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CHAPTER XII Eight Years of Vagabondage
 There has been much nonsense written concerning what has been called the “veiled period” of George Borrow’s life.  This has arisen from a letter which Richard Ford1 of the Handbook for Travellers in Spain wrote to Borrow after a visit to him at Oulton in 1844.  Borrow was full of his projected Lavengro, the idea of which he outlined to his friends.  He was a genial2 man in those days, on the wave of a popular success.  Was not The Bible in Spain passing merrily from edition to edition!  Borrow, it is clear, told Ford that he was writing his “Autobiography”—he had no misgiving3 then as to what he should call it—and he evidently proposed to end it in 1825 and not in 1833, when the Bible Society gave him his real chance in life.  His friend Ford indeed begged him not to “drop a curtain” over the eight years succeeding 1825.  “No doubt,” says Ford, “it will excite a mysterious interest,” but then he adds in effect it will lead to a wrong construction being put upon the omission4.  Well, there can be but one interpretation5, and that not an unnatural6 one.  Borrow had a very rough time during these years.  His vanity was hurt, and no wonder.  It seems a strange matter to us now that Charles Dickens should have been ashamed of the blacking-bottle episode of his boyhood.  Genius has a right to a poverty-stricken—even to a sordid7, boyhood.  But genius has no right to a sordid manhood, and here was George “Olaus” Borrow, who was able to claim the friendship of William Taylor, the German scholar; who was able to boast of his association with sound scholastic8 foundations, with the High School at Edinburgh and the Grammar School at Norwich; who was a great linguist9 and had made rare translations from the poetry of many nations, starving in the byways of England and of France.  What a fate for such a man that he should have been so unhappy for eight years; should have led the most penurious10 of p. 79roving lives, and almost certainly have been in prison as a common tramp. [79]  It was all very well to romance about a poverty-stricken youth.  But when youth had fled there ceased to be romance, and only sordidness11 was forthcoming.  From his twenty-third to his thirty-first year George Borrow was engaged in a hopeless quest for the means of making a living.  There is, however, very little mystery.  Many incidents of each of these years are revealed at one or other point.  His home, to which he returned from time to time, was with his mother at the cottage in Willow12 Lane, Norwich.  Whether he made sufficient profit out of a horse, as in The Romany Rye, to enable him to travel upon the proceeds, as Dr. Knapp thinks, we cannot say.  Dr. Knapp is doubtless right in assuming that during this period he led “a life of roving adventure,” his own authorised version of his career at the time, as we may learn from the biography in his handwriting from Men of the Time.  But how far this roving was confined to England, how far it extended to other lands............
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