Publishing and Promoting the Works of George Borrow
The Lavengro Press was established as a partnership in 2014 with the aim of promoting the life and work of George Borrow (1803-1881): autobiographer, traveller, linguist, ethnographer, passionate Gypsophile and formidable pedestrian. Born in East Anglia and based there for many years, Borrow spent time in Russia, Portugal and Spain, and completed an epic journey from home to Constantinople in 1844, studying Gypsy life in Hungary on the way. From 1853 onwards he explored the British Isles on foot. His most notable works were The Bible in Spain (1842), Lavengro (1851), The Romany Rye (1857), Wild Wales (1862) and Romano Lavo-lil (1874), but there are also published translations from forty-seven languages as well as a vast hinterland of manuscript material lying scattered (and often dismembered) through libraries in the UK, North America and Russia.
One of the most distinctive features of Borrow is his variety and his enticing generic ambivalence. He does not fit into neat categories. The question of how far his work is truly autobiographical and how much is romance still bothers the critics and absorbs his devotees. His interests ran from Anglo-Saxon to Pushkin, from the spoken Arabic of Morocco to the vestiges of Cornish he found in 1853-4. As he once quoted from the Talmud: “Who is the wise man? He who learns from every body”.
Early in 1843 Borrow, disturbed by the celebrity he had gained from the success of The Bible in Spain, wrote to his Danish friend John Hasfeld:
“At present there is a wretched practice of hunting up the private correspondence of men who have made any noise in the world and publishing it for the sake of gratifying morbid curiosity; you might with equal propriety publish the secrets of a bed-chamber… all my papers and manuscripts will be destroyed as soon as I am dead ...the idea to me is intolerable that when I am dead and gone my naked thoughts and unguarded expressions may be raked up and made to serve some dirty purpose or other I have already had enough of notoriety.” (Letter of 23 January 1843)
As editorial directors we profoundly disagree! Borrow was not unusual as an author in wanting all his papers destroyed but we can be deeply thankful that so much has survived of such a fascinating personality and creative artist. He has weathered at least four phases of popularity and neglect and is long overdue for a revival of interest amongst scholars and general readers.
We are publishing three Occasional Papers annually, available by subscription or by individual title, in order to make available for scholars, book collectors and the general reader both existing scarce material (often previously only circulated privately) and commissioned new material, enhanced with illustrations in colour and black and white. Editions are limited to 100 copies in paperback (size B5) and are also available in pdf (portable document format).
- Ann Ridler
- Clive Wilkins-Jones
- Philip Ivory