Letters of George Borrow to Bible Society HTML version

Letter 2: 18th March, 1833
To the Rev. J. Jowett
18TH MARCH, 1833,
DEAR SIR, - As yourself and Mr. Brandram expressed a desire to hear from me
occasionally concerning my progress in Mandchou, I now write to inform you that
I am advancing at full gallop, and am able to translate with pleasure and facility
the specimens of the best authors who have written in the language contained in
the compilation of Klaproth. But I must confess that the want of a Grammar has
been, particularly in the beginning of my course, a great clog to my speed, and I
have little doubt that had I been furnished with one I should have attained my
present knowledge of Mandchou in half the time. I was determined however not
to be discouraged, and, not having a hatchet at hand to cut down the tree with, to
attack it with my knife; and I would advise every one to make the most of the
tools which happen to be in his possession, until he can procure better ones, and
it is not improbable that by the time the good tools arrive he will find he has not
much need of them, having almost accomplished his work. This is not exactly my
case, for I shall be very glad to receive this same tripartite Grammar which Mr.
Brandram is hunting for, my ideas respecting Mandchou construction being still
very vague and wandering, and I should also be happy if you could and would
procure for me the original grammatical work of Amyot, printed in the
MEMOIRES, etc. Present my kind regards to Mr. Hattersley, and thank him in my
name for his kind letter, but at the same time tell him that I was sorry to learn that
he was putting himself to the trouble of transferring into Mandchou characters the
specimens which Amyot has given in Roman, as there was no necessity for it in
respect to myself, a mere transcript being quite sufficient to convey the
information I was in need of. Assure him likewise that I am much disposed to
agree with him in his opinion of Amyot's Dictionary, which he terms in his letter
'something not very first-rate,' for the Frenchman's translations of the Mandchou
words are anything but clear and satisfactory, and being far from literal,
frequently leave the student in great doubt and perplexity.
I have sent to my brother one copy of St. Luke's Gospel with a letter; the postage
was 15s. 5d. My reason for sending only one was, that the rate of postage
increases with the weight, and that the two Gospels can go out much cheaper
singly than together. The other I shall dispatch next month.
I subjoin a translation from the Mandchou, as I am one of those who do not wish
people to believe words but works; and as I have had no Grammar, and been
only seven weeks at a language which Amyot says ONE MAY ACQUIRE IN
FIVE OR SIX YEARS, I thought you might believe my account of my progress to
be a piece of exaggeration and vain boasting. The translation is from the Mongol
History, which, not being translated by Klaproth, I have selected as most adapted