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CHAPTER VII In a Lawyer’s Office
 Doubts were very frequently expressed in Borrow’s lifetime as to his having really been articled to a solicitor1, but that point has been set at rest by reference to the Record Office.  Borrow was articled to Simpson and Rackham of Tuck’s Court, St. Giles’s, Norwich, “for the term of five years”—from March, 1819, to March, 1824,—and these five years were spent in and about Norwich, and were full of adventure of a kind with which the law had nothing to do.  If Borrow had had the makings of a lawyer he could not have entered the profession under happier auspices2.  The firm was an old established one even in his day.  It had been established in Tuck’s Court as Simpson and Rackham, then it became Rackham and Morse, Rackham, Cooke and Rackham, and Rackham and Cooke; finally, Tom Rackham, a famous Norwich man in his day, moved to another office, and the firm of lawyers who at present occupy the original offices is called Leathes Prior and Sons.  Borrow has told us frankly3 what a poor lawyer’s clerk he made—he was always thinking of things remote from that profession, of gypsies, of prize-fighters, and of word-makers.  Yet he loved the head of the firm, William Simpson, who must have been a kind and tolerant guide to the curious youth.  Simpson was for a time Town Clerk of Norwich, and his portrait hangs in the Blackfriars Hall.  Borrow went to live with Mr. Simpson in the Upper Close near the Grammar School.  Archdeacon Groome recalled having seen Borrow “reserved and solitary” haunting the precincts of the playground; another schoolboy, William Drake, remembered him as “tall, spare, dark-complexioned.” [50]  
Borrow tells us how at this time he studied the Welsh language and later the Danish; his master said that his inattention would assuredly make him a bankrupt, and his father sighed over his eccentric and impracticable son.  p. 51The passion for languages had indeed caught hold of Borrow.  Among my Borrow papers I find a memorandum4 in the handwriting of his stepdaughter, in which she says:
I have often heard his mother say, that when a mere5 child of eight or nine years, all his pocket-money was spent in purchasing foreign Dictionaries and Grammars; he formed an acquaintance with an old woman who kept a bookstall in the market-place of Norwich, whose son went voyages to Holland with cattle, and brought home Dutch books, which were eagerly bought by little George.  One day the old woman was crying, and told him that her son was in prison.  “For doing what?” asked the child.  “For taking a silk handkerchief out of a gentleman’s pocket.”  “Then,” said the boy, “your son stole the pocket handkerchief?”  “No dear, no, my son did not steal,—he only glyfaked.”
We have no difficulty in recognising here the heroine of the Moll Flanders episode in Lavengro.  But it was not from casual meetings with Welsh grooms6 and Danes and Dutchmen that Borrow acquired even such command of various languages as was undoubtedly7 his.  We have it on the authority of an old fellow-pupil at the Grammar School, Burcham, afterwards a London police-magistrate, that William Taylor gave him lessons in German, [51] but he acquired most of his varied8 knowledge in these impressionable years in the Corporation Library of Norwich.  Dr. Knapp found, in his very laudable examination of some of the books, Borrow’s neat pencil notes, the making of which was not laudable on the part of his hero.  One book here marked was on ancient Danish literature, the author of which, Olaus Wormius, gave him the hint for calling himself Olaus Borrow for a time—a signature that we find in some of Borrow’s published translations.  Borrow at this time had aspirations9 of a literary kind, and Thomas Campbell accepted a translation of Schiller’s Diver, which was sighed “O. B.”  There were also translations from the German, Dutch, Swedish, and Danish, in the Monthly Magazine.  Clearly Borrow was becoming a formidable linguist10, if not a very exact master of words.  Still he remained a vagabond, and loved to wander over Mousehold Heath, to the gypsy encampment, and to make friends with the Romany folk; he loved also to haunt the horse fairs for which Norwich was so celebrated11; and he was not averse12 from the companionship of wilder spirits p. 52who loved pugilism, if we may trust Lavengro, and if we may assume, as we justly may, that he many times cast youthful, sympathetic eyes on John Thurtell in these years, the to-be murderer of Weare, then actually living with his father in a house on the Ipswich Road, Thurtell, the father, being in no mean position in the city—an alderman, and a sheriff in 1815.  Yes, there was plenty to do and to see in Norwich, and Borrow’s memories of it were nearly always kindly13.
At the very centre of Borrow’s Norwich life was William Taylor, concerning whom we have already written much.  It was a Jew named Mousha, a quack14 it appears, who pretended to know German and Hebrew, and had but a smattering of either language, who first introduced Borrow to Taylor, and there is a fine dialogue between the two in Lavengro, of which this is the closing fragment:
“Are you happy?” said the young man.
“Why, no!  And, between ourselves, it is that which induces me to doubt sometimes the truth of my opinions.  My life, upon the whole, I consider a failure; on which account, I would not counsel you, or anyone, to follow my example too closely.  It is getting late, and you had better be going, especially as your father, you say, is anxious about you.  But, as we may never meet again, I think there are three things which I may safely venture to press upon you.  The first is, that the decencies and gentlenesses should never be lost sight of, as the practice of the decencies and gentlenesses is at all times compatible with independence of thought and action.  The second thing which I would wish to impress upon you is, that there is always some eye upon us; and that it is impossible to keep anything we do from the world, as it will assuredly be divulged15 by somebody as soon as it is his interest to do so.  The third thing which I would wish to press upon you—”
“Yes,” said the youth, eagerly bending forward.
“Is”—and here the elderly individual laid down his pipe upon the table—“that it will be as well to go on improving yourself in German!”
Taylor it was who, when Borrow determined16 to try his fortunes in London with those bundles of unsaleable manuscripts, gave him introductions to Sir Richard Phillips and to Thomas Campbell.  It was in the agnostic spirit that he had learned from Taylor that he wrote during this period to his one friend in London, Roger Kerrison.  Kerrison was grandson of Sir Roger Kerrison, Mayor of Norwich in 1778, as his son Thomas was after him in 1806.  Roger was articled, p. 53as was Borrow, to the firm of Simpson and Rackham, while his brother Allday was in a drapery store in Norwich, but with mind bent17 on commercial life in Mexico.  George was teaching him Spanish in these years as a preparation for his great adventure.  Roger had gone to London to continue his professional experience.  He finally became a Norwich solicitor and died in 1882.  Allday went to Zacatecas, Mexico, and acquired riches.  John Borrow followed him there and met with an early death, as we have seen.  Borrow and Roger Kerrison were great friends at this time; but when Lavengro was written they had ceased to be this, and Roger is described merely as an “acquaintance” who had found lodgings18 for him on his first visit to London.  As a matter of fact that trip to London was made easy for Borrow by the opportunity given to him of sharing lodgings with Roger Kerrison at Milman Street, Bedford Row, where Borrow put in an appearance on 1st April, 1824, some two months after the following letter was written:
To Mr. Roger Kerrison, 18 Milman Street, Bedford Row.
Norwich, Jany. 20, 1824.
Dearest Roger,—I did not imagine when we separated in the street, on the day of your departure from Norwich, that we should not have met again: I had intended to have come and seen you off, but happening to dine at W. Barron’s I got into discourse19, and the hour slipt past me unawares.
I have been again for the last fortnight laid up with that detestable complaint which destroys my strength, impairs20 my understanding, and will in all probability send me to the grave, for I am now much worse than when you saw me last.  But nil21 desperandum est, if ever my health mends, and possibly it may by the time my clerkship is expired, I intend to live in London, write plays, poetry, etc., abuse religion and get myself prosecuted22, for I would not for an ocean of gold remain any longer than I am forced in this dull and gloomy town.
I have no news to regale23 you with, for there is none abroad, but I live in the expectation of shortly hearing from you, and being informed of your plans and projects; fear not to be prolix24, for the slightest particular cannot fail of being interesting to one who loves you far better than parent or relation, or even than the God whom bigots would teach him to adore, and who subscribes25 himself, Yours unalterably,
George Borrow.
Borrow might improve his German—not sufficiently26, as we shall see in our next chapter—but he would certainly p. 54never make a lawyer.  Long years afterwards, when, as an old man, he was frequently in Norwich, he not seldom called at that office in Tuck’s Court, where five strange years of his life had been spent.  A clerk in Rackham’s office in these later years recalls him waiting for the principal as he in his youth had watched others waiting. [54]

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