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CHAPTER IX “Faustus” and “Romantic Ballads”
 In the early pages of Lavengro Borrow tells us nearly all we are ever likely to know of his sojourn1 in London in the years 1824 and 1825, during which time he had those interviews with Sir Richard Phillips which are recorded in our last chapter.  Dr. Knapp, indeed, prints a little note from him to his friend Kerrison, in which he begs his friend to come to him as he believes he is dying.  Roger Kerrison, it would seem, had been so frightened by Borrow’s depression and threats of suicide that he had left the lodgings2 at 16 Milman Street, Bedford Row, and removed himself elsewhere, and so Borrow was left friendless to fight what he called his “horrors” alone.  The depression was not unnatural3.  From his own vivid narrative4 we learn of Borrow’s bitter failure as an author.  No one wanted his translations from the Welsh and the Danish, and Phillips clearly had no further use for him after he had compiled his Newgate Lives and Trials (Borrow’s name in Lavengro for Celebrated5 Trials), and was doubtless inclined to look upon him as an impostor for professing6, with William Taylor’s sanction, a mastery of the German language which had been demonstrated to be false with regard to his own book.  No “spirited publisher” had come forward to give reality to his dream thus set down:  
I had still an idea that, provided I could persuade any spirited publisher to give these translations to the world, I should acquire both considerable fame and profit; not, perhaps, a world-embracing fame such as Byron’s; but a fame not to be sneered7 at, which would last me a considerable time, and would keep my heart from breaking;—profit, not equal to that which Scott had made by his wondrous8 novels, but which would prevent me from starving, and enable me to achieve some other literary enterprise.  I read and re-read my ballads9, and the more I read them the more I was convinced that the public, in the event of their being published, would freely purchase, and hail them with the merited applause.
p. 61He has a tale to tell us in Lavengro of a certain Life and Adventures of Joseph Sell, the Great Traveller, the purchase of which from him by a publisher at the last moment saved him from starvation and enabled him to take to the road, there to meet the many adventures that have become immortal11 in the pages of Lavengro.  Dr. Knapp has encouraged the idea that Joseph Sell was a real book, ignoring the fact that the very title suggests doubts, and was probably meant to suggest them.  In Norfolk, as elsewhere, a “sell” is a word in current slang used for an imposture12 or a cheat, and doubtless Borrow meant to make merry with the credulous13.  There was, we may be perfectly14 sure, no Joseph Sell, and it is more reasonable to suppose that it was the sale of his translation of Klinger’s Faustus that gave him the much needed money at this crisis.  Dr. Knapp pictures Borrow as carrying the manuscript of his translation of Faustus with him to London.  There is not the slightest evidence of this.  It may be reasonably assumed that Borrow made the translation from Klinger’s novel during his sojourn in London.  It is true the preface is dated “Norwich, April 1825,” but Borrow did not leave London until the end of May, 1825, that is to say, until after he had negotiated with “W. Simpkin and R. Marshall,” now the well-known firm of Simpkin and Marshall, for the publication of the little volume.  That firm, unfortunately, has no record of the transaction.  My impression is that Borrow in his wandering after old volumes on crime for his great compilation15, Celebrated Trials, came across the French translation of Klinger’s novel published at Amsterdam.  From that translation he acknowledges that he borrowed the plate which serves as frontispiece—a plate entitled “The Corporation Feast.”  It represents the corporation of Frankfort at a banquet turned by the devil into various animals.  It has been erroneously assumed that Borrow had had something to do with the designing of this plate, and that he had introduced the corporation of Norwich in vivid portraiture16 into the picture.  Borrow does, indeed, interpolate a reference to Norwich into his translation of a not too complimentary17 character, for at that time he had no very amiable18 feelings towards his native city.  Of the inhabitants of Frankfort he says:
They found the people of the place modelled after so unsightly a pattern, with such ugly figures and flat features, that the devil p. 62owned he had never seen them equalled, except by the inhabitants of an English town called Norwich, when dressed in their Sunday’s best. [62]
In the original German version of 1791 we have the town of Nuremberg thus satirised.  But Borrow was not the first translator to seize the opportunity of adapting the reference for personal ends.  In the French translation of 1798, published at Amsterdam, and entitled Les Aventures du Docteur Faust, the translator has substituted Auxerre for Nuremberg.  What makes me think that Borrow used only the French version in his translation is the fact that in his preface he refers to the engravings of that version, one of which he reproduced; whereas the engravings are in the German version as well.
Friedrich Maximilian von Klinger (1752–1831), who was responsible for Borrow’s “first book,” was responsible for much else of an epoch-making character.  It was he who by one of his many plays, Sturm und Drang, gave a name to an important period of German literature.  In 1780 von Klinger entered the service of Russia, and in 1790 married a natural daughter of the Empress Catherine.  Thus his novel, Faust’s Leben, Thaten und Höllenfahrt, was actually first published at St. Petersburg in 1791.  This was seventeen years before Goethe published his first part of Faust, a book which by its exquisite19 poetry was to extinguish for all self-respecting Germans Klinger’s turgid prose.  Borrow, like the translator of Rousseau’s Confessions20 and of many another classic, takes refuge more than once in the asterisk21.  Klinger’s Faustus, with much that was bad and even bestial22, has merits.  The devil throughout shows his victim a succession of examples of “man’s inhumanity to man.”  Borrow nowhere mentions Klinger’s name in his book, of which the title-page runs:
Faustus: His Life, Death, and Descent into Hell.  Translated from the German.  London: W. Simpkin and R. Marshall, 1825.
I doubt very much if he really knew who was the author, as the book in both the German editions I have seen as well as in the French version bears no author’s name on its title-page.  A letter of Borrow’s in the possession of an American collector indicates that he was back in Norwich in September, p. 631825, after, we may assume, three months’ wandering among gypsies and tinkers.  It is written from Willow23 Lane, and is apparently24 to the publishers of Faustus:
As your bill will become payable25 in a few days, I am willing to take thirty copies of Faustus instead of the money.  The book has been burnt in both the libraries here, and, as it has been talked about, I may perhaps be able to dispose of some in the course of a year or so.
This letter clearly demonstrates that the guileless Simpkin and the equally guileless Marshall had paid Borrow for the right to publish Faustus, and even though part of the payment was met by a bill, I think we may safely find in the transaction whatever verity26 there may be in the Joseph Sell episode.  “Let me know how you sold your manuscript,” writes Borrow’s brother to him so late as the year 1829.  And............
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