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Lavengro The Scholar - The Gypsy - The Priest, Vol. 1 (of 2)   By: (1803-1881)

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LAVENGRO The Scholar The Gypsy The Priest






{Portrait of George Borrow, painted by H. W. Phillips, engraved by W. Hall: p0.jpg}


There have been many Romany Ryes, or "Gypsy Gentlemen," as Gypsies designate those who, though not of their race, yet have loved that race, and have mastered the Romany tongue. The first is one of the oddest Andrew Boorde ( c. 1490 1549). Carthusian, traveller, physician, and, perhaps, the original Merry Andrew, he got into trouble over certain delinquencies, and died a prisoner in the Fleet gaol. In 1542 he was writing his Fyrst Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge , and had come to "the xxxviii. chapiter," which "treateth of Egypt, and of theyr money and of theyr speche." He started bravely:

"Egipt is a countrey ioyned to Jury, The countrey is plentyfull of wine, corne and hony.

"There be many great wyldernes, in the which be many great wylde beastes. In ye which wildernis liuid many holy fathers, as it apperith in vitas patrum. The people "

But here, I fancy, he suddenly broke off; what did he know of the Egyptian people? Greece was the nearest he had ever been to Egypt. Going, however, for a stroll through his native county of Sussex, he presently lights on a band of "right Egyptians," belike in front of an alehouse. Egyptians! the very thing! Like any newspaper correspondent of to day, he must straightway have whipped out his notebook, and jotted down the rest of his chapter:

"The people of the country be swarte, and doth go disgisid in theyr apparel, contrary to other nacions. They be lyght fyngerd and vse pyking, they have litle maner and euyl loggyng, and yet they be pleasant daunsers. Ther be few or none of the Egypcions yt doth dwel in Egipt, for Egipt is repleted now with infydel alyons. Ther mony is brasse and golde. Yf there be any man yt wyl learne parte of theyr speche, Englyshe and Egipt speche foloweth."

And there duly follows a neat little Ollendorfian dialogue about meat and bread, wine and beer, and such like, in which Dr. Furnivall, Boorde's editor, left it for Professor Zupitza to recognise excellent Romany. "Sit you downe and dryncke," "Drinke, drynke for God's sake," are two of the phrases. The interview was probably prolonged, perhaps renewed; Andrew Boorde would find good fellowship with Gypsies.

No. 2 is the Scholar Gypsy, of whom, alas! we know all too little, neither name nor dates, but only just what Joseph Glanvill tells in his Vanity of Dogmatizing (1661):

"There was very lately a Lad in the University of Oxford , who being of very pregnant and ready parts, and yet wanting the encouragement of preferment, was by his poverty forc'd to leave his studies there, and to cast himself upon the wide world for a livelyhood. Now, his necessities growing dayly on him and wanting the help of friends to relieve him, he was at last forced to joyn himself to a company of Vagabond Gypsies , whom occasionly he met with, and to follow their Trade for a maintenance. Among these extravagant people, by the insinuating subtilty of his carriage, he quickly got so much of their love and esteem, as that they discover'd to him their Mystery : in the practice of which, by the pregnancy of his wit and parts, he soon grew so good and proficient as to be able to out do his Instructours. After he had been a pretty while well exercis'd in the Trade, there chanc'd to ride by a couple of Scholars who had formerly bin of his acquaintance. The Scholars had quickly spyed out their old friend among the Gypsies , and their amazement to see him among such society had well nigh discover'd him: but by a sign he prevented their owning him before that Crew: and taking one of them aside privately, desired him with his friend to go to an Inn , not far distant thence, promising there to come to them... Continue reading book >>

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