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CHAPTER V The Gurneys and the Taylors of Norwich
 Norwich may claim to be one of the most fascinating cities in the kingdom.  To-day it is known to the wide world by its canaries and its mustard, although its most important industry is the boot trade, in which it employs some eight thousand persons.  To the visitor it has many attractions.  The lovely cathedral with its fine Norman arches, the Erpingham Gate so splendidly Gothic, the noble Castle Keep so imposingly1 placed with the cattle-market below—these are all as Borrow saw them nearly a century ago.  So also is the church of St. Peter Mancroft, where Sir Thomas Browne lies buried.  And to the picturesque2 Mousehold Heath you may still climb and recall one of the first struggles for liberty and progress that past ages have seen, the Norfolk rising under Robert Kett which has only not been glorified3 in song and in picture, because—  
Treason doth never prosper4—what’s the reason?
Why if it prosper none dare call it treason.
And Kett’s so-called rebellion was destined5 to failure, and its leader to cruel martyrdom.  Mousehold Heath has been made the subject of paintings by Turner and Crome, and of fine word pictures by George Borrow.  When Borrow and his parents lighted upon Norwich in 1814 and 1816 the city had inspiring literary associations.  Before the invention of railways it seemed not uncommon6 for a fine intellectual life to emanate7 from this or that cathedral city.  Such an intellectual life was associated with Lichfield when the Darwins and the Edgeworths gathered at the Bishop8’s Palace around Dr. Seward and his accomplished9 daughters.  Norwich has more than once been such a centre.  The first occasion was in the period of which we write, when the Taylors and the Gurneys flourished in a region of ideas; the second was during the years from 1837 to 1849, when p. 37Edward Stanley held the bishopric.  This later period does not come into our story, as by that time Borrow had all but left Norwich.  But of the earlier period, the period of Borrow’s more or less fitful residence in Norwich—1814 to 1833—we are tempted10 to write at some length.  There were three separate literary and social forces in Norwich in the first decades of the nineteenth century—the Gurneys of Earlham, the Taylor-Austin group, and William Taylor, who was in no way related to Mrs. John Taylor and her daughter, Sarah Austin.  The Gurneys were truly a remarkable11 family, destined to leave their impress upon Norwich and upon a wider world.  At the time of his marriage in 1773 to Catherine Bell, John Gurney, wool-stapler of Norwich, took his young wife, whose face has been preserved in a canvas by Gainsborough, to live in the old Court House in Magdalen Street, which had been the home of two generations of the Gurney family.  In 1786 John Gurney went with his continually growing family to live at Earlham Hall, some two or three miles out of Norwich on the Earlham Road.  Here that family of eleven children—one boy had died in infancy—grew up.  Not one but has an interesting history, which is recorded by Mr. Augustus Hare and other writers.  Elizabeth, the fourth daughter, married Joseph Fry, and as Elizabeth Fry attained12 to a world-wide fame as a prison reformer.  Hannah married Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton of Slave Trade Abolition13; Richenda, the Rev14. Francis Cunningham, who sent George Borrow upon his career; while Louisa married Samuel Hoare of Hampstead.  Of her Joseph John Gurney said at her death in 1836 that she was “superior in point of talent to any other of my father’s eleven children.”  It is with the eleventh child, however, that we have mainly to do, for this son, Joseph John Gurney, alone appears in Borrow’s pages.  The picture of these eleven Quaker children growing up to their various destinies under the roof of Earlham Hall is an attractive one.  Men and women of all creeds15 accepted the catholic Quaker’s hospitality.  Mrs. Opie and a long list of worthies16 of the past come before us, and when Mr. Gurney, in 1802, took his six unmarried daughters to the Lakes Old Crome accompanied them as drawing-master.
In 1803—the year of Borrow’s birth—John Gurney became a partner in the great London Bank of Overend p. 38and Gurney, and his son, Joseph John, in that same year went up to Oxford17.  In 1809 Joseph returned to take his place in the bank, and to preside over the family of unmarried sisters at Earlham, father and mother being dead, and many members of the family distributed.  Incidentally, we are told by Mr. Hare that the Gurneys of Earlham at this time drove out with four black horses, and that when Bishop Bathurst, Stanley’s predecessor18, required horses for State occasions to drive him to the cathedral, he borrowed these, and the more modest episcopal horses took the Quaker family to their meeting-house.  It does not come within the scope of this book to trace the fortunes of these eleven remarkable Gurney children, or even of Borrow’s momentary19 acquaintance, Joseph John Gurney.  His residence at Earlham, and his life of philanthropy, are a romance in a way, although one wonders whether if the name of Gurney had not been associated with so much of virtue20 and goodness the crash that came long after Joseph John Gurney’s death would have been quite so full of affliction for a vast multitude.  Joseph John Gurney died in 1847, in his fifty-ninth year; his sister, Mrs. Fry, had died two years earlier.  The younger brother and twelfth child—Joseph John being the eleventh—Daniel Gurney, the last of the twelve children, lived till 1880, aged21 eighty-nine.  He had outlived by many years the catastrophe22 to the great banking23 firm with which the name of Gurney is associated.  This great firm of Overend and Gurney, of which yet another brother, Samuel, was the moving spirit, was organised nine years after his death—in 1865—into a joint-stock company, which failed to the amount of eleven millions in 1866.  At the time of the failure, which affected24 all England, much as did the Liberator25 smash a generation later, the only Gurney in the directorate was Daniel Gurney, to whom his sister, Lady Buxton, allowed a pension of £2000 a year.  This is a long story to tell by way of introduction to one episode in Lavengro.  This episode had place in the year 1817, when Borrow was but fourteen years of age and Gurney was twenty-nine.  It is doubtful if Borrow met Joseph John Gurney more than on the one occasion.  At the commencement of his engagement with the Bible Society he writes to its secretary, Mr. Jowett (18th March, 1833), to say that he must procure26 from Mr. Cunningham “a letter of introduction from him to John p. 39Gurney,” and this second and last interview must have taken place at Earlham before his departure for Russia.
But if Borrow was to come very little under the influence of Joseph John Gurney, his destiny was to be considerably27 moulded by the action of Gurney’s brother-in-law, Cunningham, who first put him in touch with the Bible Society.  Joseph John Gurney and his sisters were the very life of the Bible Society in those years.
With the famous “Taylors of Norwich” Borrow seems to have had no acquaintance, although he went to school with a connection of that family, James Martineau.  These socially important Taylors were in no way related to William Taylor of that city, who knew German literature, and scandalised the more virtuous28 citizens by that, and perhaps more by his fondness for wine and also for good English beer—a drink over which his friend Borrow was to become lyrical.  When people speak of the Norwich Taylors they refer to the family of Dr. John Taylor, who in 1733 was elected to the charge of the Presbyterian congregation in Norwich.  His eldest29 son, Richard, married Margaret, the daughter of a mayor of Norwich of the name of Meadows; and Sarah, another daughter of that same worshipful mayor, married David Martineau, grandson of Gaston Martineau, who fled from France at the time of the Revocation30 of the Edict of Nantes. [39]  Harriet and James Martineau were grandchildren of this David.  The second son of Richard and Margaret Taylor was John, who married Susannah Cook.  Susannah is the clever Mrs. John Taylor of this story, and her daughter of even greater ability was Sarah Austin, the wife of the famous jurist.  Here we are only concerned with Mrs. John Taylor, called by her friends the “Madame Roland of Norwich.”  Lucy Aikin describes how she “darned her boy’s grey worsted stockings while holding her own with Southey, Brougham, or Mackintosh.”  One of her daughters married Henry Reeve, and, as I have said, another married John Austin.  Borrow was twenty years of age and living in Norwich when Mrs. Taylor died.  It is to be regretted that in the early impressionable years his position as a lawyer’s clerk did not allow of his coming into a circle in which he might have gained certain qualities of savoir faire and joie de vivre, which he was all his days to lack.  Of the Taylor family p. 40the Duke of Sussex said that they reversed the ordinary saying that it takes nine tailors to make a man.  The witticism31 has been attributed to Sydney Smith, but Mrs. Ross gives evidence that it was the Duke’s—the youngest son of George III.  In his Life of Sir James Mackintosh Basil Montagu, referring to Mrs. John Taylor, says:
Norwich was always a haven32 of rest to us, from the literary society with which that city abounded33.  Dr. Sayers we used to visit, and the high-minded and intelligent William Taylor; but our chief delight was in the society of Mrs. John Taylor, a most intelligent and excellent woman, mild and unassuming, quiet and meek34, sitting amidst her large family, occupied with her needle and domestic occupations, but always assisting, by her great knowledge, the advancement35 of kind and dignified36 sentiment and conduct.
We note here the reference to “the high-minded and intelligent William Taylor,” because William Taylor, whose influence upon Borrow’s destiny was so pronounced, has been revealed to many by the slanders37 of Harriet Martineau, that extraordinary compound of meanness and generosity38, of poverty-stricken intelligence and rich endowment.  In her Autobiography39, published in 1877, thirty-four years after Robberds’s Memoir40 of William Taylor, she dwells upon the drinking propensities41 of William Taylor, who was a schoolfellow of her father’s.  She admits, indeed, that Taylor was an ideal son, whose “exemplary filial duty was a fine spectacle to the whole city.”
William Taylor’s life is pleasantly interlinked with Scott and Southey.  Lucy Aikin records that she heard Sir Walter Scott declare to Mrs. Barbauld that Taylor had laid the foundations of his literary career—had started him upon the path of glory through romantic verse to romantic prose, from The Lay of the Last Minstrel to Waverley.  It was the reading of Taylor’s translation of Bürger’s Lenore that did all this.  “This, madam,” said Scott, “was what made me a poet.  I had several times attempted the more regular kinds of poetry without success, but here was something that I thought I could do.”  Southey assuredly loved Taylor, and each threw at the feet of the other the abundant literary learning that both possessed42.  This we find in a correspondence which, reading more than a century after it was written, still has its charm.  The son of a wealthy manufacturer of p. 41Norwich, Taylor was born in that city in 1765.  He was in early years a pupil of Mrs. Barbauld.  At fourteen he was placed in his father’s counting-house, and soon afterwards was sent abroad, in the company of one of the partners, to acquire languages.  He learnt German thoroughly43 at a time when few Englishmen had acquaintance with its literature.  To Goethe’s genius he never did justice, having been offended by that great man’s failure to acknowledge a book that Taylor sent to him, exactly as Carlyle and Borrow alike were afterwards offended by similar delinquencies on the part of Walter Scott.  When he settled again in Norwich he commenced to write for the magazines, among others for Sir Richard Phillips’s Monthly Magazine, and to correspond with Southey.  At the time Southey was a poor man, thinking of abandoning literature for the law, and hopeful of practising in Calcutta.  The Norwich Liberals, however, aspired44 to a newspaper to be called The Iris45.  Taylor asked Southey to come to Norwich and to become its editor.  Southey declined and Taylor took up the task, The Norwich Iris lasted for two years.  Southey never threw over his friendship for Taylor, although their views ultimately came to be far apart.  Writing to Taylor in 1803 he says:
Your theology does nothing but mischief46; it serves only to thin the miserable47 ranks of Unitarianism.  The regular troops of infidelity do little harm; and their trumpeters, such as Voltaire and Paine, not much more.  But it is such pioneers as Middleton, and you and your German friends, that work underground and sap the very citadel48.  That Monthly Magazine is read by all the Dissenters—I call it the Dissenters’ Obituary—and here are you eternally mining, mining, under the shallow faith of their half-learned, half-witted, half-paid, half-starved pastors49.
But the correspondence went on apace, indeed it occupies the larger part of Robberds’s two substantial volumes.  It is in the very last letter from Taylor to Southey that we find an oft-quoted reference to Borrow.  The letter is dated 12th March, 1821:
A Norwich young man is construing50 with me Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell with the view of translating it for the Press.  His name is George Henry Borrow, and he has learnt German with extraordinary rapidity; indeed, he has the gift of tongues, and, though not yet eighteen, understands twelve languages—English, p. 42Welsh, Erse, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German, Danish, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese51; he would like to get into the Office for Foreign Affairs, but does not know how.
Although this was the last letter to Southey that is published in the memoir, Taylor visited Southey at Keswick in 1826.  Taylor’s three volumes of the Historic Survey of German Poetry appeared in 1828, 1829, and 1830.  Sir Walter Scott, in the last year of his life, wrote from Abbotsford on 23rd April, 1832, to Taylor to protest against an allusion52 to “William Scott of Edinburgh” being the author of a translation of Goetz von Berlichingen.  Scott explained that he (Walter Scott) was that author, and also made allusion to the fact that he had borrowed with acknowledgment two lines from Taylor’s Lenore for his own—
Tramp, tramp along the land,
Splash, splash across the sea,
adding that his recollection of the obligation was infinitely53 stronger than of the mistake.  It would seem, however, that the name “William” was actually on the title-page of the London edition of 1799 of Goetz von Berlichingen.  When Southey heard of the death of Taylor in 1836 he wrote:
I was not aware of my old friend’s illness, or I should certainly have written to him, to express that unabated regard which I have felt for him eight-and-thirty years, and that hope which I shall ever feel, that we may meet in the higher state of existence.  I have known very few who equalled him in talents—none who had a kinder heart; and there never lived a more dutiful son, or a sincerer friend.
Taylor’s many books are now all forgotten.  His translation of Bürger’s Lenore one now only recalls by its effect upon Scott; his translation of Lessing’s Nathan the Wise has been superseded54.  His voluminous Historic Survey of German Poetry only lives through Carlyle’s severe review in the Edinburgh Review [42] against the many strictures in which Taylor’s biographer attempts to defend him.  Taylor had none of Carlyle’s inspiration.  Not a line of his work survives in print in our day, but it was no small thing to have been the friend and correspondent of Southey, whose figure in literary history looms55 larger now than it did when p. 43Emerson asked contemptuously, “Who’s Southey?”; and to have been the wise mentor56 of George Borrow is in itself to be no small thing in the record of letters.  There is a considerable correspondence between Taylor and Sir Richard Phillips in Robberds’s Memoir, and Phillips seemed always anxious to secure articles from Taylor for the Monthly, and even books for his publishing-house.  Hence the introduction from Taylor that Borrow carried to London might have been most effective if Phillips had had any use for poor and impracticable would-be authors.

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