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- The Life of George Borrow - 70/90 -

give it. I am afraid that you will hardly condescend to USE it, for you abide in the old Meninsky; but if you WILL use it, I shall be very glad. I don't think _I_ ever shall; and so what is to be done with it now it is bought?

I don't know what Kerrich told you of my being too LAZY to go over to Yarmouth to see you a year ago. No such thing as that. I simply had doubts as to whether you would not rather remain unlookt for. I know I enjoyed my evening with you a month ago. I wanted to ask you to read some of the Northern Ballads too; but you shut the book.

I must tell you. I am come up here on my way to Chichester to be married! to Miss Barton (of Quaker memory) and our united ages amount to 96!--a dangerous experiment on both sides. She at least brings a fine head and heart to the bargain--worthy of a better market. But it is to be, and I dare say you will honestly wish we may do well.

Keep the book as long as you will. It is useless to me. I shall be to be heard of through Geldeston Hall, Beccles. With compliments to Mrs Borrow, believe me,


P.S.--Donne is well, and wants to know about you.

A few months later FitzGerald wrote again:


Dear Borrow,--Will you send me [The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam] by bearer. I only want to look at him, for that Frenchman {427a} has been misquoting him in a way that will make [Professor] E. Cowell [of Cambridge] answerable for another's blunder, which must not be. You shall have 'Omar back directly, or whenever you want him, and I should really like to make you a copy (taking my time) of the best Quatrains. I am now looking over the Calcutta MS. which has 500!-- very many quite as good as those in the MS. you have; but very many in BOTH MSS. are well omitted.

I have been for a fortnight to Geldeston where Kerrich is not very well. I shall look for you one day in my Yarmouth rounds, and you know how entirely disengaged and glad to see you I am here. I have two fresh Nieces with me--and I find I gave you the WORST wine of two samples Diver sent me. I wish you would send word by bearer you are better--this one word written will be enough you see.

My old Parson Crabbe is bowing down under epileptic fits, or something like, and I believe his brave old white head will soon sink into the village Churchsward. Why, OUR time seems coming. Make way, Gentlemen!--Yours very truly,


What effect the sweet gentleness of FitzGerald's nature had upon that of Borrow is not known, for the replies have not been preserved. FitzGerald was a man capable of soothing the angriest and most discontented mind, and it is a misfortune that he saw so little of Borrow. In the early part of the following year (24th Jan. 1857) FitzGerald wrote to Professor E. B. Cowell of Cambridge:-

"I was with Borrow a week ago at Donne's, and also at Yarmouth three months ago: he is well, but not yet agreed with Murray. He read me a long Translation he had made from the Turkish: which I could not admire, and his Taste becomes stranger than ever." {428a}

From Wales Mrs George Borrow had written (Sept. 1854) to old Mrs Borrow: "He [Borrow] will, I expect at Christmas, publish his other work [The Romany Rye] together with his poetry in all the European languages." {428b} In November (1854) the manuscript of The Romany Rye was delivered to John Murray, who appears to have taken his time in reading it; for it was not until 23rd December that he expressed his views in the following letter. Even when the letter was written it was allowed to remain in John Murray's desk for five weeks, not being sent until 27th January:-

My Dear Borrow,--I have read with care the MS. of The Romany Rye and have pondered anxiously over it; and in what I am about to write I think I may fairly claim the privilege of a friend deeply interested in you personally, as well as in your reputation as author, and by no means insensible to the abilities displayed in your various works. It is my firm conviction then, that you will incur the certainty of failure and run the risque of injuring your literary fame by publishing the MS. as it stands. Very large omissions seem to me-- and in this, Elwin, {429a} no mean judge, concurs--absolutely indispensable. That Lavengro would have profited by curtailment, I stated before its publication. The result has verified my anticipations, and in the present instance I feel compelled to make it the condition of publication. You can well imagine that it is not my INTEREST to shorten a book from two volumes to one unless there were really good cause.

Lavengro clearly has not been successful. Let us not then risque the chance of another failure, but try to avoid the rock upon which we then split. You have so great store of interesting matter in your mind and in your notes, that I cannot but feel it to be a pity that you should harp always upon one string, as it were. It seems to me that you have dwelt too long on English ground in this new work, and have resuscitated some characters of the former book (such as F. Ardry) whom your readers would have been better pleased to have left behind. Why should you not introduce us rather to those novel scenes of Moscovite and Hungarian life respecting which I have heard you drop so many stimulating allusions. Do not, I pray, take offence at what I have written. It is difficult and even painful for me to assume the office of critic, and this is one of the reasons why this note has lingered so long in my desk. Fortunately, in the advice I am tendering I am supported by others of better literary judgment than myself, and who have also deep regard for you. I will specify below some of the passages which I would point out for omission.-- With best remembrances, I remain, my dear Borrow, Your faithful publisher and sincere friend,


Suggestions for Omission.

The Hungarian in No. 6. The Jockey Story, terribly spun out, No. 7. Visit to the Church, too long. Interview with the Irishman, Do. Learning Chinese, too much repetition in this part of a very interesting chapter. The Postilion and Highwayman. Throughout the MS. condensation is indispensable. Many of the narratives are carried to a tedious length by details and repetition. The dialogue with Ursula, the song, etc., border on the indelicate. I like much Horncastle Fair, the Chinese scholar, except objection noted above. Grooming of the horse. January 27, 1855.

On 29th January, Mrs Borrow wrote to John Murray a letter that was inspired by Borrow himself. Dr Knapp discovered the original draft, some of which was in Borrow's own hand. It runs:-

Dear Mr Murray,--We have received your letters. In the first place I beg leave to say something on a very principal point. You talk about CONDITIONS of publishing. Mr Borrow has not the slightest wish to publish the book. The MS. was left with you because you wished to see it, and when left, you were particularly requested not to let it pass out of your own hands. But it seems you have shown it to various individuals whose opinions you repeat. What those opinions are worth may be gathered from the following fact.

The book is one of the most learned works ever written; yet in the summary of the opinions which you give, not one single allusion is made to the learning which pervades the book, no more than if it contained none at all. It is treated just as if all the philological and historical facts were mere inventions, and the book a common novel . . .

With regard to Lavengro it is necessary to observe that if ever a book experienced infamous and undeserved treatment it was that book. It was attacked in every form that envy and malice could suggest, on account of Mr Borrow's acquirements and the success of The Bible in Spain, and it was deserted by those whose duty it was, in some degree to have protected it. No attempt was ever made to refute the vile calumny that it was a book got up against the Popish agitation of '51. It was written years previous to that period--a fact of which none is better aware than the Publisher. Is that calumny to be still permitted to go unanswered?

If these suggestions are attended to, well and good; if not, Mr Borrow can bide his time. He is independent of the public and of everybody. Say no more on that Russian Subject. Mr Borrow has had quite enough of the press. If he wrote a book on Russia, it would be said to be like The Bible in Spain, or it would be said to be unlike The Bible in Spain, and would be blamed in either case. He has written a book in connection with England such as no other body could have written, and he now rests from his labours. He has found England an ungrateful country. It owes much to him, and he owes nothing to it. If he had been a low ignorant impostor, like a person he could name, he would have been employed and honoured.--I remain, Yours sincerely,


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

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

"Borrow was just then very sore with his slashing critics, and on someone mentioning that Elwin was a 'Quartering reviewer,' he said,

The Life of George Borrow - 70/90

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