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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. Joseph Jowett

(Endorsed: recd. April 22, 1839)
April 10, 1839,
MADRID, No.16 CALLE SANTIAGO.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- In a few days I shall leave Madrid for Seville; and being anxious to write a few lines before my departure in order that yourself and others friends may be acquainted with the exact state of affairs in Spain, I embrace the present opportunity. In the first place however I beg leave to apologise for not having ere this performed my promise of writing. Many causes unnecessary to recapitulate prevented me; but I steadfastly hope that already with your usual considerate goodness you have imputed my tardiness to anything but neglect.

A convoy starts for Andalusia on the 13th, and I intend to avail myself of it so far as to send therewith my servant Antonio with the horses and the Testaments which I destine for circulation in that province. I shall myself follow with the courier. True it is that I had determined to proceed by Estremadura, but circumstances have occurred which have induced me to alter my resolution. The roads in Spain are in a worse state than ever; and in Estremadura particularly, which for some time past has enjoyed a tolerable state of tranquillity, a band of Carlist robbers have lately made their appearance, who murder, make prisoner, or put at ransom every person who has the misfortune to fall into their hands. I therefore deem it wise to avoid, if possible, the alternative of being shot or having to pay one thousand pounds for being set at liberty, which has already befallen several individuals. It is moreover wicked to tempt Providence systematically. I have already thrust myself into more danger than was perhaps strictly necessary, and as I have been permitted hitherto to escape, it is better to be content with what it has pleased the Lord to do for me up to the present moment, than to run the risk of offending Him by a blind confidence in His forbearance, which may be over-taxed. As it is, however, at all times best to be frank, I am willing to confess that I am what the world calls exceedingly superstitious; perhaps the real cause of my change of resolution was a dream, in which I imagined myself on a desolate road in the hands of several robbers, who were hacking me with their long ugly knives.

We have been very successful of late, having, since my last letter to Mr. Brandram, sold no less than two hundred Bibles, so that not more than one hundred and fifty remain of the five hundred which were sent to me from Barcelona in sheets. I have discontinued selling Testaments in Madrid, as it appears to me that we shall have barely sufficient, unless something unforeseen occurs, for Andalusia and one or two other points which I wish to visit. When I recollect the difficulties which have encompassed our path, I can sometimes hardly credit all that the Almighty has permitted us to accomplish within the last year: a large edition of the New Testament almost entirely disposed of in the very centre of old, gloomy, fanatic Spain, in spite of the opposition and the furious cry of the sanguinary priesthood and the edicts of a tyrannical, deceitful Government; moreover a spirit of religious enquiry excited, which I have fervent hope will sooner or later lead to blessed and most important results. Till of late the name most abhorred and dreaded in these parts of Spain was that of Martin Luther, who was in general considered as a species of demon, a cousin-german to Belial and Beelzebub, who under the disguise of a man wrote and preached blasphemy against the Highest. Yet now, strange to say, this once abominated personage is spoken of with no slight degree of respect. People, with Bibles in their hands, not unfrequently visit me, enquiring with much earnestness and with no slight degree of simplicity for the writings of the great Doctor Martin, whom indeed some suppose to be still alive. It will be as well here to observe that of all the names connected with the Reformation, that of Luther is the only one known in Spain, and let me add that no controversial writings but his are likely to be esteemed as possessing the slightest weight or authority, however great their intrinsic merit may be. The printing, therefore, of tracts in the Spanish language, of the description hitherto adopted, appears to be pregnant with no good or benefit whatever. Of what might be the result of well-executed translations of judicious selections from the works of Luther, it is not my business to offer an opinion.

Before commencing this journey to Andalusia I must take the liberty of making one humble request to my friends of the Bible Society, which is to be patient. It may not be in my power to send them for a long time any flattering accounts of operations commenced there. I shall be surrounded with enemies, bitter, malignant, and powerful, against whose efforts it is very possible that I may not be able to stand my ground; or the books which I carry with me may be seized and sequestrated, in spite of all the plans which I have devised for their safety. The great failing of Protestants, in general, is a tendency to spring suddenly to the pinnacle of exultation, and as suddenly to fall to the lowest bathos of dejection, forgetting that the brightest day as well as the most gloomy night must necessarily have a termination. How far more wise are the members of that object of my undying detestation, the Church of Rome; from mixing with whom I have acquired one principal point of wisdom, which may be termed, Ever to expect evil, and ever to hope for good; by attending to which maxim we find that Church ever regaining the ground which it has lost. Yesterday seeming a lifeless stick, as in the case of England, to-day it is a magnificent tree, glorious with leaves and fruit. Excuse these observations which, I assure you, are well meant. No one acquainted with me will lay undue partiality to the Roman Church to my charge, yet there are some points about it which I highly admire; and you know well enough that it is lawful to receive instruction from an enemy.

I have been lately going through Morrison's Chinese Matthew. I confess that I am the merest tyro in the language, nevertheless I am compelled to state that upon the whole I do not like the translation. It appears to me that in various instances the characters are not grammatically placed; I mean, not as they are placed in the writings if the best Chinese authors to express the same ideas. Moreover he has translated the sacred Name by the character which the Chinese are in the habit of bestowing on the spirits whose idols they worship, and which is by no means applicable to the one great God, whom the missionaries of the Greek and Roman Churches for want of an equivalent in Chinese have always styled, and with justice [three Chinese characters] (tien tsz hwang), or King of Heaven. The Holy Ghost, he renders by tching fung, or Holy Wind, which is a Hebraism, and which can scarcely be understood by the Chinese. In Lipoftsoff's Mandchou version it is happily translated by the Holy Spirit. You will recollect that on my second return to Spain you requested me to look into Morrison's Testament, on which account I shall offer no excuse for these trifling remarks.

Do me the favour, my dear Sir, to inform Mr. Hitchin that within a day or two I shall send him another account of money received and disbursed. I hope you forwarded the packet containing the life of Ripoll to Mr. Forster. -- Having now said my say for the present, I have the honour to remain, Revd. and dear Sir,

Your most obedient humble servant,

GEORGE BORROW.

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