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Letters of George Borrow to Bible Society
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Letter 1: February 10th, 1833
To the Rev. J. Jowett
WILLOW LANE, ST. GILES, NORWICH,
FEB. 10TH, 1833.
REVD. AND DEAR SIR, - I have just received your communication, and
notwithstanding it is Sunday morning, and the bells with their loud and clear
voices are calling me to church, I have sat down to answer it by return of post. It
is scarcely necessary for me to say that I was rejoiced to see the Chrestomathie
Mandchou, which will be of no slight assistance in learning the Tartar dialect, on
which ever since I left London I have been almost incessantly occupied. It is,
then, your opinion, that from the lack of anything in the form of Grammar I have
scarcely made any progress towards the attainment of Mandchou; perhaps you
will not be perfectly miserable at being informed that you were never more
mistaken in your life. I can already, with the assistance of Amyot, TRANSLATE
MANDCHOU with no great difficulty, and am perfectly qualified to write a critique
on the version of St. Matthew's Gospel, which I brought with me into the country.
Upon the whole, I consider the translation a good one, but I cannot help thinking
that the author has been frequently too paraphrastical, and that in various places
he must be utterly unintelligible to the Mandchous from having unnecessarily
made use of words which are not Mandchou, and with which the Tartars cannot
What must they think, for example, on coming to the sentence . . . APKAI
ETCHIN NI POROFIYAT, I.E. the prophet of the Lord of heaven? For the last
word in the Mandchou quotation being a modification of a Greek word, with no
marginal explanation, renders the whole dark to a Tartar. [Greek text which
cannot be recorded]; APKAI I know, and ETCHIN I know, but what is
POROFIYAT, he will say. Now in Tartar, there are words synonymous with our
seer, diviner, or foreteller, and I feel disposed to be angry with the translator for
not having used one of these words in preference to modifying [Greek text]; and
it is certainly unpardonable of him to have Tartarized [Greek text] into . . .
ANGUEL, when in Tartar there is a word equal to our messenger, which is the
literal translation of [Greek text]. But I will have done with finding fault, and
proceed to the more agreeable task of answering your letter.
My brother's address is as follows:
Don Juan Borrow,
Compagnia Anglo Mexicana,
When you write to him, the letter must be put in post before the third Wednesday
of the month, on which day the Mexican letter- packet is made up. I suppose it is