Letters of George Borrow to Bible Society by George Borrow - HTML preview
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Letter 61: 1st November, 1837
To the Rev. A. Brandram
(ENDORSED: recd. Nov. 13, 1837) MADRID, NOVR. 1, 1837.
CALLE SANTIAGO, No. 16 PISO 3RO.
REVD. AND DEAR SIR, - In my last letter, from Oviedo in the Asturias, I stated that my next would be dated either from Santander or the capital of Spain. I arrived yesterday at Madrid, but I previously visited Santander, which I reached with my usual good fortune, without accident, after a fatiguing journey of six days. When there, I found to my great sorrow that the two hundred Testaments which I had ordered to be sent from Madrid were not come; and I supposed that they had either been seized on the way by the Carlists or that my letter had miscarried. (2) I then thought of applying to England for a supply, but I abandoned the idea for two reasons; first, that I should have to remain idly loitering at Santander for at least a month before I could receive them - a place where every article is so dear that my expenses with the strictest economy would have amounted to nearly two pounds PER DIEM; secondly, that I was very unwell, and unable to procure medical advice at Santander: for, to tell the truth, ever since I left Corunna I have been afflicted with a terrible dysentery, and latterly with an ophthalmia, the result of the other malady.
I therefore determined on returning to Madrid. To effect this, however, seemed almost impossible. Parties of the army of Don Carlos, which in a partial degree had been routed in Castile, were hovering about the country through which I should have to pass, more especially that part called 'The Mountains,' so that all communication had ceased between Santander and the southern districts. Nevertheless I determined to trust, as usual, in the Almighty and to venture. I purchased, therefore, a small horse and sallied forth with Antonio, notwithstanding I was so unwell as to be scarcely able to support myself. I wished to have written to you from Santander, but I was exceedingly dispirited and could not collect my thoughts. Before departing, I of course entered into conference with the booksellers as to what they should do in the event of my finding an opportunity of sending them a stock of Testaments from Madrid, and having arranged things to my satisfaction I committed myself to Providence. I will not dwell long on this journey of three hundred miles. We were in the midst of the fire, yet, strange to say, escaped without a hair being singed; robberies, murders, and all kinds of atrocity were perpetrated before, behind, and on both sides of us, but not so much as a dog barked at US, though in one instance a plan had been laid to intercept us. About four leagues from Santander, whilst we were baiting our horses at a village hostelry, I saw a fellow run off after having held a whispering conversation with a boy who was dealing out barley to us. I instantly enquired of the latter what the man had said to him, but only obtained an evasive answer. It appeared afterwards that the conversation was about ourselves. Two or three leagues further on there was an inn and village, where we had proposed staying, and indeed had expressed our intention of doing so; but on arriving there, finding that the sun was still far from its bourn, I determined to proceed further, expecting to find a resting-place at the distance of a league; though I was mistaken, finding none until we reached Montaneda, nine leagues and a half from Santander, where was stationed a small detachment of soldiers. At the dead of night we were aroused from our sleep by a cry that the 'factious' were not far off. A messenger had arrived from the ALCALDE of the village where we had previously intended staying, who stated that a party of Carlists had just surprised that place, and were searching for an English spy whom they supposed to be at the inn. The officer commanding the soldiers, upon hearing this, not deeming his own situation a safe one, instantly drew off his men, falling back on a stronger party stationed in a fortified village near at hand; as for ourselves we saddled our horses and continued our way in the dark. Had the Carlists succeeded in apprehending me, I should instantly have been shot, and my body cast on the rocks to feed the vultures and wolves. But 'it was not so written' - said my man, who is a Greek and a fatalist. The next night we had another singular escape; we had arrived near the entrance of a horrible pass, called EL PUERTO DE LA PUENTE DE LAS TABLAS, or the pass of the bridge of planks, which wound through a black and frightful mountain, on the further side of which was the town of Onas, where we meant to tarry for the night. The sun had set about a quarter of an hour. Suddenly a man with his face covered with blood rushed out of the pass. Turn back, sir,' he said, 'in the name of God; there are murderers in that pass; they have just robbed me of my mule and all I possess, and I have hardly escaped with life from their hands.' I scarcely can say why, but I made him no answer, and proceeded; indeed I was so weary and unwell that I cared not what became of me. We entered - the rocks rose perpendicularly right and left, entirely intercepting the scanty twilight, so that the darkness of the grave, or rather the blackness of the valley of the shadow of death, reigned around us, and we knew not where we went, but trusted solely to the instinct of the horses, who moved on with their heads close to the ground. The only sound which we heard was the splash of a stream which tumbled down the pass. I expected every moment to feel a knife at my throat, but - IT WAS NOT SO WRITTEN. We threaded the pass without meeting a human being, and within three quarters of an hour after the time we entered it, we found ourselves within the POSADA of the town of Onas, which was filled with troops and armed peasants expecting an attack from the grand Carlist army, which was near at hand.
Well! we reached Burgos in safety, we reached Valladolid in safety, we passed the Guadarama in safety, and now we are safely housed in Madrid. People say we have been very lucky; Antonio says, 'It was so written'; but I say, 'Glory be to the Lord for His mercies vouchsafed.'
I did not find matters in a very prosperous state in Madrid. Few copies of the New Testament have been sold; yet what else could be rationally expected in these latter times? Don Carlos with a large army has been at the gates; plunder and massacre were expected, and people have been too much occupied in planning to secure their lives and property to have much time to devote to reading of any description. I have had an interview with Dr. Usoz, and have just received a most interesting letter from him, replete with patriotism and piety; amongst other things he says, 'only circumstances and the public poverty are the cause of the works not having met with sale at Madrid.' Of this letter I shall send a translation. It contains some remarks respecting Father Scio's version, which I consider to be of high importance, and humbly recommend to the attention of the Committee.
But I am at present in Madrid, and am thus enabled to superintend in person the measures calculated to secure the sale of the work. I shall forthwith cause a thousand advertisements to be printed and affixed from time to time in every part of the city. I shall likewise employ colporteurs to vend them in the streets, and shall perhaps establish a stall or small shop, where Testaments and Testaments alone will be sold. - No exertion of which I am capable will be spared, and if 'the Word of the Lord' become not speedily better known at Madrid, it will be because the Lord in His inscrutable wisdom does not so will it.
Whilst in the northern provinces I ordered a hundred copies to be despatched from Madrid to each of the three great towns, Valencia, Seville, and Cadiz, with advertisements; I am glad to be able to state that advice has been received that the books have reached their destination. At the commencement of the coming year it is my intention to visit those parts; for no work seems to prosper in Spain which is not closely attended to by the master. Whilst at Valladolid I ordered all the copies which remained unsold of the second supply to be sent to Burgos, and I am now going to despatch a third fifty to the former town, and a still larger quantity to Oviedo, those which I carried thither having been all sold during my short stay.
In a few days it is my intention to commit to the press Luke in Basque and in Rommany, the latter of which versions I propose to carry with me to Andalusia and Valencia, the two provinces which most abound with the Rommany-Chai, of whom, by the way, I found no trace in Old Castile, Galicia, or the Asturias. As for the Basque version, it is probable that even in Madrid it will not be without demand, as many Biscayans residing there will doubtless be eager to read the Gospel when placed within their reach in their native tongue.
I will now conclude by begging pardon for all errors of commission and omission. I am a frail foolish vessel, and have accomplished but a slight portion of what I proposed in my vanity. Yet something, though but little, has been effected by this journey, which I have just brought to a conclusion. The New Testament of Christ is enjoying a quiet sale in the principal towns of the north of Spain, and I have secured the FRIENDLY INTEREST and co-operation of the booksellers of those parts, particularly him, the most considerable of them all, Rey Romero of Compostella. I have, moreover, by private sale disposed of one hundred and sixteen Testaments to individuals entirely of the lower classes, namely, muleteers, carmen, CONTRABANDISTAS, etc.My accounts will follow in a few days. Now may the Lord bless you, and dispose you to pray for myself and all in this land of misery and sorrow. G. B.