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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. A. Brandram

(Endorsed: recd. Jan.26, 1838)
MADRID, January 15, 1838.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- The priests have at length 'swooped upon me,' and I have received a peremptory order from the Political Governor of Madrid to sell no more New Testaments. I have been apprehensive of something similar for some little time, on account of the late change of Ministry, the present head of the Cabinet, Ofalia, being one of the most furious bigots in Spain. I have just paid a visit to Sir George Villiers, who has promised to do all in his power to cause the veto to be annulled. But I must here state that he has not at present much influence, he having opposed with all his power the accession of Ofalia to the premiership, to which station the latter has been exalted for the mere purpose of serving as an instrument of the priestly party. I therefore do not place much reliance in Sir George Villiers' power of assisting me; but I have still great confidence in myself, through the Almighty in whose cause I am engaged.

Matters were going on very well before this check. The demand, even for Testaments, was becoming considerable, so much so that the clergy were alarmed, and the consequence has been this step. But they had previously recourse to another well worthy of them; they attempted to act upon my fears. One of the ruffians of Madrid, called Manolos, came up to me one night in a dark street, and told me that unless I discontinued selling 'my Jewish books' I should have a knife 'nailed in my heart'; but I told him to go home, say his prayers, and tell his employers that I pitied them, whereupon he turned away with an oath. A few days after, I received an order to send two copies of the Testament to the office of the Political Governor, with which, after consulting with Sir George Villiers, I complied, and in less than twenty-four hours, namely, on the evening of last Saturday, an alguacil arrived at the shop with the notice prohibiting the further sale of the New Testament, permission to print which I had obtained from the Ministry of Isturitz after so much trouble and anxiety.

One circumstance rejoices me. They have not shut up my little despacho, and as soon as ever the Bibles arrive (and I have advice from Barcelona of their being on the way) I shall advertise them, for I have received no prohibition respecting the sale of any work but the New Testament. Moreover, within a few days the Gospel of Saint Luke in Rommany will be ready for delivery, so that I hope to carry on matters in a small way till better times arrive. I have been advised to erase from the shop windows the words 'Despatch of the British and Foreign Bible Society,' but I intend to do no such thing; those words have tended very much to call attention, which was my grand object. Had I attempted to conduct things in an underhand manner, I should at the present moment scarcely have sold 30 copies instead of nearly 300, which in Madrid are more than equivalent to 3,000 sold on the littoral. People who know me not, nor are acquainted with my situation, may be disposed to call me rash; but I am far from being so, as I never adopt a venturous course when any other is open to me. But I am not a person to be terrified by any danger, when I see that braving it is the only way to achieve an object. The booksellers refused to sell my work; I was compelled to establish a shop of my own. Every shop in Madrid has a name. What name should I give mine but the true one? I was not ashamed of my cause nor my colours. I hoisted them, and have fought beneath them not without success.

The Levitical party in Madrid have, in the meantime, spared no effort to vilify me. They have started a publication called 'The friend of the Christian religion,' in which has appeared a furious attack upon me, which I have however treated with the contempt it deserves. But not satisfied with this, they have endeavoured to incite the ignorant populace against me, by telling them that I am a sorcerer and a companion of Gypsies and witches, and I have been called so in the streets. That I am an associate of Gypsies and fortune-tellers I do not deny, and why should I be ashamed of their company when my Master mingled with publicans and thieves? Many of the poor Gypsy race come frequently to visit me, receive instruction, and hear parts of the Gospel read to them in their own language, and when they are hungry and faint I give them to eat and drink. This may be deemed sorcery in Spain, but I am not without hope that it will be otherwise estimated in England; and were I to perish to-morrow I think there are some who would be disposed to say that I have lived not altogether in vain (always as an instrument of the 'Most Highest'), having been permitted to turn one of the most valuable books of God into the speech of the most oppressed and miserable of His creatures.

No more at present, but I hope to write again within a few days.


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