[George] Borrow was a walker of awesome stamina and a linguist of almost inconceivable talent, who is said to have been able to speak twelve languages by the time he was eighteen and to have been competently acquainted with more than forty – including Nahuatl, Tibetan, Armenian and Malo-Russian – over the course of his life. In the winter of 1832– 3 the British and Foreign Bible Society invited him at short notice to an interview in London, wanting to see if he could translate the Bible into a number of difficult languages. He walked to the interview from Norwich, covering 112 miles in 27 hours, sustained by a pint of ale, half a pint of milk, a bread roll and two apples . The society liked what they saw and commissioned Borrow to translate the New Testament into Manchu. What Borrow hadn’t told them was that he did not have any Manchu. No problem. Once the job was landed, he acquired ‘several books in the Manchu-Tartar dialect’, and Amyot’s Manchu–French (French!) dictionary. Then he travelled home (by coach, understandably) and shut himself up with the books. Three weeks later he could ‘translate Manchu with no great difficulty’, and fulfilled the society’s commission.
Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot