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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. G. Browne

(Endorsed: recd. July 1, 1839)
June 12, 1839.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- I received in due course of time your exceedingly kind letter of the 16th April, and am very grateful for the various intelligence which you were pleased to communicate. I should have replied ere this; but I am one of those, as I believe you are aware, who are averse to writing, especially from a considerable distance, unless they possess matter of sufficient consequence to fill creditably the pages of an epistle. I could wish that at the present moment I had more to write upon, and more interesting details to send you than these which follow. For two or three weeks after my arrival at Seville I was unable to accomplish anything, on account of the seizure of the books, with which you are doubtless acquainted. I however by the assistance of the Almighty, for which I prayed, was enabled, though not without considerable trouble, to overcome that difficulty, and to obtain all the Testaments of which I was in need, to the number of two hundred and upwards. But still I commenced not operations; indeed I was quite at a loss, being in a strange place and under very peculiar circumstances, to imagine the best course to pursue. I therefore waited with perfect patience until it should please Providence to assist me, and true it is that help came in rather a remarkable manner.

I was standing in the courtyard of the Reyna posada, where for the time I had taken up my abode, when a man singularly dressed and gigantically tall entered. My curiosity being excited, I enquired of the master of the house who he was, when he informed me that he was a foreigner who had resided a considerable time in Seville, and he believed a Greek. Upon hearing this I instantly went up to the stranger, and accosted him in the Greek language in which, though I speak it very ill, I can make myself understood. He replied in the same idiom, and, flattered by the interest which I a foreigner expressed for his nation, was not slow in communicating to me his history. He told me, that his name was Dionysius; that he was a native of Cephalonia, and had been educated for the Church, which however not suiting his temper, he had abandoned in order to follow the profession of the sea, for which he had an early inclination; that after many adventures and changes of fortune he found himself one morning on the coast of Spain -- a shipwrecked mariner; and that, ashamed to return to his own country in poverty and distress, he had remained in the Peninsula, residing chiefly at Seville, where he now carried on a small trade in books. He said that he was of the Greek religion, to which he professed strong attachment, and soon discovering that I was a Protestant, spoke with unbounded abhorrence of the Papal system, nay of its followers in general, whom he called Latins, and whom he charged with the ruin of his own country, inasmuch as they sold it to the Turk. It instantly struck me that this individual would be an excellent assistant in the work which had brought me to Seville, namely the propagation of the eternal Gospel; and accordingly after some more conversation, in which he exhibited considerable learning, I explained myself to him. He entered into my views with considerable eagerness; and hitherto I have had no reason to repent my confidence, he having disposed of a considerable number of New Testaments, and even contrived to send a certain number of copies to two small towns, at some distance from Seville.

On account of the extreme dearness of every article at the posada, where moreover I had a suspicion that I was watched, I removed with my servant and horses to an empty house in a solitary part of the town, where I still am, and where I purpose to remain during my stay in Andalusia. Here I live in the greatest privacy, admitting no person but two or three in whom I have the greatest confidence, who entertain the same views as myself and who assist me in the circulation of the Gospel. One of these is a very remarkable person: an aged professor of music, by birth an old Castilian, and one of the very few who retain traces of the ancient Spanish character, which with all its faults, its stiffness, its formality, and its pride, I believe (always setting the character of the Christian aside) to be the most estimable and trustworthy in the world. This venerable individual has just brought me the price of six Testaments and a Gypsy Gospel, which he has this day sold under the heat of an Andalusian sun. What was his motive? A Christian one, truly. He says that his unfortunate countrymen, who are at present robbing and murdering each other, may probably be rendered better by the reading of the Gospel, but cannot be injured: adding, that many a man has been reformed by the Scripture but that no one ever yet became a thief or assassin from its perusal.

I have not yet addressed myself much to the lower orders in these parts. Indeed the quantity of books, at my disposal, at present remaining unsold in Spain is so small, that I am almost tempted to be niggard of them, lest in an unprovided hour an extraordinary call should be made. However, before leaving Seville, it will be well to pay some attention to the poor. I have an agent awaiting my orders, another Greek, introduced to me by Dionysius; he is a labouring brick-layer, a native of the Morea, and has been upwards of thirty-five years in this country, so that he has almost entirely lost his native language; nevertheless his attachment to his own country is so strong, that he considers whatever is not Greek to be utterly barbarous and bad. Though entirely destitute of education he has, by his strength of character and by a kind of rude eloquence which he possesses, obtained such a mastery over the minds of the labouring classes of Seville that to everything he asserts they assent, however his assertions may shock their prejudices and Spanish pride; so that notwithstanding he is a foreigner he may at any time become the Masaniello of Seville. I am happy to be able to add that he is an honest, industrious man notwithstanding his eccentricities, so that should I employ him, which I have not yet resolved upon, I may entertain perfect confidence that his actions will be no disparagement to the book he vends.

We are continually pressed for Bibles, which of course we cannot supply; Testaments are held in comparatively little esteem. Allow me to make here a remark which it is true I ought to have made three years ago; but we live and learn. It is unwise to print Testaments, and Testaments alone for Catholic countries. The reason is plain. The Catholic, unused to Scripture reading, finds a thousand things which he cannot possibly understand in the New Testament, the foundation of which is the Old. 'Search the Scriptures, for they bear witness to Me,' may well be applied to this point. It may be replied that New Testaments separate are in great demand and of infinite utility in England. But England, thanks be to the Lord, is not Spain; and though an English labourer may read a Testament and derive from it the most blessed fruit, it does not follow that a Spanish peasant will enjoy similar success, as he will find many dark things with which the other is well acquainted and competent to understand, being versed in the Bible history from his childhood. I confess however that in the campaign of last summer we could not have accomplished with Bibles what Providence permitted us to do with Testaments, the former being far too bulky for rural journeys. In conclusion, I am glad to be able to say that one of my principal reasons for leaving Madrid was an inability to answer the pressing demands for Bibles which came pouring upon me every instant, and to which every person in the house where I lived can bear witness. Let the Revd. Doctor Wiseman get over this fact, who in his unchristian and unfounded attack on the Bible Society has stated that it cannot dispose of its books at any price, nor indeed get rid of them gratis!

Dear Mrs. Browne shall have her letter.

G. B.

P.S. I have just received Mr. Brandram's epistle. Present to him my best thanks for it, and above all for the remarks, which I will remember. Pray let him send me the Pamphlet of the T. S. I wish to see their observations on the Vulgate. Likewise the other papers.

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