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

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Letter 33: 22nd March, 1836

To the Rev. A. Brandram
(ENDORSED: recd. April 2, 1836) MAR. 22, 1836,


REVD. AND DEAR SIR, - I received your letter of the 8th inst., which gave me much pleasure, as I understood from it that my humble efforts had afforded satisfaction. I also received the two letters from St. Petersburg which were written by a dear friend of that place, to whom I shall trouble you to forward a letter as soon as I have an opportunity of writing, which at present I have not, as my time is much occupied.

I have to communicate to you what will not fail to be interesting. The Spanish press have taken up our affair, and I am at present engaged in attempting to lay the foundation of a Bible Society at Madrid, to accomplish which the editor of the influential newspaper, the ESPANOL, has promised me his assistance. There has already appeared in that journal a most brilliant article which gives the history of our Society, and states the advantages which would result to Spain from the establishment within its bosom of a society whose aim should be the propagation of the Scripture, in the Spanish language, amongst the population. Of this article I send extracts below, and shall probably, when I have more time, send the whole. The person whom we are looking forward to as a head of the projected institution is a certain Bishop, advanced in years, a person of great piety and learning, who has himself translated the New Testament in a manner, as I am informed, far superior to that of any of his predecessors; but I have not as yet seen it, and therefore cannot speak positively as to its merits. However, he is disposed to print and circulate it, and if the translation be really an excellent one it would not be unwise in us to patronise it, if by so doing we could induce him to co-operate with us in our plans for enlightening unhappy Spain. But more of this anon. I have little doubt that the time is almost at hand when the cause of God will triumph in this country, and I am exerting every means which I can devise in humbleness of heart to help to bring about an event so desirable. I intend to remain a few weeks longer at Madrid at all events, for the present moment is too fraught with interest to allow me to quit it immediately. As far as self is concerned I should rejoice to return instantly to Lisbon, for I am not partial to Madrid, its climate, or anything it can offer, if I except its unequalled gallery of pictures; but I did not come hither to gratify self but as a messenger of the Word.

May I take the liberty of begging you to write a line to my dear and revered friend Mr. Cunningham, informing him that I am in tolerable health, and that I hope to write myself speedily. The three letters which you say have not arrived were, I believe, destroyed by a servant for the sake of the postage, but I shall send you parts of my journal to supply the deficiency.


'The first founders of the Bible Societies (for by this name they were known) immediately comprehended their philosophic and civilising mission, and fulfilled the thought of its inventor. In a short period the circle of their action expanded itself, and not content with making Great Britain alone a participator of this salutary institution, they wished to extend it to all countries, and therefore called to their assistance the majority of the known languages. To all the quarters of the inhabited world they sent at their own expense agents to traverse the countries and discover the best means of disseminating the truths of the Bible, and to discover manuscripts of the ancient versions. They did more: convinced of the necessity of placing themselves above the miserable considerations of sectarian spirit, they determined that the text should not be accompanied by any species of note or commentary which might provoke the discord which unhappily reigns among the different fractions of Christianity, which separates more and more their views instead of guiding them to the religious end which they propose.

'Thus the doctrine of the Nazarene might be studied with equal success by the Greek schismatic and the Catholic Spaniard, by the sectary of Calvin and the disciple of Luther: its seed might bless at one and the same time the fruitful plains of Asia and the sterile sands of desert Arabia, the burning soil of India and the icy land of the ferocious Esquimaux. Antiquity knew no speedier means of conveying its ideas than the harangues which the orators pronounced from the summit of the tribune, amidst assemblies of thousands of citizens; but modern intelligence wished to discover other means infinitely more efficacious, more active, more rapid, more universal, and has invented the press. Thus it was that in the preceding ages the warm and animated words of the missionary were necessarily the only organ which Christianity had at command to proclaim its principles; but scarcely did this invention come to second the progress of modern civilisation, than it foresaw the future ally destined to complete the intelligent and social labour which it had taken upon itself.'

(After stating what has been accomplished by the B. F. B. Society, and how many others have sprung up under her auspices in different lands, the article continues:)

'Why should Spain which has explored the New World, which has generalised inoculation in order to oppose the devastations of a horrid pest, which has always distinguished herself by zeal in labouring in the cause of humanity - why should she alone be destitute of Bible Societies? Why should a nation eminently Catholic continue isolated from the rest of Europe, without joining in the magnificent enterprise in which the latter is so busily engaged?'

(My best respects to Mr. Jowett.)