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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. A. Brandram

(Endorsed: recd. Feb.4, 1839)
25 January, 1839.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- My last letter was from Seville, in which I gave you an account of my proceedings in that place, at the same time stating that I was about to repair to Madrid with the courier. After travelling four days and nights we arrived, without having experienced the slightest accident; though it is but just to observe, and always with gratitude to the Almighty, that the next courier was stopped.

A singular accident befell me immediately after my arrival. On entering the arch of the posada, called La Reyna, where I intended to put up, I found myself encircled in a person's arms, and on turning round in amazement beheld my Greek servant Antonio; he was haggard and ill-dressed, and his eyes seemed starting from their sockets. As soon as we were alone he informed me that since my departure he had undergone great misery and destitution, having during the whole period been unable to obtain a master in need of his services, so that he was brought nearly to the verge of desperation; but that on the night immediately preceding my arrival he had a dream in which he saw me, mounted on a black horse, ride up to the gate of the posada, and that on that account he had been waiting there during the greatest part of the day. I do not pretend to offer any opinion concerning this narrative, which is beyond the reach of my philosophy, and shall content myself with observing that only two individuals in Madrid, one of them Lord Clarendon (late Sir George Villiers), were aware of my arrival in Spain. I was very glad to receive him again into my service, as notwithstanding his faults, and he has many, he has in many instances proved of no slight assistance to me in my wanderings and Biblical labours, as indeed I have informed you on previous occasions.

I was soon settled in my former lodgings, when one of my first cares was to pay a visit to Lord Clarendon. I need not dilate on the particulars of our interview; suffice it to say, that he received me with more than usual kindness, and assured me that I might invariably rely upon him, if I should ever chance to be in need of his assistance and protection. I told him that it was not our intention to take any steps towards preventing the civil or ecclesiastical authorities of Toledo from destroying the Testaments seized at Ocana; and he smiled when I added that the only wish we ventured to express concerning the matter was that, in the event of these books, which contain the Word of God, being committed to the flames, the said authorities, civil or ecclesiastic, would commit the act with all the publicity possible.

My preparations for taking the field are now nearly completed, and within forty hours I hope to commence operations. My first attempt will be made in a large village [at] about a league's distance; and if it please the Lord to permit me to succeed there, it is my intention to proceed to all those villages or hamlets in the vicinity of Madrid hitherto not supplied. I then wend towards the east, to a distance of about thirty leagues. I have been very passionate in prayer during the last two or three days; and I entertain some hope that the Lord has condescended to answer me, as I appear to see my way with considerable clearness. It may, of course, prove a delusion, and the prospects which seem to present themselves may be mere palaces of clouds which a breath of wind is sufficient to tumble into ruin; therefore bearing this possibility in mind it behoves me to beg that I may be always enabled to bow meekly to the dispensations of the Almighty, whether they be of favour or severity.

Two days ago I received my largest and most useful horse from the Sagra of Toledo and likewise a note from Lopez; he is unable to come himself at present to assist me, but he sent a countryman who, he is of opinion, will be of equal utility, at least for a time. I yesterday despatched him to the low parts of Madrid, or as they are styled, Los Barrios bajos; he succeeded in disposing of twelve Testaments, amongst the very poor people, in a few hours. My other horse is at Salamanca, in Old Castile; but he suffered so much during my late expeditions, that it will hardly answer my purpose to send for him.

In passing through La Mancha we stayed for four hours at Manzanares, a large village which I hope to visit again shortly. I was standing in the market-place conversing with a curate, when a frightful ragged object presented itself; it was a girl about eighteen or nineteen, perfectly blind, a white film being spread over her huge staring eyes; her countenance was as yellow as that of a mulatto. I thought at first that she was a Gypsy, and addressing myself to her, enquired in Gitano if she were of that race. She understood me; but shaking her head replied, that she was something better than a Gitana, and could speak something better than that jargon of witches, whereupon she commenced asking me several questions in exceeding good Latin. I was of course very much surprised, but summoning all my Latinity, I called her Manchegan prophetess, and expressing my admiration at her learning begged to be informed by what means she became possessed of it. I must here observe that a crowd instantly gathered around us who, though they understood not one word of our discourse, at every sentence of the girl shouted applause, proud in possession of a prophetess who could answer the Englishman. She informed me that she was born blind, and that a Jesuit priest had taken compassion on her when she was a child, and had taught her the 'holy language,' in order that the attention and hearts of Christians might be more easily turned towards her. I soon discovered that he had taught her something more than Latin, for upon telling her that I was an Englishman, she said that she had always loved Britain which was once the nursery of saints and sages -- for example, Bede and Alcuin, Colombus [sic] and Thomas of Canterbury; but she added, those times had gone by since the re-appearance of Semiramis (Elizabeth). Her Latin was truly excellent; and when I, like a genuine Goth, spoke of Anglia and Terra Vandalica (Andalusia), she corrected me by saying that in her language those places were called Britannia, and Terra Betica. When we had finished our discourse, a gathering was made for the prophetess, the very poorest contributing something. What wonderful people are the Jesuits! When shall we hear of an English rector instructing a beggar girl in the language of Cicero?

Ever yours,

G. B.

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