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Posts Tagged ‘George Henry Borrow’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Simon Wilkin
27 July 1790 –1862

Simon Wilkin was the second of the three children of William Wilkin Wilkin, a Norfolk gristmiller, and Cecilia Lucy Wilkin, daughter of William Jacomb of London. When his father died Wilkin moved to Norwich to live with his guardian, Joseph Kinghorn, who educated him. He was a close friend of John Curtis, William Kirby, John Burrell and William Spence who shared his interest in entomology.

Wilkin lost his inherited wealth in 1811 when the paper mill in which he was a partner failed, and in 1832 his guardian’s death was another financial disaster. Bankruptcy forced the sale of his insect collection to the Zoological Society of London. He was then able to establish a printing and publishing business in Norwich. He published the work of Harriet Martineau, Amelia Opie, George Borrow, and William Taylor. In 1825 he married Emma, daughter of John Culley of Costessey, and they had two daughters and a son and in 1834 they moved to London.

Wilkin compiled an edition of Sir Thomas Browne (1836) for which he researched Browne’s correspondence in the British Museum and Bodleian Library.

He was a Fellow of the Linnean Society, and a member of the Wernerian Society of Edinburgh

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

George Henry Borrow
July 5 1803 – July 26 1881

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George Henry Borrow

Borrow was born at East Dereham. The son of Army recruiting officer Thomas Borrow and Ann. He was educated at the Royal High School of Edinburgh and Norwich Grammar School.

He studied law. In 1825, Borrow took his first major European journey, walking in France and Germany. He visited Russia, Portugal, Spain and Morocco, over the following years. After his marriage in 1840, he settled in Suffolk.

In 1815, he accompanied the regiment to Clonmel in Ireland. He attended the Protestant Academy, and learned to read Latin and Greek. He was introduced to the Irish language by a fellow student. After less than a year in Ireland, the regiment returned to Norwich.

Borrow’s precocious linguistic skills led him to become the protégé of William Taylor. In his first novel he lampooned Norwich society and his time with Taylor. The young Borrow earned the humiliation of having Norwich public subscription library burn his first publication.

George Borrow was a linguist adept at acquiring new languages. He left Norwich to travel to Saint Petersburg in 1833. As an agent of the Bible Society, Borrow was charged with supervising a translation of the Bible into Manchu. As a traveller, he was overwhelmed by the beauty of Saint Petersburg. During his two-year sojourn in Russia, Borrow called upon writer Alexander Pushkin who was out on a social call.

Borrow had a lifelong empathy with nomadic people such as Gypsies. He was fascinated by gypsy music, dance and customs. He became so familiar with the Romany language as to publish a dictionary of it. Borrow returned to Norwich in 1835.

Such was Borrow’s success that later in 1835 he set off for Spain, again an agent of the Bible Society. Borrow claimed to have stayed in Spain for nearly five years.

In 1840 Borrow’s career with the Bible Society came to an end, and he married Mary Clarke, a widow with a grown-up daughter called Henrietta, and a small estate at Oulton Broad in Lowestoft, Suffolk. Borrow began to write his books. The Zincali (1841) was moderately successful, and The Bible in Spain (1843) was a huge success, making Borrow a celebrity overnight. Lavengro (1851) and The Romany Rye (1857) puzzled readers, who were not sure how much was fact and how much fiction.

The family moved to Great Yarmouth, in the 1850s, and London in the 1860s. Mary Borrow died in 1869, and in 1874 George returned to Lowestoft, where he was later joined by his stepdaughter Henrietta and her husband, who looked after him until his death on 26 July 1881 in Lowestoft.

Borrow was said to be a man of striking appearance and deeply original character. He failed to find critical acclaim in his lifetime

Works

  • The Zincali (1841)
  • The Bible in Spain (1843)
  • Lavengro (1851)
  • The Romany Rye (1857)
  • Wild Wales (1862)
  • Romano Lavo-lil (1874)

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