George Borrow and the Borrovian cult



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The investigation has for its primary purpose an analysis of the writings of George Borrow and of their literary origins and influence. In each instance, the chief objective has been to arrive at some new truth about Borrow's works, although it has been necessary to restate much that has been advanced previously. In refusing to limit the study to any particular works of the author, thoroughness has no doubt been sacrificed; so great has been my belief, however, that conclusions drawn concerning one selection might have a relative bearing on others, that the entire sixteen volumes attributed to Borrow in the Norwich Edition of his works have been studied, in the hope of finding a new approach that would elucidate those of his works which deserve more careful consideration than they have hitherto received. If the resulting work appears sketchy, the scope of the subject and the pioneering nature of the investigation are offered in defence. One claim only is made--a diligent and consistent effort to treat fairly all facts and personalities concerned. By far the greater part of the scholarship devoted to George Borrow thus far has been primarily concerned with determining the relative amounts of fact and fiction in his works, and in bringing to light new facts about the life and personality of the man himself. With the appearance in 1899 of Professor William I. Knapp's two volumes recording his thorough investigation of Borroviana, an extended list of biographies was ushered in. With the exception of Dr. Knapp's study, however, criticisms of Borrow have for the most part dealt with the attitudes and opinions of the writers with respect to the personality of the man back of his works. Such studies have been so marked by either pronounced admiration or antipathy that the majority of writers on the subject may be divided roughly into two camps--the vast throng of ardent admirers who for years have referred to themselves as "Borrovians," and the smaller group who, like many of the contemporaries of Borrow, see in his works the manifestation of an uncouth braggart utterly unreliable in his pose as a scholar, and a repugnant self-hero when he assumes the role of literary artist. In the study which follows, a consistent effort has been made to avoid extremes in either direction and to treat the works under consideration, not as historical or scientific documents, but upon the basis of their literary merit exclusively

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