Park, where Borrow
appeared to know every tree and showed himself very learned in deer.
He was

"always saying something in his loud, self-asserting voice; sometimes
stopping suddenly, drawing his huge stature erect, and changing the
keen and haughty expression of his face into the rapt and half
fatuous look of the oracle, he would without preface recite some long
fragment from Welsh or Scandinavian bards, his hands hanging from his
chest and flapping in symphony. Then he would push on again, and as
suddenly stop, arrested by the beautiful scenery, and exclaim, 'Ah!
this is England, as the Pretender said when he again looked on his
fatherland.' Then on reaching any town, he would be sure to spy out
some lurking gypsy, whom no one but himself would have known from a
common horse-dealer. A conversation in Romany would ensue, a
shilling would change hands, two fingers would be pointed at the
gypsy, and the interview would be at an end." {449a}

One day he asked Dr Hake's youngest boy if he knew how to fight a man
bigger than himself, and on being told that he didn't, advised him to
"accept his challenge, and tell him to take off his coat, and while
he was doing it knock him down and then run for your life." {449b}

Once Borrow arrived at Dr Hake's house to find another caller in the
person of Mr Theodore Watts-Dunton, and they "went through a pleasant
trio, in which Borrow, as was his wont, took the first fiddle . . .
Borrow made himself agreeable to Watts [-Dunton], recited a fairy
tale in the best style to him, and liked him." Borrow did not
recognise in Mr Watts-Dunton the young man whom he had seen bathing
on the beach at Great Yarmouth, pleased to be near his hero, but too
much afraid to venture to address him. Writing of this meeting at
Coombe End, Mr Watts-Dunton says: "There is however no doubt that
Borrow would have run away from me had I been associated in his mind
with the literary calling. But at that time I had written nothing at
all save poems, and a prose story or two of a romantic kind." Borrow
hated the literary man, he was at war with the whole genus.

Mr Watts-Dunton confesses that he made great efforts to enlist
Borrow's interest. He touched on Bamfylde Moore Carew, beer,
bruisers, philology, "gentility nonsense," the "trumpery great"; but
without success. Borrow was obviously suspicious of him. Then with
inspiration he happened to mention what proved to be a magic name.

"I tried other subjects in the same direction," Mr Watts-Dunton
continues, "but with small success, till in a lucky moment I
bethought myself of Ambrose Gwinett, . . . the man who, after having
been hanged and gibbeted for murdering a traveller with whom he had
shared a double-bedded room at a seaside inn, revived in the night,
escaped from the gibbet-irons, went to sea as a common sailor, and
afterwards met on a British man-of-war the very man he had been
hanged for murdering. The truth was that Gwinett's supposed victim,
having been attacked on the night in question by a violent bleeding
of the nose, had risen and left the house for a few minutes' walk in
the sea-breeze, when the press-gang captured him and bore him off to
sea, where he had been in service ever since. The story is true, and
the pamphlet, Borrow afterwards told me (I know not on what
authority), was written by Goldsmith from Gwinett's dictation for a
platter of cow-heel.

"To the bewilderment of Dr Hake, I introduced the subject of Ambrose
Gwinett in the same manner as I might have introduced the story of
'Achilles' wrath,' and appealed to Dr Hake (who, of course, had never
heard of the book or the man) as to whether a certain incident in the
pamphlet had gained or lost by the dramatist who, at one of the minor
theatres, had many years ago dramatized the story. Borrow was caught
at last. 'What?' said he, 'you know that pamphlet about Ambrose
Gwinett?' 'Know it?' said I, in a hurt tone, as though he had asked
me if I knew 'Macbeth'; 'of course I know Ambrose Gwinett, Mr Borrow,
don't you?' 'And you know the play?' said he. 'Of course I do, Mr
Borrow,' I said, in a tone that was now a little angry at such an
insinuation of crass ignorance. 'Why,' said he, 'it's years and
years since it was acted; I never was much of a theatre man, but I
did go to see THAT.' 'Well I should rather think you DID, Mr
Borrow,' said I. 'But,' said he, staring hard at me, 'you--you were
not born!' 'And I was not born,' said I, 'when the "Agamemnon" was
produced, and yet one reads the "Agamemnon," Mr Borrow. I have read
the drama of "Ambrose Gwinett." I have it bound in morocco, with
some more of Douglas Jerrold's early transpontine plays, and some
AEschylean dramas by Mr Fitzball. I will lend it to you, Mr Borrow,
if you like.' He was completely conquered, 'Hake!' he cried, in a
loud voice, regardless of my presence, 'Hake! your friend knows
everything.' Then he murmured to himself. 'Wonderful man! Knows
Ambrose Gwinett!'

"It is such delightful reminiscences as these that will cause me to
have as long as I live a very warm place in my heart for the memory
of George Borrow." {451a}

After this, intercourse proved easy. At Borrow's suggestion they
walked to the Bald-Faced Stag, in Kingston Vale, to inspect Jerry
Abershaw's sword. This famous old hostelry was a favourite haunt of
Borrow's, where he would often rest during his walk and drink "a cup
of ale" (which he would call "swipes," and make a wry face as he
swallowed) and talk of the daring deeds of Jerry the highwayman.

Many people have testified to the pleasure of being in the company of
the whimsical, eccentric, humbug-hating Borrow.

"He was a choice companion on a walk," writes Mr A. Egmont Hake,
"whether across country or in the slums of Houndsditch. His
enthusiasm for nature was peculiar; he could draw more poetry from a
wide-spreading marsh with its straggling rushes than from the most
beautiful scenery, and would stand and look at it with rapture."

Since the tour in Wales in 1854, from which he returned with the four
"Note Books," Borrow had been working steadily at Wild Wales. In
1857 the book had been announced as "ready for the press"; but this
was obviously an anticipation. The manuscript was submitted to John
Murray early in November 1861. On the 20th of that month he wrote
the following letter, addressing it, not to Borrow, but to his wife:-

Dear Mrs Borrow,--The MS. of Wild Wales has occupied my thoughts
almost ever since Friday last.

I approached this MS. with some diffidence, recollecting the
unsatisfactory results, on the whole, of our last publication--Romany
Rye. I have read a large part of this new work with care and
attention, and although it is beautifully written and in a style of
English undefiled, which few writers can surpass, there is yet a want
of stirring incident in it which makes me fearful as to the result of
its publication.

In my hands at least I cannot think it would succeed even as well as
Romany Rye--and I am fearful of not doing justice to it. I do not
like to undertake a work with the chance of reproach that it may have
failed through my want of power to promote its circulation, and I do
wish, for Borrow's own sake, that in this instance he would try some
other publisher and perhaps some other form of publication.

In my hands I am convinced the work will not answer the author's
expectations, and I am not prepared to take on me this amount of

I will give the best advice I can if called upon, and shall be only
too glad if I can be useful to Mr Borrow. I regret to have to write
in this sense, but believe me always, Dear Mrs Borrow,

Your faithful friend,

The reply to this letter has not been preserved. It would appear
that some "stirring incidents" were added, among others most probably
the account of Borrow blessing the Irish reapers, who mistook him for
Father Toban. This anecdote was one of John Murray's favourite
passages. It is evident that some concession was made to induce
Murray to change his mind. In any case Wild Wales appeared towards
the close of 1862 in an edition of 1000 copies. The publisher's
misgivings were not justified, as the first edition produced a
profit, up to 30th June 1863, of 531 pounds, 14s., which was equally
divided between author and publisher. The second, and cheap, edition
of 3000 copies lasted for thirteen years, and the deficiency on this
absorbed the greater part of the publisher's profit.

In a way it is the most remarkable of Borrow's books; for it shows
that he was making a serious effort to regain his public. It is an
older, wiser and chastened Borrow that appears in its pages, striding
through the land of the bards at six miles an hour, his satchel slung
over his shoulder, his green umbrella grasped in his right hand,
shouting the songs of Wales, about which he knew more than any man he
met. There are no gypsies (except towards the end of the book a
reference to his meeting with Captain Bosvile), no bruisers, the pope
is scarcely mentioned, and "gentility-nonsense" is veiled almost to
the point of elimination. It seems scarcely conceivable that the
hand that had written the appendix to The Romany Rye could have so
restrained itself as to write Wild Wales. Borrow had evidently read
and carefully digested Whitwell Elwin's friendly strictures upon The
Romany Rye. Instead of the pope, the gypsies and the bruisers of
England, there were the vicarage cat, the bards and the thousand and
one trivial incidents of the wayside. There were occasional gleams
of the old fighting spirit, notably when he characterises sherry,
{453a} as "a silly, sickly compound, the use of which will transform
a nation, however bold and warlike by nature, into a race of
sketchers, scribblers, and punsters,--in fact, into what Englishmen
are at the present day." He has created the atmosphere of Wales as
he did that of the gypsy encampment. He shows the jealous way in
which the Welsh cling to their language, and their suspicion of the
Saesneg, or Saxon. Above all, he shows how national are the Welsh
poets, belonging not to the cultured few; but to the labouring man as
much as to the landed proprietor. Borrow earned the respect of the
people, not only because he knew their language; but on account of
his profound knowledge of their literature, their history, and their
traditions. No one could escape him, he accosted every soul he met,
and evinced a desire for information as to place-names that instantly
arrested their attention.

The most curious thing about Wild Wales is the omission of all
mention of the Welsh Gypsies, who, with those of Hungary, share the
distinction of being the aristocrats of their race. Several
explanations have been suggested to account for the curious
circumstance. Had Borrow's knowledge of Welsh Romany been scanty, he
could very soon have improved it. The presence of his wife and
stepdaughter was no hindrance; for, as a matter of fact, they were
very little with him, even when they and Borrow were staying at
Llangollen; but during the long tours they were many miles away. In
all probability the Welsh Gypsies were sacrificed to British
prejudice, much as were pugilism and the baiting of the pope.

In spite of its simple charm and convincing atmosphere, Wild Wales
did not please the critics. Those who noticed it (and there were
many who did not) either questioned its genuineness, or found it
crowded with triviality and self-glorification. It was full of the
superfluous, the superfluous repeated, and above all it was too long
(some 250,000 words). The Spectator notice was an exception; it did
credit to the critical faculty of the man who wrote it. He declined
"to boggle and wrangle over minor defects in what is intrinsically
good," and praised Wild Wales as "the first really clever book . . .
in which an honest attempt is made to do justice to Welsh

Borrow had much time upon his hands in London, which he occupied
largely in walking. He visited the Metropolitan Gypsyries at
Wandsworth, "the Potteries," and "the Mounts," as described in Romano
Lavo-Lil. Sometimes he would be present at some sporting event, such
as the race between the Indian Deerfoot and Jackson, styled the
American Deer--tame sport in comparison with the "mills" of his
boyhood. He did very little writing, and from 1862, when Wild Wales
appeared, until he published The Romano Lavo-Lil in 1874, his
literary output consisted of only some translations contributed to
Once a Week (January 1862 to December 1863).

In 1865 he was to lose his stepdaughter, who married a William
MacOubrey, M.D., described in the marriage register as a physician of
Sloane Street, London, and subsequently upon his tombstone as a
barrister. In the July of 1866 Borrow and his wife went to Belfast
on a visit to the newly married pair. From Belfast Borrow took
another trip into Scotland, crossing over to Stranraer. From there
he proceeded to Glen Luce and subsequently to Newton Stewart, Castle
Douglas, Dumfries, Ecclefechan, Gretna Green, Carlisle, Langholm,
Hawick, Jedburgh, Yetholm (where he saw Esther Blyth of Kirk
Yetholm), Kelso, Abbotsford, Melrose, Berwick, Edinburgh, Glasgow,
and so back to Belfast, having been absent for nearly four weeks.

Mrs Borrow's health had been the cause of the family leaving Oulton
for Great Yarmouth, and about the time of the Irish visit it seems to
have become worse. When Borrow was away upon his excursion he
received a letter at Carlisle in which his wife informed him that she
was not so well; but urging him not to return if he were enjoying his
trip and it were benefiting his health.

In the autumn of the following year (1867) they were at Bognor, Mrs
Borrow taking the sea air, her husband tramping about the country and
penetrating into the New Forest. On their return to town Mrs Borrow
appears to have become worse. There was much correspondence to be
attended to with regard to the Oulton Estate, and she had to go down
to Suffolk to give her personal attention to certain important
details. Miss Cobbe throws a little light on the period in a letter
to a friend, in which she says:

"Mr Borrow says his wife is very ill and anxious to keep the peace
with C. (a litigious neighbour). Poor old B. was very sad at first,
but I cheered him up and sent him off quite brisk last night. He
talked all about the Fathers again, arguing that their quotations
went to prove that it was NOT our gospels they had in their hands. I
knew most of it before, but it was admirably done. I talked a little
theology to him in a serious way (finding him talk of his 'horrors')
and he abounded in my sense of the non-existence of Hell, and of the
presence and action on the soul of _A_ Spirit, rewarding and
punishing. He would not say 'God'; but repeated over and over again
that he spoke not from books but from his own personal experience."

On 24th January (1869) Mrs Borrow was taken suddenly ill and the
family doctor being out of town, Borrow sent for Dr W. S. Playfair of
5 Curzon Street. A letter from Dr Playfair, 25th January, to the
family doctor is the only coherent testimony in existence as to what
was actually the matter with Mrs Borrow. It runs:-

"I found great difficulty in making out the case exactly," he writes,
"since Mr Borrow himself was so agitated that I could get no very
clear account of it. I could detect no marked organic affection
about the heart or lungs, of which she chiefly complained. It seemed
to me to be either a very aggravated form of hysteria, or, what
appears more likely, some more serious mental affection. In any
case, the chief requisite seemed very careful and intelligent nursing
or management, and I doubt very much, from what I saw, whether she
gets that with her present surroundings. If it is really the more
serious mental affection, I should fancy that the sooner means are
taken to have her properly taken care of, the better."

Dr Playfair saw in Borrow's highly nervous excitable nature, if not
the cause of his wife's breakdown, at least an obstacle to her
recovery, and was of opinion that Mrs Borrow's disorder had been
greatly aggravated by her husband's presence.

Mrs Borrow never rallied from the attack, and on the 30th she died of
"valvular disease of the heart and dropsy," being then in her
seventy-seventh year. On 4th February she was buried in Brompton
Cemetery, and the lonely man, her husband, returned to Hereford
Square. The grave bears the inscription, "To the Beloved Memory of
My Mother, Mary Borrow, who fell asleep in Jesus, 30th January 1869."
It is strange that this should be in Henrietta's and not Borrow's

Mrs Borrow evidently made over her property to her husband during her
lifetime, as there is no will in existence, and no application
appears to have been made either by Borrow or anyone else for letters
of administration.


The death of his wife was a last blow to Borrow, and he soon retired
from the world. At first he appears to have sought consolation in
books, to judge from the number of purchases he made about this time;
but it was, apparently, with pitiably unsuccessful results. In a
letter to a friend Miss Cobbe gives a picture in his lonliness:

"Poor old Borrow is in a sad state," she wrote. "I hope he is
starting in a day or two for Scotland. I sent C. with a note begging
him to come and eat the Welsh mutton you sent me to-day, and he sent
back word, 'Yes.' Then, an hour afterwards, he arrived, and in a
most agitated manner said he had come to say 'he would rather not.
He would not trouble anyone with his sorrows.' I made him sit down,
and talked as gently to him as possible, saying: 'It won't be a
trouble Mr. Borrow, it will be a pleasure to me.' But it was all of
no use. He was so cross, so RUDE, I had the greatest difficulty in
talking to him. I asked about his servant, and he said I could not
help him. I asked him about Bowring, and he said: 'Don't speak of
it.' (It was some dispute with Sir John Bowring, who was an
acquaintance of mine, and with whom I offered to mediate.) 'I asked
him would he look at the photos of the Siamese,' and he said: 'Don't
show them to me!' So, in despair, as he sat silent, I told him I had
been at a pleasant dinner-party the night before, and had met Mr L--
, who told me of certain curious books of mediaeval history. 'Did he
know them?' 'No, and he DARE SAID Mr L-- did not, either! Who was
Mr L--?' I described that OBSCURE individual, (one of the foremost
writers of the day), and added that he was immensely liked by
everybody. Whereupon Borrow repeated at least twelve times,
'Immensely liked! As if a man could be immensely liked!' quite
insultingly. To make a diversion (I was very patient with him as he
was in trouble), 'I said I had just come home from the Lyell's and
had heard--' . . . But there was no time to say what I had heard!
Mr Borrow asked: 'Is that old Lyle I met here once, the man who
stands at the door (of some den or other) and BETS?' I explained who
Sir Charles was, {459a} (of course he knew very well), but he went on
and on, till I said gravely: 'I don't think you will meet those sort
of people here, Mr Borrow. We don't associate with blacklegs,
exactly.'" {459b}

In the Autumn of 1870 Borrow became acquainted with Charles G. Leland
("Hans Breitmann") as the result of receiving from him the following

BRIGHTON, 24th October 1870.

Dear Sir,--During the eighteen months that I have been in England, my
efforts to find some mutual friend who would introduce me to you have
been quite in vain. As the author of two or three works which have
been kindly received in England, I have made the acquaintance of many
literary men and enjoyed much hospitality; but I assure you very
sincerely that my inability to find you out or get at you has been a
source of great annoyance to me. As you never published a book which
I have not read through five times--excepting The Bible in Spain and
Wild Wales, which I have only read once--you will perfectly
understand why I should be so desirous of meeting you.

As you have very possibly never heard of me before, I would state
that I wrote a collection of Ballads satirising Germany and the
Germans under the title of Hans Breitmann.

I never before in my life solicited the favour of any man's
acquaintance, except through the regular medium of an introduction.
If my request to be allowed the favour of meeting and seeing you does
not seem too outre, I would be to glad to go to London, or wherever
you may be, if it can be done without causing you any inconvenience,
and if I should not be regarded as an intruder. I am an American,
and among us such requests are parfaitment (sic) en regle.

I am, . . .


Borrow replied on 2nd Nov.:


I have received your letter and am gratified by the desire you
express to make my acquaintance.

Whenever you please to come I shall be happy to see you.

Truly yours,

The meeting unquestionably took place at Hereford Square, and Leland
found Borrow "a tall, large, fine-looking man who must have been
handsome in his youth." {460b} The result of the interview was that
Leland sent to Borrow a copy of his Ballads and also The Music Lesson
of Confucius, then about to appear. At the same time he wrote to
Borrow drawing his attention to one of the ballads written in German
Romany jib, and enquiring if it were worth anything. Whilst
deprecating his "impudence" in writing a Romany gili and telling, as
a pupil might a master, of his interest in and his association with
the gypsies, he continues: "My dear Mr Borrow, for all this you are
entirely responsible. More than twenty years ago your books had an
incredible influence on me, and now you see the results." After
telling him that he can NEVER thank him sufficiently for the
instructions he has given in The Romany Rye as to how to take care of
a horse on a thirty mile ride, he concludes--"With apologies for the
careless tone of this letter, and with sincere thanks for your
kindness in permitting me to call on you and for your courteous
note,--I am your sincere admirer."

The account that Leland gives of this episode in his Memoirs is
puzzling and contradictory in the light of his first letter. He

"There was another hard old character with whom I became acquainted
in those days, and one who, though not a Carlyle, still, like him,
exercised in a peculiar way a great influence on English literature.
This was George Borrow. I was in the habit of reading a great deal
in the British Museum, where he also came, and there I was introduced
to him. {461a} [Leland seems to be in error here; see ante, page
460.] He was busy with a venerable-looking volume in old Irish, and
made the remark to me that he did not believe there was a man living
who could read old Irish with ease (which I now observe to myself was
'fished' out of Sir W. Betham). We discussed several Gypsy words and
phrases. I met him in the same place several times." {461b}

Leland states that he sent a note to Borrow, care of John Murray,
asking permission to dedicate to him his forthcoming book, The
English Gypsies and Their Language; but received no reply, although
Murray assured him that the letter had been received by Borrow. "He
received my note on the Saturday," Leland writes--"never answered it-
-and on Monday morning advertised in all the journals his own
forthcoming work on the same subject." {461c} Had Borrow asked him
to delay publishing his own book, Leland says he would have done so,
"for I had so great a respect for the Nestor of Gypsyism, that I
would have been very glad to have gratified him with such a small
sacrifice." {462a}

However Borrow may have heard that Leland had in preparation a book
on the English Gypsies, he seemed to feel that it was a trespass upon
ground that was peculiarly his own. Having revised and prepared for
the press the new edition of the Gypsy St Luke for the Bible Society
(published December 1872), and the one-volume editions of Lavengro
and The Romany Rye, he set to work to forestall Leland with his own
Romano Lavo-Lil.

In spite of his haste, however, Borrow was beaten in the race, and
Leland got his volume out first. When the Romano Lavo-Lil {462b}
appeared in March 1874, Borrow found what, in all probability he had
not dreamed of, that the thirty-three years intervening between its
publication and that of The Zincali, had changed the whole literary
world as regards "things of Egypt." In 1841 Borrow had produced a
unique book, such as only one man in England could have written, and
that man himself {462c}; but in 1874 he found himself not only out of
date, but out-classed.

The title very thoroughly explains the scope of the work. The
Vocabulary had existed in manuscript for many years. For some
reason, difficult to explain, Borrow had omitted from this Vocabulary
a number of the gypsy words that appeared in Lavengro and The Romany
Rye. In spite of this "Mr Borrow's present vocabulary makes a goodly
show," wrote F. H. Groome, ". . . containing no fewer than fourteen
hundred words, of which about fifty will be entirely new to those who
only know Romany in books." {463a}

After praising the Gypsy songs as the best portion of the book,
Groome proceeds:

"Of his prose I cannot say so much. It is the Romany of the study
rather than of the tents [!] Mr Borrow has attempted to rehabilitate
English Romany by enduing it with forms and inflections, of which
some are still rarely to be heard, some extinct, and others
absolutely incorrect; while Mr Leland has been content to give it as
it really is. Of the two methods I cannot doubt that most readers
will agree with me in thinking that Mr Leland's is the more
satisfactory." {463b}

The Athenaeum sternly rebuked Borrow for seeming "to make the mistake
of confounding the amount of Rommanis which he has collected in this
book with the actual extent of the language itself." The reviewer
pays a somewhat grudging tribute to other portions of the book, the
accounts of the Gypsyries and the biographical particulars of the
Romany worthies, but the work suffers by comparison with those of
Paspati and Leland. He acknowledges that Borrow was one of the
pioneers of those who gave accounts of the Gypsies in English, who
gave to many their present taste for Gypsy matters,

"but," he proceeds, "we cannot allow merely sentimental
considerations to prevent us from telling the honest truth. The fact
is that the Romano Lavo-Lil is nothing more than a rechauffe of the
materials collected by Mr Borrow at an early stage of his
investigations, and nearly every word and every phrase may be found
in one form or another in his earlier works. Whether or not Mr
Borrow HAS in the course of his long experience become the DEEP Gypsy
which he has always been supposed to be, we cannot say; but it is
certain that his present book contains little more than he gave to
the public forty years ago, and does not by any means represent the
present state of knowledge on the subject. But at the present day,
when comparative philology has made such strides, and when want of
accurate scholarship is as little tolerated in strange and remote
languages as in classical literature, the Romano Lavo-Lil is, to
speak mildly, an anachronism."

This notice, if Borrow read it, must have been very bitter to him.
All the loyalty to, and enthusiasm for, Borrow cannot disguise the
fact that his work, as far as the Gypsies were concerned, was
finished. He had first explored the path, but others had followed
and levelled it into a thoroughfare, and Borrow found his facts and
theories obsolete--a humiliating discovery to a man so shy, so proud,
and so sensitive.

The Romano Lavo-Lil was Borrow's swan song. He lived for another
seven years; but as far as the world was concerned he was dead. In
an obituary notice of Robert Latham, Mr Watts-Dunton tells a story
that emphasizes how thoroughly his existence had been forgotten. At
one of Mrs Procter's "at homes" he was talking of Latham and Borrow,
but when he happened to mention that both men were still alive, that
is in the early Seventies, and that quite recently he had been in the
company of each on separate occasions, he found that he had lost
caste in the eyes of his hearers for talking about men as alive "who
were well known to have been dead years ago." {464a}

There is an interesting picture of Borrow as he appeared in the
Seventies, given by F. H. Groome, who writes:

"The first time I ever saw him was at Ascot, the Wednesday evening of
the Cup week in, I think, the year 1872. I was stopping at a wayside
inn, half-a-mile on the Windsor road, just opposite which inn there
was a great encampment of Gypsies. One of their lads had on the
Tuesday affronted a soldier; so two or three hundred redcoats came
over from Windsor, intending to wreck the camp. There was a babel of
cursing and screaming, much brandishing of belts and tent-rods, when
suddenly an arbiter appeared, a white-haired, brown-eyed, calm
Colossus, speaking Romany fluently, and drinking deep draughts of
ale--in a quarter of an hour Tommy Atkins and Anselo Stanley were
sworn friends over a loving-quart. "Mr Burroughs," said one of the
Gypsies (it is the name by which Gypsies still speak of him), and I
knew that at last I had met him whom of all men I most wished to
meet. Matty Cooper, the 'celebrated Windsor Frog' (vide Leland),
presented me as 'a young gentleman, Rya, a scholard from Oxford'; and
'H'm,' quoth Colossus, 'a good many fools come from Oxford.' It was
a bad beginning, but it ended well, by his asking me to walk with him
to the station, and on the way inviting me to call on him in London.
I did so, but not until nearly a twelve-month afterwards, when I
found him in Hereford Square, and when he set strong ale before me,
as again on the occasion of my third and last meeting with him in the
tent of our common acquaintance, Shadrach Herne, at the Potteries,
Notting Hill. Both these times we had much talk together, but I
remember only that it was partly about East Anglia, and more about
'things of Egypt.' Conversations twenty years old are easy to
imagine, hard to reproduce . . . Probably Borrow asked me the Romany
for 'frying-pan,' and I modestly answered, 'Either maasalli or
tasseromengri' (this is password No. 1), and then I may have asked
him the Romany for 'brick,' to which he will have answered, that
'there is no such word' (this is No. 2). But one thing I do
remember, that he was frank and kindly, interesting and interested; I
was only a lad, and he was verging on seventy. I could tell him
about a few 'travellers' whom he had not recently seen--Charlie
Pinfold, the hoary polygamist, Plato and Mantis Buckland, Cinderella
Petulengro, and Old Tom Oliver ('Ha! so he has seen Tom Oliver,' I
seem to remember that)." {466a}

There was nothing now to keep Borrow in London. Nobody wanted to
read his books, other stars had risen in the East. His publisher had
exclaimed with energy, as Borrow himself would relate, "I want to
meet with good writers, but there are none to be had: I want a man
who can write like Ecclesiastes." There is something tragic in the
account that Mr Watts-Dunton gives of his last encounter with Borrow:

"The last time I ever saw him," he writes, "was shortly before he
left London to live in the country. It was, I remember well, on
Waterloo Bridge, where I had stopped to gaze at a sunset of singular
and striking splendour, whose gorgeous clouds and ruddy mists were
reeling and boiling over the West-End. Borrow came up and stood
leaning over the parapet, entranced by the sight, as well he might
be. Like most people born in flat districts, he had a passion for
sunsets. Turner could not have painted that one, I think, and
certainly my pen could not describe it . . . I never saw such a
sunset before or since, not even on Waterloo Bridge; and from its
association with 'the last of Borrow,' I shall never forget it."

In 1874 Borrow withdrew to Oulton, there to end his lonely life, his
spirit seeming to enjoy the dreary solitude of the Cottage, with its
mournful surroundings. His stepdaughter, the Henrietta of old,
remained in London with her husband, and Borrow's loneliness was
complete. Sometimes he was to be seen stalking along the highways at
a great pace, wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a Spanish cloak, a
tragic figure of solitude and despair, speaking to no one, no one
daring to speak to him, who locally was considered as "a funny
tempered man."

In a fragment of a letter from Edward FitzGerald to W. B. Donne (June
1874), there is an interesting reference to Borrow:-

"Wait!" he writes. "I have one little thing to tell you, which,
little as it is, is worth all the rest, if you don't know already.

"Borrow--has got back to his own Oulton Lodge. My Nephew, Edmund
Kerrich, now Adjutant to some Volunteer Battalion, wants a house
NEAR, not IN, Lowestoft: and got some Agent to apply for Borrow's--
who sent word that he is himself there--an old Man--wanting
Retirement, etc. This was the account Edmund got.

"I saw in some Athenaeum a somewhat contemptuous notice of G. B.'s
'Rommany Lil' or whatever the name is. I can easily understand that
B. should not meddle with SCIENCE of any sort; but some years ago he
would not have liked to be told so, however Old Age may have cooled
him now." {467a}

Borrow sent a message to FitzGerald through Edmund Kerrich of
Geldeston, asking him to visit Oulton Cottage. The reply shows all
the sweetness of the writer's nature:-

Jan. 10/75.

Dear Borrow,--My nephew Kerrich told me of a very kind invitation
that you sent to me, through him, some while ago. I think the more
of it because I imagine, from what I have heard, that you have slunk
away from human company as much--as I have! For the last fifteen
years I have not visited any one of my very oldest friends, except
the daughters of my old [?friend] George Crabbe, and Donne--once
only, and for half a day, just to assure myself by--my own eyes how
he was after the severe illness he had last year, and which he never
will quite recover from, I think; though he looked and moved better
than I expected.

Well--to tell you all about WHY I have thus fallen from my company
would be a tedious thing, and all about one's self too--whom,
Montaigne says, one never talks about without detriment to the person
talked about. Suffice to say, 'so it is'; and one's friends, however
kind and 'loyal' (as the phrase goes), do manage to exist and enjoy
themselves pretty reasonably without one.

So with me. And is it not much the same with you also? Are you not
glad now to be mainly alone, and find company a heavier burden than
the grasshopper? If one ever had this solitary habit, it is not
likely to alter for the better as one grows older--as one grows OLD.
I like to think over my old friends. There they are, lingering as
ineffaceable portraits--done in the prime of life--in my memory.
Perhaps we should not like one another so well after a fifteen-years
separation, when all of us change and most of us for the worse. I do
not say THAT would be your case; but you must, at any rate, be less
inclined to disturb the settled repose into which you, I suppose,
have fallen. I remember first seeing you at Oulton, some twenty-five
years ago; then at Donne's in London; then at my own happy home in
Regent's Park; then ditto at Gorleston--after which, I have seen
nobody, except the nephews and nieces left me by my good sister

So shall things rest? I could not go to you, after refusing all this
while to go to older--if not better--friends, fellow Collegians,
fellow schoolfellows; and yet will you still believe me (as I hope
THEY do)

Yours and theirs sincerely,

Borrow was still a remarkably robust man. Mr Watts-Dunton tells how,

"At seventy years of age, after breakfasting at eight o'clock in
Hereford Square, he would walk to Putney, meet one or more of us at
Roehampton, roam about Wimbledon and Richmond Park with us, bathe in
the Fen Ponds with a north-east wind cutting across the icy water
like a razor, run about the grass afterwards like a boy to shake off
some of the water-drops, stride about the park for hours, and then,
after fasting for twelve hours, eat a dinner at Roehampton that would
have done Sir Walter Scott's eyes good to see. Finally, he would
walk back to Hereford Square, getting home late at night. And if the
physique of the man was bracing, his conversation, unless he happened
to be suffering from one of his occasional fits of depression, was
still more so. Its freshness, raciness and eccentric whim no pen
could describe. There is a kind of humour the delight of which is
that while you smile at the pictures it draws, you smile quite as
much or more to think that there is a mind so whimsical, crotchetty,
and odd as to draw them. This was the humour of Borrow." {469a}

He was seventy years of age when, one March day during a bitterly-
cold east wind, he stripped and plunged into one of the Fen Ponds in
Richmond Park, which was covered with ice, and dived and swam under
the water for a time, reappearing some distance from the spot where
he had entered the water. {469b}

The remaining years of Borrow's life were spent in Suffolk. He would
frequently go to Norwich, however; for the old city seemed to draw
him irresistibly from his hermitage. He would take a lodging there,
and spend much of his time occupying a certain chair in the Norfolk
Hotel in St Giles. There were so many old associations with Norwich
that made it appear home to him. He was possessed of sentiment in
plenty, it had caused his old mother to wish that "dear George would
not have such fancies about THE OLD HOUSE" in Willow Lane.

Later, Dr and Mrs MacOubrey removed to Oulton (about 1878), and
Borrow's life became less dismal and lonely; but he was nearing his
end. Sometimes there would be a flash of that old unconquerable
spirit. His stepdaughter relates how,

"on the 21st of November [1878], the place [the farm] having been
going to decay for fourteen months, Mr Palmer [the tenant] called to
demand that Mr Borrow should put it in repair; otherwise he would do
it himself and send in the bills, saying, 'I don't care for the old
farm or you either,' and several other insulting things; whereupon Mr
Borrow remarked very calmly, 'Sir, you came in by that door, you can
go out by it'--and so it ended." {470a}

It was on an occasion such as this that Borrow yearned for a son to
knock the rascal down. He was an infirm man, his body feeling the
wear and tear of the strenuous open-air life he had led. In 1879,
according to Mrs MacOubrey, he was "unable to walk as far as the
white gate," the boundary of his estate. He was obviously breaking-
up very rapidly. The surroundings appear to have reflected the
gloomy nature of the master of the estate. The house was
dilapidated, "with everything about it more or less untidy," {470b}
although at this period his income amounted to upwards of five
hundred pounds a year.

"During his latter years," writes Mr W. A. Dutt, "his tall, erect,
somewhat mysterious figure was often seen in the early hours of
summer mornings or late at night on the lonely pathways that wind in
and out from the banks of Oulton Broad . . . the village children
used to hush their voices and draw aside at his approach. They
looked upon him with fear and awe. . . . In his heart, Borrow was
fond of the little ones, though it amused him to watch the impression
his strange personality made upon them. Older people he seldom spoke
to when out on his solitary rambles; but sometimes he would flash out
such a glance from beneath his broad-brimmed hat and shaggy eyebrows
as would make timid country folk hasten on their way filled with
vague thoughts and fears of the evil eye." {470c}

Even to the last the old sensitiveness occasionally flashed out, as
on the occasion of a visit from the Vicar of Lowestoft, who drove
over with an acquaintance of Borrow's to make the hermit's
acquaintance. The visitor was so incautious as to ask the age of his
host, when, with Johnsonian emphasis, came the reply: "Sir, I tell
my age to no man!" This occurred some time during the year 1880.
Immediately his discomfited guest had departed, Borrow withdrew to
the summer-house, where he drew up the following apothegm on
"People's Age": -

"Never talk to people about their age. Call a boy a boy, and he will
fly into a passion and say, 'Not quite so much of a boy either; I'm a
young man.' Tell an elderly person that he's not so young as he was,
and you will make him hate you for life. Compliment a man of eighty-
five on the venerableness of his appearance, and he will shriek out:
'No more venerable than yourself,' and will perhaps hit you with his

On 1st December 1880 Borrow sent for his solicitor from Lowestoft,
and made his will, by which he bequeathed all his property, real and
personal, to his stepdaughter Henrietta, devising that it should be
held in trust for her by his friend Elizabeth Harvey. It was
evidently Borrow's intention so to tie up the bequest that Dr
MacOubrey could not in any way touch his wife's estate.

The end came suddenly. On the morning of 26th July 1881 Dr and Mrs
MacOubrey drove into Lowestoft, leaving Borrow alone in the house.
When they returned he was dead. Throughout his life Borrow had been
a solitary, and it seems fitting that he should die alone. It has
been urged against his stepdaughter that she disregarded Borrow's
appeals not to be left alone in the house, as he felt himself to be
dying. He may have made similar requests on other occasions; still,
whatever the facts, it was strange to leave so old and so infirm a
man quite unattended.

On 4th August the body was brought to London, and buried beside that
of Mrs George Borrow in Brompton Cemetery. On the stone, which is
what is known as a saddle-back, is inscribed:


A fruitless effort was made by the late J. J. Colman of Carrow to
purchase the whole of Borrow's manuscripts, library, and papers for
the Carrow Abbey Library; but the price asked, a thousand pounds, was
considered too high, and they passed into the possession of another.
Eventually they found their way into the reverent hands of the man
who subsequently made Borrow his hero, and who devoted years of his
life to the writing of his biography--Dr W. J. Knapp.

It was Borrow's fate, a tragic fate for a man so proud, to outlive
the period of his fame. Not only were his books forgotten, but the
world anticipated his death by some seven or eight years. His was a
curiously complex nature, one that seems specially to have been
conceived by Providence to arouse enmity among the many, and to
awaken in the hearts of the few a sterling, unwavering friendship.
It is impossible to reconcile the accounts of those who hated him
with those whose love and respect he engaged.

He was in sympathy with vagrants and vagabonds--a taste that was
perhaps emphasised by the months he spent in preparing Celebrated
Trials. If those months of hack work taught him sympathy with
pariahs, it also taught him to write strong, nervous English.

He was one of the most remarkable characters of his century--
whimsical, eccentric, lovable, inexplicable; possessed of an odd, dry
humour that sometimes failed him when most he needed it. He lived
and died a stranger to the class to which he belonged, and was the
intimate friend and associate of that dark and mysterious personage,
Mr Petulengro. He hated his social equals, and admired Tamerlane and
Jerry Abershaw. It has been said that he was born three centuries
too late, and that he belonged to the age when men dropped
mysteriously down the river in ships, later to return with strange
stories and great treasure from the Spanish Main. Mr Watts-Dunton
has said:-

"When Borrow was talking to people in his own class of life there was
always in his bearing a kind of shy, defiant egotism. What Carlyle
called the 'armed neutrality' of social intercourse oppressed him.
He felt himself to be in the enemy's camp. In his eyes there was
always a kind of watchfulness, as if he were taking stock of his
interlocutor and weighing him against himself. He seemed to be
observing what effect his words were having, and this attitude
repelled people at first. But the moment he approached a gypsy on
the heath, or a poor Jew in Houndsditch, or a homeless wanderer by
the wayside, he became another man. He threw off the burden of
restraint. The feeling of the 'armed neutrality' was left behind,
and he seemed to be at last enjoying the only social intercourse that
could give him pleasure. This it was that enabled him to make
friends so entirely with the gypsies. Notwithstanding what is called
'Romany guile' (which is the growth of ages of oppression), the basis
of the Romany character is a joyous frankness. Once let the
isolating wall which shuts off the Romany from the 'Gorgio' be broken
through, and the communicativeness of the Romany temperament begins
to show itself. The gypsies are extremely close observers; they were
very quick to notice how different was Borrow's bearing towards
themselves from his bearing towards people of his own race, and
Borrow used to say that 'old Mrs Herne and Leonora were the only
gypsies who suspected and disliked him.'" {474a}

This convincing character sketch seems to show the real Borrow. It
accounts even for that high-piping, artificial voice (a gypsy trait)
that he assumed when speaking with those who were not his intimate
friends, and which any sudden interest in the conversation would
cause him to abandon in favour of his own deep, rich tones. Mr F. J.
Bowring, himself no friend of Borrow's for very obvious reasons, has
described this artificial intonation as something between a beggar's
whine and the high-pitched voice of a gypsy--in sort, a falsetto. He
tells how, on one occasion, when in conversation with Borrow, he
happened to mention to him something of particular interest
concerning the gypsies, Borrow became immensely interested,
immediately dropped the falsetto and spoke in his natural voice,
which Mr Bowring describes as deep and manly.

Even his friends were led sometimes into criticisms that appear
unsympathetic. {474b} He was, Dr Hake has said, "essentially
hypochondriacal. Society he loved and hated alike: he loved it that
he might be pointed out and talked of; he hated it because he was not
the prince that he felt himself in its midst." {474c} It is the son
who shows the better understanding, although there is no doubt about
Dr Hake's loyalty to Borrow. There is a faithful presentation of a
man such as Borrow really seems to have been, in the following

"Few men have ever made so deep an impression on me as George Borrow.
His tall, broad figure, his stately bearing, his fine brown eyes, so
bright yet soft, his thick white hair, his oval beardless face, his
loud rich voice and bold heroic air were such as to impress the most
indifferent lookers-on. Added to this there was something not easily
forgotten in the manner in which he would unexpectedly come to our
gates, singing some gypsy song, and as suddenly depart." {475a}

If Borrow wrote that he was ashamed of being an Englishman and
referred to their "pinched and mortified expressions," if he found
the virtues of the Saxons "uncouth and ungracious," he never
permitted others to make disparaging remarks about his country or his
countrymen. {475b} He was typically English in this: agree with his
strictures, add a word or two of dispraise of the English, and there
appeared a terrifying figure of a patriot; "not only an Englishman
but an East Englishman," which in Borrow's vocabulary meant the
finest of the breed. He might with more truth have said a
Cornishman. "I could not command myself when I heard my own glorious
land traduced in this unmerited manner," {475c} he once exclaimed.
He permitted to himself, and to himself only, a certain latitude in
such matters.

That Borrow exaggerated is beyond all question, but it must not be
called deliberate. He desired to give impressions of scenes and
people, and he was inclined to emphasize certain features. Isopel
Berners he wished it to be known was a queenly creature, and he
described her as taller than himself (he was 6 feet 2 inches without
his shoes). Exaggeration is colour, not form. A disbelief in his
having encountered the convict son of the old apple-woman near
Salisbury does not imply that the old woman herself is a fiction.
Borrow insisted upon Norfolk as his county, "where the people eat the
best dumplings in the world, and speak the purest English." He even
spoke with a strong, if imperfect, East Anglian accent. As a matter
of fact his father was Cornish and his mother of Huguenot stock. It
would be absurd to argue from this obvious exaggeration of the actual
facts that Borrow was a myth.

Then he has been taken to task for not being a philologist as well as
a linguist. He may have used the word philologist somewhat loosely
on occasion. "Think what the reader would have lost," says one
eminent but by no means prejudiced critic {476a} with real sympathy
and insight, "had Borrow waited to verify his etymologies." In all
probability Nature will never produce a Humboldt-Le Sage combination
of intellect. Language was to Borrow merely the key that permitted
him access to the chamber of men's minds. It must be confessed that
sometimes he invaded the sacred precincts of philology. His chapter
on the Basque language in The Bible in Spain has been described as
"utterly frantic," and German philologists, speechless in their
astonishment, have expressed themselves upon his conclusions in marks
of exclamation! He was not qualified to discourse upon the science
of language.

He was a staunch member of the Church of England, because he believed
there was in it more religion than in any other Church; but this did
not hinder him from consorting with the godless children of the
tents, or contributing towards the upkeep of Nonconformist-schools.
The gypsies honoured and trusted him because, crooked themselves,
they appreciated straightness and clean living in another. They had
never known him use a bad word or do a bad thing. He was, on
occasion, arrogant, overbearing, ungracious, in short all the
unattractive things that a proud and masterful man can be; but his
friendship was as strong as the man himself; his charity above the
narrow prejudices of sect. When he threw his tremendous power into
any enterprise or undertaking, it was with the determination that it
should succeed, if work and self-sacrifice could make it. "The
wisest course," he thought, was, " . . . to blend the whole of the
philosophy of the tombstone with a portion of the philosophy of the
publican and something more, to enjoy one's pint and pipe and other
innocent pleasures, and to think every now and then of death and

Borrow loved mystery for its own sake, and none were ever able quite
to penetrate into the inner fastness of his personality. Those who
came nearest to it were probably Hasfeldt and Ford, whose persistent
good-humour was an armour against a reserve that chilled most men.
Of all Borrow's friends it is probable that none understood him so
well as Hasfeldt. He recognised the strength of character of the
white-haired man who sang when he was happy, and he refused to be
affected by his gloomy moods. "Write and tell me," he requests, "if
you have not fallen in love with some nun or Gypsy in Spain, or have
met with some other romantic adventure worthy of a roaming knight."
On another occasion (June 1845) he boasts with some justification,
"Heaven be praised, I can comprehend you as a reality, while many
regard you as an imaginary, fantastic being. But they who portray
you have not eaten bread and salt with you."

Borrow's contemporary recognition was a chance; he was writing for
another generation, and some of the friends that he left behind have
loyally striven to erect to him the only monument an artist desires--
the proclaiming of his works.

Nature it appeared had framed Borrow in a moment of magnificence,
and, lest he should be enticed away from her, had instilled into his
soul a hatred of all things artificial and at variance with her
august decrees. He was shy and suspicious with the men and women who
regulated their lives by the narrow standards of civilisation and
decorum; but with the children of the tents and the vagrants of the
wayside he was a single-minded man, eager to learn the lore of the
open air. He recognised in these vagabonds the true sons and
daughters of "the Great Mother who mixes all our bloods."



Celebrated Trials, and Remarkable Cases of Criminal Jurisprudence,
from the Earliest Records to the Year 1825. Six volumes, with
plates. London.

Faustus: His Life, Death, and Descent into Hell. Translated from
the German [of F. M. von Klinger]. W. Simpkin and R. Marshall,


Romantic Ballads. Translated from the Danish: and Miscellaneous
Pieces. S. Wilkin, Norwich.


Targum: or, Metrical Translations from Thirty Languages and
Dialects. St Petersburgh. Reprinted later by Jarrold & Sons,

The Talisman. From the Russian of Alexander Pushkin. With Other
Pieces. St Petersburg.


The Zincali; or, An Account of the Gypsies of Spain. With an
Original Collection of their Songs and Poetry, and a Copious
Dictionary of their Language. Two volumes. John Murray, London.


The Bible in Spain; or, the Journeys, Adventures, and Imprisonments
of an Englishman in an Attempt to Circulate the Scriptures in the
Peninsula. Three volumes. John Murray, London.

Lavengro: The Scholar--The Gypsy--The Priest. Three volumes. John
Murray, London.

The Romany Rye: a Sequel to Lavengro. Two volumes. John Murray,

The Sleeping Bard; or, Visions of the World, Death, and Hell. By
Elis Wyn. Translated from the Cambrian British. John Murray,


Wild Wales: Its People, Language, and Scenery. Three volumes. John
Murray, London.

Romano Lavo-Lil: Word-Book of Romany; or, English Gypsy Language.
With Many Pieces in Gypsy, Illustrative of the Way of Speaking and
Thinking of the English Gypsies; with Specimens of Their Poetry, and
an Account of Certain Gypsyries or Places Inhabited by Them, and of
Various Things Relating to Gypsy Life in England. John Murray,


The Turkish Jester; or, the Pleasantries of Cogia Nasr Eddin Effendi.
Translated from the Turkish. Jarrold & Sons, Norwich.


The Death of Balder. Translated from the Danish of Evald. Jarrold &
Sons, Norwich.

From the foregoing list has been omitted the mysterious Life and
Adventures of Joseph Sell, the Great Traveller, and those works that
Borrow edited or translated for the British and Foreign Bible


{3a} Afterwards General Morshead and friend of the Duke of York.
Captain Morshead, himself a Cornishman, is credited with doing
everything in his power to dissuade Thomas Borrow from enlisting, but
without result.

{4a} Lavengro, page 2. References to Borrow's works throughout this
volume are to the Standard Edition, published by John Murray.

{4b} Ann, the third of eight children born to Samuel Perfrement and
Mary his wife, 23rd January 1772.

{4c} Locally, the name is pronounced "PARfrement." This is quite in
accordance with the Norfolk dialect, which changes "e" into "a."
Thus "Ernest" becomes "Arnest"; "Earlham," "Arlham"; "Erpingham,"
"Arpingham," and so on. In Norfolk there are grave peculiarities of
pronunciation, which have caused many a stranger to wish that he had
never enquired his way, so puzzling are the replies hurled at him in
an incomprehensible vernacular.

{5a} Married the Rev. Wm. Holland, rector of Walmer and afterwards
rector of Brasted, Kent.

{6a} Lavengro, page 5.

{6b} Lavengro, page 5.

{7a} George in honour of the King, it is said, and Henry after his
father's eldest brother.

{7b} Lavengro, page 6.

{7c} Lavengro, page 6.

{7d} Lavengro, page 6.

{7e} Lavengro, page 7.

{7f} Lavengro, page 7.

{9a} Lavengro, page 16.

{9b} The widow of Sir John Fenn, editor of the Paston Letters.

{9c} Lavengro, page 15.

{10a} Lavengro, pages 398-9.

{10b} "Many years have not passed over my head, yet during those
which I can call to remembrance, how many things have I seen
flourish, pass away, and become forgotten, except by myself, who, in
spite of all my endeavours, never can forget anything."--Lavengro,
page 166.

{10c} Lavengro, page 16.

{11a} Lavengro, pages 19-20.

{11b} Lavengro, page 22.

{12a} The gypsies "have a double nomenclature, each tribe or family
having a public and private name, one by which they are known to the
Gentiles, and another to themselves alone . . . There are only two
names of trades which have been adopted by English gypsies as proper
names, Cooper and Smith: these names are expressed in the English
gypsy dialect by Vardo-mescro and Petulengro (Romano Lavo-Lil, page
185). Thus the Smiths are known among themselves as the Petulengros.
Petul, a horse shoe, and engro a "masculine affix used in the
formation of figurative names." Thus Boshomengro (a fiddler) comes
from Bosh a fiddle, Cooromengro (a soldier, a pugilist) from Coor =
to fight.

{12b} The Rev. Wentworth Webster heard narrated at a provincial
Bible Society's meeting that when Borrow first called at Earl Street
"he said that he had been stolen by gypsies in his boyhood, had
passed several years with them, but had been recognised at a fair in
Norfolk and brought home to his family by his uncle." There is,
however, nothing to confirm this story.

{13a} Lavengro, page 164.

{13b} The prisoners occupied much of their time in straw-plait
making; but the quality of their work was so much superior to that of
the English that it was forbidden, and consequently destroyed when

{13c} Lavengro, page 45.

{14a} David Haggart, born 24th June 1801, was an instinctive
criminal, who, at Leith Races, in 1813, enlisted, whilst drunk, as a
drummer in the West Norfolks. Eventually he obtained his discharge
and continued on his career of crime and prison-breaking, among other
things murdering a policeman and a gaoler, until, on 18th July 1821,
he was hanged at Edinburgh.

{15a} Lavengro, page 138.

{15b} John Crome (1768-1821), landscape painter. Apprenticed 1783
as sign-painter; introduced into Norwich the art of graining; founded
the Norwich School of Painting; first exhibited at the Royal Academy

{17a} Borrow was always a magnificent horseman. "Vaya! how you
ride! It is dangerous to be in your way!" said the Archbishop of
Toledo to him years later. In The Bible in Spain he wrote that he
had "been accustomed from . . . childhood to ride without a saddle."
The Rev. Wentworth Webster states that in Madrid "he used to ride
with a Russian skin for a saddle and WITHOUT STIRRUPS."

{20a} Letter from "A School-fellow of Lavengro" in The Britannia,
26th April 1851.

{21a} "It is probable, that had I been launched about this time into
some agreeable career, that of arms, for example, for which, being
the son of a soldier, I had, as was natural, a sort of penchant, I
might have thought nothing more of the acquisition of tongues of any
kind; but, having nothing to do, I followed the only course suited to
my genius which appeared open to me."--Lavengro, page 89.

{21b} The Rev. Thomas D'Eterville, M.A., "Poor Old Detterville," as
the Grammar School boys called him, of Caen University, who arrived
at Norwich in 1793. He acquired a small fortune by teaching
languages. There were rumours that he was engaged in the contraband
trade, an occupation more likely to bring fortune than teaching

{21c} Letter from "A School-fellow of Lavengro" in The Britannia,
26th April 1851.

{22a} It was here, in 1827, that he saw the world's greatest
trotter, Marshland Shales, and in common with other lovers of horses
lifted his hat to salute "the wondrous horse, the fast trotter, the
best in mother England." In Lavengro Borrow antedated this event by
some nine years.

{23a} Manuscript autobiographical notes supplied by Borrow to Mr
John Longe, 1862.

{24a} Lavengro, page 134.

{25a} This account is taken from a letter by "A Schoolfellow of
Lavengro" in The Britannia, 26th April 1851.

{25b} In a letter to Borrow, dated 15th October 1862, John Longe,
J.P., of Spixworth Park, Norwich, in acknowledging some biographical
particulars that Borrow had sent him for inclusion in Burton's
Antiquities of the Royal School of Norwich, wrote:-

"You have omitted an important and characteristic anecdote of your
early days (fifteen years of age). When at school you, with
Theodosius and Francis W. Purland, ABSENTED yourself from home and
school and took up your abode in a certain 'Robber's Cave' at Acle,
where you RESIDED three days, and once more returned to your homes."

{26a} According to the original manuscript of Lavengro, it appears
that Roger Kerrison, a Norwich friend of Borrow's, strongly advised
the law as "an excellent profession . . . for those who never intend
to follow it."--Life of George Borrow, by Dr Knapp, i., 66.

{27a} The Rev. Wm. Drake of Mundesley, in a letter which appeared in
The Eastern Daily Press, 22nd September 1892:-

" . . . I was at the Norwich Grammar School nine years, from 1820 to
1829, and during that time (probably in 1824 and 1825) George Borrow
was lodging in the Upper Close . . . The house was a low old-
fashioned building with a garden in front of it, and the fact of
Borrow's residence there is fixed in my memory because I had spent
the first five or six years of my own life in the same house, from
1811 to 1816 or 1817. My father occupied it in virtue of his being a
minor canon in Norwich Cathedral. I remember Borrow very distinctly,
because he was fond of chatting with the boys, who used to gather
round the railings of his garden, and occasionally he would ask one
or two of them to have tea with him. I have a faint recollection
that he gave us some of our first notions of chess, but I am not sure
of this. I . . . remember him a tall, spare, dark-complexioned man,
usually dressed in black. In person he was not unlike another
Norwich man, who obtained in those days a very different notoriety
from that which now belongs to Borrow's name. I mean John Thurtell,
who murdered Mr Weare."

{27b} Wild Wales, page 3.

{28a} Wild Wales, page 157.

{28b} Forty years later Borrow wrote of these days: --"'How much
more happy, innocent, and holy I was in the days of my boyhood when I
translated Iolo's ode than I am at the present time!' Then covering
my face with my hands I wept like a child."--Wild Wales, page 448.

{30a} There is no doubt that Borrow became possessed of a copy of
Kiaempe Viser, first collected by Anders Vedel, which may or may not
have been given to him, with a handshake from the old farmer and a
kiss from his wife, in recognition of the attention he had shown the
pair in his official capacity. He refers to the volume repeatedly in
Lavengro, and narrates how it was presented by some shipwrecked
Danish mariners to the old couple in acknowledgment of their humanity
and hospitality. It is, however, most likely that he was in error
when he stated that "in less than a month" he was able "to read the
book."--Lavengro, pages 140-4.

{30b} Wild Wales, page 2.

{30c} Wild Wales, page 374.

{30d} Wild Wales, page 9. There is an interesting letter written to
Borrow by the old lawyer's son on the appearance of Lavengro, in
which he says: "With tearful eyes, yet smiling lips, I have read and
re-read your faithful portrait of my dear old father. I cannot
mistake him--the creaking shoes, the florid face, the polished pate--
all serve as marks of recognition to his youngest son!"

{31a} Wild Wales, page 374.

{31b} During the five years that he was articled to Simpson &
Rackham, Borrow, according to Dr Knapp, studied Welsh, Danish,
German, Hebrew, Arabic, Gaelic, and Armenian. He already had a
knowledge of Latin, Greek, Irish, French, Italian, and Spanish.

{31c} Lavengro, page 235.

{32a} Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846), the historical painter.

{32b} Lavengro, page 166.

{33a} William Taylor (1765-1836) was an admirer of German literature
and a defender of the French Revolution. He is credited with having
first inspired his friend Southey with a liking for poetry. He
travelled much abroad, met Goethe, attended the National Assembly
debates in 1790, translated from the German and contributed to a
number of English periodicals.

{33b} Harriet Martineau's Autobiography, 1877.

{33c} Harriet Martineau's Autobiography, 1877.

{33d} Letter from "A School-fellow of Lavengro" in The Britannia,
26th April 1851.

{34a} Memoir of Wm. Taylor, by J. W. Robberds.

{34b} Memoir of Wm. Taylor, by J. W. Robberds.

{34c} Letter from "A School-fellow of Lavengro" in The Britannia,
26th April 1851.

{35a} The Rev. Whitwell Elwin, in a letter, 17th February 1887.

{35b} Harriet Martineau's Autobiography, 1877.

{35c} Lavengro, page 355.

{36a} John Bowring, F.R.S. (1792-1872), began life in trade, went to
the Peninsula for Milford & Co., army contractors, in 1811, set up
for himself as a merchant, travelled and acquired a number of
languages. He was ambitious, energetic and shrewd. He became editor
of The Westminster Review in 1824, and LL.D., Gronigen, in 1829. He
was sent by the Government upon a commercial mission to Belgium,
1833; to Egypt; Syria and Turkey, 1837-8; M.P. for Clyde burghs,
1835-7, and for Bolton, 1841; was instrumental in obtaining the issue
of the florin as a first step toward a decimal system of currency;
Consul of Canton, 1847; plenipotentiary to China; governor,
commander-in-chief, and vice-admiral of Hong Kong, 1854; knighted
1854; established diplomatic and commercial relations with Siam,
1855. He published a number of volumes of translations from various
languages. He died full of years and honours in 1872.

{36b} The Romany Rye, page 368, et seq.

{38a} Lavengro, pages 177-8.

{39a} Lavengro, pages 179-80. Captain Borrow was in his sixty-sixth
year at his death; b. December 1758, d. 28th February 1824. He was
buried in St Giles churchyard, Norwich, on 4th March 1824.

{40a } The Romany Rye, page 302.

{40b} In his will Captain Borrow bequeathed to George his watch and
"the small Portrait," and to John "the large Portrait" of himself;
his mother to hold and enjoy them during her lifetime. Should Mrs
Borrow die or marry again, elaborate provision was made for the
proper distribution of the property between the two sons.

{41a} In particular Borrow believed in Ab Gwilym "the greatest
poetical genius that has appeared in Europe since the revival of
literature" (Wild Wales, page 6). "The great poet of Nature, the
contemporary of Chaucer, but worth half-a-dozen of the accomplished
word-master, the ingenious versifier of Norman and Italian Tales."
(Wild Wales, page xxviii.).

{42a} Lines to Six-Foot-Three. Romantic Ballads. Norwich 1826.

{42b} Sir Richard Phillips (1767-1840) before becoming a publisher
was a schoolmaster, hosier, stationer, bookseller, and vendor of
patent medicines at Leicester, where he also founded a newspaper. In
1795 he came to London, was sheriff in 1807, and received his
knighthood a year later.

{43a} It has been urged against Borrow's accuracy that Sir Richard
Phillips had retired to Brighton in 1823, vide The Dictionary of
National Biography. In the January number (1824) of The Monthly
Magazine appeared the following paragraph: "The Editor [Sir Richard
Phillips], having retired from his commercial engagements and removed
from his late house of business in New Bridge Street, communications
should be addressed to the appointed Publishers [Messrs Whittakers];
but personal interviews of Correspondents and interested persons may
be obtained at his private residence in Tavistock Square." This
proves conclusively that Sir Richard was to be seen in London in the
early part of 1824.

{44a} Celebrated Trials and Remarkable Cases of Criminal
Jurisprudence from the Earliest Records to the Year 1825, 6 vols.,
with plates. London, 1825.

{44b} Proximate Causes of the Material Phenomena of the Universe.
By Sir Richard Phillips. London, 1821.

{45a} Dr Knapp identified the editor as "William Gifford, editor of
The Quarterly Review from 1809 to September 1824." (Life of George
Borrow, i. 93.) The late Sir Leslie Stephen, however, cast very
serious doubt upon this identification, himself concluding that the
editor of The Universal Review was John Carey (1756-1826), whose name
was actually associated with an edition of Quintilian published in
1822. Carey was a known contributor to two of Sir Richard Phillips'

{45b} The Monthly Magazine, July 1824.

{46a} It appeared in six volumes.

{46b} The work when completed contained accounts of over 400 trials.


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