The Life Of George Borrow, 1803–1881: Misfit, Traveler and Author of Genius


Collie, Michael

“It has been said that idleness is the parent of mischief, which is very true; but
mischief itself is merely an attempt to escape from the dreary vacuum of idleness.”
George Borrow

First, the subtitle of this completely revised and newly augmented study of George
Borrow, “Misfit” implies not subscribing or submitting to normal, mainstream
middle-class values and habits. Borrow preferred the company of gypsies,
vagabonds, foreigners, horse-dealers and outsiders to the conformist, respectable
English person, whom he thought was sometimes incapable of understanding the
realities of the human condition, or simply preferred to evade them. In 1984, this
was the intended meaning of the word “eccentric”; someone with valid, personal
priorities, not in the main stream, away from the centre, free to be critical of
aspects of English life he regarded as false or shallow or unworthy. Borrow did not
subscribe to other people’s view of how life should be conducted; his publications
are the expression of this freedom.

George Borrow Eccentric (1984) was guarded in its treatment of biographical
questions. Collie discusses some key unresolved issues in Borrows life: the question
of paternity (did he and his brother have the same father?); the condition for which
mercury treatment was prescribed (if not syphilis, then what?); the person behind
the name “Isobel Berners” (can she be securely identified?); his Bible Society
accounts (where was he during the periods unaccounted for?); his sexuality (why
did he marry Mrs Clarke?); his religious convictions (do his writings express faith
or cynicism on this score?); and his loneliness (the loneliness of a sharp, perceptive
intellect without intended companionship?). Collie’s study calmly, carefully and
thoroughly discusses the new research tools and information that bring us even
closer to the man, the works and the issues confronted by anyone who writes his
literary biography.

Release Date: 
978-1-933146706 / 1933146-70-2
Trim Size: 
6 x 9

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