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CHAPTER XX “The Children of the Open Air”
 Behold George Borrow, then, in a comfortable home on the banks of Oulton Broad—a family man.  His mother—sensible woman—declines her son’s invitation to live with the newly-married pair.  She remains1 in the cottage at Norwich where her husband died.  The Borrows were married in April, 1840, by May they had settled at Oulton.  It was a pleasantly secluded2 estate, and Borrow’s wife had £450 a year.  He had, a month before his marriage, written to Mr. Brandram to say that he had a work nearly ready for publication, and “two others in a state of forwardness.”  The title of the first of these books he enclosed in his letter.  It was The Zincali: Or an Account of the Gypsies of Spain.  Mr. Samuel Smiles, in his history of the House of Murray—A Publisher and his Friends—thus relates the circumstances of its publication:—  
In November 1840 a tall, athletic3 gentleman in black called upon Mr. Murray offering a MS. for perusal4 and publication. . . .  Mr. Murray could not fail to be taken at first sight with this extraordinary man.  He had a splendid physique, standing5 six feet two in his stockings, and he had brains as well as muscles, as his works sufficiently6 show.  The book now submitted was of a very uncommon7 character, and neither the author nor the publisher were very sanguine8 about its success.  Mr. Murray agreed, after perusal, to print and publish 750 copies of The Gypsies in Spain, and divide the profits with the author.
It was at the suggestion of Richard Ford9, then the greatest living English authority on Spain, that Mr. Murray published the book.  It did not really commence to sell until The Bible in Spain came a year or so later to bring the author reputation.  From November, 1840, to June, 1841, only three hundred copies had been sold in spite of friendly reviews in some half-dozen journals, including The Athenæum and The Literary Gazette.  The first edition, it may be mentioned, contained on its title-page a description of the author as p. 148“late agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society in Spain.”  There is very marked compression in the edition now in circulation, and a perusal of the first edition reveals many interesting features that deserve to be restored for the benefit of the curious.  But nothing can make The Zincali a great piece of literature.  It was summarised by the Edinburgh Review at the time as “a hotch-potch of the jockey, tramper, philologist10, and missionary11.”  That description, which was not intended to be as flattering as it sounds to-day, appears more to apply to The Bible in Spain.  But The Zincali is too confused, too ill-arranged a book to rank with Borrow’s four great works.  There are passages in it, indeed, so eloquent12, so romantic, that no lover of Borrow’s writings can afford to neglect them.  But this was not the book that gypsy-loving Borrow, with the temperament13 of a Romany, should have written, or could have written had he not been obsessed14 by the “science” of his subject.  His real work in gypsydom was to appear later in Lavengro and The Romany Rye.  For Borrow was not a man of science—a philologist, a folk-lorist of the first order.
No one, indeed, who had read only The Zincali among Borrow’s works could see in it any suspicion of the writer who was for all time to throw a glamour15 over the gypsy, to make the “children of the open air” a veritable cult16, to earn for him the title of “the walking lord of gypsy lore17,” and to lay the foundations of an admirable succession of books both in fact and fiction—but not one as great as his own.  It is clear that the city of Seville, with sarcastic18 letters from Bible Society secretaries on one side, and some manner of love romance on the other, was not so good a place for an author to produce a real book as Oulton was to become.  Richard Ford’s judgment19 was sound when he said with quite wonderful prescience:
How I wish you had given us more about yourself, instead of the extracts from those blunder-headed old Spaniards, who knew nothing about gypsies!  I shall give you the rap, on that, and a hint to publish your whole adventures for the last twenty years. [148]
Henceforth Borrow was to write about himself and to p. 149become a great author in consequence.  For in writing about himself as in Lavengro and The Romany Rye he was to write exactly as he felt about the gypsies, and to throw over them the glamour of his own point of view, the view of a man who loved the broad highway and those who sojourned upon it.  In The Gypsies of Spain we have a conventional estimate of the gypsies.  “There can be no doubt that they are human beings and have immortal20 souls,” he says, even as if he were writing a letter to the Bible Society.  All his anecdotes21 about the gypsies are unfavourable to them, suggestive only of them as knaves22 and cheats.  From these pictures it is a far cry to the creation of Jasper Petulengro and Isopel Berners.  The most noteworthy figure in The Zincali is the gypsy soldier of Valdepenas, an unholy rascal23.  “To lie, to steal, to shed human blood”—these are the most marked characteristics with which Borrow endows the gypsies of Spain.  “Abject and vile24 as they have ever been, the gitános have nevertheless found admirers in Spain,” says the author who came to be popularly recognised as the most enthusiastic admirer of the gypsies in Spain and elsewhere.  Read to-day by the lover of Borrow’s other books The Zincali will be pronounced a readable collection of anecdotes, interspersed25 with much dull matter, with here and there a piece of admirable writing.  But the book would scarcely have lived had it not been followed by four works of so fine an individuality.  Well might Ford ask Borrow for more about himself and less of the extracts from “blunder-headed old Spaniards.”  When Borrow came to write about himself he revealed his real kindness for the gypsy folk.  He gave us Jasper Petulengro and the incomparable description of “the wind on the heath.”  He kindled26 the imagination of men, proclaimed the joys of vagabondage in a manner that thrilled many hearts.  He had some predecessors27 and many successors, but “none could then, or can ever again,” says the biographer of a later Rye, “see or hear of Romanies without thinking of Borrow.”  In her biography of one of these successors in gypsy lore, Charles Godfrey Leland, Mrs. Pennell discusses the probability that Borrow and Leland met in the British Museum.  That is admitted............
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