Letters of George Borrow to Bible Society by George Borrow - HTML preview
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Letter 56: 20th July, 1837
To the Rev. A. Brandram
(ENDORSED: recd. 12th August 1837) CORUNNA, 20TH JULY .
REVD. AND DEAR SIR, - My last letter was dated from Astorga, and I stated that I was suffering from the relics of the fever which had assailed me at Leon; in a day or two, however, I was sufficiently recovered to mount my horse and proceed on my journey to Lugo. I shall send a regular account of this journey next post, from which those at home, interested in Bible proceedings in Spain, may gather some idea of this very strange country and people. I arrived safely at Lugo, but much fatigued, for the way thither lay through the wildest mountains and wildernesses. The Lord deigned to favour my humble efforts at Lugo; I brought thither thirty Testaments, all of which were disposed of in one day, the Bishop of the place himself purchasing two copies, whilst several priests and friars, instead of following the example of their brethren at Leon by persecuting the work, spoke well of it, and recommended its perusal. I was much grieved that my stock of these holy books was exhausted, for there was a great demand for them; and had I been able to supply them, quadruple the quantity might have been sold [during] the four days that I remained at Lugo.
Midway between Lugo and Corunna I was near falling into the hands of robbers. Two fellows suddenly confronted me with presented carbines, which they probably intended to discharge into my body, but they took fright at the noise of my servant's horse, who was following a little way behind. This affair occurred at the bridge Castellanos, a spot notorious for robbery and murder, and well adapted for both, for it stands at the bottom of a deep dell surrounded by wild desolate hills. Only a quarter of an hour previous, I had passed three ghastly heads, stuck on poles standing by the wayside; they were those of a captain of banditti [and two of his men], who had been seized and executed about two months before. Their principal haunt was the vicinity of the bridge I have already spoken of, and it was their practice to cast the bodies of the murdered into the deep black water which runs rapidly beneath. These three beads will always live in my remembrance, particularly that of the captain, which stood on a higher pole than the other two; the long hair was waving in the wind, and the blackened distorted features were grinning in the sun. The fellows whom I met were themselves of his band.
I have a depot of five hundred Testaments at Corunna, from which it is my intention to supply the principal towns of Galicia. I have as usual published my advertisements, and the work enjoys a tolerable sale - seven or eight copies per day on the average. Perhaps some will say that these are small matters and not worthy of being mentioned; but let these bethink them that till within a few months the very existence of the Gospel was almost unknown in Spain, and that it must necessarily be a difficult task to induce a people like the Spaniards, who read very little and who in general consider money expended in books of any kind as cast away, to purchase a work like the New Testament, offering them little prospect of amusement, and which, though the basis of all true religion, they have never been told is useful as a guide to salvation.
Let us hope that the present is the dawning of better and more enlightened times, and though little has been accomplished, still it is more than nothing that Testaments are being sold in unhappy benighted Spain, from Madrid to the northernmost part of Galicia, a distance of nearly four hundred miles.
In about a fortnight I shall depart for Santiago, where I intend to pass several days; then retracing my steps to Corunna I shall visit Ferrol, whence I shall perhaps shape my course for Oviedo in the Asturias, either along the seashore or by the mountain route, in which latter case I should have to revisit Lugo. Every part of Galicia abounds with robbers and factious, so that almost all travelling is at an end, and the road to Santiago is so bad that no one is permitted to travel it unless in company with the weekly post, which goes attended by a strong military escort. This gives me some uneasiness, as the stallion I ride is so vicious and furious that it is dangerous to bring him in contact with other horses whom, with the exception of his companion, he invariably attacks, getting me into all manner of scrapes. An old Castilian peasant, whose pony he had maltreated, once said to me, 'Sir Cavalier, if you have any love for yourself, get rid of that beast, who is capable of proving the ruin of a kingdom.' But he is a gallant creature who seldom tires, and he has borne me too far to permit me to think of parting with him.
Since my arrival at Corunna I have received advice from my agent at Valladolid that the forty copies which I deposited in his hands have been sold, and that he was anxious for a fresh supply. I have accordingly ordered fifty more to be sent him from Madrid. Since my departure from the capital I have myself disposed of sixty-five, without including those sold at Lugo and other places by means of the advertisements, on which I principally rely, as they speak at all times whether I am present or absent.
I wish it to be distinctly understood that throughout my journey I have given away none of the books, having invariably received money for them, viz., from 10 to 12 REALS. The enemies of the Bible Society have stated in several publications that it has no vent for the Bibles and Testaments which it publishes in many foreign languages but by sending them to the various countries, and there distributing them gratis or selling them by auction, when they are bought for waste paper (see in particular Wiseman's LETTERS). My conduct in this point has been principally influenced by a desire to give, in the case of Spain at least, the direct lie to this assertion, and this conduct I shall pursue until I receive direct orders to abandon it. I will now conclude by repeating that in a few days you will receive my journal, which will prove more interesting than the above hasty scrawl. I remain, etc.,G. BORROW.