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Posts Tagged ‘Hughie Green’

Those Who Go A-borrowing, Go A-sorrowing

Posted by Admin on January 23, 2021

It’s not unusual for people to borrow items and money, intending to return it, but somehow failing to do so in a timely fashion, if at all. In fact, since 1932, Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons has been promising people, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

The expression “those who go a-borrowing, go a-sorrowing” means that borrowing always ends in regrets because at some point, whether in the near future or the eventual future, that debt is going to have to be repaid … usually with interest.  Another example of the expression are those who have maxed out their credit cards or found themselves in an upside-down mortgage. They definitely went a-borrowing and they definitely wound up a-sorrowing.

It’s an idiom that hasn’t been used very often, and few people seem to have used it over the years. But when it is used, it packs a punch!

When Royal Navy officer and novelist Frederick Marryat (10 July 1792 – 9 August 1848) wrote “Mr. Midshipman Easy” in 1836, one of his characters makes use of the expression in Chapter Eight which is titled, “In Which Mr Easy Has His First Lesson As To Zeal In His Majesty’s Service.”

“Suppose that you were a commander like myself, with a wife and seven children, and that, struggling for many years to support them, you found yourself, notwithstanding the utmost parsimony, gradually running into debt. That, after many long applications, you had at last succeeded in obtaining employment by an appointment to a fine sloop, and there was every prospect, by prize-money and increased pay, of recovering yourself from your difficulties, if not realising a sufficient provision for your family. Then suppose that all this prospect and all these hopes were likely to be dashed to the ground by the fact of having no means of fitting yourself out, no credit, no means of paying debts you have contracted, for which you would have been arrested, or anything sufficient to leave for the support of your family during your absence, your agent only consenting to advance one-half of what you require. Now, suppose, in this awkward dilemma, without any one in this world upon whom you have any legitimate claim, as a last resource you were to apply to one with whom you have but a distant connection, and but an occasional acquaintance—and that when you had made your request for the loan of two or three hundred pounds, fully anticipating a refusal (from the feeling that he who goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing)—I say, suppose, to your astonishment, that this generous person was to present you with a cheque on his banker for one thousand pounds, demanding no interest, no legal security, and requests you only to pay it at your convenience—I ask you, Sawbridge, what would be your feelings towards such a man?”

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1: He is also the author of the children’s novel “The Children of the New Forest” published in 1847.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 2: The maritime flag signaling system known as Marryat’s Code was devised by Frederick Marryat.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 3: Frederick Marryat was also an acquaintance of English writer and social critic, Charles Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870).

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 4: The novel “Mr. Midshipman Easy” was released by Associated Talking Pictures (ATP) Studios in London, England in 1935 and retitled, “Midshipman Easy” starring Hughie Green (3 February 1920 – 3 May 1997) as Midshipman Easy.

INTERESTING SIDE SIDE NOTE 1: Hughie Green was a British actor who was raised in Canada as a child which resulted in the drawling transatlantic accent for which he was known.

It appears in “The Private Life of the late Benjamin Franklin: Originally Written by Himself and Now Translated From The French” published in 1793. Originally written in four parts, beginning in 1771 (and referencing his life decades earlier, and ending with his death in 1790, with the first book-length edition in French produced in 1791, it was translated and retranslated.

Benjamin Franklin also used this expression in his “Preface to Poor Richard Improved” published in 1758, speaking on the varieties of early modern credit.

The artificial wants of mankind thus become more numerous than the natural; and, as Poor Dick says, for one poor person, there are an hundred indigent. By these, and other extravagancies, the genteel are reduced to poverty, and forced to borrow of those whom they formerly despised, but who through industry and Frugality have maintained their standing; in which case it appears plainly, that a ploughman on his legs is higher than a gentleman on his knees, as Poor Richard says. Perhaps they have had a small estate left them, which they knew not the getting of; they think ’tis day, and will never be night; that a little to be spent out of so much, is not worth minding; (a child and a fool, as Poor Richard says, imagine twenty shillings and twenty years can never be spent) but, always taking out of the meal-tub, and never putting in, soon comes to the bottom; then, as Poor Dick says, when the well’s dry, they know the worth of water. But this they might have known before, if they had taken his advice; if you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some for, he that goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing, and indeed so does he that lends to such people, when he goes to get it in again.

This passage was reworked from the 1743 edition of the book, but omitted “and scarce in that” before the expression.

Dutch humanist, philosopher, and Christian scholar, Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (28 October 1469 – 12 July 1536) grew up during the European religious Reformation. He was known simply as Erasmus, and one of the many things he is noted for is the writing and publishing of his annotated collection of Greek and Latin proverbs. The first edition was titled “Collectanea Adagiorum” and was published in 1500. In 1508, he updated the collection and renamed it “Adagiorum chiliades tres.” The book grew from its original 800 entries to 3,000 entries. This entry appeared in both editions.

He that goeth a borrowynge goeth a sorowynge.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 5: By the 1530s, historians believe the writings of Erasmus accounted for nearly 20 percent of all book sales.

Reliquiæ Antiquæ” tracked the expression back to 1470 by way of the Bibliotheca Harleiana of the British Library (formerly the library of the British Museum) which is a historic collection to which new materials are no longer added, and which is one of the main “closed” collections.

He that fast spendyth must nede borowe;
But whan he schal paye ayen, then ys al the sorowe.
Kype and save, and thou schalle have;
Frest and leve, and thou schalle crave;
Walow and wast, and thou schalle want.
I made of my frend my foo,
I will beware I do no more soo.

While this is the earliest published version that reflects the spirit of the expression, Erasmus identified the saying as part of his annotated collection of Greek and Latin proverbs puts it back to Ancient times.

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