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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. A. Brandram.

(Endorsed: recd. May 21, 1839)
SEVILLE, SPAIN, May 2, 1839.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- I have been in Seville one week. Perhaps on learning this you will be disposed to demand the reason of my not having written previously to this, knowing, as I do, the anxiety of my friends to know the fate of their adventurer in his wanderings in wild Spain; but believe me that I had several reasons for deferring, the principal being an unconquerable aversion to writing blank letters. At present I have something to communicate besides my arrival, indeed one or two odd things. The courier and myself came all the way without the slightest accident, my usual wonderful good fortune accompanying us. I may well call it wonderful. I was not aware when I resolved to venture with the mail that I was running into the den of the lion, the whole of La Mancha with the exception of a few fortified places being once more in the hands of Pollillos and his banditti, who whenever it pleases them, stop the courier, burn the vehicle and letters, murder the paltry escort which attends, and carry away any chance passenger to the mountains, where an enormous ransom is demanded, which if not paid, brings on the dilemma of four shots through the head, as the Spaniards say. The upper part of Andalusia is becoming rapidly nearly as bad as La Mancha. The last time the courier had passed, he was attacked at the defile of La Rumblar by six mounted robbers; he was guarded by an escort of as many soldiers; but the former suddenly galloped from behind a solitary venta and dashed the soldiers to the ground, who were taken quite by surprise, the hoofs of the robbers' horses making no noise on account of the great quantity of mud. The soldiers were instantly disarmed and bound to olive-trees, with the exception of two who escaped amongst the rocks; they were then mocked and tormented by the robbers, or rather fiends, for nearly half an hour, when they were shot, the head of the corporal who commanded being blown to fragments with a blunderbuss. The robbers then burnt the coach, which they accomplished by igniting the letters by means of the tow with which they light their cigars. The life of the courier was saved by one of them who had formerly been his postillion; he was, however, robbed and stripped. As we passed by the scene of the butchery the poor fellow burst into tears, and, though a Spaniard, cursed Spain and the Spaniards, saying that he shortly intended to pass over to Morocco to confess Mahomet and to learn the Law of the Moors, for that any country and religion was better than his own. He pointed to the tree where the corporal had been tied; though much rain had fallen since, the ground around was still saturated with blood, and a dog was gnawing a piece of the unfortunate wretch's skull. A friar travelled with us the whole way from Madrid to Seville; he was of the Missionaries, and was going to the Philippine Islands to conquer (para conquistar), for such was his word, by which I suppose he meant preaching to the Indians. During the whole journey he exhibited every symptom of the most abject fear, which operated upon him so that he became deadly sick, so that we were obliged to stop twice in the road and lay him amongst the green corn. He said that if he fell into the hands of the factious he was a lost priest, for that they would first make him say mass and then blow him up with gunpowder. He had been a professor of philosophy, as he told me, in one of the convents (I think it was San Tomas) of Madrid, before their suppression, but appeared to be grossly ignorant of the Scripture, which he confounded with the works of Virgil.

We stopped at Manzanares as usual; it was Sunday morning and the market was crowded with people. I was recognised in a moment, and twenty pairs of legs instantly hurried away in quest of the prophetess, who presently made her appearance in the house to which we had retired to breakfast. After many greetings on both sides, she proceeded in her admirable Latin to give me an account of all that had occurred in the village since I had last been there, and of the atrocities of the factious in the neighbourhood. I asked her to breakfast and introduced her to the friar whom she addressed in this manner; Anne Domine Reverendissime facis adhuc sacrificium? But the friar did not understand her, and waxing angry anathematized her for a witch and bade her begone. She was however not to be disconcerted, and commenced singing in extemporary Castilian verse the praises of friars and religious houses in general. On departing I gave her a peseta, upon which she burst into tears and entreated that I would write to her if I reached Seville in safety.

We did arrive at Seville in safety, and I took leave of the friar telling him that I hoped to meet him again at Philippi. I must now be brief. In a few days Antonio arrived with the horses. Difficulties now began to show themselves. All the Testaments were stopped at the custom house, they were contained in two large chests: but I now know Spain and the Spaniards. For a few dollars I procured a fiador or person who engaged that the chests should be carried down the river and embarked at San Lucar for a foreign land. Yesterday I hired a boat and sent them down, but on the way I landed in a secure place all the Testaments which I intend for this part of the country. The chests therefore, with the copies required for Tangiers and England, with the hundred Gospels in Gitano and Basque for the Library of the Bible Society, are at present at San Lucar in the custom house, from which I expect to receive to-morrow the receipt which the authorities here demand, and which will be necessary for the security of my voucher. Indeed the whole affair, though attended with considerable trouble and expense to me, was a mere formality, as I was given to understand. I was myself treated with the greatest politeness, and was told that my intentions were known and honoured. Late last night Antonio and myself returned from an excursion on foot, bringing beneath our cloaks, as if they were smuggled goods, a considerable number of Testaments; our path lay along the banks of the Guadalquivir, the rain poured and the river roared, and by the time we reached Seville we were wet through and covered with mud from head to foot. To-day I am laid up, being so stiff and sore that I can hardly move; but anything for the Gospel's sake.

It is my opinion, and I am not one of those who hazard an opinion rashly, that much may be accomplished in this place, which, though by no means the most populous and wealthy, is the most interesting town in all Spain, and stands beneath the most glorious heaven, and amidst the most delightful environs; but to effect anything, patience must be exhibited and prudence employed, and much of both. Consider my situation here. I am in a city by nature very Levitical, as it contains within it the most magnificent and splendidly endowed cathedral of any in Spain. I am surrounded by priests and friars, who know and hate me, and who, if I commit the slightest act of indiscretion, will halloo their myrmidons against me. The press is closed to me, the libraries are barred against me, I have no one to assist me but my hired servant, no pious English families to comfort or encourage me, the British subjects here being ranker papists and a hundred times more bigoted than the Spanish themselves, the consul a renegade Quaker. Yet notwithstanding, with God's assistance I will do much, though silently, burrowing like the mole in darkness beneath the ground. Those who have triumphed in Madrid, and in the two Castiles where the difficulties were seven times greater, are not to be dismayed by priestly frowns at Seville. All I dread is the imprudence of very excellent people, whose aim is good, but who are doing exactly what is calculated to further the views of the enemy. I wish they could be brought to see the absolute necessity of changing their system. I suppose you heard of the affair of Cadiz.

I have of late written several letters home, which I wish may have been received as they contain information which I think will be considered of importance; nevertheless as the road to France has for some time past been in the hands of the Carlists, it is very possible that they may have miscarried. I shall therefore take the liberty of telling you that about a thousand Testaments have been sold, and all the Bibles, to the amount of 463, since my return to the Peninsula. I shall be happy to receive a letter from you as soon as possible: you can direct either to my lodgings at Madrid, or to Posada de la Reyna, Calle Gimios, Sevilla.

Pray excuse this letter, it is badly written, with a bad pen and with bad ink. I am moreover sick and in pain. Present my respects to Mr. Jowett, Mr. Browne, and all friends, not forgetting Dr. Steinkopff, to whom I shortly hope to write.


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