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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. A. Brandram

(Endorsed: recd. Mar.27, 1838)
17 March, 1838.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- As I entertain little doubt that yourself and my other good friends are anxious to obtain information respecting the course of matters in Madrid, I write the present letter, although I could have wished to tarry a little longer, in the hope of being able to afford more satisfactory intelligence. In the first place, allow me to state that about six weeks since I despatched to England a copy of Saint Luke in Rommany, by the courier of the Embassy, which I hope you received, and that it afforded you satisfaction. I may also add that yesterday the printing of the Basque translation of the same Gospel was brought to a happy conclusion, to my very great satisfaction, as it has caused me much trouble and anxiety, the press having been brought to a stop three times from the necessity of casting fresh type, the usual Spanish founts being insufficient to print a sheet in this singular language, owing to all its words being contained within the compass of six or seven letters, the demand for which is in consequence tremendous. With the Rommany I had no difficulty whatever. Within a week or two it is my intention to publish both Gospels simultaneously. With this preamble, I will now proceed to other matters.

During the last two months I have been almost incessantly engaged in negotiations with the Ministry of Count Ofalia, for the purpose of obtaining permission to sell the New Testament in Madrid and the nullification of the prohibition. I have experienced, as might be expected, great opposition, which I have not yet surmounted; but I am by no means dispirited, as these obstacles are merely temporary. I have had to contend against six Bishops at present resident in Madrid, and amongst them him of Toledo, the Primate of Spain, who have denounced the Bible, the Bible Society, and myself. Nevertheless, notwithstanding their powerful and united efforts, they have been unable to effect their principal object, namely, my expulsion from Madrid and Spain. The Count Ofalia is a very good and excellent man, though weak and superstitious to an exceeding degree; and notwithstanding he has permitted himself to be made the instrument, to a certain extent, of these people, he will not consent to be pushed to such a length. Throughout this business, as far as it has proceeded, I cannot find words sufficiently strong, to do justice to the zeal and interest which Sir George Villiers has displayed in the cause of the Testament. He has had six interviews with Ofalia on the subject, and in these he has expressed to him his sense of the injustice and tyranny which have been practised in this instance towards his countryman, as he does me the honour of calling me. Ofalia has been much moved by these remonstrances, and on several occasions has promised to do all in his power to oblige Sir George; but then the Bishops, and particularly his confessor, whom he consults every night, again beset him, and playing upon his religious fears, prevent him from acting a just, honest, and honourable part.

At the desire of Sir George Villiers, I drew up, a little time since, a brief account of the Bible Society and an exposition of its views, especially in respect to Spain, which he himself presented with his own hand to the Count. Of this memorial I send you a translation, and I think that you will do me the justice to say that, if I have not flattered and cajoled, I have expressed myself honestly and frankly, as a Christian ought. Ofalia on reading it, said, 'What a pity that this is a mixed society, and that all its members are not Catholics.' A few days subsequently, to my great astonishment, he sent a message to me by a friend, requesting that I would send him a copy of my Gypsy Gospel. I may as well here state that the fame of this work, although unpublished, has spread like wildfire through Madrid, and every person is passionately eager to possess a copy; indeed, several grandees of Spain have sent messages with similar requests, all of which I have, however, denied. I instantly resolved to take advantage of this overture on the part of Count Ofalia, and to call on him myself. I therefore caused a copy of the Gospel to be handsomely bound, and proceeding to the palace, was instantly admitted to him. He is a dusky, diminutive person, between fifty and sixty years of age, with false hair and teeth, but exceedingly gentlemanly manners. He received me with great affability, and thanked me for my present; but on my proceeding to speak of the New Testament, he told me that the subject was surrounded with difficulties, and that the whole body of the clergy had taken up the matter against me; but he conjured me to be patient and peaceable, and he would endeavour to devise some plan to satisfy me. Amongst other things, he said that the Bishops hated a sectarian more than an atheist; whereupon I replied, that, like the Pharisees of old, they cared more for the gold of the Temple than the Temple itself. Throughout the whole of our interview he evidently laboured under great fear, and was continually looking behind and around him, seemingly in dread of being overheard, which brought to my mind an expression of Sir George Villiers, that if there be any truth in metempsychosis, the anima of Count Ofalia must have originally belonged to a mouse. We parted in kindness, and I went away wondering by what strange chance this poor man had become Prime Minister of a country like Spain.

I have now given a plain narrative of what I have been about up to the present moment, by which you will see that I have accomplished all that lay within the circumscribed sphere of my ability, and have brought every engine into play which it was in my power to command. Let it always be borne in mind that it was no fault of mine that, immediately after my arrival in Madrid from my journey, a retrograde Ministry came into power, the head of which is a weak, timid, priest-ridden man. Sir George has several times told me, that had the Ministry of Calatrava and Mendizabal remained in place, he himself would have answered that I should have received no interruption in my labours, and that he will almost say the same in respect to any future Ministry; and it is impossible that the present can long maintain its ground, as it is disliked by the Court and despised by the people.

I therefore write at present for instructions. Shall I wait a little time longer in Madrid; or shall I proceed at once on a journey to Andalusia and other places? I am in strength, health and spirits, thanks be to the Lord! and am at all times ready to devote myself, body and mind, to His cause. Therefore I pray that my friends at home will point out the course which they think I ought to pursue under these circumstances. In a few days I shall send my account to Mr. Hitchin. I have hitherto delayed, not having yet settled for the printing of the Basque St. Luke. I received your kind letter of the 8th ultimo.

I remain, my dear Sir, most truly yours,

G. B.

P.S. -- I have received the 500 Bibles in sheets from Barcelona.

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