Letters of George Borrow to Bible Society by George Borrow - HTML preview

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Letter 8b: 4th February, 1834

To the Rev. J. Jowett
(ENDORSED: recd. March 10th, 1834, with Report on the Mandchou New Testament.) ST. PETERSBURG, GALERNOY ULITZA, 4 FEBRUARY (old style) 1834.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, - In compliance with the request of the Committee, expressed in your epistle of the 2nd January, I herewith send a report upon Mr. Lipoftsoff's translation; and as there were many things which I wished to mention in my last letter, but was unable from want of room, I take this opportunity of stating them, with the hope that they will meet with your approbation.

In the first place, whatever communication you wish to make to Mr. Lipoftsoff I think you had best charge me with to him, for in that case you will be certain that he will receive it, without loss of time. But I must inform you that he is rather a singular man, and to all appearances perfectly indifferent to the fate of his excellent translation, caring nothing whether it be published as a powerful instrument to open the closed eyes and soften the hard hearts of the idolators of China and Tartary, or whether it be committed to the flames, and for ever lost to the world. You cannot conceive the cold, heartless apathy in respect to the affair, on which I have been despatched hither as an ASSISTANT, which I have found in people, to whom I looked, not unreasonably, for encouragement and advice. But thanks be to the Lord, the great object has been accomplished, permission has been obtained to print the New Testament, and have no doubt that permission for the whole Bible is within our reach. And in regard to what we have yet to do, let it be borne in mind, that we are by no means dependent upon Mr. Lipoftsoff; though certainly to secure the services which he is capable of performing would be highly desirable, and though he cannot act outwardly in the character of Editor, he having been appointed Censor, he may privately be of great utility to us. Therefore let the attempt to engage his services be made without delay.

At the Sarepta House is a chest containing Mandchou characters, belonging to the Bible Society, which I shall cause to be examined for the purpose of ascertaining whether they have sustained any injury from rust during the long time they have been lying neglected; if any of them have, my learned friend Baron Schilling, who is in possession of a small fount of Mandchou types for the convenience of printing trifles in that tongue, has kindly promised to assist us with the use of as many of his own as may be necessary. There is one printing office here, where they are in the habit of printing with the Mongolian character, which differs but little from the Mandchou; consequently the Mongolian compositors will be competent to the task of composing in Mandchou. There are no Mandchou types in St. Petersburg, with the exception of our own and Baron Schilling's.

I suppose that it will be thought requisite to print the town for a year or so, it is my humble opinion, and the opinion of much wiser people, that if he were active, zealous and likewise courageous, the blessings resulting from his labours would be incalculable. It would be by no means a difficult thing to make excursions into Tartary and to form friendships amongst the Tartar hordes, and I am far from certain that with a little management and dexterity he would be unable to penetrate even to Pekin, and to return in safety, after having examined the state of the land. I can only say that if it were my fortune to have the opportunity, I would make the attempt, and should consider myself only to blame if I did not succeed.

In my last letter I informed you that I had procured myself an instructor in Mandchou, and that I was making tolerable progress in the language. I should now wish to ask whether this person could not be turned to some further account; for example, to assist me in making a translation into Mandchou of the Psalms and Isaiah, which have not yet been rendered. A few shillings a week, besides what I give him for my own benefit, would secure his co-operation, for he is a person in very low circumstances. He is not competent to undertake any thing of the kind by himself, being in many respects very simple and ignorant; but as an assistant I think he might be of considerable utility, and that between us we could produce a version which, although it might not be particularly elegant, would be clear, grammatical and faithful to the original. In the mean time I shall pursue my studies, and be getting every thing in readiness for setting the printers at work; and with a humble request for SPEEDY INSTRUCTIONS, in order that as little time as possible may be lost in the work of the Lord, I have the honour to remain, Revd. and dear Sir,

Your most obedient and humble servant,



P.S. - My kindest regards to Mr. Brandram and my other dear friends at the Bible House. I thank you heartily for your kind advice in the latter part of your last epistle. Do me the favour to inform Dr. Richardson that I have followed his instructions in regard to clothing, etc., and have derived great benefit therefrom.