George Borrow’s Journey through Cork in 1815
By Colm Kerrigan
Borrow’s experience of Ireland occupies chapters 9 to 13 of Lavengro, written in the 1840s and published in 1851. His account of it was largely autobiographical, but with a blend of imaginative reconstruction. His stay in Ireland as a boy of twelve, accompanying his parents with the West Norfolk Militia, in which his father was a captain, only lasted eight months, from 9 September 1815 to early May 1816, but it had a profound impact on him. It led him by the mid-1820s to study the Irish language in Lhuyd’s Archaeologia Britannica of 1707, and marked the beginning of a lifelong interest in little known and neglected languages and peoples.
This Occasional Paper provides an essential backdrop to the presence of the Militia in the south of Ireland, anchoring what Borrow writes of his journey through Cork in the political and social context of its time. It will make absorbing reading for anyone interested in Irish history of the early 19th century.