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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. A. Brandram

(Endorsed: recd. Jan.3, 1840.)
Decr. 24, 1839,
MADRID, No.16 CALLE SANTIAGO.

REV. AND DEAR SIR, -- The last letter which I wrote to you was from Seville, and in that I gave you an account of what I had been doing for some time previous and likewise of my imprisonment. I have now been in Madrid nearly three weeks, and immediately after my arrival I demanded redress of the Spanish Government for the various outrages which I have recently been subjected to at Seville. Mr. Aston, the British Minister, not having yet arrived at Madrid, I presented my complaint through Mr. Jerningham the first secretary of Legation, who has superseded Mr. Southern, the latter gentleman having been appointed to Lisbon. Mr. Southern introduced me to Mr. Jerningham, who received me with great kindness and took up my cause very warmly. Whether I shall be able to obtain justice I know not, for I have against me the Canons of Seville; and all the arts of villainy which they are so accustomed to practise will of course be used against me for the purpose of screening the ruffian who is their instrument. An instance which I am about to give will speak volumes as to this person's character. When I was in prison, he forced his way into my house and searched it for Testaments, but found none. When he was questioned by the vice-consul as to the authority by which he made this search, he pulled out a paper purporting to be the deposition of an old woman to the effect that I had sold her a Testament some ten days before. This document was a forgery. I had never seen the female in question, and during the whole time that I have been in Andalusia I have never sold a book of any description to any such person.

I have been, my dear Sir, fighting with wild beasts during the greatest part of the time which has elapsed since I had last the pleasure of seeing you. None but myself can have an idea of what I have undergone and the difficulties which I have had to encounter; but I wish not to dilate on that subject. Thanks be to the Most High that my labours are now brought to a conclusion. The Madrid edition of the New Testament has been distributed, with the exception of a few hundred copies, which I have no wish should be sold at present, for reasons stated on a prior occasion, and which I shall endeavour to leave in safe custody. The fate of this edition has been a singular one, by far the greatest part having been dispersed among the peasantry of Spain and the remainder amongst the very poor of the towns, the artisans of Madrid and Seville, the water-carriers and porters. You will rarely find a copy of this work in the houses of the wealthy and respectable, but you will frequently light upon it in the huts of the labourers, in the garrets or cellars of the penniless, and even in the hulks and convict-garrisons (presidios). I myself saw it in the prison of Seville. As for the few copies of the entire Bible which I had at my disposal, they have been distributed amongst the upper classes, chiefly amongst the mercantile body, the members of which upon the whole are by far the most intellectual and best educated of the subjects of the Spanish monarchy.

I have thus cast my books upon the waters. It is for the Lord on high to determine the quantity of good which they are to operate. I have a humble hope however that they will be permitted to do some. If the eyes of only a few of these unhappy people amongst whom I am still sojourning be through them opened to one of the damning errors of popery, I shall esteem myself amply remunerated for all the pain, the anxiety, and I may almost say misery (for the flesh is weak) which I have experienced in the work, even for that -- to me, the most heart-breaking of everything -- the strange, the disadvantageous light in which, I am aware, I must frequently have appeared to those I most respect and love. My situation throughout has been a most peculiar one, rocks and quicksands have surrounded me on every side, and frequently I have been compelled to give offence to my friends in order not to afford a triumph to the enemies of God and His cause.

In your last kind communication, I think, you said that neither our excellent friend Mr. B. [Brackenbury] nor myself appeared properly to appreciate the worth of two other of our friends who had been labouring in Spain. Permit me here to observe that we both appreciate their sterling worth of character and piety; they are both very extraordinary individuals, one particularly so, and the zeal which both have displayed in a holy cause is quite above praise. But it is necessary in order to accomplish much good in a country situated as this is at present, that the greatest prudence and foresight go hand in hand with zeal and piety. A corrupt Government, influenced by an atrocious priesthood, has for the last three years been on the look-out to take advantage of every rash movement of the helpers in God's cause in Spain. It ought always to be borne in mind that though nominally a constitutional country, Spain is governed by despotism the more infamous and dangerous as it decks itself in the garb of liberty. Whenever a native becomes obnoxious to the Government, he is instantly seized and imprisoned, though perhaps guilty of no crime which can be punished by law; foreigners have by law particular privileges, but these privileges are every day violated, and redress is seldom or never obtained; which proves that the law is a dead letter.

I know perfectly well that it is no infraction of the law to print or sell the Holy Scriptures, either with or without comment, in Spain. What then? Is there not such a thing as A Royal Ordinance to the effect that the Scriptures be seized wherever they are found? True it is that ordinance is an unlawful one: but what matters that, provided it be put into execution by the authorities civil and military? Too many Englishmen who visit Spain imagine that they carry their own highly favoured country at their back, a country in which the law rules supreme; but let them once be brought into collision with the Government, and they will soon learn how little it avails them to have right on their side whilst brute force is always at the call of their adversaries.

I have informed Mr. Jerningham that for some time past I have relinquished distributing the Scriptures in Spain -- which is the truth. I therefore claim the privileges of a British subject and the protection of my Government. I shall return to England as soon as I can obtain some redress for this affair. It is then my intention to attempt to obtain an interview with some of the members of the House of Lords. I have important disclosures to make respecting the system of persecution which still exists in this country with respect to Protestants, who are not only debarred the exercise of their religion but to whom the common privilege of burial is denied: so much for the tolerance of Popery. Yet there are journals of talent and learning in England who, observing that British Protestants, alarmed at the progress which the Papal doctrine is making in the British islands, are concerting measures for their own defence, accuse them of raising once more the senseless bray against Popery; as if every unprejudiced person was not aware that Popery is an unrelenting fiend which never spares when it has the power to crush -- and that power I am afraid it will soon possess in Britain, unless the poor down-trodden Protestants stand back to back and combat the monster to the death. This is no vain alarm, I assure you; therefore I beg that you will not smile. Few people know more of the secrets of Popery than myself, or the stand which she intends to take when time and place serve. Therefore in conclusion let me entreat those of our friends who may hear these lines read to be on their guard, to drop all petty dissensions, and to comport themselves like brothers. Protestants must no longer be disunited.

I will write again in a day or two.

May the Lord be with you, Revd. and dear Sir.

GEORGE BORROW.

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