George Borrow


"There are no countries in the world less known by the British than those selfsame British Islands" (Preface to Lavengro)

The famed linguist and traveller, George Henry Borrow, was born on 5th July 1803 in Norfolk. He was educated at Edinburgh High School and a grammar school in Norwich where he began to learn elements of some of the many languages he would grow such a fondness for. His father was a soldier and moved throughout the British Isles taking his young son with him. This would provide material for Borrow's great work, Lavengro (1851). His early apprenticeship to a solicitor suggested that a career in law was likely but Borrow took to literature and moved to London, notably editing Celebrated Trials and Remarkable Cases of Criminal Jurisprudence (1825).

Suffering not for the first or last time from manic depression, Borrow left London after about a year and began a lifelong pilgrimage around first England and then the continent (France, Germany, Spain, Russia and further east). Along the way, he made every effort to study the languages he came across and while in Spain and Russia he acted as an agent for the British and Foreign Bible Society.

Settling down in Oulton Broad, Suffolk and marrying a moneyed widow, Borrow began to write, documenting his experiences upon his travels. The Zincali, or an Account of the Gypsies in Spain (1841) and The Bible in Spain (1843) gave the author instantaneous success. Lavengro (1851) is considered to be his masterwork, but The Romany Rye (1857) is also well regarded. He documents the peoples, places and languages he finds in detail, although some of his scholarship has been called into question (it is believed that he did not travel so widely as he made out). Certainly, in his most famous works, fact and fiction are peculiarly intermingled. Nonetheless, he is one of the most intriguing writers of the nineteenth century.

Links Extensive French coverage of the author with detailed biographical information and further links
George Borrow A brief biography on George Borrow

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