In 1845 Richard Ford published his Hand-Book for Travellers in Spain and Readers at Home
[2 Vols.8vo.], a work which still commands attention, and the compilation of which is said to have occupied its author for more than sixteen years. In conformity with the wish of Ford (who had himself favourably reviewed The Bible in Spain
) Borrow undertook to produce a study of the Hand-Book
for The Quarterly Review
. The following Essay was the result.
But the Essay, brilliant as it is, was not a 'Review.' Not until page 6 of the suppressed edition (p.25 of the present edition) is reached is the Hand-Book even mentioned, and but little concerning it appears thereafter. Lockhart, then editing the Quarterly, proposed to render it more suitable for the purpose for which it had been intended by himself interpolating a series of extracts from Ford's volumes. But Borrow would tolerate no interference with his work, and promptly withdrew the Essay, which had meanwhile been set up in type. The following letter, addressed by Lockhart to Ford, sufficiently explains the position:
June 13th, 1845.
'El Gitano' sent me a paper on the |Hand-Book| which I read with delight. It seemed just another capital chapter of his |Bible in Spain,| and I thought, as there was hardly a word of 'review,' and no extract giving the least notion of the peculiar merits and style of the |Hand-Book,| that I could easily (as is my constant custom) supply the humbler part myself, and so present at once a fair review of the work, and a lively specimen of our friend's vein of eloquence in exordio.
But, behold! he will not allow any tampering . . . I now write to condole with you; for I am very sensible, after all, that you run a great risk in having your book committed to hands far less competent for treating it or any other book of Spanish interest than Borrow's would have been . . . but I consider that, after all, in the case of a new author, it is the first duty of |The Quarterly Review| to introduce that author fully and fairly to the public.
Ever Yours Truly,
J. G. Lockhart.
The action of Lockhart in seeking to amend his Essay excited Borrow's keenest indignation, and induced him to produce the following amusing squib: --
Would it not be more dignified
To run up debts on every side,
And then to pay your debts refuse,
Than write for rascally Reviews?
And lectures give to great and small,
In pot-house, theatre, and town-hall,
Wearing your brains by night and day
To win the means to pay your way?
I vow by him who reigns in [hell],
It would be more respectable!
This squib was never printed by Borrow. I chanced to light upon it recently in a packet of his as yet unpublished verse.
The Essay itself is far too interesting, and far too characteristic of its author, to be permitted to remain any longer inaccessible; hence the present reprint. The original is a folio pamphlet, extending to twelve numbered pages. Of this pamphlet no more than two copies would appear to have been struck off, and both are fortunately extant to-day. One of these was formerly in the possession of Dr. William J. Knapp, and is now the property of the Hispanic Society of New York. The second example is in my own library. This was Borrow's own copy, and is freely corrected in his handwriting throughout. From this copy the present edition has been printed, and in preparing it the whole of the corrections and additions made by Borrow to the text of the original pamphlet have been adopted.
A reduced facsimile of the last page of the pamphlet serves as frontispiece to the present volume.
T. J. W.