Portrait of George Borrow

Second Newsletter, May 2020

In May 2020 the George Borrow Society produced it’s second newsletter, which we’re making freely available to non-members: use the link at the bottom of this page if you’d like a copy.

First page of May 2020 newsletter.  Link to download at bottom
of page

The next newsletter will be sent to members November/December 2020, and we expect to put it on the website at a later point.  If you’d like it emailed to you when available, please join the Society (it’s free).

Some members have asked about our annual laying a wreath on Borrow’s grave in Brompton Cemetery.   We cannot do this on Borrow’s birthday (July 5) but, providing things improve, we would still like to honour Borrow with a wreath-laying at some point this year.  It’s unlikely we’ll make a decision until September.

On a slightly more pleasant topic, our second newsletter had a picture competition, and the answers were promised to be published here.  So, here’s the pictures, with the question How do they relate to George Borrow?

A friend but not a pal

First picture, a friend but not a pal

Our clue was that Borrow wrote to him: “come to me immediately; I am, I believe, dying.”  The person is Roger Kerrison, George Borrow’s young friend from Norwich, who had gone to live at 16 Milman Street, Bedford Row, London, and who put up George when on 2 April 1824 Borrow went to make his fortune in London.  By May Roger had fled from Borrow, as he said he was:

“very uneasy and uncomfortable on his account, so that I have found it utterly impossible to live any longer in the same lodgings with him . . . ”

Letter from Roger Kerrison to Borrow’s brother John,
28 May 1824

Charles Leland, another Romany Rye, wrote of this:

“I knew at that time [about 1870],” he writes, “a Mr Kerrison, who had been as a young man, probably in the Twenties, on intimate terms with Borrow.  He told me that one night Borrow acted very wildly, whooping and vociferating so as to cause the police to follow him, and after a long run led them to the edge of the Thames, ‘and there they thought they had him.’  But he plunged boldly into the water and swam in his clothes to the opposite shore, and so escaped.”

Life of George Borrow,
by Herbert Jenkins,
Chapter 3.

Related to a Pal

Picture 2

As you can probably tell from the photograph this is a Gypsy lady.  In fact it’s a rare photograph of a daughter of Jasper Petelengro.  You might know that in Lavengro and Romany Rye Borrow’s Gypsy friend Jasper Petelengro appears numerous times.  Jasper was a real person, although he went by the name of Ambrose Smith (Borrow playing on words).  The picture, of which I’ve no further details, appears in Rev. George Hall’s book, The Gypsy’s Parson, which is free to download etc.  Rev. Hall also met Jasper’s nephew Piramus etc., and talks of this in his book.

The Clue is in the Picture

Picture 3

The clue was also in the clue: it’s obviously a painter, and is Old (John) Crome (1768–1821) of Norwich.  Borrow’s brother John was a pupil of Crome’s.  Borrow gives a fine portrait of Crome in Lavengro chapter 21.  Wikipedia have a nice colour version of this painting, which was painted by Michael William Sharp (1776?–1840).

The Horse

Picture 4

Well, there aren’t that many horses associated with Borrow, so points to everyone who guessed it was Marshland Shales, with the picture provided by Borrow’s publisher, John Murray.  In Lavengro Borrow says he took off his hat to this horse, at Tombland Fair (implying it was 19 March 1818).  As William Knapp was to point out, the horse wasn’t at Norwich until 1827 (Knapp vol. 1 chapter 5), so it’s a known case where Borrow stirred time up a bit.

Borrow spent a lot of time there

Picture 5

The first answer received on these pictures correctly got this one, which I thought might puzzle many.  It’s George Borrow’s bedroom in his parents’ house in Willow Lane, Norwich.  The painter was Norwich artist Catherine Maude Nichols (1847–1923) and it appeared in the 1913 George Borrow Souvenir.  Obviously painted long after Borrow had grown up and moved away, the house, which still stands, hadn’t been changed much since George’s day.  There’s a rather nice illustrated biography on Catherine at:

Colonel Unthank’s Norwich

We didn’t spend much time there

Picture 6

Well, as many in the Society will know, it’s us, clearly in a church, but where?  The church was St. Martin’s, Houghton, Norfolk, and it’s within the grounds of Houghton Hall, which was built by Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister.  It was part of our delightful King’s Lynn weekend in October 2017.  Even though we were running a bit late and had to hurry somewhat, our coach driver got us back at King’s Lynn station with 4 minutes to catch the train home!

Nobody will get this

Picture 7

I’m fairly certain nobody will guess the link of this picture with George Borrow, mainly because I stumbled across it whilst getting the pictures, and hadn’t heard of it myself.  It’s an illustration from The Golden Road by American author Frank Waller Allen.  And the link with Borrow?  Well, Allen begins with a famous quotation:

There is night and day, brother, both sweet things; sun, moon, and stars, brother, all sweet things; there’s likewise a wind on the heath.

It’s a novel involving gypsies, but more importantly, Allen turns out to be a fellow Borrovian.

The Easy One

Picture 8

No points for getting this one: it is Mrs. Herne the Gypsy, who Borrow says (in Lavengro) hung herself.  The fine illustration is by Edmund J. Sullivan (1869–1933), and was part of a whole set he did for the T. N. Foulis edition of Lavengro.  We use some of them on our website’s banner (top of page).  Realizing that we’ve never really researched her, we’ve started a page on Mrs. Herne which will be rewritten/completed once the archives re-open.


Click to download the George Borrow Society Newsletter, May 2020