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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. A. Brandram

(Endorsed: recd. Apr.8, 1839)
20 March 1839,

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- Having much to communicate, and of no slight importance, I shall offer no apology for now addressing you. My last letter was from Naval Carnero, in which I informed you of various circumstances, connected with the distribution of the blessed Gospel, which had recently occurred. I likewise stated that it was very probable that I should proceed to Talavera, for the purpose of seeing what might be done in that neighbourhood. The day, however, subsequent to dispatching my letter ushered in events which compelled me to alter my resolution; twenty Testaments were seized in a village in the neighbourhood of Naval Carnero, and I learned that our proceedings, on the other side of Madrid, had caused alarm amongst the heads of the clergy, who made a formal complaint to the Government -- who immediately sent orders to all the Alcaldes of the villages, great and small, in New Castile to seize the New Testament wherever it might be exposed for sale, but at the same time to be particularly careful not to detain or maltreat the person or persons who might be attempting to vend it. An exact description of myself accompanied these orders, and the authorities, both civil and military, were exhorted to be on their guard against me, and my arts and machinations; for, as the document stated, I was to-day in one place and to-morrow at twenty leagues distance. On receiving this intelligence, I instantly resolved to change for a time my strategic system, and not to persist in a course which would expose the sacred volume to seizure at every step which I might take to circulate it. I therefore galloped back to Madrid, leaving Vitoriano to follow. It will be as well to observe here, that we sold twenty and odd Testaments in villages adjacent to Naval Carnero, before the orders had arrived.

Arrived at Madrid, I lost not a moment in putting into execution the plan which I had formed. Having an extensive acquaintance amongst the lower orders, I instantly selected eight of the most intelligent to co-operate with me, amongst whom were five women. All these I supplied with Testaments, and then sent them forth to all the parishes in Madrid. I will at once state the result which, I confess, has more than answered my expectations. Since my return from Naval Carnero nearly six hundred copies of the life and words of Him of Nazareth have been sold in the streets and alleys of Madrid, a fact which I hope I may be permitted to mention with gladness and with decent triumph in the Lord. There is a place in Madrid called the Puerta del Sol, which is a central spot, surrounded with shops, into which the four principal streets disembogue, if I may be allowed the expression. These streets are the Calle Alcala, the Calle Montera, the Calle Mayor, and that of Carreta. The wealthiest of all these is the Calle Montera, where reside the principal merchants and shop-keepers of Madrid; it is in fact the street of commerce, and is in many respects similar to the Zacatin of Granada. Every house in this street is supplied with its Testament, and the same may be said with respect to the Puerta del Sol; nay, in some instances every individual in the house, man and child, man-servant and maid-servant, is furnished with a copy, which we have invariably sold, and never given. My Greek Antonio has made wonderful exertions in this quarter, and it is but justice to say that but for his instrumentality, on many occasions, I might be by no means able to give so favourable an account of the spread of the Bible in Spain, as I now conscientiously can. There was a time when, as you are well aware, I was in the habit of saying, 'Dark Madrid,' an expression which I thank God I may now drop; for can that city justly be called 'dark' in which thirteen hundred Testaments, at least, are in circulation and in daily use?

It appears to me that a glorious reform is commencing in Spain; indeed matters have lately come to my knowledge, which had they been prophesied only a year ago by the Spirit of truth itself, I should have experienced much difficulty in believing. You will be surprised when I tell you that in two churches of Madrid, the New Testament is regularly expounded every Sunday evening, by the respective curates, to about twenty children who attend, and who are provided with copies of the Society's edition of Madrid, 1837. The churches which I allude to are those of San Gines and Santa Cruz. Now I humbly conceive that this fact alone is more than equivalent to all the expense which the Society has incurred, in the efforts which it has hitherto made to introduce the Gospel into Spain; but be this as it may, I am certain, if I may judge by my own feelings, that it has amply recompensed me for all the anxiety and unhappiness which I underwent last year. Whenever I am now called upon to discontinue my labours in the Peninsula, I shall comply without the slightest murmur or remonstrance, my heart being filled with gratitude to the Lord for having been permitted, useless vessel as I am, to see at least some of the seed springing up which during two years I have been casting on the stony ground of the interior of Spain.

There is at present a great demand for Bibles; since the time of writing last we have sold upwards of one hundred copies. Indeed the demand is far greater than I can answer, as the books are disposed of faster than they can be bound by the man whom I employ for that purpose, and in whose secrecy and honour I have perfect confidence. Eight-and-twenty copies are at present bespoken and paid for. Many of these Bibles have found their way into the best houses in Madrid. The Marquis of Santa Coloma has a large family, but every individual of it, old or young, is now in possession of a Bible and likewise of a Testament, which, strange to say, were recommended by the chaplain of the house. One of my most zealous agents in the propagation of the Bible is an ecclesiastic. He never walks out without carrying one beneath his gown, which he offers to the first person he meets whom he thinks likely to purchase. Another excellent assistant is an elderly gentleman of Navarre, enormously rich, who is continually purchasing copies on his own account, which he, as I am told, sends into his native province, for distribution amongst his friends and the poor.

I have at present sold as many Testaments as I think Madrid will bear, for a time. I have therefore called in the greatest part of my people, and content myself with the sale of twelve or fourteen a week, for I am afraid to over-stock the market, and to bring the book into contempt by making it too common. The greatest part of those which still remain (about one thousand) I reserve for Seville, Granada, and some of the other inland cities of Andalusia, specially Jaen, the bishop of which is very favourable to us and our cause. I have likewise my eye on Ceuta, its garrison, its convicts, and singular inhabitants, half Spaniards, half Moors. To Andalusia I shall probably proceed in about three weeks.

I beg leave to call your attention to the work I sent you, and the ferocious attack which it contains against the Bible Society, and especially to the letter of the curate, which I sincerely wish you would insert in your Extracts. This publication was established and is supported by money sent by the Cardinals of Rome, and is principally directed against us. Its abuse, however, is our praise; and the world may form some judgment of what we are accomplishing in Spain by attending to some of the remarks and observations which appear in this work, and which are in all points worthy of Rome and its clan.

My respects to Mr. Josiah Forster, who I hope will have received the biography of Ripoll, the Quaker, executed at Valencia in 1826.

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