IN that hour of precocious senility which marks the passing of boyhood, when it seemed quite clear to me that everything was known and nothing worth knowing, I had the luck to fall into the company of George Borrow. He took me in hand somewhat brusquely, and showed me how to break a way through the sophomoric thickets in which I had got myself entangled. I had about decided against immortality, for one thing, and this seemed to leave me a little languid, temporarily, as to the business of the present world. For the rest, I had been growing sickly over sundry questions of current literary contrivance. I wished (as much as it was convenient to wish anything) to write like Maupassant and to talk like Meredith ; I should not have minded producing a story as good as Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I also wrote sonnets, after Rossetti, on love and death, and on other themes of which I was as well qualified to speak. Doubtless, contact with any hardy nature might have set me right, but the honor happened to fall to Borrow. He was prompt to assure me, in his blunt way, that life is not a quibble, nor literature a trick ; and so made a Borrovian of me for good and all.
Borrovians are not a sect ; I believe there is no society. They are simply the people who belong to Borrow. No better excuse can be made for the present estimate than the one which was offered nearly ten years ago by an English critic : “ I think that he should be written about occasionally, if only for the reason that, his name being so seldom heard, there is some danger of the right people going to their graves without encountering him, — a mischance that cannot be contemplated easily by any right-thinking man.” It may be that the excuse is not so good as it was, for Borrow’s work has been several times reprinted since then, and the little company of his friends has undoubtedly grown. Let us take refuge in the fact that his centenary is barely past; and that some fresh mention of him in these pages is therefore only a little overdue.
If Borrow opens a new world to the right people, it is not a world into which mere wandering led him. One finds little indication of his genius in the fact of those early roving experiences of his. The newspapers remind us daily how ordinary, as recorded fact, extraordinary conduct is. In his own time Borrow’s exploits were barely a nine days’ wonder; now they would not be thought worthy of remark. The slum, the dive, the hell, the joint, are among the popular exhibits of our Vanity Fair, and it is easy to get a respectable guide. Also, we have learned to fare forth, with notebooks, along the trail of the gypsy or the hobo, and to make a show-place of his most retired habitat. Borrow’s motive differentiates him from us, to be sure. He was not a reporter or a student. He did not look forward to a Ph. D. in sociology, or to a display of higher journalism. His wayside studies in ethnology and philology were even less serious than he took them to be. The simple truth is that he had an instinct for vagabondage, and could not keep away from it. It was a part of him, and, as his talent was primarily autobiographical, it went far toward determining the substance of his work. But it is the world in Borrow which gives enchantment to the world through which he moved. If there are no new facts under the sun, there is, thank Heaven, no dearth of new personalities in the light of which the old facts continue to serve admirably.
George Borrow was born in July, 1803, of decent Cornish stock. His father was a captain of militia, a sturdy, simpleminded Briton, whose pride was to have been for one glorious day the conqueror of Big Ben, champion bruiser of all England. The son was also strong of frame and able with his fists, but there was nothing else about him for the father to understand. He bore, indeed, many of the marks of the ne’er-do-weel. He left undone many things which, from the parental point of view, he ought to have done, and did many things which he ought not to have done. He neglected his Greek for Irish, he neglected law for the company of law-breakers, and he preferred the acquaintances to be made in an inn or a stable to those which a respectable provincial drawing-room could afford. Yet there was much health in him. He went his own way not through viciousness, but through a hardy independence of nature. Unfortunately the world — and parents — have to make a rule of discountenancing irregularity and insubordination, because these are, in the ordinary instance, signs of moral and mental weakness. So, by this lamentable chance, it comes about that extraordinary exertions of force often look quite like the commonest laxities. It is easy enough to see now that Borrow was simply going about his business. He did not himself understand what that business was, and had even a quaint sympathy with the paternal disapproval. For whom shall we feel the greater sympathy as we listen to the last interview reported between Lavengro and the stout captain ? —
“ ‘ I wish to ask you a few questions,’ said he to me one day, after my mother had left the room.
“ ‘ I will answer anything you may please to ask me, my dear father.’
“ ‘ What have you been doing lately ? ’
“ ‘I have been occupied, as usual, attending at the office at the appointed hours.’
“ ' And what do you there ? ’
“ ‘ Whatever I am ordered.’
“ ‘ And nothing else ? ’
“ ‘ Oh, yes, I sometimes read a book.’
“ ‘ Connected with your profession ? ’
“ ‘ Not always ; I have been lately reading Armenian.’ . . .
“ ‘ What’s that ? ’
“ ‘ The language of a people whose country is a region on the other side of Asia Minor.’
“ ‘ Well! ’
“ ' A region abounding in mountains.’
“ ' Well! ’
“ ' Amongst which is Mount Ararat.’
“ ‘ Well! ’
“ ‘ Upon which, as the Bible informs us, the ark rested.’
“ ‘ Well! ’
“ ‘ It is the language of the people of those regions.’
“ ‘ So you told me.’
“ ' And I have been reading the Bible in their language.’
“ ' Well! . . . And what does it all amount to ? ’
“ ‘ Very little, father ; indeed, there is very little known about the Armenians ; their early history, in particular, is involved in considerable mystery.’
“ ‘ And if you knew all that it is possible to know about them, to what would it amount ? To what earthly purpose could you turn it ? Have you acquired any knowledge of your profession ? ’
“ ' Very little, father.’
“ ‘ Very little ! Have you acquired all in your power ? ’
“ ‘ I can’t say that I have, father.’ ”
Upon such terms they soon after parted.
It was not his unconventionality alone which gave the family of young Borrow cause for uneasiness. He was subject to fits of what I suppose we should call acute melancholia, — he called it “ the Fear,” or “ the Horrors,” and it led him more than once to the brink of suicide. He never quite outgrew these seizures, but in later life he learned to control them by a prompt application of ale or port, — a remedy which he recommends, with an air of discovery, to whomsoever it may concern.
The death of his father put an end to Borrow’s law studies, and dispatched him to London, the forlorn spot in which, with the customary fatuity of English provincials, he fancied that a fortune lay waiting for him. For the next ten years he had a hard struggle to keep alive, by dint of the meanest literary hack-work. Beyond the compilation of records of criminal trials, and the probably mythical Life of Joseph Sell of which Lavengro tells us, we are ignorant as to what specific tasks may have occupied him. It is clear that his appointment in 1833 as agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society meant a rise in life. Thereupon followed the adventures in Spain, and, in 1840, his marriage to a widow of comfortable means. This brought an end to his struggles, and set him free to lead for the rest of his years (he died in 1881) a quiet and independent life in the country. By all accounts he was fonder to the last of his gypsies and his ’ostlers than, as he would have said scornfully, of “ the genteel persons ” of his vicinity.
Wild Wales is the only record of these later years, and the journey, made with the impedimenta of a wife and a stepdaughter, could not be expected to yield the most romantic episodes. It is by a lucky chance that we are not given the bill of fare at quite every meal. Yet the vintage, if milder, has the right bouquet, and the faithful Borrovian would sacrifice hardly a drop of it. Here, for example, is a little vignette (wife and stepdaughter being, it happens, some miles in the background) : —
“ The inn at Cerrig y Drudion was called the Lion, whether the white, black, red or green lion I do not know, though I am certain that it was a lion of some colour or other. It seemed as decent and respectable a hostelry as any traveller could wish, to refresh and compose himself in, after a walk of twenty miles. I entered a well-lighted passage, and from thence a well-lighted bar-room, on the right hand, in which sat a stout, comely, elderly lady dressed in silks and satins, with a cambric coif on her head, in company with a thin, elderly man with a hat on his head, dressed in a rather prim and precise manner. ‘ Madam,’ said I, bowing to the lady, ‘ as I suppose you are the mistress of this establishment, I beg leave to inform you that I am an Englishman walking through these regions in order fully to enjoy their beauties and wonders. I have this day come from Llangollen, and being somewhat hungry and fatigued, hope I can be accommodated here with a dinner and a bed.’
“ ‘ Sir,’ said the lady, getting up and making me a profound curtsey, ‘ I am as you suppose the mistress of this establishment, and am happy to say that I shall be able to accommodate you — pray sit down, sir,’ she continued, handing me a chair. ‘ You must indeed be tired, for Llangollen is a great way from here.’ ”
All of the writing which brought Borrow fame was done after his marriage. The Zincali (1841) lacked the vigor and discursiveness of the later books, but its theme was fresh, and its style had an odd tang of its own which caught not a few ears in Europe and elsewhere. The author was advised of his faults, and urged to do something better ; and the something better which resulted was The Bible in Spain. A remarkable passage in one of his prefaces describes his manner of composing the book ; it is in Borrow’s characteristic style : —
“Mistos amande : I am content, I replied, and sitting down I commenced The Bible in Spain. At first I proceeded slowly, — sickness was in the land, and the face of nature was overcast, — heavy rain-clouds swam in the heavens, — the blast howled in the pines which nearly surround my lonely dwelling, and the waters of the lake which lies before it, so quiet in general and tranquil, were fearfully agitated. ‘ Bring lights hither, O Hazim Ben Attar, son of the miracle ! ’ And the Jew of Fez brought in the lights, for though it was midday I could scarcely see in the little room where I was writing.... A dreary summer and autumn passed by and were succeeded by as gloomy a winter. I still proceeded with the Bible in Spain. The winter passed, and spring came with cold dry winds and occasional sunshine, whereupon I arose, shouted, and mounting my horse, even Sidi Habismilk, I scoured all the surrounding district, and thought but little of the Bible in Spain. . . .
“ Then came the summer with much heat and sunshine, and then I would lie for hours in the sun and recall the sunny days I had spent in Andalusia, and my thoughts were continually reverting to Spain, and at last I remembered that the Bible in Spain was still unfinished; whereupon I arose and said, This loitering profiteth nothing, — and I hastened to my summer-house by the side of the lake, and there I thought and wrote, and every day I repaired to the same place, and thought and wrote until I had finished the Bible in Spain.”
This is highly imaginative writing, though Borrow probably was conscious of giving nothing more than a simple autobiographical item. There is an odd reminder of Poe in it; the opening lines might almost be taken from The Fall of the House of Usher, — or is it “ the dank tarn of Auber ” of which this ominously agitated English lake reminds one?
The Bible in Spain was taken seriously by the English reviews. Borrow found himself compared to Le Sage, Bunyan, and Cervantes; the critic who pleased him most was the one who called the book “ a Gil Blas in water colours.” As a mere narrative of travels it would have gained a wider hearing than such books can now hope for. It appeared during a dark age of English and American intelligence with regard to foreign lands and peoples. If we still manage to be reasonably ignorant of such matters, it is not because we have lacked the chance to learn. Just then even the European world lay dark to our eyes, and we were only beginning to ask for light. Americans were eager for the chance rays of Irving, and Englishmen were ready to look upon the unaccustomed scenes which Borrow brought before them.
This collocation of names suggests an odd contrast. The Tales of the Alhambra were published in 1832, and The Bible in Spain ten years later. Irving and Borrow must have been in Spain at nearly the same time ; both were there primarily on other than literary business; both presently turned their experiences to literary account. Here the resemblance ends. Irving was the senior by twenty years, a writer of established reputation, a man of elegant tastes. He was loyal to the theory of democracy, but breathed comfortably only in the air of what Borrow called “ gentility.” He had a quick eye for the picturesque and the romantic, and a discreet blindness for the squalid and the obscene. He found in Spain a mighty treasure of romance, a tradition of past greatness, striking relics of the Moorish occupancy, a national temperament still full of grace and color. So he wrote The Tales of the Alhambra.
Borrow was an unknown hack-writer, a man of singular life and violent opinion, by instinct a democrat, and by practice a vagabond. Spain was not a land of romantic glamour to him. It was a land of gross ignorance and superstition, of duplicity, of kind hearts, of pleasantly various dialects, of engrossing wayside encounters. These are the materials from which the fabric of The Bible in Spain is wrought. How much weight the element of information had with Borrow’s audience is shown by the remark of a contributor to Chambers’s Cyclopædia of English Literature after the appearance of Lavengro and The Romany Rye: “These works are inferior in interest to his former publications, but are still remarkable books.” The public was not prompt in recognizing the pure genius of this English colporteur and student of gypsies.
That genius found, of course, its best expression in Lavengro and its sequel, which together form one of the strangest narratives the world has known. I do not mean that it seems to me queer; the strange thing about it is its spontaneity. Nobody can feel that Borrow had to choose between modes of expression ; it was discursive autobiography or nothing for him. Nor does there seem to have been possible question as to the period which he should record. At the end of The Romany Rye he has reached his twenty-fourth year. Of the next seven years he never gave any account, alluding to it as “ the veiled period.” One or two intimations he let fall as to extensive traveling, which must have been done, if at all, during this interval. His editor and biographer (Professor Knapp, an American) thinks this time was spent at dreary hack-work which he wished to forget and to have forgotten. However this may be, there is no doubt that the Lavengro narrative gives a full and fairly accurate account of the first twenty-three years of the author’s life. During his later years, Borrow chose to assert, and to reassert, with a good deal of heat, that the narrative “ was not what is generally termed an autobiography.” Why he made so sweeping an assertion nobody knows. The researches of his biographer have shown that in its original manuscript form the narrative was frankly personal, and that the changes which he afterwards made to give it an impersonal turn were as slight as they could well be. That his characters were all drawn from the life, moreover, is a fact which has been placed beyond doubt. What Borrow did, saw, felt, and was: these are the themes which give his work value.
This he never fully understood, or we should have been spared not only the unhappy Appendix of which I shall have to speak, but a good deal of material which obstructs the free course of his narrative. It is irritating that the Man in Black should be allowed to intrude upon so many of the precious moments which we have to spend in Mumper’s Dingle with Lavengro and the glorious Isopel. It is well enough to be invited to hate the Pope of Rome, but there are moments when we should prefer simply to ignore him. Borrow prided himself on being a champion of Protestantism, a scholar, a philosopher. He was none of these, but a writer of unique genius ; and upon this fact, if he suspected it, he prided himself not at all. Consequently, when his book is attacked, he sets himself to defend it as a work in theology, or philology, or morals. “ Those who read this book with attention . . . may derive much information with respect to matters of philology and literature ; it will be found treating of most of the principal languages from Ireland to China, and of the literature which they contain; and it is particularly minute with regard to the ways, manners, and speech of the English section of the most extraordinary and mysterious clan or tribe of people to be found in the whole world, — the children of Roma. But it contains matters of much more importance than anything connected with philology, and the literatures and manners of nations. Perhaps no work was ever offered to the public in which the kindness and Providence of God have been set forth by more striking examples, or the machinations of priestcraft been more truly and lucidly exposed, or the dangers which result to a nation that abandons itself to effeminacy, and a rage for what is novel and fashionable, than the present.”
So Borrow looks upon his masterpiece when it is done. Was there ever a more extraordinary begging of the question ? Of the voluminous commentary upon himself and his critics, from which I have just quoted (there are eleven chapters of it printed as an Appendix to The Romany Rye), one need only say that it shows him at his worst. His creative work was spontaneous and sound ; but he was neither graceful nor convincing as a controversialist. There is open rancor with unstinted Billingsgate in this extraordinary effusion: an indiscriminate damning of gentility, Popery, Toryism, Whiggery, teetotalism, Jacobitism, Wellington-worship, and, in general, “the thousand and one cants and species of nonsense prevalent in England.” It is not pretty to read or comfortable to remember. The truth is, Borrow never knew what was important in his own work; and when it was received with acrimony, on minor counts, among various classes of sticklers for the conventional, he was indiscreet enough to retort in kind. He had plenty of bees in his bonnet; it is lucky that they did not make greater havoc.
As a work of pure literature, Lavengro and its sequel needed no defense; they constitute a sort of English Odyssey of the Road. The hero has the Odyssean craft and power of arm, and a wholly English integrity ; he goes his way as the wind blows, without fear or favor. What talk, what ale, what scenes, what blows ! And what amazing figures: the Flaming Tinman, Mrs. Hearne, who “ comes of the hairy ones,” Mr. Petulengro the inconsequential, the postilion, Francis Ardry, the apple-woman, — there is no end to them, unless (and she ought to be the beginning) we make an end with the name of the great Isopel Berners. Her real name was Bess, late authorities say ; I shall continue to love her as Isopel. I can forgive Lavengro anything else, even his Armenian verbs, but never his clumsiness in losing that magnificent young person. Nor can I help thinking that last glimpse of her one of the most moving scenes in literature, though there is not much in the words, after all: “On arriving at the extremity of the plain, I looked towards the dingle. Isopel Berners stood at the mouth, the beams of the early morning sun shone full on her noble face and figure. I waved my hand towards her. She slowly lifted up her right arm. I turned away, and never saw Isopel Berners again.”
In truth, this is not “ what is generally termed autobiography.” Each incident and character seems to have had a counterpart in Borrow’s actual experience, but stands transfigured in his narrative. He was not, I have said, a reporter. He was a creative artist who worked with the chance materials which experience offered. It is well enough to rank him with Cervantes, Le Sage, and Bunyan ; he has also been compared to Hawthorne, Sterne, and Defoe ; and I have just been guilty of finding something of Poe in him. The truth is, one might go on with this kind of rating until one had completed the list of prose geniuses who have expressed themselves somewhat irregularly and discursively. So far, I believe, nobody has happened to name Rousseau or De Quincey in this connection. If it were profitable to make any detailed comparison, it would be with Defoe, the writer who first aroused Borrow from his childish lethargy, the only master whom he acknowledged: “ Hail to thee, spirit of Defoe ! What does not my own poor self owe to thee ? England has better bards than either Greece or Rome, yet I could spare them easier far than Defoe, ‘ unabashed Defoe,’ as the hunchbacked rhymer styled him.”
Borrow stood as square upon his own feet as any one who ever wrote, and this has irritated the academic mind. He has yet to make his way, after Defoe, into the manuals of literary history. There are, as we have seen, confused elements in his work. When one cannot tell whether a writer is trying to express opinions, to communicate facts, or to interpret life, it is hard to make up one’s mind as to what he has actually done. With Borrow the chief intention seems to have been to edify, the chief impulse, to interpret. His work seems too often to spring from the unamiable wedlock of these two motives.
In The Zincali, after speaking of the skill of the English gypsies as jockeys, he says impressively, “They are also fond of resorting to the prize ring, and have occasionally even attained some eminence in those disgraceful, and brutalizing exhibitions called pugilistic combats.” Now the Borrows, father and son, were, as we have noted, skilled in the manly art, aud not a few passages in Lavengro owe their charm to the gusto with which the artist and Briton describes a hearty bout with the natural weapon. What should we do without the battle between Jerry Grant and Bagg ? — “ Bagg says that he was quite satisfied with the blow, more especially when he saw the fellow reel, fling out his arms, and fall to the ground.” — Or the mill with the Flaming Tinman, Belle seconding, and coaching Lavengro to the final triumphant application of “ Long Melford ” ? — Or the salutary lesson given to a bully by the elderly disciple of Broughton ?
Nor is Lavengro always a reluctant spectator at “ those brutalizing exhibitions.” He has, indeed, hardly a more memorable passage than that noble apostrophe of the bruisers of England : “ Let no one sneer at the bruisers of England — what were the gladiators of Rome, or the bull-fighters of Spain, in its palmiest days, compared to England’s bruisers ? Pity that ever corruption should have crept in amongst them — but of that I wish not to talk ; let us still hope that a spark of the old religion, of which we were the priests, still lingers in the breasts of Englishmen. There they come, the bruisers from far London, or from wherever they might chance to be at the time, to the great rendezvous in the old city. . . . Hail to thee, Tom of Bedford. . . . Hail to thee, six-foot Englishman of the brown eye, worthy to have carried a six-foot bow at Flodden, where England’s yeoman triumphed over Scotland’s King, his clans and chivalry. Hail to thee, last of England’s bruisers, after all the many victories which thou hast achieved — true English victories, unbought by yellow gold.” A true Briton this ! we exclaim. With all his fondness for drifting among alien peoples and tongues, he retained the ground-anchor of his insular bias ; if England was, to his mind, full of cant and nonsense, his heart held that it was the best of all lands, containing the best bruisers, the best poets, the best aristocracy, and the best ale in the world.
He was, by his own account, of a morose and unsocial nature, but we find that he has no trouble in making friends everywhere, in spite of his blunt manner. He understood the people he met, instinctively ; and not only as individuals. His portraits of them are without exaggeration, leisurely, unquestioning, realistic in the best sense. His humor is saturnine. He makes no broad appeal to the sensibilities, never seduces us into whimpering, nor cajoles us into hearty laughter. His immobility often suggests apathy, but it really expresses his reluctance to meddle, — or, perhaps, rather his extreme independence. Lavengro is not going to be bothered with opportunities, either for action or for speech. He reserves the right to ignore any advances which Providence may make.
One of my favorites among the minor figures is that of the old ’ostler. Borrow might easily have made it more popularly effective by a little coarser method. He prefers to let the old boy speak for himself : as he does, at some length. His directions to Lavengro for making a journey on horseback, in case he should ever be a gentleman, and own a horse, and wish to take such a journey, would fill some five or six pages of the Atlantic. The tune goes like this : —
“ Before you start, merely give your horse a couple of handfuls of corn and a little water, somewhat under a quart, and if you drink a pint of water yourself out of the pail, you will feel all the better during the whole day; then you may walk and trot your animal for about ten miles, till you come to some nice inn, where you may get down and see your horse led into a nice stall, telling the ’ostler not to feed him till you come. If the ’ostler happens to be a dog-fancier, and has an English terrier-dog like that of mine there, say what a nice dog it is, and praise its black and tawn ; and if he does not happen to be a dog-fancier, ask him how he ’s getting on, and whether he ever knew worse times; that kind of thing will please the ’ostler, and he will let you do just what you please with your own horse, and when your back is turned, he’ll say to his comrades what a nice gentleman you are, and how he thinks he has seen you before; then go and sit down to breakfast, and before you have finished your breakfast get up and go and give your horse a feed of corn. . . . When you have finished your breakfast and called for the newspaper, go and water your horse, letting him have one pailful, then give him another feed of corn, and enter into discourse with the ’ostler about bull-baiting, the prime minister, and the like.”
One can imagine the gravity with which Borrow may have listened to this monologue, and the grim smile with which he may have set it down.
There is, in the end, no accounting for the excellence of Borrow’s work except on the score of pure genius. A merely remarkable talent could hardly have been developed by his experience. He knew too much, for one thing. An acquaintance with thirty-odd tongues and dialects, and some sort of contact with as many literatures, does not conduce to original work. On narrower grounds, a rover and a linguist is not likely to be master of one tongue ; yet Borrow is both a master of English and a creator of literature. His style,in the small sense, is not without relation to the established literary manner of the day. It was a statelier manner than ours ; it was not afraid of being even eloquent. Apostrophe was one of its most effective forms, and no modern English writer, unless De Quincey, has made such effective use of it as Borrow. As a mode of condensed retrospective description, what have we to take its place in the shamefaced English of our day ? Borrow evidently rejoiced in it as an escape-valve for the emotion which his instinct led him to repress under ordinary circumstances.
How shall I make an end without quoting, for the benefit of those hypothetically ignorant “ right people,” this and that cherished passage of description or dialogue from the well-thumbed volumes ? Yet how, if the brake were once let go, should I make an end at all ? With one simple little scene I must be content : —
“ ‘ Young gentleman,’ said the huge fat landlord, ‘ you are come at the right time ; dinner will be taken up in a few minutes, and such a dinner,’ he continued, rubbing his hands, ‘ as you will not see every day in these times.’
‘ “I am hot and dusty,’ said I, ‘and should wish to cool my hands and face.’
“ ‘ Jenny ! ’ said the huge landlord, with the utmost gravity, ‘ show the gentleman into number seven, that he may wash his hands and face.’
“ ‘ By no means,’ said I, ‘ I am a person of primitive habits, and there is nothing like the pump in weather like this.’
“ ‘ Jenny,’ said the landlord, with the same gravity as before, ‘ go with the young gentleman to the pump in the back kitchen, and take a towel along with you.’
“ Thereupon the rosy-faced, clean-looking damsel went to a drawer, and producing a large, thick, but snowy white towel, she nodded to me to follow her; whereupon I followed Jenny through a long passage into the back kitchen.
“ And at the end of the back kitchen there stood a pump; and going to it I placed my hands beneath the spout, and said, ‘ Pump, Jenny;’ and Jenny incontinently, without laying down the towel, pumped with one hand, and I washed and cooled my heated hands.
“And when my hands were washed and cooled, I took off my neckcloth, and, unbuttoning my shirt collar, I placed my head beneath the spout of the pump, and I said unto Jenny, ‘ Now, Jenny, lay down the towel, and pump for your life.’
“ Thereupon Jenny, placing the towel on a linen-horse, took the handle of the pump with both hands and pumped over my head as handmaid had never pumped before ; so that the water poured in torrents from my head, my face, and my hair, down upon the brick floor.
“ And, after the lapse of somewhat more than a minute, I called out with a half-strangled voice, ‘ Hold, Jenny! ’ and Jenny desisted. I stood for a few moments to recover my breath, then taking the towel which Jenny proffered, I dried composedly my hands and head, my face and hair; then, returning the towel to Jenny, I gave a deep sigh and said, ‘ Surely this is one of the pleasant moments of life.’ ”
Borrow has more intense moods than this, as well as more trivial ones ; but this will do to rest upon. It is the mood for which, after all, one is likely to return oftenest to the tale of the word - master. Manly health and courage, womanly bloom and strength, the delight of clear airs, pure waters, hearty fare, and honest buffets, — these are what Borrow has to offer. The haunt of his Muse is, it may be, the pump in the back kitchen; no matter : not the Bandusian rill, not smoothsliding Mincius, not the very sisters of Jove’s sacred well can put her to shame. “Surely,” says the right person, as, Lavengro in hand, he settles comfortably into his evening niche (there is a pile of new fiction at his elbow which ought to be looked over, the children have quieted down, the fire is in good condition, the cat has stopped fidgeting, and the pipe draws) : “ Surely, this is one of the pleasant moments of life.”
H. W. Boynton.