George Borrow, 1803-1881

Biographical note

Philologist and miscellaneous author, and traveller, born at East Dereham, Norfolk, son of a recruiting officer, had a somewhat wandering childhood. He received most of his education in Edinburgh, and showed a peculiar talent for acquiring languages. After being for a short time in the office of a solicitor in Norwich, he travelled widely on the Continent and in the East, acquainting himself with the people and languages of the various countries he visited. He specially attached himself to the Gipsies, with whose language he became so familiar as to published a dictionary of it. His learning was shown by his publishing at St. Petersburg Targum, a work containing translations from 30 languages. Borrow became a travelling agent of the Bible Society, and his book, The Bible in Spain [1843], giving an account of his remarkable adventures in that country, made his literary reputation. It was followed by Lavengro [1851], and its sequel, Romany Rye [1857], and Wild Wales [1862], which, though works of originality and extreme interest, and now perhaps his most popular books, were received with less public favour. The two first give a highly coloured picture of his own story. He translated the New Testament into Manchu. In his latter years he settled at Oulton Broad, Norfolk, where he died. Borrow was a man of striking appearance and great vigour and originality of character and mind. His writings hold a unique place in English literature.

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]


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