Songs of Scandinavia

On 22 November 1829, George Borrow, who was then staying at 17 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London, had an interview with his friend and fellow-translator, John Bowring, in which they agreed to work together to produce a book of translations from the Danish and Norwegian called The Songs of Scandinavia.

John Bowring had recently returned from Denmark, where he been “Scandinavianizing,” and no doubt had acquired material which would be useful.  George Borrow had previously published (1826) translations of Danish ballads and also an essay, Danish Poetry and Ballad Writing (November 1823 in The Monthly Magazine).  A prospectus was duly issued:



It is proposed to publish, in Two Volumes Octavo,



Dr. Bowring and Mr. Borrow.

dedicated to the King of Denmark, by permission
of his Majesty.

(etc., etc.)

Despite a wide circulation of the prospectus, and much effort in translating by George Borrow, nothing came of this and the book, as originally conceived, was never published.

George Borrow makes allusion to the project with John Bowing in the Appendix of The Romany Rye:

The literary project having come to nothing,—in which, by the bye, the writer was to have all the labour, and his friend all the credit, provided any credit should accrue from it

The Romany Rye, Appendix, Chapter 11

Long after George Borrow’s death, Clement Shorter, then editing George Borrow’s collected works for the “Norwich Edition”, named volumes 7–9 “The Songs of Scandinavia” although it’s more a collection of Borrow’s Scandinavian translations rather than the publication of a completed manuscript.

Songs of Scandinavia is covered in the George Borrow Bulletin: 17, 58; 20, 60; 26, 55.

John Hentges, of the George Borrow Society, has recorded a number of items from Songs of Scandinavia on CD, and also put some to music.  You can purchase John’s CD’s by contacting him.


Life, Writings and Correspondence of George Borrow, pp. 129–130.

George Borrow, A Bibliographic Study, pp. 173–177.