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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. A. Brandram

(Endorsed: recd. July 28, 1838)
July 14, 1838.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- I write these lines from Villa Seca, a village situated on the bank of the Tagus about nine leagues from Madrid. A few minutes before my departure I received your letter of the 29th June, in which you mention letters being on the way for me. I, however, could not wait for them for many reasons, principally because in that event I should have lost a considerable number of Testaments, which I had sent before me. I am moreover tolerably well acquainted with the contents [of] those communications from the one which I have already received.

For some time past I have been determined at whatever risk to make an effort to circulate the Scriptures in the rural districts of New Castile, where I am grieved to say the most profound ignorance of true religion prevails. I have been induced to take up my quarters for the present in Villa Seca, from being well acquainted with a labourer of the place; moreover its situation is favourable to my views as there are many other villages in its vicinity. Poverty it is true abounds, but I am perfectly sure that our friends at home are disposed to make every reasonable sacrifice, and not for a moment to balance the dust of Mammon against the eternal welfare of their fellow-creatures.

For the last two days I have been riding in various directions. It is a great blessing that heat agrees with me wonderfully, as we have no less than thirty-six degrees according to Reaumur; otherwise it would be impossible for me to accomplish anything, the atmosphere resembling the flickering glow about the mouth of an oven. I have already disposed of about thirty Testaments, of course at exceedingly low prices. To-day, however, I have commenced a new course, and have sent abroad various peasants with some parcels of Testaments; my host, whom it has pleased the Lord to render favourable to the cause, has himself taken the field, and has proceeded to the neighbouring village of Vargas mounted on his donkey. If success do not attend my efforts, the Lord knows that it will be no fault of mine. It will be the working of His own holy will.

I had scarcely written the above lines when I heard the voice of the donkey in the court-yard, and going out I found my host returned. He had disposed of his whole cargo of twenty Testaments at the old Moorish village of Vargas, distant from hence about two leagues, and all in the space of about half an hour. Eight poor harvest-men, who were refreshing themselves at the door of the wine-house, purchased each a copy; whilst the village schoolmaster took all the rest for the little ones beneath his care, lamenting at the same time the great difficulty he had long experienced in obtaining religious books, owing to their scarcity and extravagant price. Many other persons were also anxious to procure Testaments, but my envoy (Juanito Lopez) was unable to supply them. At his departure they requested him to return within a few days.

I will not conceal from you that I am playing a daring game, and it is very possible that when I least expect it I may be seized, tied to the tail of a mule, and dragged either to the prison of Toledo or Madrid. Yet such a prospect does not discourage me in the least, but rather urges me on to persevere; for I assure you -- and in this assertion there lurks not the slightest desire to magnify myself and produce an effect -- that I am eager to lay down my life in this cause, and whether a Carlist's bullet or the jail-fever bring my career to an end, I am perfectly indifferent. But I have other matters now to speak of.

You hint that a desire is entertained at home to have a personal conference with me. In the name of the Highest I entreat you all to banish such a preposterous idea. A journey home (provided you intend that I should return to Spain) could lead to no result but expense and the loss of precious time. I have nothing to explain to you which you are not already perfectly well acquainted with by my late letters. I was fully aware at the time I was writing them that I should afford you little satisfaction, for the plain unvarnished truth is seldom agreeable. But I now repeat, and these are perhaps among the last words which I shall ever be permitted to pen, that I cannot approve, and I am sure no Christian can, of the system which has lately been pursued in the large sea-port cities of Spain, and which the Bible Society has been supposed to sanction, notwithstanding the most unreflecting person could easily foresee that such a line of conduct could produce nothing in the end but obloquy and misfortune.

It was unkind and unjust to taunt me with having been unsuccessful in distributing the Scriptures. Allow me to state that no other person under the same circumstances would have distributed the tenth part. Yet had I been utterly unsuccessful, it would have been wrong to check me with being so, after all I have undergone -- and with how little of that are you acquainted. You are perfectly correct in concluding that certain persons are laughing in their sleeve. But at what? At the success of their own machinations? Not at all! They are laughing at the inconceivable fatuity which induces those whom they once dreaded to destroy themselves and their own labours. The stone with immense toil is rolled up to the brow of the mountain, when they see it recoil, not at the touch of Jupiter but at the impulse of the insane Sisyphus, who pulls it down on his own body. With common sense and prudence very much might have been accomplished in Spain, and still may. I am sorry to say that hitherto very little of [that] has been used.

You are surprised that I should presume to hint that I have been linked to G. [Graydon], but at the same time admit that my identification with him by my enemies has been unavoidable. Now in the name of all that is reasonable, to what does such an admission amount but that I have been linked to this man, and it matters very little whether or not I have been brought into personal contact with him. But now farewell to him: and in taking leave of this subject, I will add that the unfortunate M. [Marin] is dying of a galloping consumption, brought on by distress of mind. All the medicine in the world would not accomplish his cure.

With God's permission I will write again in a few days and till then,

I remain, Revd. and dear Sir, most truly yours,


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