Transcribed from the 1911 John Murray edition, by David Price,



a new edition containing the unaltered text
of the original issue; some suppressed
episodes, ms. variorum, vocabulary
and notes by the author of
the life of george borrow


Rackman’s Offices, Tuck’s Court, St. Giles’,

p. ivFirst Edition . . . 1851
Second Edition . . . ----
Third Edition . . . 1872
Fourth Edition . . . 1888
Fifth Edition . . . 1896
Sixth (Definitive) Edition . . . 6/- March, 1900
Reprinted . . . July, 1902
Reprinted . . . May, 1904
Reprinted . . . Thin Paper .  Aug., 1905
Reprinted . . . 6/- . Jan., 1907
Reprinted . . . Sept., 1907
Reprinted . . . 2/6 net .  Sept., 1907
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Reprinted . . . 1/- net . Feb., 1911

p. v[Original Title Page.]



author ofthe bible in spainandthe gypsies of spain



p. viADVERTISEMENT.  (1851.)

In compliance with the advice of certain friends who are desirous that it may not be supposed that the following work has been written expressly for the present times, the author begs leave to state that it was planned in the year 1842, and all the characters sketched before the conclusion of the year 1843.  The contents of the volumes here offered to the public have, with the exception of the Preface, existed in manuscript for a very considerable time.


In the following pages I have endeavoured to describe a dream, partly of study, partly of adventure, in which will be found copious notices of books, and many descriptions of life and manners, some in a very unusual form.

The scenes of action lie in the British Islands.  Pray be not displeased, gentle reader, if perchance thou hast imagined that I was about to conduct thee to distant lands, and didst promise thyself much instruction and entertainment from what I might tell thee of them.  I do assure thee that thou hast no reason to be displeased, inasmuch as there are no countries in the world less known by the British than these selfsame British Islands, or where more strange things are every day occurring, whether in road or street, house or dingle.

The time embraces nearly the first quarter of the present century.  This information, again, may perhaps be anything but agreeable to thee; it is a long time to revert to—but fret not thyself, many matters which at present much occupy the public mind originated in some degree towards the latter end of that period, and some of them will be treated of.

The principal actors in this dream, or drama, are, as you will have gathered from the title-page, a Scholar, a Gypsy, and a Priest.  Should you imagine that these three form one, permit me to assure you that you are very much mistaken.  Should there be something of the Gypsy manifest in the Scholar, there is certainly nothing of the Priest.  With respect to the Gypsy—decidedly the most entertaining character of the three—there is certainly nothing of the Scholar or the Priest in him; and as for the p. viiiPriest, though there may be something in him both of scholarship and gypsyism, neither the Scholar nor the Gypsy would feel at all flattered by being confounded with him.

Many characters which may be called subordinate will be found, and it is probable that some of these characters will afford much more interest to the reader than those styled the principal.  The favourites with the writer are a brave old soldier and his helpmate, an ancient gentlewoman who sold apples, and a strange kind of wandering man and his wife.

Amongst the many things attempted in this book is the encouragement of charity, and free and genial manners, and the exposure of humbug, of which there are various kinds, but of which the most perfidious, the most debasing, and the most cruel, is the humbug of the Priest.

Yet let no one think that irreligion is advocated in this book.  With respect to religious tenets, I wish to observe that I am a member of the Church of England, into whose communion I was baptised, and to which my forefathers belonged.  Its being the religion in which I was baptised, and of my forefathers, would be a strong inducement to me to cling to it; for I do not happen to be one of those choice spirits “who turn from their banner when the battle bears strongly against it, and go over to the enemy,” and who receive at first a hug and a “viva,” and in the sequel contempt and spittle in the face; but my chief reason for belonging to it is, because, of all Churches calling themselves Christian ones, I believe there is none so good, so well founded upon Scripture, or whose ministers are, upon the whole, so exemplary in their lives and conversation, so well read in the Book from which they preach, or so versed in general learning, so useful in their immediate neighbourhoods, or so unwilling to persecute people of other denominations for matters of doctrine.

In the communion of this Church, and with the religious consolation of its ministers, I wish and hope to live and die, and in its and their defence will at all times be ready, if required, to speak, though humbly, and to fight, though feebly, against enemies, whether carnal or spiritual.

p. ixAnd is there no priestcraft in the Church of England?  There is certainly, or rather there was, a modicum of priestcraft in the Church of England, but I have generally found that those who are most vehement against the Church of England are chiefly dissatisfied with her because there is only a modicum of that article in her.  Were she stuffed to the very cupola with it, like a certain other Church, they would have much less to say against the Church of England.

By the other Church I mean Rome.  Its system was once prevalent in England, and, during the period that it prevailed there, was more prolific of debasement and crime than all other causes united.  The people and the government at last becoming enlightened by means of the Scripture, spurned it from the island with disgust and horror, the land instantly after its disappearance becoming a fair field, in which arts, sciences, and all the amiable virtues flourished, instead of being a pestilent marsh where swine-like ignorance wallowed, and artful hypocrites, like so many wills-o’-the-wisp, played antic gambols about, around and above debased humanity.

But Popery still wished to play her old part, to regain her lost dominion, to reconvert the smiling land into the pestilential morass, where she could play again her old antics.  From the period of the Reformation in England up to the present time, she has kept her emissaries here—individuals contemptible in intellect, it is true, but cat-like and gliding, who, at her bidding, have endeavoured, as much as in their power has lain, to damp and stifle every genial, honest, loyal and independent thought, and to reduce minds to such a state of dotage as would enable their old Popish mother to do what she pleased with them.

And in every country, however enlightened, there are always minds inclined to grovelling superstition—minds fond of eating dust and swallowing clay—minds never at rest, save when prostrate before some fellow in a surplice; and these Popish emissaries found always some weak enough to bow down before them, astounded by their dreadful denunciations of eternal woe and damnation to any who should refuse to believe their Romania; but they p. xplayed a poor game—the law protected the servants of Scripture, and the priest with his beads seldom ventured to approach any but the remnant of those of the eikonolatry—representatives of worm-eaten houses, their debased dependants and a few poor crazy creatures among the middle classes—he played a poor game, and the labour was about to prove almost entirely in vain, when the English Legislature, in compassion or contempt, or, yet more probably, influenced by that spirit of toleration and kindness which is so mixed up with Protestantism, removed almost entirely the disabilities under which Popery laboured, and enabled it to raise its head and to speak out almost without fear.

And it did raise its head, and, though it spoke with some little fear at first, soon discarded every relic of it; went about the land uttering its damnation cry, gathering around it—and for doing so many thanks to it—the favourers of priestcraft who lurked within the walls of the Church of England; frightening with the loudness of its voice the weak, the timid and the ailing; perpetrating, whenever it had an opportunity, that species of crime to which it has ever been most partial—deathbed robbery; for as it is cruel, so is it dastardly.  Yes, it went on enlisting, plundering and uttering its terrible threats till—till it became, as it always does when left to itself, a fool, a very fool.  Its plunderings might have been overlooked, and so might its insolence, had it been common insolence, but it—, and then the roar of indignation which arose from outraged England against the viper, the frozen viper which it had permitted to warm itself upon its bosom.

But thanks, Popery, you have done all that the friends of enlightenment and religious liberty could wish; but if ever there were a set of foolish ones to be found under Heaven, surely it is the priestly rabble who came over from Rome to direct the grand movement, so long in its getting up.

But now again the damnation cry is withdrawn, there is a subdued meekness in your demeanour, you are now once more harmless as a lamb.  Well, we shall see how the trick—“the old trick”—will serve you.


Lavengro made its first appearance more than one and twenty years ago.  It was treated in anything but a courteous manner.  Indeed, abuse ran riot, and many said that the book was killed.  If by killed was meant knocked down and stunned, which is the Irish acceptation of the word—there is a great deal about Ireland in the book—they were right enough.  It was not dead, however, oh dear no! as is tolerably well shown by the present edition, which has been long called for.

The chief assailants of the book were the friends of Popery in England.  They were enraged because the author stood up for the religion of his fathers, his country, and the Bible, against the mythology of a foreign priest.  As for the Pope—but the Pope has of late had his misfortunes, so no harsh language.  To another subject!  From the Pope to the Gypsies!  From the Roman Pontiff to the Romany Chals!

A very remarkable set of people are the Gypsies; frequent mention is made of them in Lavengro, and from their peculiar language the word “Lavengro” is taken.  They first attracted notice in Germany, where they appeared in immense numbers in the early part of the fifteenth century, a period fraught with extraordinary events: the coming of the Black Death; the fortunes and misfortunes of the Emperor Sigismund; the quarrels of the Three Popes—the idea of three Popes at one time!—the burning alive of John Huss; the advance of the Crescent, and the battle of Agincourt.  They were of dark complexion, some of them of nearly negro blackness, and spoke a language of their own, though many could converse in German and p. xiiother tongues.  They called themselves Zingary and Romany Chals, and the account they gave of themselves was that they were from Lower Egypt, and were doing penance, by a seven years’ wandering, for the sin of their forefathers, who of old had refused hospitality to the Virgin and Child.  They did not speak truth, however; the name they bore, Zingary, and which, slightly modified, is still borne by their descendants in various countries, shows that they were not from Egypt, but from a much more distant land, Hindostan; for Zingaro is Sanscrit, and signifies a man of mixed race, a mongrel; whilst their conduct was evidently not that of people engaged in expiatory pilgrimage; for the women told the kosko bokht, the good luck, the buena ventura; kaured, that is, filched money and valuables from shop-boards and counters by a curious motion of the hands, and poisoned pigs and hogs by means of a certain drug, and then begged, and generally obtained, the carcases, which cut up served their families for food; the children begged and stole; whilst the men, who it is true professed horse-clipping, farriery and fiddling, not unfrequently knocked down travellers and plundered them.  The hand of justice of course soon fell heavily upon them; men of Egypt, as they were called, were seized, hung, or maimed; women scourged or branded; children whipped; but no severity appeared to have any effect upon the Zingary; wherever they went (and they soon found their way to almost every country in Europe), they adhered to their evil practices.  Before the expiration of the fifteenth century bands of them appeared in England with their horses, donkeys and tilted carts.  How did they contrive to cross the sea with their carts and other property?  By means very easy to people with money in their pockets, which the Gypsies always have, by paying for their passage; just as the Hungarian tribe did, who a few years ago came to England with their horses and vehicles, and who, whilst encamping with their English brethren in the loveliest of all forests, Epping Wesh, exclaimed “Sore si mensar si men”. [0a]

The meaning of Zingary, one of the names by which p. xiiithe pseudo-penitents from Lower Egypt called themselves, has been given above.  Now for that of the other, Romany Chals, a name in which the English Gypsies delight, who have entirely dropped that of Zingary.  The meaning of Romany Chals is lads of Rome or Rama; Romany signifying that which belongs to Rama or Rome, and Chal a son or lad, being a Zingaric word connected with the Shilo of Scripture, the meaning of which may be found in the Lexicon of the brave old Westphalian Hebraist, Johannes Buxtorf. [0b]

The Gypsies of England, the Zigany, Zigeuner, and other tribes of the Continent, descendants of the old Zingary and Romany Chals, retain many of the characteristics of their forefathers, and, though differing from each other in some respects, resemble each other in many.  They are much alike in hue and feature; speak amongst themselves much the same tongue; exercise much the same trades, and are addicted to the same evil practices.  There is a little English Gypsy gillie, or song, of which the following quatrain is a translation, containing four queries, to all of which the English Romanó might respond by Ava, and the foreign Chal by the same affirmative to the three first, if not to the last:—

Can you speak the Roman tongue?
Can you make the fiddle ring?
Can you poison a jolly hog?
And split the stick for the linen string?

So much for the Gypsies.  There are many other things in the book to which perhaps the writer ought to advert; but he is weary, and, moreover, is afraid of wearying others.  He will, therefore, merely add that every book must eventually stand or fall by its deserts; that praise, however abundant, will not keep a bad book alive for any considerable time, nor abuse, however virulent, a good one for ever in the dust; and he thinks himself justified in saying, that were there not some good in Lavengro, it would not again be raising its head, notwithstanding all it underwent one and twenty years ago.

p. 1LAVENGRO.  (1851.)