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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. A. Brandram

(Endorsed: recd. May 28, 1838)
MADRID, May 17, 1838.

Excuse the haste in which my last letter was written; it doubtless seemed somewhat incoherent, I will now endeavour to be more explicit. Moreover, since sending it, I have had an interview of nearly two hours with Count Ofalia, and have much that is new to communicate. But previously to stating what is likely to afford pleasure and satisfaction, I must proceed to disburden myself of what I heard with the greatest pain, and which I communicate with sorrow and reluctance.

Sir George Villiers and Mr. Southern, first Secretary of Legation, were the persons who first informed me of what has taken place at Malaga. It appears that Mr. Graydon arrived there a short time before my imprisonment at Madrid; and instead of endeavouring to circulate the Scriptures in a quiet and reasonable manner, such as becomes a gentleman and a Christian, and such as had been recommended to me previous to my late long journey in the north of Spain and which I have always endeavoured to follow, he had recourse to means the most improper and disreputable, very similar to those which he is said to have followed in all the other towns which he has visited. In order to excite curiosity and cause a sensation, he published advertisements and handbills replete with the lowest abuse of the Spanish clergy and Government, and containing his own private opinions concerning religion. However, not contented with this, he had the cruelty -- I will not call it baseness -- to speak of myself, with, whom he asserted that he was co-operating in every point, and that all he was doing was under the sanction of the Bible Society.

Intelligence of these proceedings was of course sent to Madrid, with one of the handbills, which I have not seen, but of which Mr. Southern, a literary and accomplished gentleman, has said that its abusive virulence is only to be equalled by its stupidity and folly. Sir George Villiers, though very unwell, was deeply engaged in my affair, and exchanging official notes with the Government. He had just informed Count Ofalia that unless full and summary satisfaction were afforded me, he should demand his passports, and write to the commanders of all the English ships of war engaged in furnishing assistance to Spain, commanding them to suspend operations forthwith. Suddenly Count Ofalia arrived at the Embassy, and flinging down on the table one of Graydon's handbills, exclaimed: 'Peruse that, and then tell me, as a Cavalier and a gentleman, and the Envoy of a powerful and enlightened nation, whether you can any longer uphold the cause of your friend in prison, and persist in saying that he has been cruelly and unjustly treated. You see that he is in the closest connexion with an individual whose conduct every civilised man must reprobate, it being a most flagrant breach of common decency and order.'

This unexpected incident occurring at such a critical moment almost stunned Sir George; but, recovering himself, he denied in the most positive manner that I had any connexion with Graydon, and asserted that he did not believe the latter was an Agent of the Bible Society, and that at all events he was quite sure that he had acted in this case without its knowledge and concurrence, and that it would be willing to declare so in the clearest and most satisfactory manner.

Count Ofalia, finding Sir George so positive, said that since I had such a voucher he could not reasonably doubt my innocence; and that with respect to the Society he supposed that it too well understood its own interest to trust its affairs to a person whose conduct was calculated to bring odium and misfortune on the fairest and most promising cause. But Sir George has subsequently assured me that, but for this unfortunate occurrence, he could have made much better terms for me with the Spanish Government than from that period he thought it politic to demand.

I will now state one circumstance, and the Lord knows how true it is. It was my prayer night and morning in my dungeon that I might hear of no fresh outbreak of this man, whose character I was but too well acquainted with, as I think you will concede when you call to mind my letter written immediately after I had received intelligence that he was on the way to Andalusia. He has up to the present moment been the 'Evil Genius' of the Bible cause in Spain and of myself, and has so chosen his means and moments of operation that he has been almost invariably successful in shaking to the ground every feasible plan which my friends and myself have devised for the propagation of the Gospel in a steady and permanent manner. But I wish not to dwell upon this subject, and shall only observe that his insane career (for in charity I believe him to be insane) must be instantly brought to a termination. Sir George has already written him a letter, in which I believe he advises him to quit the country. Mr. Southern the other day made the following observation, which I shall ever remember: --

'Sir George Villiers up to the present moment has been disposed to render you (meaning myself) every assistance, and especially the Bible Society, which he looks upon as the most philanthropic institution which the world has ever known. Take care, however, that he be not wearied and disgusted. He must not be involved in such affairs as this of Malaga, and it must not be expected that he is to put his lance in rest in defence of every person who visits Spain to insult the authorities, and who, after having received merited reproof and correction, writes home to his friends that he is a martyr in the holy cause of religion.'

I may perhaps give offence by what, I have written. I shall be grieved if it prove so. But I have had no other resource, and I have stated the truth and what my conscience commanded me; and permit me here to observe, that if any one in the world has a right to be thus free it is myself, who have ventured and suffered much in Spain.

Excuse me now for speaking one moment of myself. Notwithstanding I have travelled very extensively in this strange country, and have established many depots of Testaments most of which are flourishing (I have just received intelligence from my correspondent at Valladolid that forty copies have been sold at Burgos, the heart of Old Castile), not one word of complaint has been transmitted to the Government; and though I have suffered so much persecution in Madrid, I have been but paying (one of my sources of information is Count Ofalia himself) the account of others who seem to have been reckless as to how much woe and misery they might heap on my head, provided they could play the part with impunity which their own distempered desires dictated.

Now to pleasanter subjects. Count Ofalia has given me very excellent advice, which it will be well if the Society permit me to follow. Amongst other things he said: -- 'Be very cautious for some time, and even suspend the sale of the Gospel in Madrid, and devote all your energies to make friends amongst the clergy, very many of whom are disposed to favour your enterprise. It would not be prudent at present for the Government to interfere with ecclesiastical matters, as the war is not yet terminated, but much can be done in a quiet way by yourself.'

I must here state that there is a board of ecclesiastics at present sitting, occupied in examining the Spanish Bible as printed by the Society. It has been denounced by the Jesuits as not being a faithful edition of Father Scio's version, independent of the omission of the Apocrypha; but hitherto the opinion of the board has been decidedly in our favour, and the Bishop of Vich has, moreover, declared that it probably will be expedient to co-operate with the Society in printing cheap editions of the Scripture for the use of the people, as daily experience shows that the old system cannot be carried on and that the sacred writings must be thrown open.

The chief difficulty to settle will be the Apocrypha; but I have authorised a friend to state that the Society is disposed to make every possible concession, and to go so far as to relinquish the Old Testament entirely and to content itself with circulating the New. Perhaps I went too far in this advance; but I believe a similar concession has been made in the case of Ireland, and I feared to lose all by aiming at too much. However flattering affairs may appear at present, I am well aware that a herculean labour is to be surmounted before matters can be placed on a safe footing in Spain. Prudence, coolness and firmness are at this moment particularly necessary; and let it never for a moment be supposed that religious instruction and the knowledge of genuine Christianity can be introduced into Spain by scurrilous handbills and the low arts of the mountebank.

A split with Rome will very shortly ensue, by which I mean that no attention will be paid to Bulls, against which several of the principal ecclesiastics have spoken; with these puissant auxiliaries we must act in concert.

Allow me in conclusion to state a beautiful piece of conduct of Sir George Villiers. I have commissioned one of the Bishops to request for me an interview with the Archbishop of Toledo. Sir George on hearing this said: -- 'Tell the Archbishop that I also am anxious for the favour of an interview, in order that I may assist in clearing up any doubt, which he may still entertain, respecting the intentions of the Bible Society; he has only to state the day, and I will wait upon him.'


P.S. -- I yesterday transmitted you a Spanish newspaper in which I have published an advertisement, disclaiming in the name of the Bible Society any writings which may have been circulated tending to lower the authorities, civil and ecclesiastic, in the eyes of the people, and denying that it is its intention or wish to make proselytes from the Catholic form of worship. I took this step by advice, I had likewise a particular reason of my own.

Marin is still here looking out for some secular employ, but he is continually haunting me. He tells me that he is preparing an accounts of all his dealings with G [Graydon] and R [Rule], in which he details the promises made him to induce him to sign a document purporting to be a separation from the Roman Church. He says that he was abandoned because he refused to preach publicly against the Chapter of Valencia, which step would have insured him a dungeon. This may be true or false, but I have taken my precautions.

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