Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Life of George Borrow by Herbert Jenkins

Part 6 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.1 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

occupied by the Ladies, my friends; but soon desisted and at last
went away, after using some threatening words to my Moorish Servant.
Late at night of the second day of my imprisonment, I was set at
liberty by virtue of an order of the Captain General, given on
application of the British Consul, after having been for thirty hours
imprisoned amongst the worst felons of Andalusia, though to do them
justice I must say that I experienced from them nothing but kindness
and hospitality.

The above, Sir, is the correct statement of the affair which has now
brought me to Madrid. What could have induced the Alcalde in
question to practise such atrocious behaviour towards me I am at a
loss to conjecture, unless he were instigated by certain enemies
which I possess in Seville. However this may be, I now call upon
you, as the Representative of the Government of which I am a Subject,
to demand of the Minister of the Spanish Crown full and ample
satisfaction for the various outrages detailed above. In conclusion,
I must be permitted to add that I will submit to no compromise, but
will never cease to claim justice until the culprit has received
condign punishment.

I am, etc., etc., etc.
MADRID (no date).

Recorded 6th December [1839]." {313a}

Thus it happened that on 19th December Mr Brandram received the
following letter:-

PRISON OF SEVILLE, 25th Nov. 1839.

I write these lines, as you see, from the common prison of Seville,
to which I was led yesterday, or rather dragged, neither for murder
nor robbery nor debt, but simply for having endeavoured to obtain a
passport for Cordoba, to which place I was going with my Jewish
servant Hayim Ben-Attar.

When questioned by the Vice-Consul as to his authority for searching
Borrow's house, the Alcalde produced a paper purporting to be the
deposition of an old woman to whom Borrow was alleged to have sold a
Testament some ten days previously. The document Borrow pronounced a
forgery and the statement untrue.

Borrow's fellow-prisoners treated him with unbounded kindness and
hospitality, and he was forced to confess that he had "never found
himself amongst more quiet and well-behaved men." Nothing shows more
clearly the power of Borrow's personality over rogues and vagabonds
than the two periods spent in Spanish prisons--at Madrid and at
Seville. Mr Brandram must have shuddered when he read Borrow's
letter telling him by what manner of men he was surrounded.

"What is their history?" he writes apropos of his fellow-prisoners.
"The handsome black-haired man, who is now looking over my shoulder,
is the celebrated thief, Pelacio, the most expert housebreaker and
dexterous swindler in Spain--in a word, the modern Guzman
D'alfarache. The brawny man who sits by the brasero of charcoal is
Salvador, the highwayman of Ronda, who has committed a hundred
murders. A fashionably dressed man, short and slight in person, is
walking about the room: he wears immense whiskers and mustachios; he
is one of that most singular race the Jews of Spain; he is imprisoned
for counterfeiting money. He is an atheist; but, like a true Jew,
the name which he most hates is that of Christ. Yet he is so quiet
and civil, and they are all so quiet and civil, and it is that which
most horrifies me, for quietness and civility in them seems so
unnatural." {315a}

Such were the men who fraternised with an agent of a religious
society and showed him not only civility but hospitality and
kindness. It is open to question if they would have shown the same
to any other unfortunate missionary. In all probability they
recognised a fellow-vagabond, who was at much at issue with the
social conventions of communities as they were with the laws of

On this occasion the period of Borrow's imprisonment was brief. He
was released late at night on 25th Nov., within thirty hours of his
arrest, and he immediately set to work to think out a plan by which
he could once more discomfit the Spanish authorities for this
indignity to a British subject. He would proceed to Madrid without
delay and put his case before the British Minister, at the same time
he would "make preparations for leaving Spain as soon as possible."


It was probably about this time (1839) that

"The Marques de Santa Coloma met Borrow again at Seville. He had
great difficulty in finding him out; though he was aware of the
street in which he resided, no one knew him by name. At last, by
dint of inquiry and description, some one exclaimed, 'Oh! you mean el
Brujo' (the wizard), and he was directed to the house. He was
admitted with great caution, and conducted through a lot of passages
and stairs, till at last he was ushered into a handsomely furnished
apartment in the 'mirador,' where Borrow was living WITH HIS WIFE AND
DAUGHTER. . . It is evident . . . that, to his Spanish friends at
least, he thus called Mrs Clarke and her daughter Henrietta his wife
and daughter: and the Marques de Santa Coloma evidently believed
that the young lady was Borrow's OWN daughter, and not his step-
daughter merely (!). At the time the roads from Seville to Madrid
were very unsafe. Santa Coloma wished Borrow to join his party, who
were going well armed. Borrow said he would be safe with his
Gypsies. Both arrived without accident in Madrid; the Marques's
party first. Borrow, on his arrival, told Santa Coloma that his
Gypsy chief had led him by by-paths and mountains; that they had not
slept in a village, nor seen a town the whole way." {316a}

It must be confessed that Mr Webster was none too reliable a witness,
and it seems highly improbable that Borrow would wish to pass Mrs
Clarke off as his wife before their marriage. The fact of their
occupying the same house may have seemed to their Spanish friends
compromising, as it unquestionably was; but had he spoken of Mrs
Clarke as his wife, it would have left her not a vestige of

On arriving at Madrid Borrow found that Lord Clarendon's successor,
Mr Arthur Aston, had not yet arrived, he therefore presented his
complaint to the Charge d'Affaires, the Hon. G. S. S. Jerningham, who
had succeeded Mr Sothern as private secretary. Mr Sothern had not
yet left Madrid to take up his new post as First Secretary at Lisbon,
and therefore presented Borrow to Mr Jerningham, by whom he was
received with great kindness. He assured Mr Jerningham that for some
time past he had given up distributing the Scriptures in Spain, and
he merely claimed the privileges of a British subject and the
protection of his Government. The First Secretary took up the case
immediately, forwarding Borrow's letter to Don Perez de Castro with a
request for "proper steps to be taken, should Mr Borrow's complaint .
. . be considered by His Excellency as properly founded." Borrow
himself was doubtful as to whether he would obtain justice, "for I
have against me," he wrote to Mr Brandram (24th December), "the
Canons of Seville; and all the arts of villany which they are so
accustomed to practise will of course be used against me for the
purpose of screening the ruffian who is their instrument. . . . I
have been, my dear Sir, fighting with wild beasts."

The rather quaint reply to Borrow's charges was not forthcoming until
he had left Spain and was living at Oulton. It runs: {317a}

MADRID, 11th May 1840.

Under date of 20th December last, Mr Perez de Castro informed Mr
Jerningham that in order to answer satisfactorily his note of 8th
December re complaint made by Borrow, he required a faithful report
to be made. These have been stated by the Municipality of Seville to
the Civil Governor of that City, and are as follows:-

"When Borrow meant to undertake his journey to Cadiz towards the end
of last year, he applied to the section of public security for his
Passport, for which purpose he ought to deliver his paper of
residence which was given to him when he arrived at Seville. That
paper he had not presented in its proper time to the Alcalde of his
district, on which account this person had not been acquainted as he
ought with his residence in the district, and as his Passport could
not be issued in consequence of this document not being in order,
Borrow addressed, through the medium of a Servant, to the house of
the said district Alcalde that the defect might be remedied. That
functionary refused to do so, founded on the reasons already stated;
and for the purpose of overcoming his resistance he was offered a
gratification, the Servant with that intent presenting half a dollar.
The Alcalde, justly indignant, left his house to make the necessary
complaint respecting their indecorous action when he met Borrow, who,
surprised at the refusal of the Alcalde, expressed to him his
astonishment, addressing insulting expressions not only against his
person but against the authorities of Spain, who, he said, he was
sure were to be bought at a very small price--crying on after this,
Long live the Constitution, Death to the Religion, and Long live
England. These and other insults gave rise to the Alcalde proceeding
to his arrest and the assistance of the armed force of Veterans, and
not of the National Militia, as Borrow supposed, making a detailed
report to the Constitutional Alcalde, who forwarded it original to
the Captain General of the Province as Judge Protector of Foreigners,
leaving him under detention at his disposition. He did the same with
another report transmitted by the said functionary, in which
reference to a Lady who lived at the Gate of Xerez; he denounced
Borrow as a seducer of youth in matters of Religion by facilitating
to them the perusal of prohibited books, of which a copy, that was in
the hands of the Ecclesiastical Governor, was likewise transmitted to
the Captain General. These antecedents were sufficient to have
authorised a summary to have been formed against Borrow, but the
repeated supplications of the British Vice-Consul, Mr Williams, who
among other things stated that Borrow laboured under fits of madness,
had the effect of causing the above Constitutional Alcalde to forgive
him the fault committed and recommend to the Captain General that the
matter should be dropped, which was acceded to, and he was put at
liberty. The above facts, official proofs of which exist in the
Captain General's Office, clearly disprove the statement of Borrow,
who ungrateful for the generous hospitality which he has received,
and for the consideration displayed towards him on account of his
infirmity, and out of deference to the request of the British Vice-
Consul, makes an unfounded complaint against the very authorities who
have used attentions towards him which he is certainly not deserving;
it being worthy of remark, in order to prove the bad faith of his
procedure, that in his own expose, although he disfigures facts at
pleasure, using a language little decorous, he confesses part of his
faults, such as the offering of money TO PAY, as he says, 'THE LEGAL
challenged the Alcalde.'

"I should consider myself wanting towards your enlightened sense of
justice if, after the reasons given, I stopped to prove the just and
prudent conduct of Seville authorities.

"Hope he will therefore be completely satisfied, especially after the
want of exactitude on Borrow's part.

To Mr Aston. {319a}

And so the matter ended. The Spanish authorities knew that they no
longer had a Sir George Villiers to deal with, and had recourse to
that trump card of weak and vacillating diplomatists--delay.
Whatever Borrow's offence, the method of his arrest and imprisonment
was in itself unlawful.

It was Borrow's intention on his return to England to endeavour to
obtain an interview with some members of the House of Lords, in order
to acquaint them with the manner in which Protestants were persecuted
in Spain. They were debarred from the exercise of their religion
from being married by Protestant rites, and the common privileges of
burial were denied them. He was anxious for Protestant England, lest
it should fall a victim to Popery. This fear of Rome was a very real
one to Borrow. He marvelled at people's blindness to the danger that
was threatening them, and he even went so far as to entreat his
friends at Earl Street "to drop all petty dissensions and to comport
themselves like brothers" against their common enemy the Pope.

Unfortunately Borrow had shown to a number of friends one of his
letters to Mr Brandram dealing with the Seville imprisonment, and had
even allowed several copies of it to be taken "in order that an
incorrect account of the affair might not get abroad." The result
was an article in a London newspaper containing remarks to the
disparagement of other workers for the Gospel in Spain. Borrow
disavowed all knowledge of these observations.

"I am not ashamed of the Methodists of Cadiz," he assures Mr
Brandram, "their conduct in many respects does them honor, nor do I
accuse any one of fanaticism amongst our dear and worthy friends; but
I cannot answer for the tittle-tattle of Madrid. Far be it from me
to reflect upon any one, I am but too well aware of my own
multitudinous imperfections and follies."

There is nothing more mysterious in Borrow's life than his years of
friendship with Mrs Clarke. He was never a woman's man, but Mary
Clarke seems to have awakened in him a very sincere regard. The
menage at Seville was a curious one, and both Borrow and Mrs Clarke
should have seen that it was calculated to make people talk. There
may have been a tacit understanding between them. Everything
connected with their relations and courtship is very mysterious. Dr
Knapp is scarcely just to Borrow or gracious to the woman he married,
when he implies that it was merely a business arrangement on both
sides. Mrs Clarke's affairs required a man's hand to administer
them, and Borrow was prepared to give the man's hand in exchange for
an income. The engagement could scarcely have taken place in the
middle of November 1839, as Dr Knapp states, for on the day of his
arrest at Seville (24th Nov.) Borrow wrote:-

MY DEAR MRS CLARKE,--Do not be alarmed, but I am at present in the
prison, to which place the Alcalde del Barrio conducted me when I
asked him to sign the Passport. If Phelipe is not already gone to
the Consul, let Henrietta go now and show him this letter. When I
asked the fellow his motives for not signing the Passport, he said if
I did not go away he would carry me to prison. I dared him to do so,
as I had done nothing; whereupon he led me here.--Yours truly,


This is obviously not the letter of a man recently engaged to the
woman who is to become his wife. On the other hand, Borrow may have
been writing merely for the Consul's eye.

On hearing the news of the engagement old Mrs Borrow wrote:-

"I am not surprised, my dear Mrs Clarke, at what you tell me, though
I knew nothing of it. It put me in mind of the Revd. Flethers; you
know they took time to consider. So far all is well. I shall now
resign him to your care, and may you love and cherish him as much as
I have done. I hope and trust that each will try to make the other
happy. You will always have my prayers and best wishes. Give my
kind love to dear George and tell him he is never out of my thoughts.
I have much to say, but I cannot write. I shall be glad to see you
all safe and well. Give my love to Henrietta; tell her _I_ can sing
'Gaily the Troubadour'; I only want the 'guitar.' {332a} God bless
you all."

There is no doubt that a very strong friendship had existed between
Mrs Clarke and Borrow during the whole time that he had been
associated with the Bible Society. She it was who had been
indirectly responsible for his introduction to Earl Street. It is
idle to speculate what it was that led Mrs Clarke to select Seville
as the place to which to fly from her enemies. There is, however, a
marked significance in old Mrs Borrow's words, "I am not surprised,
my dear Mrs Clarke, at what you tell me." Whatever his mother may
have seen, there appears to have been no thought of marriage in
Borrow's mind when, on 29th September 1839, he wrote to Mr Brandram
telling him of his wish to visit "China or particular parts of

Borrow paid many tributes to his wife, not only in his letters, but
in print, every one of which she seems thoroughly to have merited.
"Of my wife," he writes, {322a} "I will merely say that she is a
perfect paragon of wives--can make puddings and sweets and treacle
posset, and is the best woman of business in East Anglia." On
another occasion he praises her for more general qualities, when he
compares her to the good wife of the Triad, the perfect woman endowed
with all the feminine virtues. His wife and "old Hen." (Henrietta)
were his "two loved ones," and he subsequently shows in a score of
ways how much they had become part of his life.

After his return to Seville, early in January, Borrow proceeded to
get his "papers into some order." There seems no doubt that this
meant preparing The Zincali for publication. In the excitement and
enthusiasm of authorship, and the pleasant company of Mrs and Miss
Clarke, he seems to have been divinely unconscious that he was under
orders to proceed home. Week after week passed without news of their
Agent in Spain reaching Earl Street, and the Officials and Committee
of the Bible Society became troubled to account for his non-
appearance. The last letter from him had been received on 13th
January. Early in March Mr Jackson wrote to Mr Brackenbury asking
for news of him. A letter to Mr Williams at Seville was enclosed,
which Mr Brackenbury had discretionary powers to withhold if he were
able to supply the information himself. Two letters that Borrow had
addressed to the Society it appears had gone astray, and as "one
steamer . . . arrived after another and yet no news from Mr Borrow,"
some apprehension began to manifest itself lest misfortune had
befallen him. On the other hand, Borrow had heard nothing from the
Society for five months, the long silence making him "very, very

In reply to Mr Brandram's letter Borrow wrote:-

"I did not return to England immediately after my departure from
Madrid for several reasons. First, there was my affair with the
Alcalde still pending; second, I wished to get my papers into some
order; third, I wished to effect a little more in the cause, though
not in the way of distribution, as I have no books: moreover the
house in which I resided was paid for and I was unwilling altogether
to lose the money; I likewise dreaded an English winter, for I have
lately been subjected to attacks, whether of gout or rheumatism I
know not, which I believe were brought on by sitting, standing and
sleeping in damp places during my wanderings in Spain. The Alcalde
has lately been turned out of his situation, but I believe more on
account of his being a Carlist than for his behaviour to me; that,
however, is of little consequence, as I have long forgotten the
affair." {323a}

There was no longer any reason for delay; the English winter was
over, he had one book nearly ready for publication and two others in
a state of forwardness.

"I embark on the third of next month [April]," he continued, "and you
will probably see me by the 16th. I wish very much to spend the
remaining years of my life in the northern parts of China, as I think
I have a call for those regions, and shall endeavour by every
honourable means to effect my purpose." {323b}

These words would seem to imply that his marriage with Mrs Clarke was
by no means decided upon at the date he wrote, although during the
previous month he had been in correspondence with Mr Brackenbury
regarding Protestants in Spain being debarred from marrying. It is
inconceivable that Mrs Clarke and her daughter contemplated living in
the North of China; and equally unlikely that Mrs Clarke would marry
a potential "absentee landlord," or one who frankly confessed "I hope
yet to die in the cause of my Redeemer."

Sidi Habismilk had at first presented a grave problem; but Mr
Brackenbury, who secured the passages on the steamer, arranged also
for the Arab to be slung aboard the Steam-Packet. On 3rd April the
whole party, including Hayim Ben Attar and Sidi Habismilk, boarded
the Royal Adelaide bound for London.

Borrow never forgave Spain for its treatment of him, although some of
the happiest years of his life had been spent there. "The Spaniards
are a stupid, ungrateful set of ruffians," he afterwards wrote, "and
are utterly incapable of appreciating generosity or forbearance." He
piled up invective upon the unfortunate country. It was "the chosen
land of the two fiends--assassination and murder," where avarice and
envy were the prevailing passions. It was the "country of error";
yet at the same time "the land of extraordinary characters." As he
saw its shores sinking beneath the horizon, he was mercifully denied
the knowledge that never again was he to be so happily occupied as
during the five years he had spent upon its soil distributing the
Scriptures, and using a British Minister as a two-edged sword.

The party arrived in London on 16th April and put up at the Spread
Eagle in Gracechurch Street. On 23rd April, at St Peter's Church in
Cornhill, the wedding took place. There were present as witnesses
only Henrietta Clarke and John Pilgrim, the Norwich solicitor. In
the Register the names appear as:-

"George Henry Borrow--of full age--bachelor--gentleman--of the City
of Norwich--son of Thomas Borrow--Captain in the Army.

"Mary Clarke--of full age--widow--of Spread Eagle Inn, Gracechurch
Street--daughter of Edmund Skepper--Esquire."

On 2nd May an announcement of the marriage appeared in The Norfolk
Chronicle. A few days later the party left for Oulton Cottage, and
Borrow became a landed proprietor on a small scale in his much-loved
East Anglia.

On 21st April Mr Brandram had written to Borrow the following

MY DEAR FRIEND,--Your later communications have been referred to our
Sub-Committee for General Purposes. After what you said yesterday in
the Committee, I am hardly aware that anything can arise out of them.
The door seems shut. The Sub-Committee meet on Friday. Will you
wish to make any communications to them as to any ulterior views that
may have occurred to yourself? I do not myself at present see any
sphere open to which your services in connection with our Society can
be transferred. . . . With best wishes--Believe me--Yours truly,


On 24th April, the day after Borrow's wedding, the Sub-Committee duly
met and

"Resolved that, upon mature consideration, it does not appear to this
Sub-Committee that there is, at present, any opening for employing Mr
Borrow beneficially as an Agent of the Society . . . and that it be
recommended to the General Committee that the salary of Mr Borrow be
paid up to the 10th June next."

The Bible Society's valediction, which appeared in the Thirty-Sixth
Annual Report, read:-

"G. Borrow, Esq., one of the gentlemen referred to in former Reports
as having so zealously exerted themselves on behalf of Spain, has
just returned home, hopeless of further attempts at present to
distribute the Scriptures in that country. Mr B. has succeeded, by
almost incredible pains, and at no small cost and hazard, in selling
during his last visit a few hundred copies of the Bible, and most
that remained of the edition of the New Testament printed in Madrid."

Thus ended George Borrow's activities on behalf of the British and
Foreign Bible Society, and incidentally the seven happiest and most
active years of his life. On the whole the association had been
honourable to all concerned. There had been moments of irritation
and mistakes on both sides. It would be foolish to accuse the
Society of deliberately planting obstacles in the path of its own
agent; but the unfortunate championing of Lieutenant Graydon was the
result of a very grave error of judgment. Borrow had no personal
friends among the Committee, to whom the impetuous zeal of Graydon
was more picturesque than the grave and deliberate caution of Borrow.
The Officials and Committee alike saw in Graydon the ideal Reformer,
rushing precipitately towards martyrdom, exposing Anti-Christ as he
ran. Had Borrow been content to allow others to plead his cause, the
history of his relations with the Bible Society would, in all
probability, have been different. He felt himself a grievously
injured man, who had suffered from what he considered to be the
insane antics of another, and he was determined that Earl Street
should know it. On the other hand, Mr Brandram does not appear to
have understood Borrow. He made no attempt to humour him, to praise
him for what he had done and the way in which he had done it. Praise
was meat and drink to Borrow; it compensated him for what he had
endured and encouraged him to further effort. He hungered for it,
and when it did not come he grew discouraged and thought that those
who employed him were not conscious of what he was suffering. Hence
the long accounts of what he had undergone for the Gospel's sake.

During his six years in Spain he had distributed nearly 5000 copies
of the New Testament and 500 Bibles, also some hundreds of the Basque
and Gypsy Gospel of St Luke. These figures seem insignificant beside
those of Lieut. Graydon, who, on one occasion, sold as many as 1082
volumes in fourteen days, and in two years printed 13,000 Testaments
and 3000 Bibles, distributing the larger part of them. During the
year 1837 he circulated altogether between five and six thousand
books. But there was no comparison between the work of the two men.
Graydon had kept to the towns and cities on the south coast; Borrow's
methods were different. He circulated his books largely among
villages and hamlets, where the population was sparse and the
opportunities of distribution small. He had gone out into the
highways, risking his life at every turn, penetrating into bandit-
infested provinces in the throes of civil war, suffering incredible
hardships and fatigues and, never sparing himself. Both men were
earnest and eager; but the Bible Society favoured the wrong man--at
least for its purposes. But for Lieut. Graydon, Borrow would in all
probability have gone to China, and what a book he would have
written, at least what letters, about the sealed East!

Borrow, however, had nothing to complain of. He had found occupation
when he badly needed it, which indirectly was to bring him fame. He
had been well paid for his services (during the seven years of his
employment he drew some 2300 pounds in salary and expenses), his 200
pounds a year and expenses (in Spain) comparing very favourably with
Mr Brandram's 300 pounds a year.

He was loyal to the Bible Society, both in word and thought. He
honourably kept to himself the story of the Graydon dispute. He
spoke of the Society with enthusiasm, exclaiming, "Oh! the blood
glows in his veins! oh! the marrow awakes in his old bones when he
thinks of what he accomplished in Spain in the cause of religion and
civilisation with the colours of that society in his hat." {328a} In
spite of the misunderstandings and the rebukes he could write
fourteen years later that he "bade it adieu with feelings of love and
admiration." {328b} He "had done with Spain for ever, after doing
for her all that lay in the power of a lone man, who had never in
this world anything to depend upon, but God and his own slight
strength." {328c} In the preface to The Bible in Spain he pays a
handsome tribute to both Rule and Graydon, thus showing that although
he was a good hater, he could be magnanimous.

It has been stated that, during a portion of his association with the
Bible Society, Borrow acted as a foreign correspondent for The
Morning Herald. Dr Knapp has very satisfactorily disproved the
statement, which the Rev. Wentworth Webster received from the Marques
de Santa Coloma. Either the Marques or Mr Webster is responsible for
the statement that Borrow was wrecked, instead of nearly wrecked, off
Cape Finisterre. As the Marques was a passenger on the boat, the
mistake must be ascribed to Mr Webster. The further statement that
Borrow was imprisoned at Pamplona by Quesada is scarcely more
credible than that about the wreck. His imprisonment could not very
well have taken place, as stated, in 1837-9, because General Quesada
was killed in 1836. Mention is made of this foreign correspondent
rumour only because it has been printed and reprinted. It may be
that Borrow was imprisoned at Pamplona during the "Veiled Period";
there is certainly one imprisonment (according to his own statement)
unaccounted for. It is curious how the fact first became impressed
upon the Marques' mind, unless he had heard it from Borrow. It is
quite likely that he confused the date.

It would be interesting to identify the two men whom Borrow describes
in Lavengro as being at the offices of the Bible Society in Earl
Street, when he sought to exchange for a Bible the old Apple-woman's
copy of Moll Flanders. "One was dressed in brown," he writes, "and
the other was dressed in black; both were tall men--he who was
dressed in brown was thin, and had a particularly ill-natured
countenance; the man dressed in black was bulky, his features were
noble, but they were those of a lion." {329a} Again, in The Romany
Rye, he makes the man in black say with reference to the Bible
Society:- "There is one fellow amongst them for whom we entertain a
particular aversion: a big, burly parson, with the face of a lion,
the voice of a buffalo, and a fist like a sledge-hammer." {329b} Who
these two worthies were it is impossible to say with any degree of
certainty. Caroline Fox describes Andrew Brandram no further than
that he "appeared before us once more with his shaggy eyebrows."
{329c} Mr Brandram was not thin and his countenance was not ill-


Early in May, Borrow, his wife and step-daughter left London to take
up their residence at Oulton, in Suffolk. After years of wandering
and vagabondage he was to settle down as a landed proprietor. His
income, or rather his wife's, amounted to 450 pounds per annum, and
he must have saved a considerable sum out of the 2300 pounds he had
drawn from the Bible Society, as his mother appears to have regarded
the amounts he had sent to her as held in trust. He was therefore
able to instal himself, Sidi Habismilk and the Jew of Fez upon his
wife's small estate, with every prospect of enjoying a period of
comfort and rest after his many years of wandering and adventure.

Oulton Cottage was ideally situated on the margin of the Broad. It
was a one-storied building, with a dormer-attic above, hanging "over
a lonely lake covered with wild fowl, and girt with dark firs,
through which the wind sighs sadly. {330a} A regular Patmos, an
ultima Thule; placed in an angle of the most unvisited, out-of-the-
way portion of England." {330b} A few yards from the water's edge
stood the famous octagonal Summer-house that Borrow made his study.
Here he kept his books, a veritable "polyglot gentleman's" library,
consisting of such literary "tools" as a Lav-engro might be expected
to possess. There were also books of travel and adventure, some
chairs, a lounge and a table; whilst behind the door hung the sword
and regimental coat of the sleeping warrior to whom his younger son
had been an affliction of the spirit, because his mind pursued paths
that appeared so strangely perilous.

Here in this Summer-house Borrow wrote his books. Here when
"sickness was in the land, and the face of nature was overcast--heavy
rain-clouds swam in the heavens--the blast howled amid the pines
which nearly surround the lonely dwelling, and the waters of the lake
which lies before it, so quiet in general and tranquil, were
fearfully agitated," Borrow shouted, "'Bring lights hither, O Hayim
Ben Attar, son of the miracle!' And the Jew of Fez brought in the
lights," {331a} and his master commenced writing a book that was to
make him famous. When tired of writing, he would sometimes sing
"strange words in a stentorian voice, while passers-by on the lake
would stop to listen with astonishment and curiosity to the singular
sounds." {331b}

Life at Oulton Cottage was delightfully simple. Borrow was a good
host. "I am rather hospitable than otherwise," {331c} he wrote, and
thoroughly disliked anything in the nature of meanness. There was
always a bottle of wine of a rare vintage for the honoured guest.
Sometimes the host himself would hasten away to the little Summer-
house by the side of the Broad to muse, his eyes fixed upon the
military coat and sword, or to scribble upon scraps of paper that,
later, were to be transcribed by Mrs Borrow. Borrow would spend his
evenings with his wife and Henrietta, generally in reading until

In the Norwich days Borrow had formed an acquaintance with another
articled-clerk named Harvey (probably one of his colleagues at Tuck's
Court). They had kindred tastes, in particular a love of the open
air and vigorous exercise. After settling at Oulton, the Borrows and
the Harveys (then living at Bury St Edmunds) became very intimate,
and frequently visited each other. Elizabeth Harvey, the daughter of
Borrow's contemporary, has given an extremely interesting account of
the home life of the Borrows. She has described how sometimes Borrow
would sing one of his Romany songs, "shake his fist at me and look
quite wild. Then he would ask: 'Aren't you afraid of me?' 'No, not
at all,' I would say. Then he would look just as gentle and kind,
and say, 'God bless you, I would not hurt a hair of your head.'"

Miss Harvey has also given us many glimpses into Borrow's character.
"He was very fond of ghost stories," she writes, "and believed in the
supernatural." {332b} He enjoyed music of a lively description, one
of his favourite compositions being the well-known "Redowa" polka,
which he would frequently ask to have played to him again.

As an eater Borrow was very moderate, he "took very little breakfast
but ate a very great quantity of dinner, and then had only a draught
of cold water before going to bed . . . He was very temperate and
would eat what was set before him, often not thinking of what he was
doing, and he never refused what was offered him." {332c} On one
occasion when he was dining with the Harveys, young Harvey, seeing
Borrow engrossed in telling of his travels, handed him dish after
dish in rapid succession, from all of which he helped himself,
entirely unconscious of what he was doing. Finally his plate was
full to overflowing, perceiving which he became very angry, and it
was some time before he could be appeased. A practical joke made no
appeal to him. {332d}

Elizabeth Harvey also tells how, when a cousin of hers was staying at
Cromer, the landlady went to her one day and said, "O, Miss, there's
such a curious gentleman been. I don't know what to think of him, I
asked him what he would like for dinner, and he said, 'Give me a
piece of flesh.'" "What sort of gentleman was it?" enquired the
cousin, and on hearing the description recognised George Borrow, and
explained that the strange visitor merely wanted a rump-steak, a
favourite dish with him.

As he did not shoot or hunt, he obtained exercise either by riding or
walking. At times "he suffered from sleeplessness, when he would get
up and walk to Norwich (25 miles) and return the next night
recovered" {333a} yet Borrow has said that "he always had the health
of an elephant."

He was proud of the Church and took great pleasure in showing to his
friends the brasses it contained, including one bearing an effigy of
Sir John Fastolf, whom he considered to be the original of Falstaff.
He was also "very fond of his trees. He quite fretted if by some
mischance he lost one." {333b}

His methods with the country people round Oulton were calculated to
earn for him a reputation for queerness. "Curiosity is the leading
feature of my character" {333c} he confessed, and the East Anglian
looks upon curiosity in others with marked suspicion. It was
impossible for Borrow to walk far without getting into conversation
with someone or other. He delighted in getting people to tell their
histories and experiences; "when they used some word peculiar to
Norfolk (or Suffolk) country men, he would say 'Why, that's a Danish
word.' By and bye the man would use another peculiar expression,
'Why, that's Saxon'; a little further on another, 'Why, that's
French.' And he would add, 'Why, what a wonderful man you are to
speak so many languages.' One man got very angry, but Mr Borrow was
quite unconscious that he had given any offence." {334a}

He took pleasure in puzzling people about languages. Elizabeth
Harvey tells {334b} how he once put a book before her telling her to
read it, and on her saying she could not, he replied, "You ought;
it's your own language." The volume was written in Saxon. Yet for
all this he hated to hear foreign words introduced into conversation.
When he heard such adulterations of the English language he would
exclaim jocosely, "What's that, trying to come over me with strange
languages?" {334c}

Borrow's first thoughts on settling down were of literature. He had
material for several books, as he had informed Mr Brandram. Putting
aside, at least for the present, the translations of the ballads and
songs, he devoted himself to preparing for the press a book upon the
Spanish Gypsies. During the five years spent in Spain he had
gathered together much material. He had made notes in queer places
under strange and curious conditions, "in moments snatched from more
important pursuits--chiefly in ventas and posadas" {334d}--whilst
engaged in distributing the Gospel. It was a book of facts that he
meant to write, not theories, and if he sometimes fostered error, it
was because at the moment it was his conception of truth. Very
little remained to do to the manuscript. Mrs. Borrow had performed
her share of the work in making a fair copy for the printer.
Borrow's subsequent remark that the manuscript "was written by a
country amanuensis and probably contains many ridiculous errata," was
scarcely gracious to the wife, who seems to have comprehended so well
the first principle of wifely duty to an illustrious and, it must be
admitted, autocratic genius--viz., self-extinction.

"No man could endure a clever wife," Borrow once confided to the
unsympathetic ear of Frances Power Cobbe; but he had married one
nevertheless. No woman whose cleverness had not reached the point of
inspiration could have lived in intimate association with so
capricious and masterful a man as George Borrow. John Hasfeldt, in
sending his congratulations, had seemed to suggest that Borrow was
one of those abstruse works of nature that require close and constant
study. "When your wife thoroughly knows you," he wrote, "she will
smooth the wrinkles on your brow and you will be so cheerful and
happy that your grey hair will turn black again."

"In November 1840 a tall athletic gentleman in black called upon Mr
Murray, offering a manuscript for perusal and publication." {335a}
Fifteen years before, the same "tall athletic gentleman" had called a
dozen times at 50a Albemarle Street with translations of Northern and
Welsh ballads, but "never could see Glorious John." Borrow had
determined to make another attempt to see John Murray, and this time
he was successful. He submitted the manuscript of The Zincali, which
Murray sent to Richard Ford {335b} that he might pronounce upon it
and its possibilities. "I have made acquaintance," Ford wrote to H.
U. Addington, 14th Jan. 1841, "with an extraordinary fellow, George
Borrow, who went out to Spain to convert the gypsies. He is about to
publish his failure, and a curious book it will be. It was submitted
to my perusal by the hesitating Murray." {335c} On Ford's advice the
book was accepted for publication, it being arranged that author and
publisher should share the profits equally between them.

On 17th April 1841 there appeared in two volumes The Zincali; {336a}
or, An Account of the Gypsies in Spain. With an original Collection
of their Songs and Poetry, and a copious Dictionary of their
Language. By George Borrow, late Agent of the British and Foreign
Bible Society in Spain. It was dedicated to the Earl of Clarendon,
G.C.B. (Sir George Villiers), in "remembrance of the many obligations
under which your Lordship has placed me, by your energetic and
effectual interference in time of need." The first edition of 750
copies sufficed to meet the demand of two years. Ford, however,
wrote to Murray: "The book has created a great sensation far and
wide. I was sure it would, and I hope you think that when I read the
MS. my opinion and advice were sound." {336b}

The Zincali had been begun at Badajos with the Romany songs or rhymes
copied down as recited by his gypsy friends. To these he had
subsequently added, being assisted by a French courier, Juan Antonio
Bailly, who translated the songs into Spanish. These translations
were originally intended to be published in a separate work, as was
the Vocabulary, which forms part of The Zincali. Had Borrow sought
to make two separate works of the "Songs" and "Vocabulary," there is
very considerable doubt if they would have fared any better than the
everlasting Ab Gwilym; but either with inspiration, or acting on some
one's wise counsel, he determined to subordinate them to an account
of the Spanish Gypsies.

As a piece of bookmaking The Zincali is by no means notable. Borrow
himself refers to it (page 354) as "this strange wandering book of
mine." In construction it savours rather of the method by which it
was originally inspired; but for all that it is fascinating reading,
saturated with the atmosphere of vagabondage and the gypsy
encampment. It was not necessarily a book for the scholar and the
philologist, many of whom scorned it on account of its rather obvious
carelessnesses and inaccuracies. Borrow was not a writer of academic
books. He lacked the instinct for research which alone insures

It was particularly appropriate that Borrow's first book should be
about the Gypsies, who had always exercised so strange an attraction
for him that he could not remember the time "when the very name of
Gypsy did not awaken within me feelings hard to be described." {337a}
His was not merely an interest in their strange language, their
traditions, their folk-lore; it was something nearer and closer to
the people themselves. They excited his curiosity, he envied their
mode of life, admired their clannishness, delighted in their
primitive customs. Their persistence in warring against the gentile
appealed strongly to his instinctive hatred of "gentility nonsense";
and perhaps more than anything else, he envied them the stars and the
sun and the wind on the heath.

"Romany matters have always had a peculiar interest for me," {337b}
he affirms over and over again in different words, and he never lost
an opportunity of joining a party of gypsies round their camp-fire.
His knowledge of the Romany people was not acquired from books.
Apparently he had read very few of the many works dealing with the
mysterious race he had singled out for his particular attention.
With characteristic assurance he makes the sweeping assertion that
"all the books which have been published concerning them [the
Gypsies] have been written by those who have introduced themselves
into their society for a few hours, and from what they have seen or
heard consider themselves competent to give the world an idea of the
manners and customs of the mysterious Romany." {338a}

His attitude towards the race is curious. He recognised the Gypsies
as liars, rogues, cheats, vagabonds, in short as the incarnation of
all the vices; yet their fascination for him in no way diminished.
He could mix with them, as with other vagabonds, and not become
harmed by their broad views upon personal property, or their hundred
and one tricks and dishonesties. He was a changed man when in their
company, losing all that constraint that marked his intercourse with
people of his own class.

He had laboured hard to bring the light of the Gospel into their
lives. He made them translate for him the Scriptures into their
tongue; but it was the novelty of the situation, aided by the glass
of Malaga wine he gave them, not the beauty of the Gospel of St Luke,
that aroused their interest and enthusiasm. To this, Borrow's own
eyes were open. "They listened with admiration," he says; "but,
alas! not of the truths, the eternal truths, I was telling them, but
to find that their broken jargon could be written and read." {338b}

On one occasion, having refused to one of his congregation the loan
of two barias (ounces of gold), he proceeded to read to the whole
assembly instead the Lord's Prayer and the Apostle's Creed in Romany.
Happening to glance up, he found not a gypsy in the room, but
squinted, "the Gypsy fellow, the contriver of the jest, squinted
worst of all. Such are Gypsies." {338c}

It was indeed the novelty that appealed to them. They greeted with a
shout of exultation the reading aloud a translation that they
themselves had dictated; but they remained unmoved by the Christian
teaching it contained. For all these discouragements Borrow
persisted, and perhaps none of his efforts in Spain produced less
result than this "attempt to enlighten the minds of the Gitanos on
the subject of religion." {339a}

If the Gypsies were all that is evil, judged by conventional
standards, they at least loyally stood by each other in the face of a
common foe. Borrow knew Ambrose Petulengro to be a liar, a thief, in
fact most things that it is desirable a man should not be; yet he was
equally sure that under no circumstances would he forsake a friend to
whom he stood pledged. There seems to be little doubt that Borrow's
fame with the Gypsies spread throughout England and the Continent.
"Everybody as ever see'd the white-headed Romany Rye never forgot

Borrow was by no means the first Romany Rye. From Andrew Boorde
(15th-16th Century) down the centuries they are to be found, even to
our day, in the persons of Mr Theodore Watts-Dunton and Mr John
Sampson; but Borrow was the first to bring the cult of Gypsyism into
popularity. Before he wrote, the general view of Gypsies was that
they were uncomfortable people who robbed the clothes-lines and hen-
roosts, told fortunes and incidentally intimidated the housewife if
unprotected by man or dog. Borrow changed all this. The suspicion
remained, so strongly in fact that he himself was looked at askance
for consorting with such vagabonds; but with the suspicion was more
than a spice of interest, and the Gypsies became epitomised and
immortalised in the person of Jasper Petulengro. Borrow's Gypsyism
was as unscientific as his "philology." Their language, their origin
he commented on without first acquainting himself with the literature
that had gathered round their name. Francis Hindes Groome, "that
perfect scholar-gypsy and gypsy-scholar," wrote:-

"The meagreness of his knowledge of the Anglo-Gypsy dialect came out
in his Word Book of the Romany (1874); there must have been over a
dozen Englishmen who have known it far better than he. For his
Spanish-Gypsy vocabulary in The Zincali he certainly drew largely
either on Richard Bright's Travels through Lower Hungary or on
Bright's Spanish authority, whatever that may have been. His
knowledge of the strange history of the Gypsies was very elementary,
of their manners almost more so, and of their folk-lore practically
nil. And yet I would put George Borrow above every other writer on
the Gypsies. In Lavengro and, to a less degree, in its sequel, The
Romany Rye, he communicates a subtle insight into Gypsydom that is
totally wanting in the works--mainly philological--of Pott, Liebich,
Paspati, Miklosich, and their confreres." {340a}

Groome was by no means partial to Borrow, as a matter of fact he
openly taxed him {340b} with drawing upon Bright's Travels in Hungary
(Edinburgh 1819) for the Spanish-Romany Vocabulary, and was strong in
his denunciation of him as a poseur.

Borrow scorned book-learning. Writing to John Murray, Junr. (21st
Jan. 1843), about The Bible in Spain, he says, "I was conscious that
there was vitality in the book and knew that it must sell. I read
nothing and drew entirely from my own well. I have long been tired
of books; I have had enough of them," {340c} he wrote later, and
this, taken in conjunction with another sentence, viz., "My
favourite, I might say my only study, is man," explains not only
Borrow's Gypsyism, but also his casual philology. Languages he
mostly learned that he might know men. In youth he read--he had to
do something during the long office hours, and he read Danish and
Welsh literature; but he did not trouble himself much with the
literary wealth of other countries, beyond dipping into it. He had a
brain of his own, and preferred to form theories from the knowledge
he had acquired first hand, a most excellent thing for a man of the
nature of George Borrow, but scarcely calculated to advance learning.
He hated anything academic.

"I cannot help thinking," he wrote, "that it was fortunate for
myself, who am, to a certain extent, a philologist, that with me the
pursuit of languages has been always modified by the love of horses .
. . I might, otherwise, have become a mere philologist; one of those
beings who toil night and day in culling useless words for some opus
magnum which Murray will never publish and nobody ever read--beings
without enthusiasm, who, having never mounted a generous steed,
cannot detect a good point in Pegasus himself." {341a}

This quotation clearly explains Borrow's attitude towards philology.
As he told the emigre priest, he hoped to become something more than
a philologist.

There was nothing in the sale of The Zincali to encourage Borrow to
proceed with the other books he had partially prepared. Nearly seven
weeks after publication, scarcely three hundred copies had been sold.
In the spring of the following year (18th March) John Murray wrote:
"The sale of the book has not amounted to much since the first
publication; but in recompense for this the Yankees have printed two
editions, one for twenty pence COMPLETE." As Borrow did not benefit
from the sale of American editions, the news was not quite so
comforting as it would have been had it referred to the English


During his wanderings in Portugal and Spain Borrow had carried out
his intention of keeping a journal, from which on several occasions
he sent transcriptions to Earl Street instead of recapitulating in
his letters the adventures that befell him. Many of his letters went
astray, which is not strange considering the state of the country.
The letters and reports that Borrow wrote to the Bible Society, which
still exist, may be roughly divided as follows

From his introduction until the end
of the Russian expedition 17.50
Used for The Bible in Spain 30.00
Others written during the Spanish
and Portuguese periods and not used
for The Bible in Spain 52.50

Thirty per cent, of the whole number of the letters was all that
Borrow used for The Bible in Spain. In addition he had his Journal,
and from these two sources he obtained all the material he required
for the book that was to electrify the religious reading-public and
make famous its writer.

Between Borrow and Ford a warm friendship had sprung up, and many
letters passed between them. Ford, who was busily engaged upon his
Hand-Book, sought Borrow's advice upon a number of points, in
particular about Gypsy matters. There was something of the same
atmosphere in his letters as in those of John Hasfeldt: a frank,
affectionate interest in Borrow and what affected him that it was
impossible to resent. "How I wish you had given us more about
yourself," he wrote to Borrow apropos of The Zincali, "instead of the
extracts from those blunder-headed old Spaniards, who knew nothing
about Gypsies! I shall give you . . . a hint to publish your whole
adventures for the last twenty years." But Hayim Ben-Attar, son of
the miracle, had already brought lights, and The Bible in Spain had
been begun.

Ford's counsel was invariably sound and sane. He advised El Gitano,
as he sometimes called Borrow, "to avoid Spanish historians and
POETRY like Prussic acid; to stick to himself, his biography and
queer adventures," {343a} to all of which Borrow promised obedience.
Ford wrote to Borrow (Feb. 1841) suggesting that The Bible in Spain
should be what it actually was. "I am delighted to hear," he wrote,
"that you meditate giving us your travels in Spain. The more odd
personal adventures the better, and still more so if DRAMATIC; that
is, giving the exact conversations."

In June 1841 Borrow received from Earl Street the originals of his
letters to the Bible Society, and when he was eventually called upon
to return them he retained a number, either through carelessness or
by design. It was evidently understood that there should be no
reference to any contentious matters. Borrow set to work with the
aid of his "Country Amanuensis" to transcribe such portions of the
correspondence as he required. The work proceeded slowly.

"I still scribble occasionally for want of something better to do,"
he informs John Murray, Junr. (23rd Aug. 1841), and continues: " . .
. A queer book will be this same Bible in Spain, containing all my
queer adventures in that queer country whilst engaged in distributing
the Gospel, but neither learning, nor disquisitions, fine writing, or
poetry. A book with such a title and of this description can
scarcely fail of success."

Through a dreary summer and autumn he wrote on complaining that there
was "scarcely a gleam of sunshine." Remote from the world "with not
the least idea of what is going on save in my immediate
neighbourhood," he wrote merely to kill time. Such an existence was,
to the last degree, uncongenial to a man who for years had been
accustomed to sunshine and a life full of incident and adventure.

He grew restless and ill-content. He had been as free as the wind,
with occupation for brain and body. He was now, like Achilles,
brooding in his tent, and over his mind there fell a shadow of
unrest. As early as July 1841 he had thought of settling in Berlin
and devoting himself to study. Hasfeldt suggested Denmark, the land
of the Sagas. Later in the same year Africa had presented itself to
Borrow as a possible retreat, but Ford advised him against it as "the
land from which few travellers return," and told him that he had much
better go to Seville. Still later Constantinople was considered and
then the coast of Barbary. Into his letters there crept a note of
querulous complaint. John Hasfeldt besought him to remember how much
he had travelled and he would find that he had wandered enough, and
then he would accustom himself to rest.

The manuscript of The Bible in Spain was completed early in January
(1842) and despatched to John Murray, who sent it to Richard Ford.
From the "reader's report" it is to be gathered that in addition to
the manuscript Borrow sent also the letters that he had borrowed from
the Bible Society. Ford refers to the story of the man stung to
death by vipers {344a} "in the letter of the 16th August 1837," and
advises that "Mr Borrow should introduce it into his narrative." He
further recommends him "to go carefully over the whole of his
Letters, as it is very probable that other points of interest which
they contain may have been omitted in the narrative. Some of the
most interesting letters relate to journies not given in the MS."

The work when it reached Ford was apparently in a very rough state.
In addition to many mistakes in spelling and grammar, a number of
words were left blank. In a vast number of instances short sentences
were run together. Mrs Borrow does not appear to have been a very
successful amanuensis at this period. Perhaps the most interesting
indication of how much the manuscript, as first submitted, differed
from the published work is shown by one of Ford's criticisms:-

"In the narrative there are at present two breaks--one from about
March 1836 to June 1837 [Chapters XIII.-XX.],--and the other from
November 1837 to July 1839 [Chapters XXXVI.-XLIX.]

This represents a third of the book as finally printed. Ford
objected to the sudden ending; but Borrow made no alteration in this
respect. There were a number of other suggestions of lesser
importance in this admirable piece of technical criticism. Ford
disliked Borrow's striving to create an air of mystery as "taking an
unwarrantable liberty with the reader"; he suggested a map and a
short biographical sketch of the author, and especially the nature of
his connection with the Bible Society. Finally he gives it as his
opinion that it is neither necessary nor advisable to insert any of
his letters to the Bible Society, either in the body of the book or
as an Appendix.

"The Dialogues are amongst the best parts of the book," Ford wrote;
"but in several of them the tone of the speakers, of those especially
who are in humble life, is too correct and elevated, and therefore
out of character. This takes away from their effect. I think it
would be very advisable that Mr Borrow should go over them with
reference to this point, simplifying a few of the turns of expression
and introducing a few contractions--don'ts, can'ts, etc. This would
improve them greatly."

This criticism applies to all Borrow's books, in particular to the
passages dealing with the Gypsies, who, in spite of their love of
high-sounding words, which they frequently misuse, do not speak with
the academic precision of Borrow's works any more than do peers or
princes or even pedagogues. Borrow met Ford's criticism with the
assurance that "the lower classes in Spain are generally elevated in
their style and scarcely ever descend to vulgarity."

Borrow's first impulse appears to have been to disregard the
suggestion that the two breaks should be filled in. On 13th Jan. he
wrote to John Murray, Junr.:

"I have received the MS. and likewise your kind letter . . . Pray
thank the Gentleman who perused the MS. in my name for his
suggestions, which I will attend to. [By this it is clear that
Borrow was not told that Ford was 'the Gentleman.'] I find that the
MS. was full of trifling mistakes, the fault of my amanuensis; but I
am going through it, and within three days shall have made all the
necessary corrections."

No man, of however sanguine a temperament, could seriously
contemplate the mere transcription of some eighty thousand words, in
addition to the correction of twice that amount of manuscript, within
three days. Nine days later Borrow wrote again to John Murray, Junr.
"We are losing time; I have corrected seven hundred CONSECUTIVE pages
of MS., and the remaining two hundred will be ready in a fortnight."
That he had taken so long was due to the fact that the greater part
of the preceding week had been occupied with other and more exciting
matters than correcting manuscript.

"During the last week," he continues, "I have been chiefly engaged in
horse-breaking. A most magnificent animal has found his way to this
neighbourhood--a half-bred Arabian--he is at present in the hands of
a low horse-dealer; he can be bought for eight pounds, but no person
will have him; it is said that he kills everybody who mounts him. I
have been CHARMING him, and have so far succeeded that at present he
does not fling me more than once in five minutes. What a
contemptible trade is the Author's compared to that of the jockey."

It was not until towards the end of February that the corrected
manuscript of the first volume of The Bible in Spain reached
Albemarle Street. Later and better counsels had apparently
prevailed, and Borrow had become reconciled to filling up the breaks.

Borrow had other occupations than preparing his manuscript for the
printer's hands. He was ill and overwrought, and small things became
magnified out of all proportion to their actual importance. There
had been a dispute between Borrow's dog and that of the rector of
Oulton, the Rev. E. P. Denniss, and as the place was small, the dogs
met frequently and renewed their feud. Finally the masters of the
animals became involved, and an interchange of frigid notes ensued.
It appears that Borrow threatened to appeal to the Law and to the
Bishop of the Diocese, and further seems to have suggested that in
the interests of peace, the rector might do away with his own dog.
The tone of the correspondence may be gathered from the following
notes:- {347a}

"Mr Denniss begs to acknowledge Mr Borrow's note, and is sorry to
hear that his dog and Mr Borrow's have again fallen out. Mr Denniss
learns from his servant that Mr D's dog was no more in fault than Mr
B's, which latter is of a very quarrelsome and savage disposition, as
Mr Denniss can himself testify, as well as many other people. Mr
Denniss regrets that these two animals cannot agree when they meet,
but he must decline acceding to Mr Borrow's somewhat arbitrary
demand, conceiving he has as much right to retain a favourite, and in
reality very harmless, animal, as Mr Borrow has to keep a dog which
has once bitten Mr Denniss himself, and oftentimes attacked him and
his family. Mr Borrow is at perfect liberty to take any measure he
may deem advisable, either before the magistrates or the Bishop of
the Diocese, as Mr Denniss is quite prepared to meet them."

"OULTON RECTORY, 22nd April 1842."

Borrow's reply (in the rough draft found among his papers after his
death) ran:

"Mr Borrow has received Mr Denniss' answer to his note. With respect
to Mr Denniss' recrimination on the quarrelsome disposition of his
harmless house-dog, Mr Borrow declines to say anything further. No
one knows better than Mr Denniss the value of his own assertions . .
. Circumstances over which Mr Borrow has at present no control will
occasionally bring him and his family under the same roof with Mr
Denniss; that roof, however, is the roof of the House of God, and the
prayers of the Church of England are wholesome from whatever mouth
they may proceed."

Borrow's most partisan admirer could not excuse the outrage to all
decency contained in the last paragraph of his note, if indeed it
were ever sent, in any other way than to plead the writer's ill-

It had been arranged that The Bible in Spain should make its
appearance in May. In July Borrow wrote showing some impatience and
urging greater expedition.

"What are your intentions with respect to the Bible in Spain?" he
enquires of John Murray. "I am a frank man, and frankness never
offends me. Has anybody put you out of conceit with the book? . . .
Tell me frankly and I will drink your health in Romany. Or would the
appearance of the Bible on the first of October interfere with the
avatar, first or second, of some very wonderful lion or Divinity, to
whom George Borrow, who is NEITHER, must of course give place? Be
frank with me, my dear Sir, and I will drink your health in Romany
and Madeira."

He goes on to offer to release John Murray from his "share in the
agreement" and complete the book himself remitting to the printer
"the necessary money for the purchase of paper."

To Ford, who had acted as a sort of godfather to The Bible in Spain,
it was "a rum, very rum, mixture of gypsyism, Judaism, and missionary
adventure," as he informed John Murray. He read it "with great
delight," and its publisher may "depend upon it that the book will
sell, which, after all, is the rub." He liked the sincerity, the
style, the effect of incident piling on incident. It reminded him of
Gil Blas with a touch of Bunyan. Borrow is "such a TRUMP . . . as
full of meat as an egg, and a fresh-laid one." All this he tells
John Murray, and concludes with the assurance, "Borrow will lay you
golden eggs, and hatch them after the ways of Egypt; put salt on his
tail and secure him in your coop, and beware how any poacher coaxes
him with 'raisins' or reasons out of the Albemarle preserve." {349a}

Ford was never tired of applying new adjectives to Borrow and his
work. He was "an extraordinary fellow," "this wild missionary," "a
queer chap." Borrow, on the other hand, cherished a sincere regard
for the man who had shown such enthusiasm for his work. To John
Murray, Junr., he wrote (4th April 1843): "Pray remember me to Ford,
who is no humbug and is one of the few beings that I care something

Throughout his correspondence with Borrow, Richard Ford showed a
judgment and an appreciation of what the public would be likely to
welcome that stamped him as a publishers' "reader" by instinct. Such
advice as he gave to Borrow in the following letter set up a standard
of what a book, such as Borrow had it in his power to write, actually
should be. It unquestionably influenced Borrow:-

10th June 1842.

"My advice again and again is to avoid all fine writing, all
descriptions of mere scenery and trivial events. What the world
wants are racy, real, genuine scenes, and the more out of the way the
better. Poetry is utterly to be avoided. If Apollo were to come
down from Heaven, John Murray would not take his best manuscript as a
gift. Stick to yourself, to what you have seen, and the people you
have mixed with. The more you give us of odd Jewish people the
better . . . Avoid WORDS, stick to DEEDS. Never think of how you
express yourself; for good matter MUST tell, and no fine writing will
make bad matter good. Don't be afraid that what YOU may not think
good will not be thought so by others. It often happens just the
reverse . . . New facts seen in new and strange countries will please
everybody; but old scenery, even Cintra, will not. We know all about
that, and want something that we do not know . . . The grand thing is
to be bold and to avoid the common track of the silver paper, silver
fork, blue-stocking. Give us adventure, wild adventure, journals,
thirty language book, sorcery, Jews, Gentiles, rambles, and the
INTERIOR of Spanish prisons--the way you get in, the way you get out.
No author has yet given us a Spanish prison. Enter into the
iniquities, the fees, the slang, etc. It will be a little a la
Thurtell, but you see the people like to have it so. Avoid rant and
cant. Dialogues always tell; they are dramatic and give an air of

The Bible in Spain was published 10th December, and one of the first
copies that reached him was inscribed by the author to "Ann Borrow.
With her son's best love, 13th Decr. 1842."

From the critics there was praise and scarcely anything but praise.
It was received as a work bearing the unmistakable stamp of genius.
Lockhart himself reviewed it in The Quarterly Review, confessing the
shame he felt at not having reviewed The Zincali. "Very good--very
clever--very neatly done. Only one fault to find--too laudatory,"
was Borrow's comment upon this notice.

And through the clamour and din of it all, old Mrs Borrow wrote to
her daughter-in-law telling her of the call of an old friend, whom
she had not seen for twenty-eight years, and who had come to talk
with her of the fame of her son, "the most remarkable man that
Dereham ever produced. Capt. Girling is a man of few words, but when
he DO speak it is to some purpose." Ford wrote also (he was always
writing impulsive, boyish letters) telling how Borrow's name would
"fill the trump of fame," and that "Murray is in high bone" about the
book. Hasfeldt wrote, too, saying that he saw his "friend 'tall
George,' wandering over the mountains until I ached in every joint
with the vividness of his descriptions."

In all this chorus of praise there was the complaint of the Dublin
Review that "Borrow was a missionary sent out by a gang of
conspirators against Christianity." Borrow's comment upon this
notice was that "It is easier to call names and misquote passages in
a dirty Review than to write The Bible in Spain."

A second edition of The Bible in Spain was issued in January, to
which the author contributed a preface, "very funny, but wild," he
assured John Murray, Junr., and he promised "yet another preface for
the third edition, should one be called for." The third edition
appeared in March, the fourth in June, and the fifth in July. When
the Fourth Edition was nearing completion Borrow wrote to Murray:
"Would it be as well to write a preface to this FOURTH edition with a
tirade or two against the Pope, and allusions to the Great North
Road?" To which Murray replied, "With due submission to you as
author, I would suggest that you should not abuse the Pope in the new

In the flush of his success Borrow could afford to laugh at the few
cavilling critics.

"Let them call me a nonentity if they will," he wrote to John Murray,
Junr. (13th March). "I believe that some of those, who say I am a
phantom, would alter their tone provided they were to ask me to a
good dinner; bottles emptied and fowls devoured are not exactly the
feats of a phantom. No! I partake more of the nature of a Brownie
or Robin Goodfellow, goblins, 'tis true, but full of merriment and
fun, and fond of good eating and drinking."

America echoed back the praise and bought the book in thousands.
Publishers issued editions in Philadelphia and New York; but Borrow
did not participate in the profits, as there was then no copyright
protection for English books in the United States of America. The
Athenaeum reported (27th May 1843) that 30,000 copies had been sold
in America. "I really never heard of anything so infamous," wrote
Borrow to his wife. The only thing that America gave him was praise
and (in common with other countries) a place in its biographical
dictionaries and encyclopaedias. The Bible in Spain was translated
into French and German and subsequently (abridged) into Russian.

What appeared to please Borrow most was Sir Robert Peel's reference
to him in the House of Commons, although he regretted the scanty
report of the speech given in the newspapers. Replying to Dr
Bowring's (at that time Borrow's friend) motion "for copies of the
correspondence of the British Government with the Porte on the
subject of the Bishop of Jerusalem," Sir Robert remarked: "If Mr
Borrow had been deterred by trifling obstacles, the circulation of
the Bible in Spain would never have been advanced to the extent which
it had happily attained. If he had not persevered he would not have
been the agent of so much enlightment." {352a}

There were many things that contributed to the instantaneous success
of The Bible in Spain. Apart from the vivid picture that it gave of
the indomitable courage and iron determination of a man commanding
success, its literary qualities, and enthralling interest, its
greatest commercial asset lay in its appeal to the Religious Public.
Never, perhaps, had they been invited to read such a book, because
never had the Bible been distributed by so amazing a missionary as
George Borrow. Gil Blas with a touch of Bunyan, as Ford delightfully
phrased it, and not too much Bunyan. Thieves, murderers, gypsies,
bandits, prisons, wars--all knit together by the missionary work of a
man who was persona grata with every lawless ruffian he encountered,
and yet a sower of the seed. The Religious Public did not pause to
ponder over the strangeness of the situation. They had fallen among
thieves, and with breathless eagerness were prepared to enjoy to the
full the novel experience.

Here was a religious book full of the most exquisite material thrills
without a suggestion of a spiritual moral. Criminals were
encountered, their deeds rehearsed and the customary sermon upon the
evils arising from wickedness absent. It was a stimulating drink to
unaccustomed palates. The Bible in Spain sold in its thousands.

The accuracy of the book has never been questioned; if it had,
Borrow's letters to the Bible Society would immediately settle any
doubt that might arise. If there be one incident in the work that
appears invented, it is the story of Benedict Moll, the treasure-
hunter; yet even that is authentic. In the following letter, dated
22nd June 1839, Rey Romero, the bookseller of Santiago, refers to the
unfortunate Benedict Moll:-

"The German of the Treasure," he writes, "came here last year bearing
letters from the Government for the purpose of discovering it. But,
a few days after his arrival, they threw him into prison; from thence
he wrote me, making himself known as the one you introduced to me;
wherefore my son went to see him in prison. He told my son that you
also had been arrested, but I could not credit it. A short time
after, they took him off to Coruna; then they brought him back here
again, and I do not know what has become of him since." {353a}

Borrow now became the lion of the hour. He was feted and feasted in
London, and everybody wanted to meet the wonderful white-haired
author of The Bible in Spain. One day he is breakfasting with the
Prussian Ambassador, "with princes and members of Parliament, I was
the star of the morning," he writes to his wife. "I thought to
myself 'what a difference!'" Later he was present at a grand soiree,
"and the people came in throngs to be introduced to me. To-night,"
he continues, "I am going to the Bishop of Norwich, to-morrow to
another place, and so on." {354a}

Borrow had been much touched by the news of the death of Allan
Cunningham (1785-1842).

"Only think, poor Allan Cunningham dead!" he wrote to John Murray,
Junr. (25th Nov. 1842). "A young man--only fifty-eight--strong and
tall as a giant; might have lived to a hundred and one, but he
bothered himself about the affairs of this world far too much. That
statue shop was his bane; took to book making likewise, in a word too
fond of Mammon--awful death--no preparation--came literally upon him
like a thief in the dark. Am thinking of writing a short life of
him; old friend--twenty years' standing, knew a good deal about him;
Traditional Tales his best work . . .

"Pray send Dr Bowring a copy of Bible. Lives No. 1, Queen Square,
Westminster, another old friend. Send one to Ford--capital fellow.
Respects to Mr M. God bless you. Feel quite melancholy, Ever

In these Jinglelike periods Borrow pays tribute to the man who
praised his Romantic Ballads and contributed a prefatory poem. He
returned to the subject ten days later in another letter to John
Murray, Junr. "I can't get poor Allan out of my head," he wrote.
"When I come up I intend to go and see his wife. What a woman!"

Fame did not dispel from Borrow's mind the old restlessness, the
desire for action. He was still unwell, worried at the sight of
"Popery . . . springing up in every direction . . . THERE'S NO PEACE
IN THIS WORLD." {355a} A cold contracted by his wife distressed him
to the point of complaining that "there is little but trouble in this
world; I am nearly tired of it." {355b} Exercise failed to benefit
him. He was suffering from languor and nervousness. And through it
all that Spartan woman who had committed the gravest of matrimonial
errors, that of marrying a genius, soothed and comforted the sick
lion, tired even of victory.

Small things troubled him and honours awakened in him no enthusiasm.
The Times in reviewing The Bible in Spain had inferred that he was
not a member of the Church of England, {355c} and the statement "must
be contradicted." The Royal Institution was prepared to confer an
honour upon him, and he could not make up his mind whether or not to
accept it.

"What would the Institute expect me to write?" he enquires of John
Murray, Junr., 25th Feb. 1843. "(I have exhausted Spain and the
Gypsies.) Would an essay on the Welsh language and literature suit,
with an account of the Celtic tongues? Or would something about the
ancient North and its literature be more acceptable? . . . Had it
been the Royal Academy, I should have consented at once, and do
hereby empower you to accept in my name any offer which may be made
from that quarter. I should very much like to become an Academician,
the thing would just suit me, more especially as 'they do not want
CLEVER men, but SAFE men.' Now I am safe enough, ask the Bible
Society, whose secrets I have kept so much to their satisfaction,
that they have just accepted at my hands an English Gypsy Gospel
gratis." {356a}

He declined an invitation to join the Ethnological Society.

"Who are they?" he enquires in the same letter. "At present I am in
great demand. A Bishop has just requested me to visit him. The
worst of these Bishops is that they are all skinflints, saving for
their families; their cuisine is bad and their Port-wine execrable,
and as for their cigars--. . . "

Borrow strove to quiet his spirit by touring about Norfolk, "putting
up at dead of night in country towns and small villages." He
returned to Oulton at the end of a fortnight, having tired himself
and knocked up his horse. Even the news that a new edition of The
Bible in Spain was required could not awaken in him any enthusiasm.
He was glad the book had sold, as he knew it would, and he would like
a rough estimate of the profits. A few days later he writes to John
Murray, Junr., with reference to a new edition of The Zincali, saying
that he finds "that there is far more connection between the first
and second volumes than he had imagined," and begging that the
reprint may be the same as the first. "It would take nearly a month
to refashion the book," he continues, "and I believe a month's mental
labour at the present time would do me up." The weather in
particular affected, him. For years he had been accustomed to sun-
warmed Spain, and the gloom and greyness of England depressed him.

"Strange weather this," he had written to John Murray (31st Dec.
1842)--"very unwholesome I believe both for man and beast. Several
people dead and great mortality amongst the cattle. Am intolerably
well myself, but get but little rest--disagreeable dreams--digestion
not quite so good as I could wish--been on the water system--won't
do--have left it off, and am now taking lessons in singing."

Many men have earned the reputation of madness for less eccentric
actions than taking lessons in singing as a cure for indigestion,
after the failure of the water cure.

Although he was receiving complimentary letters from all quarters and
from people he had never even heard of, he seemed acutely unhappy.

"I did wrong," he writes to his wife from London (29th May 1843),
"not to bring you when I came, for without you I cannot get on at
all. Left to myself, a gloom comes upon me which I cannot describe.
I will endeavour to be home on Thursday, as I wish so much to be with
you, without whom there is no joy for me nor rest. You tell me to
ask for SITUATIONS, etc. I am not at all suited for them. My place
seems to be in our own dear cottage, where, with your help, I hope to
prepare for a better world . . . I dare say I shall be home on
Thursday, perhaps earlier, if I am unwell; for the poor bird when in
trouble has no one to fly to but his mate." And a few days later:
"I wish I had not left home. Take care of yourself. Kiss poor Hen."

During his stay in London, Borrow sat to Henry Wyndham Phillips,
R.A., for his portrait. {357a} On 21st June John Murray wrote: "I
have seen your portrait. Phillips is going to saw off a bit of the
panel, which will give you your proper and characteristic height.
Next year you will doubtless cut a great figure in the Exhibition.
It is the best thing young Phillips has done." The painting was
exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1844 as "George Borrow, Esq.,
author of The Bible in Spain," and is now in the possession of Mr
John Murray.

There is a story told in connection with the painting of this
portrait. Borrow was a bad sitter, and visibly chafed at remaining
indoors doing nothing. To overcome this restlessness the painter had
recourse to a clever stratagem. He enquired of his sitter if Persian
were really a fine language, as he had heard; Borrow assured him that
it was, and at Phillips' request, started declaiming at the top of
his voice, his eyes flashing with enthusiasm. When he ceased, the
wily painter mentioned other tongues, Turkish, Armenian, etc., in
each instance with the same result, and the painting of the portrait
became an easy matter.

On 23rd June John Murray (the Second) died, at the age of sixty-five,
and was succeeded by his son. "Poor old Murray!" Ford wrote to
Borrow, "We shall never see his like again. He . . . was a fine
fellow in every respect." In another letter he refers to him as
"that Prince of Bibliophiles, poor, dear, old Murray." Borrow's own
relations with John Murray had always been most cordial. On one
occasion, when writing to his son, he says: "I shall be most happy
to see you and still more your father, whose jokes do one good. I
wish all the world were as gay as he." Then without a break, he goes
on to deplore the fact that "a gentleman drowned himself last week on
my property. I wish he had gone somewhere else." Such was George

For some time past Borrow's thoughts had been directed towards
obtaining a Government post abroad. The sentence, "You tell me to
ask for situations, etc.," in a letter to his wife had reference to
this ambition. He had previously (21st June 1841) written to Lord
Clarendon suggesting for himself a consulship; but the reply had not
been encouraging. It was "quite hopeless to expect a consulship from
Lord Palmerston, the applicants were too many and the appointments
too few."

Borrow recognised the stagnation of his present life.

"I wish the Government would give me some command in Ireland which
would call forth my energies," he wrote to John Murray (25th Oct.
1843). "If there be an outbreak there I shall apply to them at once,
for my heart is with them in the present matter: I hope they will be
firm, and they have nothing to fear; I am sure that the English
nation will back them, for the insolence and ingratitude of the
Irish, and the cowardice of their humbug chief, have caused universal
disgust." Later he wrote, also to John Murray, with reference to
that "trumpery fellow O'Connell . . . I wish I were acquainted with
Sir Robert Peel. I could give him many a useful hint with respect to
Ireland and the Irish. I know both tolerably well. Whenever there's
a row I intend to go over with Sidi Habismilk and put myself at the
head of a body of volunteers."

He had previously written "the old Duke [Wellington] will at last
give salt eel to that cowardly, bawling vagabond O'Connell." Borrow
detested O'Connell as a "Dublin bully . . . a humbug, without courage
or one particle of manly feeling." Again (17th June) he had written:
"Horrible news from Ireland. I wish sincerely the blackguards would
break out at once; they will never be quiet until they have got a
sound licking, and the sooner the better."

The finer side of Borrow's character was shown in his eagerness to
obtain employment. There is a touch of pathos in the sight of this
knight, armed and ready to fight anything for anybody, wasting his
strength and his talents in feuds with his neighbours.

In the profits on the old and the preparation of new editions of The
Bible in Spain, Borrow took a keen interest. The money he was making
enabled him to assist his wife in disembarrassing her estate. "I
begin to take considerable pleasure in making money," he wrote to his
publisher, "which I hope is a good sign; for what is life unless we
take pleasure in something?" Again he enquires, "Why does not the
public call for another edition of them [The Gypsies of Spain]. You
see what an unconscionable rascal I am becoming." During his
lifetime Borrow received from the firm of Murray, 3437 pounds, 19s.,
most of which was on account of The Bible in Spain and, consequently,
was paid to him during the first years of his association with
Albemarle Street.

Caroline Fox gives an interesting picture of Borrow at this period as
he appeared to her:-

"25th Oct. 1843.

"Catherine Gurney gave us a note to George Borrow, so on him we
called,--a tall, ungainly, uncouth man, with great physical strength,
a quick penetrating eye, a confident manner, and a disagreeable tone
and pronunciation. He was sitting on one side of the fire, and his
old mother on the other. His spirits always sink in wet weather, and
to-day was very rainy, but he was courteous and not displeased to be
a little lionised, for his delicacy is not of the most susceptible.
He talked about Spain and the Spaniards; the lowest classes of whom,
he says, are the only ones worth investigating, the upper and middle
class being (with exceptions, of course) mean, selfish, and proud
beyond description. They care little for Roman Catholicism, and bear
faint allegiance to the Pope. They generally lead profligate lives,
until they lose all energy and then become slavishly superstitious.
He said a curious thing of the Esquimaux, namely, that their language
is a most complex and highly artificial one, calculated to express
the most delicate metaphysical subtleties, yet they have no
literature, nor are there any traces of their ever having had one--a
most curious anomaly; hence he simply argues that you can ill judge
of a people by their language." {360a}

One of the strangest things about Borrow's personality was that it
almost invariably struck women unfavourably. That he himself was not
indifferent to women is shown by the impression made upon him by the
black eyes of one of the Misses Mills of Saxham Hall, where he was
taken to dinner by Dr Hake, who states that "long afterwards, his
inquiries after the black eyes were unfailing." {360b} He was also
very kind and considerate to women. "He was very polite and
gentlemanly in ladies' society, and we all liked him," wrote one
woman friend {360c} who frequently accompanied him on his walks. She
has described him as walking along "singing to himself or quite
silent, quite forgetting me until he came to a high hill, when he
would turn round, seize my hand, and drag me up. Then he would sit
down and enjoy the prospect." {360d}


In March 1844 Borrow, unable longer to control the Wanderlust within
him, gave up the struggle, and determined to make a journey to the
East. He was in London on the 20th, as Lady Eastlake (then Miss
Elizabeth Rigby) testifies in her Journal. "Borrow came in the
evening," she writes: "now a fine man, but a most disagreeable one;
a kind of character that would be most dangerous in rebellious times-
-one that would suffer or persecute to the utmost. His face is
expressive of wrong-headed determination." {361a}

He left London towards the end of April for Paris, from which he
wrote to John Murray, 1st May

"Vidocq wishes very much to have a copy of my Gypsies of Spain, and
likewise one of the Romany Gospels. On the other side you will find
an order on the Bible Society for the latter, and perhaps you will be
so kind as to let one of your people go to Earl Street to procure it.
You would oblige me by forwarding it to your agent in Paris, the
address is Monsr. Vidocq, Galerie Vivienne, No. 13 . . . V. is a
strange fellow, and amongst other things dabbles in literature. He
is meditating a work upon Les Bohemiens, about whom I see he knows
nothing at all. I have no doubt that the Zincali, were it to fall
into his hands, would be preciously gutted, and the best part of the
contents pirated. By the way, could you not persuade some of the
French publishers to cause it to be translated, in which event there
would be no fear. Such a work would be sure to sell. I wish Vidocq
to have a copy of the book, but I confess I have my suspicions; he is
so extraordinarily civil."

From Paris he proceeded to Vienna, and thence into Hungary and
Transylvania, where he remained for some months. He is known to have
been "in the steppe of Debreczin," {362a} to Koloszvar, through Nagy-
Szeben, or Hermannstadt, on his journey through Roumania to
Bucharest. He visited Wallachia "for the express purpose of
discoursing with the Gypsies, many of whom I found wandering about."

So little is known of Borrow's Eastern Journey that the following
account, given by an American, has a peculiar interest:-

"My companions, as we rode along, related some marvellous stories of
a certain English traveller who had been here [near Grosswardein] and
of his influence over the Gypsies. One of them said that he was
walking out with him one day, when they met a poor gypsy woman. The
Englishman addressed her in Hungarian, and she answered in the usual
disdainful way. He changed his language, however, and spoke a word
or two in an unknown tongue. The woman's face lighted up in an
instant, and she replied in the most passionate, eager way, and after
some conversation dragged him away almost with her. After this the
English gentleman visited a number of their most private gatherings
and was received everywhere as one of them. He did more good among
them, all said, than all the laws over them, or the benevolent
efforts for them, of the last half century. They described his
appearance--his tall, lank, muscular form, and mentioned that he had
been much in Spain, and I saw that it must be that most ubiquitous of
travellers, Mr Borrow." {362c}

This was the fame most congenial to Borrow's strange nature.
Dinners, receptions, and the like caused him to despise those who
found pleasure in such "crazy admiration for what they called
gentility." It was his foible, as much as "gentility nonsense" was
theirs, to find pleasure in the role of the mysterious stranger, who
by a word could change a disdainful gypsy into a fawning, awe-
stricken slave. Fame to satisfy George Borrow must carry with it
something of the greatness of Olympus.

A glimpse of Borrow during his Eastern tour is obtained from Mrs
Borrow's letters to John Murray. After telling him that she
possesses a privilege which many wives do not (viz.), permission to
open her Husband's letters during his absence, she proceeds:-

"The accounts from him are, I am thankful to say, very satisfactory.
It is extraordinary with what marks of kindness even Catholics of
distinction treat him when they know who he is, but it is clearly his
gift of tongues which causes him to meet with so many adventures,
several of which he has recorded of a most singular nature." {363a}

At Vienna Borrow had arranged to wait until he should receive a
letter from his wife, "being very anxious to know of his family," as
Mrs Borrow informed John Murray (24th July).

"Thus far," she continues, "thanks be to God, he has prospered in his
journey. Many and wonderful are the adventures he has met with,
which I hope at no distant period may be related to his friends.
Doctor Bowring was very kind in sending me flattering tidings of my

Borrow was at Constantinople on 17th Sept. when he drew on his letter
of credit. Leland tells an anecdote about Borrow at Constantinople;
but it must be remembered that it was written when he regarded Borrow
with anything but friendly feelings:-

"Sir Patrick Colquhoun told me that once when he was at
Constantinople, Mr Borrow came there, and gave it out that he was a
marvellous Oriental scholar. But there was great scepticism on this
subject at the Legation, and one day at the table d'hote, where the
great writer and divers young diplomatists dined, two who were seated
on either side of Borrow began to talk Arabic, speaking to him, the
result being that he was obliged to confess that he not only did not
understand what they were saying, but did not even know what the
language was. Then he was tried in Modern Greek, with the same
result." {364a}

The story is obviously untrue. Had Borrow been ignorant of Arabic he
would not have risked writing to Dr Bowring (11th Sept. 1831; see
ante, page 85) expressing his enthusiasm for that language. Arabic
had, apparently, formed one of the subjects of his preliminary
examination at Earl Street. With regard to Modern Greek he confessed
in a letter to Mr Brandram (12th June 1839), "though I speak it very
ill, I can make myself understood."

Having obtained a Turkish passport, and after being presented to
Abdul Medjid, the Sultan, Borrow proceeded to Salonika and, crossing
Thessaly to Albania, visited Janina and Prevesa. He passed over to
Corfu, and saw Venice and Rome, returning to England by way of
Marseilles, Paris and Havre. He arrived in London on 16th November,
after nearly seven months' absence, to find his "home particularly
dear to me . . . after my long wanderings."

It is curious that he should have left no record of this expedition;
but if he made notes he evidently destroyed them, as, with the
exception of a few letters, nothing was found among his papers
relating to the Eastern tour. There is evidence that he was occupied
with his pen during this journey, in the existence at the British
Museum of his Vocabulary of the Gypsy Language as spoken in Hungary
and Transylvania, compiled during an intercourse of some months with
the Gypsies in those parts in the year 1844, by George Borrow. In
all probability he prepared his Bohemian Grammar at the same time.

From the time that he became acquainted with Borrow, Richard Ford had
constituted himself the genius of La Mezquita (the Mosque), as he
states the little octagonal Summer-house was called. He was for ever
urging in impulsive, polyglot letters that the curtain to be lifted.
"Publish your WHOLE adventures for the last twenty years," he had
written. {365b} Ford saw that a man of Borrow's nature must have had
astonishing adventures, and with HIS pen would be able to tell them
in an astonishing manner.

As early as the summer of 1841 Borrow appears to have contemplated
writing his Autobiography. On the eve of the appearance of The Bible
in Spain (17th Dec.) he wrote to John Murray: "I hope our book will
be successful; if so, I shall put another on the stocks. Capital
subject: early life; studies and adventures; some account of my
father, William Taylor, Whiter, Big Ben, etc. etc."

The first draft of notes for Lavengro, an Autobiography, as the book
was originally advertised in the announcement, is extremely
interesting. It runs:-

"Reasons for studying languages: French, Italian, D'Eterville.
Southern tongues. Dante.
Walks. The Quaker's Home, Mousehold. Petulengro.
The Gypsies.
The Office. Welsh. Lhuyd.
German. Levy. Billy Taylor.
Danish. Kaempe Viser. Billy Taylor. Dinner.
Hebrew. The Jew.
Philosophy. Radicalism. Ranters.
Thurtell. Boxers. Petulengres." {365c}

Lavengro was planned in 1842 and the greater part written before the
end of the following year, although the work was not actually
completed until 1846. There are numerous references in Borrow's
letters of this period to the book on which he was then engaged, and
he invariably refers to it as his Life. On 21st January 1843 he
writes to John Murray, Junr.: "I meditate shortly a return to
Barbary in quest of the Witch Hamlet, and my adventures in the land
of wonders will serve capitally to fill the thin volume of My Life, a
Drama, By G. B." Again and again Borrow refers to My Life. Hasfeldt
and Ford also wrote of it as the "wonderful life" and "the

In his letters to John Murray, Borrow not only refers to the book as
his Life, but from time to time gives crumbs of information
concerning its progress. The Secretary of the Bible Society has just
lent him his letters from Russia, "which will be of great assistance
in the Life, as I shall work them up as I did those relating to
Spain. The first volume," he continues, "will be devoted to England
entirely, and my pursuits and adventures in early life." He
recognises that he must be careful of the reputation that he has
earned. His new book is to be original, as would be seen when it at
last appears; but he confesses that occasionally he feels
"tremendously lazy." On another occasion (27th March 1843) he writes
to John Murray, Junr.: "I hope by the end of next year that I shall
have part of my life ready for the press in 3 vols." Six months
later (2nd Oct. 1843) he writes to John Murray:-

"I wish I had another Bible ready; but slow and sure is my maxim.
The book which I am at present about will consist, if I live to
finish it of a series of Rembrandt pictures interspersed here and
there with a Claude. I shall tell the world of my parentage, my
early thoughts and habits; how I became a sap-engro, or viper-
catcher; my wanderings with the regiment in England, Scotland and
Ireland . . . Then a great deal about Norwich, Billy Taylor,
Thurtell, etc.; how I took to study and became a lav-engro. What do
you think of this as a bill of fare for the FIRST Vol.? The second
will consist of my adventures in London as an author in the year '23
(sic), adventures on the Big North Road in '24 (sic), Constantinople,
etc. The third--but I shall tell you no more of my secrets."

In a letter to John Murray (25th Oct. 8843), the title is referred to
as Lavengro: A Biography. It is to be "full of grave fun and solemn
laughter like the Bible." On 6th December he again writes:-

"I do not wish for my next book to be advertised yet; I have a
particular reason. The Americans are up to everything which affords
a prospect of gain, and I should not wonder that, provided I were to
announce my title, and the book did not appear forthwith, they would
write one for me and send forth their trash into the world under my
name. For my own part I am in no hurry," he proceeds. "I am writing
to please myself, and am quite sure that if I can contrive to please
myself, I shall please the public also. Had I written a book less
popular than the Bible, I should be less cautious; but I know how
much is expected from me, and also know what a roar of exultation
would be raised by my enemies (and I have plenty) were I to produce
anything that was not first rate."

Time after time he insists upon his determination to publish nothing
that is not "as good as the last." "I shall go on with my Life," he
writes, to Ford (9th Feb. 1844), "but slowly and lazily. What I
write, however, is GOOD. I feel it is good, strange and wild as it
is." {367a}

From 24th-27th Jan. 1844 that "most astonishing fellow" Richard Ford
visited Borrow at Oulton, urging again in person, most likely, the
lifting of the veil that obscured those seven mysterious years. Ford
has himself described this visit to Borrow in a letter written from
Oulton Hall.

"I am here on a visit to El Gitano;" he writes, "two 'rum' coves, in
a queer country . . . we defy the elements, and chat over las cosas
de Espana, and he tells me portions of his life, more strange even
than his book. We scamper by day over the country in a sort of gig,
which reminds me of Mr Weare on his trip with Mr THURTELL [Borrow's
old preceptor]; 'Sidi Habismilk' is in the stable and a Zamarra
[sheepskin coat] now before me, writing as I am in a sort of summer-
house called La Mezquita, in which El Gitano concocts his
lucubrations, and PAINTS his pictures, for his object is to colour up
and poetise his adventures."

By this last sentence Ford showed how thoroughly he understood
Borrow's literary methods. A fortnight later Borrow writes to Ford:-

"You can't think how I miss you and our chats by the fireside. The
wine, now I am alone, has lost its flavour, and the cigars make me
ill. I am frequently in my valley of the shadows, and had I not my
summer jaunt [the Eastern Tour] to look forward to, I am afraid it
would be all up with your friend and Batushka."

The Eastern Tour considerably interfered with the writing of
Lavengro. There was a seven months' break; but Borrow settled down
to work on it again, still determined to take his time and produce a
book that should be better than The Bible in Spain.

Ford's Hand-Book for Travellers in Spain and Readers at Home appeared
in 1845, a work that had cost its author upwards of sixteen years of
labour. In a letter to Borrow he characterised it as "a RUM book and
has queer stuff in it, although much expurgated for the sake of
Spain." Ford was very anxious that Borrow should keep the promise
that he had given two years previously to review the Hand-Book when
it appeared. "You will do it MAGNIFICENTLY. 'Thou art the man,'"
Ford had written with the greatest enthusiasm. On 2nd June an
article of thirty-seven folio pages was despatched by Borrow to John
Murray for The Quarterly Review, with the following from Mrs Borrow:-

"With regard to the article, it must not be received as a specimen of
what Mr Borrow would have produced had he been well, but he
considered his promise to Mr Ford sacred--and it is only to be wished
that it had been written under more favourable circumstances."
Borrow was ill at the time, having been "very unwell for the last
month," as Mrs Borrow explains, "and particularly so lately.
Shivering fits have been succeeded by burning fever, till his
strength was much reduced; and he at present remains in a low, and
weak state, and what is worse, we are by no means sure that the
disease is subdued."

Ford saw in Borrow "a crack reviewer." " . . . You have," he assured
him in 1843, "only to write a LONG LETTER, having read the book
carefully and thought over the subject." Ford also wrote to Borrow
(26th Oct. 1843): "I have written several letters to Murray
recommending them to BAG you forthwith, unless they are demented."
There was no doubt in his, Ford's, mind as to the acceptance of
Borrow's article.

"If insanity does not rule the Q. R. camp, they will embrace the
offer with open arms in their present Erebus state of dullness," he
tells Borrow, then, with a burst of confidence continues, "But,
barring politics, I confidentially tell you that the Ed[inburgh] Rev.
does business in a more liberal and more business-like manner than
the Q[uarterly] Rev. I am always dunning this into Murray's head.
More flies are caught with honey than vinegar. Soft sawder,
especially if plenty of GOLD goes into the composition, cements a
party and keeps earnest pens together. I grieve, for my heart is
entirely with the Q. R., its views and objects."

The article turned out to be, not a review of the Hand-Book, but a
bitter attack on Spain and her rulers. The second part was to some
extent germane to the subject, but it appears to have been more
concerned with Borrow's view of Spain and things Spanish than with
Ford's book. Lockhart saw that it would not do. In a letter to John
Murray he explains very clearly and very justly the objections to
using the article as it stood.

"I am very sorry," he writes (13th June), "after Borrow has so kindly
exerted himself during illness, that I must return his paper. I read
the MS. with much pleasure; but clever and brilliant as he is sure
always to be, it was very evident that he had not done such an
article as Ford's merits required; and I therefore intended to adopt
Mr Borrow's lively diatribe, but interweave with his matter and add
to it, such observations and extracts as might, I thought, complete
the paper in a REVIEW SENSE.

"But it appears that Mr B. won't allow anybody to tamper with his
paper; therefore here it is. It will be highly ornamental as it
stands to any Magazine, and I have no doubt either Blackwood or
Fraser or Colburn will be [only] too happy to insert it next month,
if applied to now.

"Mr Borrow would not have liked that, when his Bible in Spain came
out, we should have printed a brilliant essay by Ford on some point
of Spanish interest, but including hardly anything calculated to make
the public feel that a new author of high consequence had made his
appearance among us--one bearing the name, not of Richard Ford, but
of George Borrow."

Lockhart was right and Borrow was wrong. There is no room for
equivocation. Borrow should have sunk his pride in favour of his
friendship for Ford, who had, even if occasionally a little tedious
in his epistolary enthusiasm, always been a loyal friend; but Borrow
was ill and excuses must be made for him. Lockhart wrote also to
Ford describing Borrow's paper as "just another capital chapter of
his Bible in Spain," which he had read with delight, but there was
"hardly a word of REVIEW, and no extract giving the least notion of
the peculiar merits and style especially, of the Hand-Book." "He is
unwell," continued Lockhart, "I should be very sorry to bother him
more at present; and, moreover, from the little he has said of your
STYLE, I am forced to infer that a REVIEW of your book by him would
never be what I could feel authorised to publish in the Q. R." The
letter concludes with a word of condolence that the Hand-Book will
have to be committed to other hands.

Ford realised the difficulty of the situation in which he was placed,
and strove to wriggle out of it by telling Borrow that his wife had
said all along that

"'Borrow can't write anything dull enough for your set; I wonder how

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest