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

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Letter 1: February 10th, 1833

To the Rev. J. Jowett

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 be acquainted.

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, Guanajuato, Mexico.

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 unnecessary to inform you that the outward postage of all foreign letters must be paid at the office, but I wish you particularly to be aware that it will be absolutely necessary to let my brother know in what dialect of the Mexican this translation is made, in order that he may transmit it to the proper quarter, for within the short distance of twenty miles of the place where he resides there are no less than six dialects spoken, which differ more from each other than the German does from the English. I intend to write to him next Thursday, and if you will favour me with an answer on this very important point, by return of post, I shall feel obliged.

Return my kind and respected friend Mr. Brandram my best thanks for his present of THE GYPSIES' ADVOCATE, and assure him that, next to the acquirement of Mandchou, the conversion and enlightening of those interesting people occupy the principal place in my mind. Will he be willing to write to the Gypsy Committee concerning me? I wish to translate the Gospel of St. John into their language, which I could easily do with the assistance of one or two of the old people, but then they must be paid, for the Gypsies are more mercenary than Jews. I have already written to my dear friend Mr. Cunningham on this subject, and have no doubt that he will promote the plan to the utmost of his ability. I must procure a letter of introduction from him to Joseph Gurney, and should be very happy to obtain one also from Mr. Brandram, for in all which regards the Gospel and the glory of Christ, Joseph Gurney is the principal person to look to in these parts. I will now conclude by beseeching you to send me as soon as possible WHATEVER CAN SERVE TO ENLIGHTEN ME IN RESPECT TO MANDCHOU GRAMMAR, for had I a Grammar, I should in a month's time be able to send a Mandchou translation of Jonah. In the meanwhile I remain, Revd. and dear Sir, your most humble and obedient servant,