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Lavengro the Scholar - the Gypsy - the Priest   By: (1803-1881)

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LAVENGRO: THE SCHOLAR—THE GYPSY—THE PRIEST.

BY GEORGE BORROW, AUTHOR OF “THE BIBLE IN SPAIN,” ETC.

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY THEODORE WATTS.

WARD, LOCK, BOWDEN, AND CO. LONDON: WARWICK HOUSE, SALISBURY SQUARE, E.C. NEW YORK: EAST 12TH STREET. MELBOURNE: ST. JAMES’S STREET. SYDNEY: YORK STREET.

1893.

[Picture: Borrow’s home at Oulton (now pulled down), showing the summer house where much of his work was written. (From a Photograph kindly lent by Mr. Welchman, of Lowestoft, and taken by Mr. F. G. Mayhew, of the same place.)]

NOTES UPON GEORGE BORROW.

I. BORROW AS A SPLENDID LITERARY AMATEUR.

There are some writers who cannot be adequately criticised—who cannot, indeed, be adequately written about at all—save by those to whom they are personally known. I allude to those writers of genius who, having only partially mastered the art of importing their own individual characteristics into literary forms, end their life work as they began it, remaining to the last amateurs in literary art. Of this class of writers George Borrow is generally taken to be the very type. Was he really so?

There are passages in “Lavengro” which are unsurpassed in the prose literature of England—unsurpassed, I mean, for mere perfection of style—for blending of strength and graphic power with limpidity and music of flow. Is “Lavengro” the work of a literary amateur who, yielding at will to every kind of authorial self indulgence, fails to find artistic expression for the life moving within him—fails to project an individuality that his friends knew to have been unique? Of other writers of genius, admirable criticism may be made by those who have never known them in the flesh. Is this because each of those others, having passed from the stage of the literary amateur to that of the literary artist, is able to pour the stream of his personality into the literary mould and give to the world a true image of himself? It has been my chance of life to be brought into personal relations with many men of genius, but I feel that there are others who could write about them more adequately than I. Does Borrow stand alone? The admirers of his writings seem generally to think he does, for ever since I wrote my brief and hasty obituary notice of him in 1881, I have been urged to enlarge my reminiscences of him—urged not only by philologers and gypsologists, but by many others in England, America, and Germany. But I on my part have been for years urging upon the friend who introduced me to him, and who knew him years ago,—knew him when he was the comparatively young literary lion of East Anglia,—Dr. Gordon Hake, to do what others are urging me to do. Not only has the author of “Parables and Tales” more knowledge of the subject than any one else, but having a greater reputation than I, he can speak with more authority, and having a more brilliant pen than I, he can give a more vital picture than I can hope to give of our common friend. If he is, as he seems to be, fully determined not to depict Borrow in prose, let me urge him to continue in verse that admirable description of him contained in one of the well known sonnets addressed to myself in “The New Day”:—

“And he, the walking lord of gipsy lore! How often ’mid the deer that grazed the Park, Or in the fields and heath and windy moor, Made musical with many a soaring lark, Have we not held brisk commune with him there, While Lavengro, then towering by your side, With rose complexion and bright silvery hair, Would stop amid his swift and lounging stride To tell the legends of the fading race— As at the summons of his piercing glance, Its story peopling his brown eyes and face, While you called up that pendant of romance To Petulengro with his boxing glory, Your Amazonian Sinfi’s noble story!”

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