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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. A. Brandram

(Endorsed: recd. June 21, 1837)
SALAMANCA, June 7, 1837.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- I arrived at Salamanca about a fortnight since, in safety and in tolerable good health. I shall defer for a few days communicating the particulars of my journey, though they are not destitute of interest, having at present information to afford which I consider of more importance, and which I hope will afford the same satisfaction to yourself and our friends at home which I myself experience in communicating them.

Some days previous to my departure from Madrid I was very much indisposed. Owing to the state of the weather -- for violent and biting winds had long prevailed -- I had been attacked with a severe cold which terminated in a shrieking disagreeable cough, which the many remedies which I successively tried were unable to subdue. I had made preparation for departing on a particular day, but owing to the state of my health I was apprehensive that I should be compelled to postpone my journey for a time. The last day of my stay in Madrid, finding myself scarcely able to stand, I was fain to submit to a somewhat desperate experiment, and by the advice of the barber-surgeon who visited me, I determined to be bled. Late on the night of that same day he eased me of sixteen ounces of blood, and having received his fee, left me, wishing me a pleasant journey, and assuring me upon his reputation that by noon the next day I should be perfectly recovered.

A few minutes after his departure, whilst I was sitting alone, meditating on the journey which I was about to undertake, and on the rickety state of my health, I heard a loud knock at the street-door of the house, on the third floor of which I was lodged, not very comfortably. In a minute or two Mr. Southern of the British Embassy entered my apartment. After a little conversation he informed me that Mr. Villiers had desired him to wait upon me, to communicate a resolution which he, Mr. Villiers, had come to. Being apprehensive that alone and unassisted I should experience considerable difficulty in propagating the Gospel of God to any considerable extent in Spain, he was bent upon exerting to the utmost his own credit and influence to further my views, which he himself considered, if carried into proper effect, extremely well calculated to operate beneficially on the political and moral state of the country. To this end it was his intention to purchase a very considerable number of copies of the New Testament, and to despatch them forthwith to the various British consuls established in different parts of Spain, with strict and positive orders to employ all the means, which their official situation should afford them, to circulate the books in question and to assure their being noticed. They were moreover to be charged to afford myself, whenever I should appear in their respective districts, all the protection, encouragement, and assistance I should stand in need of, as a friend of Mr. Villiers, and a person in the success of whose enterprise he himself took the warmest interest.

I could scarcely believe my ears on receiving this information; for though I had long been aware that Mr. Villiers was at all times willing to assist me, he having frequently given me sufficient proof, I could never expect that he would come forward in so noble, and to say the least of it, considering his high diplomatic situation, so bold and decided a manner. I believe that this is the first instance of a British Ambassador having made the cause of the Bible Society a national one, or indeed to favour it directly or indirectly. What renders the case of Mr. Villiers more remarkable is that on my first arrival at Madrid I found him by no means well disposed towards the Society. The Holy Spirit has probably illumined his mind on this point. Honour be to him: I hope that by his means our institution will shortly possess many agents in Spain with far more power and opportunity than I myself can ever expect to possess, who will scatter abroad the seed of the Gospel, and make of a barren and thirsty wilderness a green and smiling corn-field.

The next day verified the prediction of the barber. I had to a considerable degree lost my cough and fever, though, owing to the great loss of blood, I was very feeble and weak. Precisely at twelve o'clock myself and man rode forth from the gate of Saint Vincent, directing our course to the lofty mountains which separate Old from New Castile. That night we rested at Guadarama, a large village at their foot, distant from Madrid about twenty-five miles. The journey to Salamanca occupied four days, and I disposed of five Testaments by the way.

Since my arrival at Salamanca I have been taking measures that the Word of God may become generally known in this place, so celebrated in many respects. The principal bookseller of the town, Blanco, a man of great wealth and respectability, has consented to become our agent here, and I have deposited in his shop a certain number of New Testaments. He is the proprietor of a small printing press, where the official bulletin of the place is published. For this bulletin I have prepared an advertisement of the work, in which amongst other things I have said that the New Testament is the only guide to salvation. I have also spoken of the Bible Society, and the great pecuniary sacrifices which it is making with the view of proclaiming Christ crucified, and of making His doctrine known. This step will perhaps be considered by some as too bold, but I am not aware that I can take any more calculated to arouse the attention of the people -- a considerable point. I have also ordered numbers of the same advertisement to be struck off in the shape of bills which I am causing to be stuck up in various parts of the town. I have great hope that by means of these a considerable number of New Testaments will be sold. I shall repeat this experiment in Valladolid, Leon, St. Jago, and all the principal towns which it is my intention to visit in my wanderings, and I shall likewise distribute them as I ride along. The children of Spain will thus be brought to know that such a work as the New Testament is in existence, a fact of which not five in one hundred are at present aware, notwithstanding their so frequently repeated boasts of their Catholicity and Christianity.

I carry with me the Gospel of St. Luke in the Cantabrian or Basque language. It is my intention to print this little book, either at San Sebastian or Pamplona; as it would be unwise not to avail myself of so favourable an opportunity of circulating it as my visit to the provinces where the language is spoken will afford me. I have examined it with much attention, and find it a very faithful version. The only objection which can be brought against it is that Spanish words are frequently used to express ideas for which there are equivalents in Basque; but this language, as spoken at present in Spain, is very corrupt, and a work written entirely in the Basque of Larramendi's Dictionary would be intelligible to very few. I have read passages from it to the men of Guipuscoa, who assured me that they had no difficulty in understanding it, and that it was written in the colloquial style of their province.

G. B.

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