George Henry Borrow Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

George Henry Borrow (BAHR-oh) was a rara avis of English letters, a man whose life was even more romantic and picaresque than any of his works. The son of an itinerant recruiting officer, he picked up a catch-as-catch-can education, mainly in Edinburgh, Scotland. William Taylor, Robert Southey’s friend, interested the boy in learning languages, in which he developed an extraordinary facility. His curious career as a traveler, autobiographer-novelist, and philologist began when, after a brief period as a solicitor’s apprentice in Norwich and a frustrating career as a publisher’s hack in the late 1830’s, he was sent to Spain as a distributing agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society. He recorded his adventures with colorful embellishments in The Zincali: An Account of the Gypsies in Spain and The Bible in Spain. In St. Petersburg, he published Targum: Or, Metrical Translations from Thirty Languages and Dialects, a curious sort of anthology and literary tour de force. Widely hailed as a genius, Borrow became a literary lion and developed a vanity bordering on megalomania. With his royalties and money from Mary Clarke, whom he married in 1840, he bought an estate at Oulton Broad where he permitted gypsy encampments. Eventually, he published the first dictionary of the language of British gypsies, followed by two strange and fascinating narratives of gypsy life, Lavengro: The Scholar, the Gypsy, the Priest, and its sequel,...

(The entire section is 441 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Armstrong, Martin Donisthorpe. George Borrow. 1950. Reprint. New York: Haskell House, 1974.

Collie, Michael. George Borrow, Eccentric. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Jenkins, Herbert George. The Life of George Borrow. 1912. Reprint. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1970.

Knapp, William Ireland. Life, Writings, and Correspondence of George Borrow, 1803-1881. 1899. Reprint. Detroit: Gale Research, 1967.

McLynn, F. J. “Catholics and Celts in George Borrow’s Lavengro—Romany Rye.” Eire Ireland: A Journal of Irish Studies 19, no. 1 (Spring, 1984).

Meyers, Robert Rex. George Borrow. New York: Twayne, 1966.

Vilarrubla, Montserrat. “George Henry Borrow: A Bibliographical Addenda of Secondary Sources.” Bulletin of Bibliography 47, no. 2 (June, 1990).

Walling, R. A. J. George Borrow, the Man and His Work. 1908. Reprint. Folcroft, Pa.: Folcroft Library Editions, 1977.

Williams, David. A World of His Own: The Double Life of George Borrow. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.