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Title: Letters to his wife Mary Borrow
Author: Borrow, George Henry, 1803-1881
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Letters to his wife Mary Borrow" ***

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Transcribed from the 1913 Thomas J. Wise pamphlet by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org.  Many thanks to Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library,
UK, for kindly supplying the images from which this transcription was

                               TO HIS WIFE
                               MARY BORROW

                              GEORGE BORROW




                                                   _October_ 22_nd_, 1844.


I arrived this day at Venice, and though I am exceedingly tired I hasten
to write a line to inform you of my well-being.  I am now making for home
as fast as possible, and I have now nothing to detain me.

Since I wrote to you last I have been again in quarantine for two days
and a half at Trieste, but I am glad to say that I shall no longer be
detained on that account.  I was obliged to go to Trieste, though it was
much out of my way, otherwise I must have remained I know not how long in
Corfu, waiting for a direct conveyance.  After my liberation I only
stopped a day at Corfu in order that I might lose no more time, though I
really wished to tarry there a little longer, the people were so kind.
On the day of my liberation I had four invitations to dinner from the
officers.  I, however, made the most of my time, and escorted by one,
Captain Northcott, of the Rifles, went over the fortifications, which are
most magnificent.  I saw everything that I well could, and shall never
forget the kindness with which I was treated.  The next day I went for
Trieste in a steamer, down the whole length of the Adriatic.  I was
horribly unwell, for the Adriatic is a bad sea, and very dangerous; the
weather was also very rough.  After stopping at Trieste a day, besides
the quarantine, I left for Venice, and here I am, and hope to be on my
route again the day after to-morrow.  I shall now hurry through Italy by
way of Ancona, Rome, and Civita Vecchia to Marseilles in France, and from
Marseilles to London, in not more than six days’ journey.  Oh, I shall be
so glad to get back to you and my mother (I hope she is alive and well)
and Hen. {7}

I am glad to hear that we are not to have a war with those silly people,
the French.  The idea made me very uneasy, for I thought how near Oulton
lay to the coast.

You cannot imagine what a magnificent old town Venice is—it is clearly
the finest in Italy, although in decay; it stands upon islands in the
sea, and in many places is intersected with canals.  The Grand Canal is
four miles long, lined with palaces on either side.  I, however, shall be
glad to leave it, for there is no place to me like Oulton, where live two
of my dear ones.  I have told you that I am very tired, so that I cannot
write much more, and I am presently going to bed, but I am sure that you
will be glad to hear from me however little I may write.

I think I told you in my last letter that I had been to the top of Mount
Olympus, in Thessaly.  Tell Hen that I saw a whole herd of wild deer
bounding down the cliffs, the noise they made was like thunder.  I also
saw an enormous eagle—one of Jupiter’s birds, his real eagles, for
according to the Grecian mythology Olympus was his favourite haunt.  I
don’t know what it was then, but at present it is the most wild, savage
place I ever saw; an immense way up I came to a forest of pines; half of
them were broken by thunder-bolts, snapped in the middle, and the ruins
lying around in the most hideous confusion; some had been blasted from
top to bottom and stood naked, black, and charred, in indescribable
horridness.  Jupiter was the god of thunder, and he still seems to haunt
Olympus.  The worst is there is little water, so that a person might
almost perish there of thirst: the snow-water, however, when it runs into
the hollows is the most delicious beverage ever tasted—the snow, however,
is very high up.  My next letter I hope will be from Marseilles, and I
hope to be there in a very few days.

Now, God bless you, my dearest.  Write to my mother, and kiss Hen, and
remember me kindly to Lucy and the Atkinses.

                                                              G. B[ORROW].


                                                            53A PALL MALL,
                                                        _Saturday_ [1854].


I am thinking of coming to you on Thursday.  I do not know that I can do
anything more here, and the dulness of the weather, and the mists, are
making me ill.

Please to send another five pound note by Tuesday morning.  I have spent
scarcely anything of that which you sent, except what I owe to Mrs. W.,
but I wish to have money in my pocket, and Murray and Cooke are going to
dine with me on Tuesday.

I shall be glad to be with you again, for I am very much in want of your
society.  I miss very much my walks at Llangollen by the quiet canal; but
what’s to be done?

Everything seems nearly at a standstill in London on account of this
wretched war, at which it appears to me the English are getting the
worst, notwithstanding their boasting.  They thought to settle it in an
autumn’s day; they little knew the Russians, and they did not reflect
that just after autumn comes winter, which has ever been the Russian’s

Have you heard anything about the rent of the cottage?  I should have
been glad to hear from you this morning.

Give my love to Hen, and may God bless you, dear.

                                                            GEORGE BORROW.

Keep this.


                                           _Tuesday_, 25 [_August_, 1857].


Since writing to you I have been rather unwell, and was obliged to remain
two days at Sandypool.  The weather has been terribly hot, and affected
my head, and likewise my sight slightly.  Moreover, one of the shoes hurt
my foot.  I came to this place to-day, and shall presently leave it for
Pembroke on my way back.  I shall write to you from there.  I shall
return by Cardigan.

What I want you to do is to write to me directed to the post office,
Cardigan (in Cardiganshire), and either inclose a post office order for
five pounds, or an order from Lloyd and Co. on the Banker of that place
for the same sum.  But at any rate write, or I shall not know what to do.
I would return by railroad, but in that event I must go to London, for
there are no railroads from here to Shrewsbury.  I want, moreover, to see
a little more.

Just speak to the Banker, and don’t lose any time.  Send letter, and
either order in it, or say that I can get it at the Banker’s.

I hope all is well.  God bless you and Hen.

                                                            GEORGE BORROW.


                                                _September_ 3_rd_, [1857].


I am making the best of my way to Shrewsbury (my face is turned towards
Mama).  I write this from Lampeter, where there is a college for
educating clergymen intended for Wales, which I am going to see.  I shall
then start for Radnor by Tregavon, and hope soon to be in England.

I have seen an enormous deal since I have been away, and have walked
several hundred miles.  Amongst other places I have seen St. David’s, a
wonderful half-ruinous Cathedral at the western end of Pembrokeshire; but
I shall be glad to get back.

                                                    God bless you and Hen,
                                                            GEORGE BORROW.

Henrietta!  Do you know who is handsome?


                                      _Sunday_ [_September_ 19_th_, 1858].


I just write a line to inform you that I arrived here yesterday quite

We did not start from Yarmouth till past three o’clock on Thursday
morning; we reached Newcastle about ten on Friday.  As I was walking in
the street at Newcastle a sailor-like man came running up to me, and
begged that I would let him speak to me.  He appeared almost wild with
joy.  I asked him who he was, and he told me he was a Yarmouth north
beach man, and that he knew me very well.  Before I could answer, another
sailor-like, short, thick fellow came running up, who also seemed wild
with joy; he was a comrade of the other.  I never saw two people so out
of themselves with pleasure, they literally danced in the street; in
fact, they were two of my old friends.  I asked them how they came down
there, and they told me that they had been down fishing.  They begged a
thousand pardons for speaking to me, but told me they could not help it.

I set off for Alnwick on Friday afternoon, stayed there all night, and
saw the castle next morning.  It is a fine old place, but at present is
undergoing repairs—a Scottish king was killed before its walls in the old
time.  At about twelve I started for Edinburgh.  The place is wonderfully
altered since I was here, and I don’t think for the better.  There is a
Runic stone on the castle brae which I am going to copy.  It was not
there in my time.

If you write direct to me at the Post Office, Inverness.  I am thinking
of going to Glasgow to-morrow, from which place I shall start for
Inverness by one of the packets which go thither by the North-West and
the Caledonian Canal.  I hope that you and Hen are well and comfortable.
Pray eat plenty of grapes and partridges.  We had upon the whole a
pleasant passage from Yarmouth; we lived plainly but well, and I was not
at all ill—the captain seemed a kind, honest creature.

Remember me kindly to Mrs. Turnour and Mrs. Clarke, and God bless you and

                                                            GEORGE BORROW.


                                      _Sunday_ [_September_ 26_th_, 1858].


This is the third letter which I have written to you.  Whether you have
received the other two, or will receive this, I am doubtful.  I have been
several times to the post office, but we found no letter from you, though
I expected to find one awaiting me when I arrived.  I wrote last on
Friday.  I merely want to know once how you are, and if all is well I
shall move onward.  It is of not much use staying here.

After I had written to you on Friday I crossed by the ferry over the
Firth and walked to Beauly, and from thence to Beaufort or Castle Downie.
At Beauly I saw the gate of the pit where old Fraser used to put the
people whom he owed money to—it is in the old ruined cathedral, and at
Beaufort saw the ruins of the house where he was born.  Lord Lovat lives
in the house close by.  There is now a claimant to the title, a
descendant of old Fraser’s elder brother who committed a murder in the
year 1690, and on that account fled to South Wales.  The present family
are rather uneasy, and so are their friends, of whom they have a great
number, for though they are flaming Papists they are very free of their
money.  I have told several of their cousins that the claimant has not a
chance as the present family have been so long in possession.  They
almost blessed me for saying so.  There, however, can be very little
doubt that the title and estate, more than a million acres, belong to the
claimant by strict law.  Old Fraser’s brother was called Black John of
the Tasser.  The man whom he killed was a piper who sang an insulting
song to him at a wedding.  I have heard the words and have translated
them; he was dressed very finely, and the piper sang:

    _You’re dressed in Highland robes_, _O John_,
       _But ropes of straw would become ye better_;
    _You’ve silver buckles your shoes upon_
       _But leather thongs for them were fitter_.

Whereupon John drew his dagger and ran it into the piper’s belly; the
descendants of the piper are still living at Beauly.  I walked that day
thirty-four miles between noon and ten o’clock at night.  My letter of
credit is here.  This is a dear place, but not so bad as Edinburgh.  _If
you have written_, don’t write any more till you hear from me again.

                                                    God bless you and Hen.
                                                            GEORGE BORROW.


                                               _September_ 30_th_, [1858].


I write another line to tell you that I have got your second letter—it
came just in time, as I leave to-morrow.  In your next, address to George
Borrow, Post Office, Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Scotland.  You had,
however, better write without delay, as I don’t know how long I may be
there; and be sure only to write once.  I am glad we have got such a
desirable tenant for our Maltings, and should be happy to hear that the
cottage was also let so well.  However, let us be grateful for what has
been accomplished.

I hope you wrote to Cooke as I desired you, and likewise said something
about how I had waited for Murray.  Between ourselves that account of
theirs was a shameful one, whatever they may say.

I met to-day a very fat gentleman from Caithness, at the very north of
Scotland; he said he was descended from the Norse.  I talked to him about
them, and he was so pleased with my conversation that he gave me his
card, and begged that I would visit him if I went there.  As I could do
no less, I showed him my card—I had but one—and he no sooner saw the name
than he was in a rapture.

I am rather glad that you have got the next door, as the locality is
highly respectable.  Tell Hen that I copied the Runic stone on the Castle
Hill, Edinburgh.  It was brought from Denmark in the old time.  The
inscription is imperfect, but I can read enough of it to see that it was
erected by a man to his father and mother.  I again write the direction
for your next: _George Borrow_, _Esq._, _Post Office_, _Tobermory_, _Isle
of Mull_, _Scotland_.

God bless you and Hen.

                                                               Ever yours,
                                                            GEORGE BORROW.


                                                            FORT AUGUSTUS,
                                        _Sunday_, _October_ 7_th_, [1858].


I write a line lest you should be uneasy.  Before leaving the Highlands I
thought I would see a little more about me.  So last week I set on a four
days’ task, a walk of a hundred miles.  I returned here late last
Thursday night.  I walked that day forty-five miles; during the first
twenty the rain poured in torrents, and the wind blew in my face.  The
last seventeen miles were in the dark.  To-morrow I proceed towards Mull.

I hope that you got my letters, and that I shall find something from you
awaiting me at the post office.  The first day I passed over Corryarrick,
a mountain 3000 feet high.  I was nearly up to my middle in snow.  As
soon as I had passed it I was on Badenoch.  The road on the farther side
was horrible, and I was obliged to wade several rivulets, one of which
was very boisterous and nearly threw me down.  I wandered through a
wonderful country, and picked up a great many strange legends from the
people I met, but they were very few, the country being almost a desert,
chiefly inhabited by deer.  When amidst the lower mountains I frequently
heard them blaring in the woods above me.  The people at the inn here are
by far the nicest I have met; they are kind and honourable to a degree.

                                                    God bless you and Hen.
                                                            GEORGE BORROW.

Don’t write again if you have written.


                                                 _November_ 7_th_, [1858].


After I wrote to you I walked round Mull and through it, over Benmore.  I
likewise went to Icolmkill, and passed twenty-four hours there.  I saw
the wonderful ruin and crossed the island.  I suffered a great deal from
hunger, but what I saw amply repaid me; on my return to Tobermory I was
rather unwell, but got better.  I was disappointed in a passage to Thurso
by sea, so I was obliged to return to this place by train.  On Tuesday,
D.V., I shall set out on foot, and hope to find your letter awaiting me
at the post office at Thurso.

On coming hither by train I nearly lost my things.  I was told at Huntly
that the train stopped ten minutes, and meanwhile the train drove off
_purposely_.  I telegraphed to Keith in order that my things might be
secured, describing where they were, under the seat.  The reply was that
there was nothing of the kind there.  I instantly said that I would bring
an action against the company, and walked off to the town, where I stated
the facts to a magistrate, and gave him my name and address.  He advised
me to bring my action.  I went back and found the people frightened.
They telegraphed again—and the reply was that the things were safe.
There is nothing like setting oneself up sometimes.  I was terribly
afraid I should never again find my books and things.  I, however, got
them, and my old umbrella, too.  I was sent on by the mail train, but
lost four hours, besides undergoing a great deal of misery and

When I have been to Thurso and Kirkwall I shall return as quick as
possible, and shall be glad to get out of the country.  As I am here,
however, I wish to see all I can, for I never wish to return.  Whilst in
Mull I lived very cheaply—it is not costing me more than seven shillings
a day.  The generality of the inns, however, in the lowlands are
incredibly dear—half-a-crown for breakfast, consisting of a little tea, a
couple of small eggs, and bread and butter—_two_ shillings for
attendance.  Tell Hen that I have some moss for her from Benmore—also
some seaweed from the farther shore of Icolmrill.  God bless you,

                                                            GEORGE BORROW.


                                                _November_ 21_st_, [1858].


I reached this place on Friday night, and was glad enough to get your
kind letter.  I shall be so glad to get home to you.

Since my last letter to you I have walked nearly 160 miles.  I was
terribly taken in with respect to distances—however, I managed to make my
way.  I have been to Johnny Groat’s House, which is about twenty-two
miles from this place.  I had tolerably fine weather all the way, but
within two or three miles of that place a terrible storm arose; the next
day the country was covered with ice and snow.  There is at present here
a kind of Greenland winter, colder almost than I ever knew the winter in
Russia.  The streets are so covered with ice that it is dangerous to step
out.  To-morrow D. and I pass over into Orkney, and we shall take the first
steamer to Aberdeen and Inverness, from whence I shall make the best of
my way to England.  It is well that I have no farther to walk, for
walking now is almost impossible—the last twenty miles were terrible, and
the weather is worse than it was then.  I was terribly deceived with
respect to steamboats.  I was told that one passed over to Orkney every
day, and I have now been waiting two days, and there is not yet one.  I
have had quite enough of Scotland.  When I was at Johnny Groat’s I got a
shell for dear Hen, which I hope I shall be able to bring or send to her.

I am glad to hear that you have got out the money on mortgage so
satisfactorily.  One of the greatest blessings in this world is to be
independent.  My spirits of late have been rather bad, owing principally
to my dear mother’s death.  I always knew that we should miss her.  I
dreamt about her at Fort Augustus.  Though I have walked so much I have
suffered very little from fatigue, and have got over the ground with
surprising facility, but I have not enjoyed the country so much as Wales.

I wish that you would order a hat for me against I come home; the one I
am wearing is very shabby, having been so frequently drenched with rain
and storm-beaten.  I cannot say the exact day that I shall be home, but
you may be expecting me.  The worst is that there is no depending on the
steamers, for there is scarcely any traffic in Scotland in winter.  My
appetite of late has been very poorly, chiefly, I believe, owing to
badness of food and want of regular meals.  Glad enough, I repeat, shall
I be to get home to you and Hen.

                                                            GEORGE BORROW.


                                                         KIRKWALL, ORKNEY,
                                     _November_ 27_th_, _Saturday_ [1858].


I am, as you see, in Orkney, and I expect every minute the steamer which
will take me to Shetland and Aberdeen, from which last place I go by
train to Inverness, where my things are, and thence home.

I had a stormy passage to Stromness, from whence I took a boat to the
Isle of Hoy, where I saw the wonderful Dwarf’s House hollowed out of the
stone.  From Stromness I walked here.  I have seen the old Norwegian
Cathedral; it is of red sandstone, and looks as if cut out of rock.  It
is different from almost everything of the kind I ever saw.  It is stern
and grand to a degree.  I have also seen the ruins of the old Norwegian
Bishop’s palace in which King Hacon died; also the ruins of the palace of
Patrick, Earl of Orkney.  I have been treated here with every kindness
and civility.  As soon as the people knew who I was they could scarcely
make enough of me.  The Sheriff, Mr. Robertson, a great Gaelic scholar,
said he was proud to see me in his house; and a young gentleman of the
name of Petrie, Clerk of Supply, has done nothing but go about with me to
show me the wonders of the place.  Mr. Robertson wished to give me
letters to some gentleman at Edinburgh.  I, however, begged leave to be
excused, saying that I wished to get home, as, indeed, I do, for my mind
is wearied by seeing so many strange places.  On my way to Kirkwall I saw
the stones of Stennis—immense blocks of stone standing up like those of
Salisbury Plain.  All the country is full of Druidical and Pictish
remains.  It is, however, very barren, and scarcely a tree is to be seen,
only a few dwarf ones.  Orkney consists of a multitude of small islands,
the principal of which is Pomona, in which Kirkwall is.  The currents
between them are terrible.

I hope to be home a few days after you receive these lines, either by
rail or steamer.  This is a fine day, but there has been dreadful weather
here.  I hope we shall have a prosperous passage.  I have purchased a
little Kirkwall newspaper, which I send you with this letter.  I shall
perhaps post both at Lerwick or Aberdeen.  I sent you a Johnny Groat’s
newspaper, which I hope you got.  Don’t tear either up, for they are

                                                    God bless you and Hen.
                                                            GEORGE BORROW.


                                                _December_ 14_th_, [1858].


I write a line to tell you that I am well, and that I am on my way to
England, but I am stopped here for a day, for there is no conveyance.
Wherever I can walk I get on very well—but if you depend on coaches or
any means of conveyance in this country you are sure to be disappointed.
This place is but thirty-five miles from Edinburgh, yet I am detained for
a day—there is no train.  The waste of that day will prevent me getting
to Yarmouth from Hull by the steamer.  Were it not for my baggage I would
walk to Edinburgh.  I got to Aberdeen, where I posted a letter for you.
I was then obliged to return to Inverness for my luggage—125 miles.
Rather than return again to Aberdeen, I sent on my things to Dunkeld, and
walked the 102 miles through the Highlands.  When I got here I walked to
Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine, thirty-eight miles over horrible roads.  I
then got back here.  I have now seen the whole of Scotland that is worth
seeing, and have walked 600 miles.  I shall be glad to be out of the
country; a person here must depend entirely upon himself and his own
legs.  I have not spent much money—my expenses during my wanderings
averaged a shilling a day.

As I was walking through Strathspey, singularly enough I met two or three
of the Phillips.  I did not know them, but a child came running after me
to ask me my name.  It was Miss P. and two of the children.  I hope to
get to you in two or three days after you get this.

                                               God bless you and dear Hen.
                                                            GEORGE BORROW.

                                * * * * *

               Printed for THOMAS J. WISE, Hampstead, N.W.
                   _Edition limited to Thirty Copies_.


{7}  Borrow’s stepdaughter, Henrietta Mary Clarke, afterwards Mrs.

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