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CHAPTER II Borrow’s Mother
 Throughout his whole life George Borrow adored his mother, who seems to have developed into a woman of great strength of character far remote from the pretty play-actor who won the heart of a young soldier at East Dereham in the last years of the eighteenth century.  We would gladly know something of the early years of Ann Perfrement.  Her father was a farmer, whose farm at Dumpling Green we have already described.  He did not, however, “farm his own little estate” as Borrow declared.  The grandfather—a French Protestant—came, if we are to believe Borrow, from Caen in Normandy after the Revocation1 of the Edict of Nantes, but there is no documentary evidence to support the contention2.  However, the story of the Huguenot immigration into England is clearly bound up with Norwich and the adjacent district.  And so we may well take the name of “Perfrement” as conclusive3 evidence of a French origin, and reject as utterly4 untenable the not unnatural5 suggestion of Nathaniel Hawthorne, that Borrow’s mother was “of gypsy descent.”  She was one of the eight children of Samuel and Mary Perfrement, all of whom seem to have devoted6 their lives to East Anglia.  We owe to Dr. Knapp’s edition of Lavengro one exquisite7 glimpse of Ann’s girlhood that is not in any other issue of the book.  Ann’s elder sister, curious to know if she was ever to be married, falls in with the current superstition8 that she must wash her linen9 and “watch” it drying before the fire between eleven and twelve at night.  Ann Perfrement was ten years old at the time.  The two girls walked over to East Dereham, purchased the necessary garment, washed it in the pool near the house that may still be seen, and watched and watched.  Suddenly when the clock struck twelve they heard, or thought they heard, a footstep on the path, the wind howled, and the elder sister sprang to the door, locked and bolted it, and then fell in convulsions on the floor.  The superstition, which Borrow p. 15seems to have told his mother had a Danish origin, is common enough in Ireland and in Celtic lands.  It could scarcely have been thus rehearsed by two Norfolk children had they not had the blood of a more imaginative race in their veins10.  In addition to this we find more than one effective glimpse of Borrow’s mother in Lavengro.  We have already noted11 the episode in which she takes the side of her younger boy against her husband, with whom John was the favourite.  We meet her again when after his father’s death George had shouldered his knapsack and made his way to London to seek his fortune by literature.  His elder brother had remained at home, determined12 upon being a painter, but joined George in London, leaving the widowed mother momentarily alone in Norwich.  
“And how are things going on at home?” said I to my brother, after we had kissed and embraced.  “How is my mother, and how is the dog?”
“My mother, thank God, is tolerably well,” said my brother, “but very much given to fits of crying.  As for the dog, he is not so well; but we will talk more of these matters anon,” said my brother, again glancing at the breakfast things.  “I am very hungry, as you may suppose, after having travelled all night.”
Thereupon I exerted myself to the best of my ability to perform the duties of hospitality, and I made my brother welcome—I may say more than welcome; and when the rage of my brother’s hunger was somewhat abated13, we recommenced talking about the matters of our little family, and my brother told me much about my mother; he spoke14 of her fits of crying, but said that of late the said fits of crying had much diminished, and she appeared to be taking comfort; and, if I am not much mistaken, my brother told me that my mother had of late the prayer-book frequently in her hand, and yet oftener the Bible. [15]
Ann Borrow lived in Willow15 Lane, Norwich, for thirty-three years.  That Borrow was a devoted husband these pages will show.  He was also a devoted son.  When he had made a prosperous marriage he tried hard to persuade his mother to live with him at Oulton, but all in vain.  She had the wisdom to see that such an arrangement is rarely conducive16 to a son’s domestic happiness.  She continued to live in the little cottage made sacred by many associations until almost the end of her days.  Here she had lived in earlier years with her husband and her two ambitious boys, and in Norwich, doubtless, she had made her own friendships, p. 16although of these no record remains17.  The cottage still stands in its modest court, and now serves the worthy18 purpose of a museum for Borrow relics19.  In Borrow’s day it was the property of Thomas King, a carpenter.  You enter from Willow Lane through a covered passage into what was then known as King’s Court.  Here the little house faces you, and you meet it with a peculiarly agreeable sensation, recalling more than one incident in Lavengro that transpired20 there.  Thomas King, the carpenter, was in direct descent in the maternal21 line from the family of Parker, which gave to Norwich one of its most distinguished22 sons in the famous Archbishop of Queen Elizabeth’s day.  He extended his business as carpenter sufficiently23 to die a prosperous builder.  Of his two sons one, also named Thomas, became physician to Prince Talleyrand, and married a sister of John Stuart Mill.  All this by the way, but there is little more to record of Borrow’s mother apart from the letters addressed to her by her son, which occur in their due place in these records.  Yet one little memorandum24 among my papers which bears Mrs. Borrow’s signature may well find place here:
In the year 1797 I was at Canterbury.  One night at about one o’clock Sir Robert Laurie and Captain Treve came to our lodgings25 and tapped at our bedroom door, and told my husband to get up, and get the men under arms without beat of drum as soon as possible, for that there was a mutiny at the Nore.  My husband did so, and in less than two hours they had marched out of town towards Sheerness without making any noise.  They had to break open the store-house in order to get provender26, because the Quartermaster, Serjeant Rowe, was out of the way.  The Dragoon Guards at that time at Canterbury were in a state of mutiny.  Ann Borrow.

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