The first thing I ever downloaded from Gutenberg (see first paragraph of this earlier post for brief introduction) was, I believe, Letters of George Borrow to the British & Foreign Bible Society. Probably because I was reading a bit of Borrow at the time. I have read all of his books (not his translations) several times and they hold a certain fascination for me. Links to all of them on Gutenberg are at the end of this post. Personally I think Lavengro and Romany Rye should always be published together as they are basically one story. Wild Wales is a wonderful evocation of many of the outstanding bards of that land. My personal favourite is Dafyyd ap Gwilym, but then I hardly know any of the rest so what do I etc… The Bible in Spain though probably tells the tale of the most outlandish adventures where ever a guardian angel guarded a soldier of the cross. Some additions to this work can be found in The Zincali.
Anyway getting back to the letters – I still haven’t read them through in their entirety but this selection from an early letter relates to an incident that happened during a voyage at sea between England (presumably) and Portugal in the autumn of 1835. Here I quote,
On the morning of the tenth we found
ourselves about two leagues from the coast of Galicia, whose lofty
mountains gilded by the rising sun presented a magnificent appearance.
We soon passed Cape Finisterre, and standing farther out to sea speedily
lost sight of land. On the morning of the eleventh the sea was very
rough, and a most remarkable circumstance occurred. I was on the
forecastle, discoursing with two of the sailors, [and] one of them who
had just left his hammock told me that he had had a most disagreeable
dream, for, said he, pointing up to the mast, ‘I dreamt that I fell into
the sea from off the cross-trees.’ He was heard to say this by several
of the crew besides myself. A moment after, the captain of the vessel,
perceiving that the squall was increasing, ordered the topsails to be
taken in, whereupon this man with several others instantly ran up aloft.
The yard was presently loosened, and in the act of being hauled down,
when a violent gust of wind whirled it round with violence, and a man was
struck down from the cross-trees into the sea, which was raging and
tumbling below. In a few moments he emerged, and I saw his head
distinctly on the crest of a wave, and I recognised in the unfortunate
man the sailor who shortly before had been relating his dream. I shall
never forget the look of agony he cast us whilst the ship hurried past
him. The alarm was given, and in a moment everything was in confusion.
It was at least two minutes before the vessel was stopped, and the man
was left a considerable way behind, but I still kept my eye upon him, and
could perceive that he was struggling gallantly with the waves. A boat
was at length lowered, but the rudder unfortunately was not at hand, and
only two oars could be procured, with which the men who manned her could
make but little progress in the tremendous sea; however, they did their
best, and had arrived within ten yards of the man who had continued
struggling for his life, when I lost sight of him, and the men on their
return said that they saw him below the waters at glimpses, sinking
deeper and deeper, his arms stretched out and his body to all appearance
stiff, but they found it impossible to save him. Presently afterwards
the sea, as if satisfied with the prey it had received, became
comparatively calm, and the squall subsided. The poor fellow who was
drowned in this singular manner was a fine young man, twenty-seven years
of age, the only son of a widowed mother. He was the best sailor on
board, and beloved by every one who was acquainted with him. The event
occurred on the 11th of November 1835, the vessel was the ‘London
Merchant’ Steamship, commanded by Captain Whittingham. Wonderful indeed
are the ways of Providence.
If this story has anything to teach us surely it is that if you have a similar dream do not believe it is cowardice to refuse to go aloft when duty has called. It is a curious account and one that could prove to be a puzzle for a little while longer.
Maybe death is some sort of freedom, or an escaping from, an enlarged cavity…
The last book on the list is called Isopel Berners. I think though I have not delved exhaustingly that this is a selection from Lavengro and possibly from Romany Rye also. Whatever Isopel Berners is in my opinion the greatest female character of British Literature. Better than anything by Wells or Shaw. Ok the greatest female character of British Literature since some of Shakespeare’s heroines.
Incidentally I have given no link to any Borrow websites, not even Wikipedia, because I feel none are worthy to be linked to. Poor show.
FInally, for no particular reason, here is a song of mine which is called Wound. This is the as,hem,syrup version of the song.
Works by Borrow.