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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. A. Brandram

(Endorsed: recd. Dec.19, 1839)
PRISON OF SEVILLE, Novr.25, 1839.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- I write these lines as you see from the common prison of Seville, to which I was led yesterday, or rather dragged, neither for murder nor robbery nor debt but simply for having endeavoured to obtain a passport for Cordova, to which place I was going with my Jewish servant, Hayim Ben Attar.

It is necessary for me here to give you some information respecting my proceedings since I last wrote. I wished to distribute some more Testaments in Seville before I left the country, and accordingly procured a considerable number from Madrid. Everything was accomplished with the utmost secrecy, and the blessed books obtained considerable circulation. I likewise sent agents into the country, and went myself in my accustomed manner. All went well, the entire stock which had reached me was circulated, and I rested from my labours for a little time; for indeed I had need of quiet, being indisposed.

Some English people now came to Seville and distributed tracts in a very unguarded manner, knowing nothing of the country or the inhabitants. They were even so unwise as to give tracts instead of money on visiting public buildings, etc. These persons came to me, and requested my co-operation and advice, and likewise introductions to people spiritually disposed amongst the Spaniards, to all which requests I returned a decided negative. But I foresaw all. In a day or two I was summoned before the Gefe Politico or, as he was once called, Corregidor of Seville, who I must say treated me with the utmost politeness, and indeed respect; but at the same time he informed me that he had (to use his own expression) terrible orders from Madrid concerning me, if I should be discovered in the act of distributing the Scriptures or any writings of a religious tendency. He then taxed me with having circulated both lately, especially tracts: whereupon I told him that I had never distributed a tract since I had been in Spain, nor had any intention of doing so. We had much conversation and parted in kindness. I went away for a few days, though without intending to do anything, and wrote to the firm of O'Shea for money, of which I stood in need and which I received. I now determined to make for La Mancha and to put my plan into execution, which I should have done sooner had the roads been a little more secure. Yesterday I sent my passport to be signed by the Alcalde del Barrio. This fellow is the greatest ruffian in Seville, and I have on various occasions been insulted by him; he pretends to be a liberal, but is of no principle at all, and as I reside within his district he has been employed by the Canons of the cathedral to vex and harass me on every possible occasion. (By the way, the hatred which these last people nourish against me amounts almost to frenzy, and scarcely a day passes by in which they do not send in false accusations against me to the Gefe Politico; they have even gone so far as to induce people to perjure themselves by swearing that I have sold or given them books, people whom I have never seen nor heard of; and the same system was carried on whilst I was in Africa, for they are so foolishly suspicious that they could not be persuaded that I was out of Seville.) The above-mentioned Alcalde refused to sign the passport, though he was bound to do so, it being quite in form, and insulted the messenger: whereupon I sent the latter back with money to pay any fees lawful or unlawful which might be demanded, as I wished to avoid noise and the necessity of applying to the consul, Mr. Williams. But the fellow became only more outrageous. I then went myself to demand an explanation and was called all the vilest names contained in the Spanish Germania (Billingsgate), whereupon I told him that if he proceeded in this manner I would make a complaint to the authorities through the consul. He then said that if I did not instantly depart he would drag me off to prison, and cause me to be knocked down if I made the slightest resistance. I dared him repeatedly to do both, and said that he was a disgrace to the Government which employed him and to human nature. He called me a heretic. We were now in the street and a mob was collected, whereupon I cried 'Viva Inglaterra, y viva La Constitucion.' The populace seemed disposed to side with me, notwithstanding the exhortations of the monster to them that they would knock down the foreigner, for he himself quailed before me as I looked him in the eyes defying him. He at last ran to a neighbouring guard-house, and requested the assistance of the Nationals in conducting me to prison. I followed him and delivered myself up at the first summons, and walked to the prison without uttering a word: not so the ruffian, who continued his abuse until we arrived at the gate. I was asked my name by the authorities of the prison, which I refused to give unless in the presence of the consul, and indeed to answer any questions. I was then ordered to the patio or courtyard, where are kept the lowest thieves and assassins of Seville, who having no money cannot pay for better accommodation, and by whom I should have been stripped naked in a moment as a matter of course, as they are all in a state of raging hunger and utter destitution. I asked for a private cell, which I was told I might have if I could pay for it. I stated my willingness to pay anything which might be demanded, and was conducted to an upper ward, consisting of several cells and a corridor. Here I found six or seven prisoners who received me very civilly, and instantly procured me paper and ink for the purpose of writing to the consul. In less than an hour Mr. Williams arrived and I told him my story, at which he wondered, as he well might, and presently departed in order to demand redress of the authorities. The next morning I was informed that the ruffian the Alcalde had upon his own authority entered my house and searched for prohibited books, hoping, if he found any, to justify to a certain degree his conduct to me. He found none, and is now quite in my power, without a shadow of excuse -- he having entered by force the house of a foreigner, without authority, and not in the presence of the consul of the nation. I have now been here four-and-twenty hours, and am assured that my liberation will have been effectuated before another day shall have passed over. My fellow-prisoners have treated me with unbounded kindness and hospitality, and I have never found myself amongst more quiet and well-behaved men. Yet -- what is their history? The handsome black-haired man who is now looking over my shoulder is the celebrated thief Palacio, the most expert housebreaker and dexterous swindler in Spain -- in a word, the modern Guzman Dalfarache. The brawny man who sits by the brasero of charcoal is Salvador, the highwayman of Ronda, who has committed a hundred murders. A fashionably dressed man, short and slight in person, is walking about the room: he wears immense whiskers and mustachios; he is one of that most singular race the Jews of Spain; he is imprisoned for counterfeiting money. He is an atheist, but like a true Jew the name which he most hates is that of Christ. Yet he is so quiet and civil, and they are all so quiet and civil, and it is that which most horrifies me, for quietness and civility in them seem so unnatural.

Novr.26th. Since writing the above, I have been set at liberty. I am going to Madrid in a few hours to demand redress, and to make preparations for leaving Spain as soon as possible. There is nothing more to be done here for the present in the cause of the Gospel. I received your letter, which I read with great pleasure. You are quite right in most of your observations, and especially in one. That circular was uncalled for.

Ever yours,

GEORGE BORROW.

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