Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Lavengro is the son of an army officer who fought against Napoleon, and the boy spends his early years at army garrisons in various parts of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. When he is six years old, Lavengro discovers Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), a book that stimulates his imagination and arouses in him a desire to read and to study languages. One day, while wandering on the outskirts of a garrison town, he meets a group of Romany, or gypsies, who threaten to do him harm. They draw back, however, when he shows them a tame snake that he is carrying. The gypsies, becoming friendly, nickname him Sapengro, or snake tamer. A young gypsy named Jasper declares that he and Sapengro will always be brothers. Lavengro also meets a man at the gypsy camp whom he will eventually see hanged fifteen years later at Newgate prison.
A few years later, the boy begins the study of Latin. About the same time, his father is ordered to Edinburgh, Scotland, and while living there Lavengro is involved in several bickers, or fights, with his schoolmates; he also learns the sport of mountain climbing. In 1815, Lavengro’s father is ordered to Ireland, and there Lavengro attends a seminary at Clonmel and studies more Latin and Greek; in incidental fashion, he also learns to speak Irish. His brother John is made an ensign and is transferred to a post a few miles away. After Britain signs a peace treaty with the French, however, opportunities for military...
(The entire section is 1661 words.)
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