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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. A. Brandram

(Endorsed: recd. Aug.5, 1839)
SEVILLE, No.7 PLAZUELA DE LA PILA SECA,
18th July 1839.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- As I am about to leave Seville in a few days for San Lucar, Tangiers, and Ceuta, I wish before setting out to send a word or two in order that you may be acquainted with the state of matters up to the present moment. Our work is concluded here for the season, and for the very efficient reason that I have no more Testaments to sell, somewhat more than two hundred having been circulated since my arrival. A poor Genoese, the waiter at a Swiss ordinary, has just been with me requesting a dozen, which he says have been bespoken by people who frequent the house, but I have been obliged to send him away, it not being in my power to supply him. About ten days since I was visited by various alguacils, headed by the Alcalde del Barrio, or headborough, who made a small seizure of Testaments and Gypsy Gospels which happened to be lying about. This visit was far from being disagreeable to me, as I considered it to be a very satisfactory proof of the effect of our exertions in Seville. I cannot help here relating to you an anecdote. A day or two subsequent, having occasion to call at the house of the headborough to complain of an act of dishonesty which had been committed by my porters, I found him lying on his bed, for it was the hour of the siesta, reading intently one of the very Testaments which he had taken away -- all of which, if he had obeyed his orders, he would have deposited in the office of the Civil Governor. So intently indeed was he engaged in his reading that he did not at first observe my entrance; when he did, however, he sprang up in great confusion, and locked the book up in his cabinet; whereupon I smiled and told him to be under no alarm, as I was glad to see him so usefully employed. Recovering himself he said that he had read the book nearly through, and that he had found no harm in it, but on the contrary everything to praise, adding that he believed that the clergy must be possessed with devils (endemoniados) to persecute it in the manner which they did.

It was Sunday when the seizure was made, and I happened to be reading the Liturgy. One of the alguacils when going away made an observation respecting the very different manner in which the Protestants and Catholics keep the Sabbath, the former being in their houses reading good books, and the latter abroad in the bull ring, seeing the wild bulls tearing out the gory bowels of the poor horses. The bull amphitheatre at Seville is, as you perhaps may have heard, the finest in all Spain, and is invariably on a Sunday, the only day in which it is open, filled with applauding multitudes.

I am happy to be able to say that the soil of Spain is now tolerably well broken up, and to a certain degree prepared for the labours of any future missionaries bearing the blessed Bible, who may visit this interesting part of the world. We have had considerable difficulty hitherto in circulating Testaments, and we have merely been enabled to scatter about the thousands, which are now being read, by very extraordinary exertions. Nevertheless when I take a large view of the subject I feel inclined to believe that we were right in commencing our labours in the interior of Spain by printing an edition of the New Testament at Madrid. I much doubt whether the astonishing demand for the Bible, which almost compelled me to leave the capital, and which now shows itself at Seville and other places, for example, Burgos, Valladolid, and Saint James of Galicia, to the great mortification of the Popish clergy, would have arisen but for the appearance of the New Testament which awaked in people's minds the desire of possessing the entire Scripture. With great humility, however, I feel disposed to advise that provided at any future time the Society should think itself called upon to recommence its exertions here in the cause of a crucified Saviour, it employ, as its mighty instrument the Bible, the entire blessed Bible; having nevertheless always ready for distribution a certain quantity of Testaments, the wishes of weak human beings being influenced by such strange causes that it is probable that were it known at Madrid, or in other places, that there was a dearth of Testaments, the demand for the same would instantly become greater than for the entire Bible.

A few days since I received a communication from my correspondent at Saint James at Galicia, old Rey Romero, whom I have mentioned on a former occasion when residing there. The good old man has sent me in his account, by which it appears that 115 copies of the New Testament were sold at Saint James between the months of August 1837 and May 1838, at which time the further sale of the work was forbidden, and 35 copies, which remained unsold, placed in embargo. The balance of the account in our favour is 950 reals after deducting all expenses. I shall preserve this letter with care, as I attach some importance to it. Who has not heard of Saint James of Compostella, the temple of the great image of the patron of Spain, and the most favourite resort in the world of benighted Popish pilgrims? Nevertheless 115 copies of the pure unadulterated Word of God were purchased there in a few months at the high price of ten reals each. I humbly beg leave to refer you to my account of that remarkable place, and to hope that in the statement of proceedings in Spain it will not be forgotten. 64 copies, it appears, were also sold in the small town of Lugo, also in Galicia, and 56 at Leon, the capital of the ancient kingdom of the same name, and which perhaps may be considered as the least enlightened and most fanatic place in all Spain.

By advice from Madrid from Mrs. Maria Diaz, whom I charged with the care of the property of the Bible Society in that place, it appears that there remain unsold: --

Of Testaments, 962

Of Gospels in the Gypsy tongue, 286

Of ditto in Basque, 394

The quantity of Testaments would not have been so large had I not recovered before leaving Madrid upwards of two hundred, which had been placed in embargo at Santander and subsequently removed to the capital. On a rough account, therefore, I should say that about three thousand have been sold during the last twelve months in the interior of Spain, for which I give praise to God with the humility and gratitude due. Of those which remain I should wish to be permitted on my return from my present expedition to circulate some in La Mancha, especially at Manzanares and Valdepenas. The state of that province is truly horrible; it appears peopled partly with spectres and partly with demons. There is famine, and such famine; there is assassination, and such unnatural assassination. There you see soldiers and robbers, ghastly lepers and horrible and uncouth maimed and blind, exhibiting their terrible nakedness in the sun. I was prevented last year in carrying the Gospel amongst them. May I be more successful this.

I now beg leave to conclude my tedious letter with requesting that you will be kind enough to send the enclosed communication to my friend in Russia. I hope you will pardon the trouble I am giving you, but I have no other resource, as there is no direct mode of communication between Russia and Spain. Present my kind remembrances to dear Mr. Jowett and other friends, and believe me to remain, Revd. and dear Sir,

Ever truly yours,

G. B.

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