The Life of George Borrow
Herbert Jenkins

Part 3 out of 9

collected and sent to their destination, where they were purified and
arranged--a work of no small time and difficulty, at which I was
obliged to assist. Not finding with the type what is called
'Durchschuss' by the printers here, consisting of leaden wedges of
about six ounces weight each, which form the spaces between the
lines, I ordered 120 pounds weight of those at a rouble a pound,
being barely enough for three sheets. {129a} I had now to teach the
compositors the Manchu alphabet, and to distinguish one character
from another. This occupied a few days, at the end of which I gave
them the commencement of St Matthew's Gospel to copy. They no sooner
saw the work they were called upon to perform than there were loud
murmurs of dissatisfaction, and . . . 'It is quite impossible to do
the like,' was the cry--and no wonder. The original printed Gospel
had been so interlined and scribbled upon by the author, in a hand so
obscure and irregular, that, accustomed as I was to the perusal of
the written Manchu, it was not without the greatest difficulty that I
could decipher the new matter myself. Moreover, the corrections had
been so carelessly made that they themselves required far more
correction than the original matter. I was therefore obliged to be
continually in the printing-office, and to do three parts of the work
myself. For some time I found it necessary to select every character
with my own fingers, and to deliver it to the compositor, and by so
doing I learnt myself to compose. We continued in this way till all
our characters were exhausted, for no paper had arrived. For two
weeks and more we were obliged to pause, the want of paper being
insurmountable. At the end of this period came six reams; but partly
from the manufacturers not being accustomed to make this species of
paper, and partly from the excessive heat of the weather, which
caused it to dry too fast, only one ream and a half could be used,
and this was not enough for one sheet; the rest I refused to take,
and sent back. The next week came fifteen reams. This paper, from
the same causes, was as bad as the last. I selected four reams, and
sent the rest back. But this paper enabled us to make a beginning,
which we did not fail to do, though we received no more for upwards
of a fortnight, which caused another pause. At the end of that time,
owing to my pressing remonstrances and entreaties, a regular supply
of about twelve reams per week of most excellent paper commenced.
This continued until we had composed the last five sheets of St
Matthew, when some paper arrived, which in my absence was received by
Mr Beneze, who, without examining it, as was his duty, delivered it
to the printers to use in the printing of the said sheets, who
accordingly printed upon part of it. But the next day, when my
occupation permitted me to see what they were about, I observed that
the last paper was of a quality very different from that which had
been previously sent. I accordingly instantly stopped the press,
and, notwithstanding eight reams had been printed upon, I sent all
the strange paper back, and caused Mr Beneze to recompose three
sheets, which had been broken up, at his own expense. But this
caused the delay of another week.

This last circumstance made me determine not to depend in future for
paper on one manufactory alone. I therefore stated to Mr P[luchard]
that, as his people were unable to furnish me with the article fast
enough, I should apply to others for 250 reams, and begged him to
supply me with the rest as fast as possible. He made no objection.
Thereupon I prevailed upon my most excellent friend, Baron Schilling,
to speak to his acquaintance, State-Councillor Alquin, who is
possessed of a paper-factory, on the subject. M. Alquin, as a
personal favour to Baron Schilling (whom, I confess, I was ashamed to
trouble upon such an affair, and should never have done so had not
zeal for the cause induced me), consented to furnish me with the
required paper on the same terms as Mr P. At present there is not
the slightest risk of the progress of our work being retarded--at
present, indeed, the path is quite easy; but the trouble, anxiety,
and misery which have till lately harassed me, alone in a situation
of great responsibility, have almost reduced me to a skeleton.

My dearest Sir, do me the favour to ask our excellent Committee,
Would it have answered any useful purpose if, instead of continuing
to struggle with difficulties and using my utmost to overcome them, I
had written in the following strain--and what else could I have
written if I had written at all?--'I was sent out to St Petersburg to
assist Mr Lipovzoff in the editing of the Manchu Testament. That
gentleman, who holds three important Situations under the Russian
Government, and who is far advanced in years, has neither time,
inclination, nor eyesight for the task, and I am apprehensive that my
strength and powers unassisted are incompetent to it' (praised be the
Lord, they were not!), 'therefore I should be glad to return home.
Moreover, the compositors say they are unaccustomed to compose in an
unknown tongue from such scribbled and illegible copy, and they will
scarcely assist me to compose. Moreover, the working printers say
(several went away in disgust) that the paper on which they have to
print is too thin to be wetted, and that to print on dry requires a
twofold exertion of strength, and that they will not do such work for
double wages, for it ruptures them.' Would that have been a welcome
communication to the Committee? Would that have been a communication
suited to the public? I was resolved 'to do or die,' and, instead of
distressing and perplexing the Committee with complaints, to write
nothing until I could write something perfectly satisfactory, as I
now can; {132a} and to bring about that result I have spared neither
myself nor my own money. I have toiled in a close printing-office
the whole day, during ninety degrees of heat, for the purpose of
setting an example, and have bribed people to work when nothing but
bribes would induce them so to do.

I am obliged to say all this in self-justification. No member of the
Bible Society would ever have heard a syllable respecting what I have
undergone but for the question, 'What has Mr Borrow been about?' I
hope and trust that question is now answered to the satisfaction of
those who do Mr Borrow the honour to employ him. In respect to the
expense attending the editing of such a work as the New Testament in
Manchu, I beg leave to observe that I have obtained the paper, the
principal source of expense, at fifteen roubles per ream less than
the Society formerly paid for it--that is to say, at nearly half the

As St Matthew's Gospel has been ready for some weeks, it is high time
that it should be bound; for if that process be delayed, the paper
will be dirtied and the work injured. I am sorry to inform you that
book-binding in Russia is incredibly dear, {132b} and that the
expenses attending the binding of the Testament would amount, were
the usual course pursued, to two-thirds of the entire expenses of the
work. Various book-binders to whom I have applied have demanded one
rouble and a half for the binding of every section of the work, so
that the sum required for the binding of one Testament alone would be
twelve roubles. Doctor Schmidt assured me that one rouble and forty
copecks, or, according to the English currency, fourteenpence
halfpenny, were formerly paid for the binding of every individual
copy of St Matthew's Gospel.

I pray you, my dear Sir, to cause the books to be referred to, for I
wish to know if that statement be correct. In the meantime
arrangements have to be made, and the Society will have to pay for
each volume of the Testament the comparatively small sum of forty-
five copecks, or fourpence halfpenny, whereas the usual price here
for the most paltry covering of the most paltry pamphlet is
fivepence. Should it be demanded how I have been able to effect
this, my reply is that I have had little hand in the matter. A
nobleman who honours me with particular friendship, and who is one of
the most illustrious ornaments of Russia and of Europe, has, at my
request, prevailed on his own book-binder, over whom he has much
influence, to do the work on these terms. That nobleman is Baron

Commend me to our most respected Committee. Assure them that in
whatever I have done or left undone, I have been influenced by a
desire to promote the glory of the Trinity and to give my employers
ultimate and permanent satisfaction. If I have erred, it has been
from a defect of judgment, and I ask pardon of God and them. In the
course of a week I shall write again, and give a further account of
my proceedings, for I have not communicated one-tenth of what I have
to impart; but I can write no more now. It is two hours past
midnight; the post goes away to-morrow, and against that morrow I
have to examine and correct three sheets of St Mark's Gospel, which
lie beneath the paper on which I am writing. With my best regards to
Mr Brandram,

I remain, dear Sir,
Most truly yours,


Closely following upon this letter, and without waiting for a reply,
Borrow wrote again to Mr Jowett, 13th/25th October, enclosing a
certificate from Mr Lipovzoff, which read:-

"Testifio:- Dominum Burro ab initio usque ad hoc tempus summa cum
diligentia et studio in re Mantshurica laborasse, Lipovzoff."

He also reported progress as regards the printing, and promised
(D.V.) that the entire undertaking should be completed by the first
of May; but the letter was principally concerned with the projected
expedition to Kiakhta, to distribute the books he was so busily
occupied in printing. He repeated his former arguments, urging the
Committee to send an agent to Kiakhta. "I am a person of few words,"
he assured Mr Jowett, "and will therefore state without
circumlocution that I am willing to become that agent. I speak Russ,
Manchu, and the Tartar or broken Turkish of the Russian Steppes, and
have also some knowledge of Chinese, which I might easily improve."
As regards the danger to himself of such a hazardous undertaking, the
conversion of the Tartar would never be achieved without danger to
someone. He had become acquainted with many of the Tartars resident
in St Petersburg, whose language he had learned through conversing
with his servant (a native of Bucharia [Bokhara]), and he had become
"much attached to them; for their conscientiousness, honesty, and
fidelity are beyond all praise."

To this further offer Mr Jowett replied:-

"Be not disheartened, even though the Committee postpone for the
present the consideration of your enterprising, not to say intrepid,
proposal. Thus much, however, I may venture to say: that the offer
is more likely to be accepted now, than when you first made it. If,
when the time approaches for executing such a plan, you give us
reason to believe that a more mature consideration of it in all its
bearings still leaves you in hope of a successful result, and in
heart for making the attempt, my own opinion is that the offer will
ultimately be accepted, and that very cordially."


Borrow was an unconventional editor. He foresaw the interminable
delays likely to arise from allowing workmen to incorporate his
corrections in the type. To obviate these, he first corrected the
proof, then, proceeding to the printing office, he made with his own
hands the necessary alterations in the type. This involved only two
proofs, the second to be submitted to Mr Lipovzoff, instead of some
half a dozen that otherwise would have been necessary. During these
days Borrow was ubiquitous. Even the binder required his assistance,
"for everything goes wrong without a strict surveillance."

Borrow had passed through THE crisis in his career. Stricken with
fever, which was followed by an attack of the "Horrors" (only to be
driven away by port wine), he had scarcely found time in which to eat
or sleep. He had emerged triumphantly from the ordeal, and if he had
"almost killed Beneze and his lads"{135a} with work, he had not
spared himself. If he had to report, as he did, that "my two
compositors, whom I had instructed in all the mysteries of Manchu
composition, are in the hospital, down with the brain fever," {135b}
he himself had grown thin from the incessant toil.

The simple manliness and restrained dignity of his justification had
produced a marked effect upon the authorities at home. If the rebuke
administered by Mr Jowett had been mild, his acknowledgment of the
reply that it had called forth was most cordial and friendly. After
assuring Borrow of the Committee's high satisfaction at the way in
which its interests had been looked after, he proceeds sincerely to
deprecate anything in his previous letter which may have caused
Borrow pain, and continues:

"Yet I scarcely know how to be sorry for what has been the occasion
of drawing from you (what you might otherwise have kept locked up in
your own breast) the very interesting story of your labours,
vexations, disappointments, vigilance, address, perseverance, and
successes. How you were able in your solitude to keep up your
spirits in the face of so many impediments, apparently
insurmountable, I know not . . . Do not fear that WE should in any
way interrupt your proceedings. We know our interest too well to
interfere with an agent who has shown so much address in planning,
and so much diligence in effecting, the execution of our wishes."

These encouraging words were followed by a request that he would keep
a careful account of all extraordinary expenses, that they might be
duly met by the Society:-

"I allude, you perceive, to such things," the letter goes on to
explain, "as your journies huc et illuc in quest of a better market,
and to the occasional bribes to disheartened workmen. In all matters
of this kind the Society is clearly your debtor." Borrow replied
with a flash of his old independent spirit: "I return my most
grateful thanks for this most considerate intimation, which,
nevertheless, I cannot avail myself of, as, according to one of the
articles of my agreement, my salary of 200 pounds was to cover all
extra expenses. Petersburg is doubtless the dearest capital in
Europe, and expenses meet an individual, especially one situated as I
have been, at every turn and corner; but an agreement is not to be
broken on that account." {136a}

That the Committee, even before this proof of his ability, had been
well pleased with their engagement of Borrow is shown by the
acknowledgment made in the Society's Thirtieth Annual Report: "Mr
Borrow has not disappointed the expectation entertained."

There were other words of encouragement to cheer him in his labours.
His mother wrote in September of that year, telling him how, at a
Bible Society's gathering at Norwich, which had lasted the whole of a
week, his name "was sounded through the Hall by Mr Gurney and Mr
Cunningham"; telling how he had left his home and his friends to do
God's work in a foreign land, calling upon their fellow-citizens to
offer up prayers beseeching the Almighty to vouchsafe to him health
and strength that the great work he had undertaken might be
completed. "All this is very pleasing to me," added the proud old
lady. "God bless you!"

From Mrs Clarke of Oulton Hall, with whom he kept up a
correspondence, he heard how his name had been mentioned at many of
the Society's meetings during the year, and how the Rev. Francis
Cunningham had referred to him as "one of the most extraordinary and
interesting individuals of the present day." Even at that date,
viz., before the receipt of the remarkable account of his labours,
the members and officials of the Bible Society seem to have come to
the conclusion that he had achieved far more than they had any reason
to expect of him. Their subsequent approval is shown by the manner
in which they caused his two letters of 8th/20th and 13th/25th
October to be circulated among the influential members of the
Society, until at last they had reached the Rev. F. Cunningham and
Mrs Clarke.

About the middle of January (old style) 1835, Borrow placed in the
hands of Baron Schilling a copy of each of the four Gospels in
Manchu, to be conveyed to the Bible Society by one of the couriers
attached to the Foreign Department at St Petersburg; but they did not
reach Earl Street until several weeks later. There were however,
still the remaining four volumes to complete, and many more
difficulties to overcome.

One vexation that presented itself was a difference of opinion
between Borrow and Lipovzoff, who "thought proper, when the Father
Almighty is addressed, to erase the personal and possessive pronouns
thou or thine, as often as they occur, and in their stead to make use
of the noun as the case may require. For example, 'O Father! thou
art merciful' he would render, 'O Father! the Father is merciful.'"
Borrow protested, but Lipovzoff, who was "a gentleman, whom the
slightest contradiction never fails to incense to a most incredible
degree," told him that he talked nonsense, and refused to concede
anything. {138a} Lipovzoff, who had on his side the Chinese scholars
and unlimited powers as official censor (from whose decree there was
no appeal) over his own work, carried his point. He urged that
"amongst the Chinese and Tartars, none but the dregs of society were
ever addressed in the second person; and that it would be most
uncouth and indecent to speak of the Almighty as if He were a servant
or a slave." This difficulty of the verbal ornament of the East was
one that the Bible Society had frequently met with in the past. It
was rightly considered as ill-fitting a translation of the words of
Christ. Simplicity of diction was to be preserved at all costs,
whatever might be the rule with secular books. Mr Jowett had warned
Borrow to "beware of confounding the two distinct ideas of
translation and interpretation!" {138b} and also informed him that
"the passion for honorific-abilitudinity is a vice of Asiatic
languages, which a Scripture translator, above all others, ought to
beware of countenancing." {139a}

Well might Borrow write to Mr Jowett, "How I have been enabled to
maintain terms of friendship and familiarity with Mr Lipovzoff, and
yet fulfil the part which those who employ me expect me to fulfil, I
am much at a loss to conjecture; and yet such is really the case."
{139b} On the whole, however, the two men worked harmoniously
together, the censor-translator being usually amenable to editorial
reason and suggestion; and Borrow was able to assure Mr Jowett that
with the exception of this one instance "the word of God has been
rendered into Manchu as nearly and closely as the idiom of a very
singular language would permit."

Borrow's mind continued to dwell upon the project of penetrating into
China and distributing the Scriptures himself. He wrote again,
repeating "the assurance that I am ready to attempt anything which
the Society may wish me to execute, and, at a moment's warning, will
direct my course towards Canton, Pekin, or the court of the Grand
Lama." {139c} The project had, however, to be abandoned. The
Russian Government, desirous of maintaining friendly relations with
China, declined to risk her displeasure for a missionary project in
which Russia had neither interest nor reasonable expectation of gain.
In agreeing to issue a passport such as Borrow desired, it stipulated
that he should carry with him "not one single Manchu Bible thither."
{139d} In spite of this discouragement, Borrow wrote to Mr Jowett
with regard to the Chinese programme, "I AGAIN REPEAT THAT I AM AT
COMMAND." {139e}

This determination on Borrow's part to become a missionary filled his
mother with alarm. She had only one son now, and the very thought of
his going into wild and unknown regions seemed to her tantamount to
his going to his death. Mrs Clarke also expressed strong disapproval
of the project. "I must tell you," she wrote, "that your letter
chilled me when I read your intention of going as a Missionary or
Agent, with the Manchu Scriptures in your hand, to the Tartars, the
land of incalculable dangers."

By the middle of May 1835 Borrow saw the end of his labours in sight.
On 3rd/15th May he wrote asking for instructions relative to the
despatch of the bulk of the volumes, and also as to the disposal of
the type. "As for myself," he continues, "I suppose I must return to
England, as my task will be speedily completed. I hope the Society
are convinced that I have served them faithfully, and that I have
spared no labour to bring out the work, which they did me the honor
of confiding to me, correctly and within as short a time as possible.
At my return, if the Society think that I can still prove of utility
to them, I shall be most happy to devote myself still to their
service. 1 am a person full of faults and weaknesses, as I am every
day reminded by bitter experience, but I am certain that my zeal and
fidelity towards those who put confidence in me are not to be
shaken." {140a}

On 15th/27th June he reported the printing completed and six out of
the eight volumes bound, and that as soon as the remaining two
volumes were ready, he intended to take his departure from St
Petersburg; but a new difficulty arose. The East had laid a heavy
hand upon St Petersburg. "To-morrow, please God!" met the energetic
Westerner at every turn. The bookbinder delayed six weeks because he
could not procure some paper he required. But the real obstacle to
the despatch of the books was the non-arrival of the Government
sanction to their shipment. Nothing was permitted to move either in
or out of the sacred city of the Tsars without official permission.
Probably those responsible for the administration of affairs had
never in their experience been called upon to deal with a man such as
Borrow. To apply to him the customary rules of procedure was to
bring upon "the House of Interior Affairs" a series of visits and
demands that must have left it limp with astonishment.

On 16th/28th July Borrow wrote to the Bible Society, "I herewith send
you a bill of lading for six of the eight parts of the New Testament,
which I have at last obtained permission to send away, after having
paid sixteen visits to the House of Interior Affairs." {141a} He
expresses a hope that in another fortnight he will have despatched
the remaining two volumes and have "bidden adieu to Russia"; but it
was dangerous to anticipate the official course of events in Russia.
Even to the last Borrow was tormented by red tape. Early in August
the last two volumes were ready for shipment to England; but he could
not obtain the necessary permission. He was told that he ought never
to have printed the work, in spite of the license that had been
granted, and that grave doubts existed in the official mind as to
whether or no he really were an agent of the Bible Society. At
length Borrow lost patience and told the officials that during the
week following the books would be despatched, with or without
permission, and he warned them to have a care how they acted. These
strong measures seem to have produced the desired result.

Despite his many occupations on behalf of the Bible Society, Borrow
found time in which to translate into Russian the first three
Homilies of the Church of England, and into Manchu the Second. His
desire was that the Homily Society should cause these translations to
be printed, and in a letter to the Rev. Francis Cunningham he strove
to enlist his interest in the project, offering the translations
without fee to the Society if they chose to make use of them. {141b}
As "a zealous, though most unworthy, member of the Anglican Church,"
he found that his "cheeks glowed with shame at seeing dissenters,
English and American, busily employed in circulating Tracts in the
Russian tongue, whilst the members of the Church were following their
secular concerns, almost regardless of things spiritual in respect to
the Russian population." {142a}

Borrow also translated into English "one of the sacred books of
Boudh, or Fo," from Baron Schilling de Canstadt's library. The
principal occupation of his leisure hours, however, was a collection
of translations, which he had printed by Schultz & Beneze, and
published (3rd/ 15th June 1835) under the title of Targum, or
Metrical Translations from Thirty Languages and Dialects. {142b} In
a prefatory note, the collection is referred to as "selections from a
huge and undigested mass of translation, accumulated during several
years devoted to philological pursuits." Three months later he
published another collection entitled The Talisman, From the Russian
of Alexander Pushkin. With Other Pieces. {143a} There were seven
poems in all, two after Pushkin, one from the Malo-Russian, one from
Mickiewicz, and three "ancient Russian Songs." Again the printers
were Schultz & Beneze. Each of these editions appears to have been
limited to one hundred copies. {143b}

Writing in the Athenaeum, {143c} J. P. H[asfeldt] says:- "The work is
a pearl in literature, and, like pearls, derives value from its
scarcity, for the whole edition was limited to about a hundred
copies." W. B. Donne admired the translations immensely, considering
"the language and rhythm as vastly superior to Macaulay's Lays of
Ancient Rome." {143d}

Whilst the last two volumes of the Manchu New Testament were waiting
for paper (probably for end-papers), Borrow determined to pay a
hurried visit to Moscow, "by far the most remarkable city it has ever
been my fortune to see." One of his principal objects in visiting
the ancient capital of Russia was to see the gypsies, who flourished
there as they flourished nowhere else in Europe. They numbered
several thousands, and many of them inhabited large and handsome
houses, drove in their carriages, and were "distinguishable from the
genteel class of the Russians only . . . by superior personal
advantages and mental accomplishments." {143e} For this unusual
state of prosperity the women were responsible, "having from time
immemorial cultivated their vocal powers to such an extent that,
although in the heart of a country in which the vocal art has arrived
at greater perfection than in any other part of the world, the
principal Gypsy choirs in Moscow are allowed by the general voice of
the public to be unrivalled and to bear away the palm from all
competitors. It is a fact notorious in Russia that the celebrated
Catalani was so filled with admiration for the powers of voice
displayed by one of the Gypsy songsters, who, after the former had
sung before a splendid audience at Moscow, stepped forward and with
an astonishing burst of melody ravished every ear, that she
[Catalani] tore from her own shoulders a shawl of immense value which
had been presented to her by the Pope, and embracing the Gypsy,
compelled her to accept it, saying that it had been originally
intended for the matchless singer, which she now discovered was not
herself." {144a}

These Russian gypsy singers lived luxurious lives and frequently
married Russian gentry or even the nobility. It was only the
successes, however, who achieved such distinction, and there were "a
great number of low, vulgar, and profligate females who sing in
taverns, or at the various gardens in the neighbourhood, and whose
husbands and male connections subsist by horse-jobbing and such kinds
of low traffic." {144b}

One fine evening Borrow hired a calash and drove out to Marina Rotze,
"a kind of sylvan garden," about one and a half miles out of Moscow,
where this particular class of Romanys resorted. "Upon my arriving
there," he writes, "the Gypsies swarmed out of their tents and from
the little tracteer or tavern, and surrounded me. Standing on the
seat of the calash, I addressed them in a loud voice in the dialect
of the English Gypsies, with which I have some slight acquaintance.
A scream of wonder instantly arose, and welcomes and greetings were
poured forth in torrents of musical Romany, amongst which, however,
the most pronounced cry was: ah kak mi toute karmuma {145a}--'Oh how
we love you'; for at first they supposed me to be one of their
brothers, who, they said, were wandering about in Turkey, China, and
other parts, and that I had come over the great pawnee, or water, to
visit them." {145b}

On several other occasions during his stay at Moscow, Borrow went out
to Marina Rotze, to hold converse with the gypsies. He "spoke to
them upon their sinful manner of living," about Christianity and the
advent of Christ, to which the gypsies listened with attention, but
apparently not much profit. The promise that they would soon be able
to obtain the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth in their own tongue
interested them far more on account of the pleasurable strangeness of
the idea, than from any anticipation that they might derive spiritual
comfort from such writings.

Returning to St Petersburg from Moscow, after four-days' absence,
Borrow completed his work, settled up his affairs, bade his friends
good-bye, and on 28th August/9th September left for Cronstadt to take
the packet for Lubeck. The authorities seem to have raised no
objection to his departure. His passport bore the date 28th August
O/S (the actual day he left) and described him as "of stature, tall--
hair, grey--face, oval--forehead, medium--eyebrows, blonde--eyes,
brown--nose and mouth, medium--chin, round."

Borrow's work at St Petersburg gave entire satisfaction to the Bible
Society. The Official Report for the year 1835 informed the members
that -

"The printing of the Manchu New Testament in St Petersburg is now
drawing to a conclusion. Mr G. Borrow, who has had to superintend
the work, has in every way afforded satisfaction to the Committee.
They have reason to believe that his acquirements in the language are
of the most respectable order; while the devoted diligence with which
he has laboured, and the skill he has shown in surmounting
difficulties, and conducting his negotiations for the advantage of
the Society, justly entitle him to this public acknowledgment of his
services." {146a}

Of the actual work itself John Hasfeldt justly wrote:

"I can only say, that it is a beautiful edition of an oriental work--
that it is printed with great care on a fine imitation of Chinese
paper, made on purpose. At the outset, Mr Borrow spent weeks and
months in the printing office to make the compositors acquainted with
the intricate Manchu types; and that, as for the contents, I am
assured by well-informed persons, that this translation is remarkable
for the correctness and fidelity with which it has been executed."

The total cost to the Society of his labours in connection with the
transcription of Puerot's MS., and printing and binding one thousand
copies of Lipovzoff's New Testament had reached the very considerable
sum of 2600 pounds. What the amount would have been if Borrow had
not proved a prince of bargainers, it is impossible to imagine. The
entire edition was sent to Earl Street, and eventually distributed in
China as occasion offered. An edition of the Gospels in this version
has recently been reprinted, and is still in use among certain tribes
in Mongolia.

Borrow arrived in London somewhere about 20th September (new style),
after an absence of a little more than two years. He went to St
Petersburg "prejudiced against the country, the government, and the
people; the first is much more agreeable than is generally supposed;
the second is seemingly the best adapted for so vast an empire; and
the third, even the lowest classes, are in general kind, hospitable,
and benevolent." {147a}

On 23rd September Borrow was still in London writing his report to
the General Committee upon his recent labours. In all probability he
left immediately afterwards for Norwich, there to await events.


Borrow had strong hopes that the Bible Society would continue to
employ him. Mr Brandram had written (5th June 1835) that the
Committee "will not very willingly suffer themselves to be deprived
of your services. From Russia Borrow had written to his mother:

"They [the Bible Society] place great confidence in me, and I am
firmly resolved to do all in my power to prove that they have not
misplaced that confidence. I dare say that when I return home they
will always be happy to employ me to edit their Bibles, and there is
no employment in the whole world which I should prefer and for which
I am better fitted. I shall, moreover, endeavour to get ordained."

On another occasion he wrote, also to his mother:

"I hope that the Bible Society will employ me upon something new, for
I have of late led an active life, and dread the thought of having
nothing to do except studying as formerly, and I am by no means
certain that I could sit down to study now. I can do anything if it
is to turn to any account; but it is very hard to dig holes in the
sand and fill them up again, as I used to do. However, I hope God
will find me something on which I can employ myself with credit and
profit. I should like very much to get into the Church, though I
suppose that that, like all other professions, is overstocked."

Mrs Borrow reminded him that he had a good home ready to receive him,
and a mother grown lonely with long waiting. She told him, among
other things, that she had spent none of the money that he had so
generously and unsparingly sent her.

Borrow certainly had every reason to expect further employment. He
had proved himself not only a thoroughly qualified editor; but had
discovered business qualities that must have astonished and delighted
the General Committee. Above all he had brought to a most successful
conclusion a venture that, but for his ability and address, would in
all probability have failed utterly. The application for permission
to proceed with the distribution had, it is true, been unsuccessful;
but there was, as Mr Brandram wrote, the "seed laid up in the
granary; but 'it is not yet written' that the sowers are to go forth
to sow."

After remaining for a short time with his mother at Norwich, Borrow
appears to have paid a visit to his friends the Skeppers of Oulton.
Old Mrs Skepper, Mrs Clarke's mother, had just died, and it is a
proof of Borrow's intimacy with the family that he should be invited
to stay with them whilst they were still in mourning. Although there
is no record of the date when he arrived at Oulton, he is known to
have been there on 9th October, when he addressed a Bible Society
meeting, about which he wrote the following delectable postscript to
a letter he addressed to Mr Brandram: {149a}

"There has been a Bible meeting at Oulton, in Suffolk, to which I was
invited. The speaking produced such an effect, that some of the most
vicious characters in the neighbourhood have become weekly
subscribers to the Branch Society. So says the Chronicle of Norfolk
in its report." The actual paragraph read:

"It will doubtless afford satisfaction to the Christian public to
learn that many poor individuals in this neighbourhood, who previous
to attending this meeting were averse to the cause or indifferent to
it, had their feelings so aroused by what was communicated to them,
that they have since voluntarily subscribed to the Bible Society,
actuated by the hope of becoming humbly instrumental in extending the
dominion of the true light, and of circumscribing the domains of
darkness and of Satan."

On returning to the quiet of the old Cathedral city, Borrow had an
opportunity of resting and meditating upon the events of the last two
years; but he soon became restless and tired of inaction. {150a} "I
am weary of doing nothing, and am sighing for employment," {150b} he
wrote. He had impatiently awaited some word from Earl Street, where,
seemingly, he had discussed various plans for the future, including a
journey to Portugal and Spain, as well as the printing in Armenian of
an edition of the New Testament. Hearing nothing from Mr Jowett, he
wrote begging to be excused for reminding him that he was ready to
undertake any task that might be allotted to him.

On the day following, he received a letter from Mr Brandram telling
of how a resolution had been passed that he should go to Portugal.
Then the writer's heart misgave him. In his mind's eye he saw Borrow
set down at Oporto. What would he do? Fearful that the door was not
sufficiently open to justify the step, he had suggested the
suspension of the resolution. Borrow was asked what he himself
thought. What did he think of China, and could he foresee any
prospect for the distribution of the Scriptures there? "Favour us
with your thoughts," Mr Brandram wrote. "Experimental agency in a
Society like ours is a formidable undertaking." Borrow replied the
same day, {150c}

"As you ask me to favour you with my thoughts, I certainly will; for
I have thought much upon the matters in question, and the result I
will communicate to you in a very few words. I decidedly approve
(and so do all the religious friends whom I have communicated it to)
of the plan of a journey to Portugal, and am sorry that it has been
suspended, though I am convinced that your own benevolent and
excellent heart was the cause, unwilling to fling me into an
undertaking which you supposed might be attended with peril and
difficulty. Therefore I wish it to be clearly understood that I am
perfectly willing to undertake the expedition, nay, to extend it into
Spain, to visit the town and country, to discourse with the people,
especially those connected with institutions for infantine education,
and to learn what ways and opportunities present themselves for
conveying the Gospel into those benighted countries. I will moreover
undertake, with the blessing of God, to draw up a small volume of
what I shall have seen and heard there, which cannot fail to be
interesting, and if patronised by the Society will probably help to
cover the expenses of the expedition. On my return I can commence
the Armenian Testament, and whilst I am editing that, I may be
acquiring much vulgar Chinese from some unemployed Lascar or stray
Cantonman whom I may pick up upon the wharves, and then . . . to
China. I have no more to say, for were I to pen twenty pages, and I
have time enough for so doing, I could communicate nothing which
would make my views more clear."

The earnestness of this letter seems effectually to have dissipated
Mr Brandram's scruples, for events moved forward with astonishing
rapidity. Four days after the receipt of Borrow's letter, a
resolution was adopted by the Committee to the following effect:-

"That Mr Borrow be requested to proceed forthwith to Lisbon and
Oporto for the purpose of visiting the Society's correspondents
there, and of making further enquiries respecting the means and
channels which may offer for promoting the circulation of the Holy
Scriptures in Portugal." {151a}

Mr Brandram gave Borrow two letters of introduction, one to John
Wilby, a merchant at Lisbon, and the other to the British Chaplain,
the Rev. E. Whiteley. Having explained to Mr Whiteley how Borrow had
recently been eventually going to employed in St Petersburg in
editing the Manchu New Testament, he wrote:-

"We have some prospect of his China; but having proved by experience
that he possesses an order of talent remarkably suited to the
purposes of our Society, we have felt unwilling to interrupt our
connection with him with the termination of his engagement at St
Petersburg. In the interval we have thought that he might
advantageously visit Portugal, and strengthen your hands and those of
other friends, and see whether he could not extend the promising
opening at present existing. He has no specific instructions, though
he is enjoined to confer very fully with yourself and Mr Wilby of

"I have mentioned his recent occupation at St Petersburg, and you may
perhaps think that there is little affinity between it and his
present visit to Portugal. But Mr Borrow possesses no little tact in
addressing himself to anything. With Portugal he is already
acquainted, and speaks the language. He proposes visiting several of
the principal cities and towns . . .

"Our correspondence about Spain is at this moment singularly
interesting, and if it continues so, and the way seems to open, Mr
Borrow will cross the frontier and go and enquire what can be done
there. We believe him to be one who is endowed with no small portion
of address and a spirit of enterprise. I recommend him to your kind
attentions, and I anticipate your thanks for so doing, after you
shall have become acquainted with him. Do not, however, be too hasty
in forming your judgment."

This letter outlines very clearly what was in the minds of the
Committee in sending Borrow to Portugal. He was to spy out the land
and advise the home authorities in what direction he would be most
likely to prove useful. He was in particular to direct his attention
to schools, and was "authorised to be liberal in GIVING New
Testaments." Furthermore, he was to be permitted to draw upon the
Society's agents to the extent of one hundred pounds.

The most significant part of this letter is the passage relating to
China. It leaves no doubt that Borrow's reiterated requests to be
employed in distributing the Manchu New Testament had appealed most
strongly to the General Committee. Mr Brandram was evidently in
doubt as to how Borrow would strike his correspondent as an agent of
the Bible Society, hence his warning against a hasty judgment.
Apparently this letter was never presented, as it was found among
Borrow's papers, and Mr Whiteley had to form his opinion entirely

On 6th November Borrow sailed from the Thames for Lisbon in the
steamship London Merchant. The voyage was fair for the time of year,
and was marked only by the tragic occurrence of a sailor falling from
the cross-trees into the sea and being drowned. The man had dreamed
his fate a few minutes previously, and had told Borrow of the
circumstances on coming up from below. {153a}

Borrow had scarcely been in Lisbon an hour before he heartily wished
himself "back in Russia . . . where I had left cherished friends and
warm affections." The Customs-house officers irritated him, first
with their dilatoriness, then by the minuteness with which they
examined every article of which he was possessed. Again, there was
the difficulty of obtaining a suitable lodging, which when eventually
found proved to be "dark, dirty and exceedingly expensive without
attendance." Mr Wilby was in the country and not expected to return
for a week. It would also appear that the British Chaplain was
likewise away. Thus Borrow found himself with no one to advise him
as to the first step he should take. This in itself was no very
great drawback; but he felt very much a stranger in a city that
struck him as detestable.

Determined to commence operations according to the dictates of his
own judgment, he first engaged a Portuguese servant that he might
have ample opportunities of perfecting himself in the language. He
was fortunate in his selection, for Antonio turned out an excellent
fellow, who "always served me with the greatest fidelity, and . . .
exhibited an assiduity and a wish to please which afforded me the
utmost satisfaction." {154a}

When Borrow arrived in Portugal, it was to find it gasping and dazed
by eight years of civil war (1826-1834). In 1807, when Junot invaded
the country, the Royal House of Braganza had sailed for Brazil. In
1816 Dom Joao succeeded to the thrones of Brazil and Portugal, and
six years later he arrived in Portugal, leaving behind him as Viceroy
his son Dom Pedro, who promptly declared himself Emperor of Brazil.
Dom Joao died in 1826, leaving, in addition to the self-styled
Emperor of Brazil, another son, Miguel. Dom Pedro relinquished his
claim to the throne of Portugal in favour of his seven years old
daughter, Maria da Gloria, whose right was contested by her uncle Dom
Miguel. In 1834 Dom Miguel resigned his imaginary rights to the
throne by the Convention of Evora, and departed from the country that
for eight years had been at war with itself, and for seven with a
foreign invader.

Borrow proceeded to acquaint himself with the state of affairs in
Lisbon and the surrounding country, that he might transmit a full
account to the Bible Society. He visited every part of the city,
losing no opportunity of entering into conversation with anyone with
whom he came in contact. The people he found indifferent to
religion, the lower orders in particular. They laughed in his face
when he enquired if ever they confessed themselves, and a muleteer on
being asked if he reverenced the cross, "instantly flew into a rage,
stamped violently, and, spitting on the ground, said it was a piece
of stone, and that he should have no more objection to spit upon it
than the stones on which he trod." {154b}

Many of the people could read, as they proved when asked to do so
from the Portuguese New Testament; but of all those whom he addressed
none appeared to have read the Scriptures, or to know anything of
what they contain.

After spending four or five days at Lisbon, Borrow, accompanied by
Antonio, proceeded to Cintra. {155a} Here he pursued the same
method, also visiting the schools and enquiring into the nature of
the religious instruction. During his stay of four days, he
"traversed the country in all directions, riding into the fields,
where I saw the peasants at work, and entering into discourse with
them, and notwithstanding many of my questions must have appeared to
them very singular, I never experienced any incivility, though they
frequently answered me with smiles and laughter." {155b}

From Cintra he proceeded on horseback to Mafra, a large village some
three leagues distant. Everywhere he subjected the inhabitants to a
searching cross-examination, laying bare their minds upon religious
matters, experiencing surprise at the "free and unembarrassed manner
in which the Portuguese peasantry sustain a conversation, and the
purity of the language in which they express their thoughts," {155c}
although few could read or write.

On the return journey from Mafra to Cintra he nearly lost his life,
owing to the girth of his saddle breaking during his horse's
exertions in climbing a hill. Borrow was cast violently to the
ground; but fortunately on the right side, otherwise he would in all
probability have been bruised to death by tumbling down the steep
hill-side. As it was, he was dazed, and felt the effects of his
mishap for several days.

On his return to Lisbon, Borrow found that Mr Wilby was back, and he
had many opportunities of taking counsel with him as to the best
means to be adopted to further the Society's ends. He learned that
four hundred copies of the Bible and the New Testament had arrived,
and it was decided to begin operations at once. Mr Wilby recommended
the booksellers as the best medium of distribution; but Borrow urged
strongly that at least half of the available copies "should be
entrusted to colporteurs," who were to receive a commission upon
every copy sold. To this Mr Wilby agreed, provided the operations of
the colporteurs were restricted to Lisbon, as there was considerable
danger in the country, where the priests were very powerful and might
urge the people to mishandle, or even assassinate, the bearers of the

By nature Borrow was not addicted to half measures. His whole record
as an agent of the Bible Society was of a series of determined
onslaughts upon the obstacles animate and inanimate, that beset his
path. Sometimes he took away the breath of his adversaries by the
very vigour of his attack, and, like the old Northern leaders, whose
deeds he wished to give to an uneager world in translated verse, he
faced great dangers and achieved great ends. Recognising that the
darkest region is most in need of light, he enquired of Mr Wilby in
what province of Portugal were to be found the most ignorant and
benighted people, and on being told the Alemtejo (the other side of
the Tagus), he immediately announced his intention of making a
journey through it, in order to discover how dense spiritual gloom
could really be in an ostensibly Christian country.

The Alemtejo was an unprepossessing country, consisting for the most
part of "heaths, broken by knolls and gloomy dingles, swamps and
forests of stunted pine," with but few hills and mountains. The
place was infested with banditti, and robberies, accompanied by
horrible murders, were of constant occurrence. On 6th December,
accompanied by his servant Antonio, Borrow set out for Evora, the
principal town, formerly a seat of the dreaded Inquisition, which
lies about sixty miles east of Lisbon. After many adventures, which
he himself has narrated, including a dangerous crossing of the Tagus,
and a meeting with Dom Geronimo Joze d'Azveto, secretary to the
government of Evora, Borrow arrived at his destination, having spent
two nights on the road. During the journey he had been constantly
mindful of his mission; beside the embers of a bandit's fire he left
a New Testament, and the huts that mark the spot where Dom Pedro and
Dom Miguel met, he sweetened with some of the precious little

He had brought with him to Evora twenty Testaments and two Bibles,
half of which he left with an enlightened shopkeeper, to whom he had
a letter of introduction. The other half he subsequently bestowed
upon Dom Geronimo, who proved to be a man of great earnestness,
deeply conscious of his countrymen's ignorance of true Christianity.
Each day during his stay at Evora, Borrow spent two hours beside the
fountain where the cattle were watered, entering into conversation
with all who approached, the result being that before he left the
town, he had spoken to "about two hundred . . of the children of
Portugal upon matters connected with their eternal welfare."
Sometimes his hearers would ask for proofs of his statements that
they were not Christians, being ignorant of Christ and his teaching,
and that the Pope was Satan's prime minister. He invariably replied
by calling attention to their own ignorance of the Scripture, for if
the priests were in reality Christ's ministers, why had they kept
from their flocks the words of their Master?

When not engaged at the fountain, Borrow rode about the neighbourhood
distributing tracts. Fearful lest the people might refuse them if
offered by his own hand, he dropped them in their favourite walks, in
the hope that they would be picked up out of curiosity. He caused
the daughter of the landlady of the inn at which he stopped to burn a
copy of Volney's Ruins of Empire, because the author was an "emissary
of Satan," the girl standing by telling her beads until the book were
entirely consumed.

Borrow had been greatly handicapped through the lack of letters of
introduction to influential people in Portugal. He wrote, therefore,
to Dr Bowring, now M.P. for Kilmarnock, telling him of his wanderings
among the rustics and banditti of Portugal, with whom he had become
very popular; but, he continues:

"As it is much more easy to introduce oneself to the cottage than the
hall (though I am not utterly unknown in the latter), I want you to
give or procure me letters to the most liberal and influential minds
in Portugal. I likewise want a letter from the Foreign Office to
Lord [Howard] de Walden. In a word, I want to make what interest I
can towards obtaining the admission of the Gospel of Jesus into the
public schools of Portugal, which are about to be established. I beg
leave to state that this is MY PLAN and no other person's, as I was
merely sent over to Portugal to observe the disposition of the
people, therefore I do not wish to be named as an Agent of the B.S.,
but as a person who has plans for the mental improvement of the
Portuguese; should I receive THESE LETTERS within the space of six
weeks it will be time enough, for before setting up my machine in
Portugal, I wish to lay the foundations of something similar in

P.S.--"I start for Spain to-morrow, and I want letters something
similar (there is impudence for you) for Madrid, WHICH I SHOULD LIKE
TO HAVE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I do not much care at present for an
introduction to the Ambassador at Madrid, as I shall not commence
operations seriously in Spain until I have disposed of Portugal. I
will not apologise for writing to you in this manner, for you know
me, but I will tell you one thing, which is, that the letter which
you procured for me, on my going to St Petersburg, from Lord
Palmerston, assisted me wonderfully; I called twice at your domicile
on my return; the first time you were in Scotland--the second in
France, and I assure you I cried with vexation. Remember me to Mrs
Bowring, and God bless you." {159a}

In this letter Borrow gives another illustration of his shrewdness.
He saw clearly the disadvantage of appealing for assistance as an
agent of the Bible Society, a Protestant institution which was
anathema in a Roman Catholic country, whereas if he posed merely as
"a gentleman who has plans for the mental improvement of the
Portuguese," he could enlist the sympathetic interest of any and
every broad-minded Portuguese mindful of his country's intellectual
gloom. In response to this request Dr Bowring, writing from
Brussels, sent two letters of introduction, one each for Lisbon and

After remaining at Evora for a week (8th to 17th December) Borrow
returned to Lisbon, thoroughly satisfied with the results of his
journey. The next fortnight he spent in a further examination of
Lisbon, and becoming acquainted with the Jews of the city, by whom he
was welcomed as a powerful rabbi. He favoured the mistake, with the
result that in a few days he "knew all that related to them and their
traffic in Lisbon." {159b}

Borrow's methods seem to have impressed Earl Street most favourably.
In a letter of acknowledgment Mr Brandram wrote:-

"We have been much interested by your two communications. {159c}
They are both very painful in their details, and you develop a truly
awful state of things. You are probing the wound, and I hope
preparing the way for our pouring in by and by the healing balsam of
the Scripture. We shall be anxious to hear from you again. We often
think of you in your wanderings. We like your way of communicating
with the people, meeting them in their own walks."

Thoroughly convinced as to the irreligious state of Portugal, Borrow
determined to set out for Spain, in order that he might examine into
the condition of the people, and report to the Bible Society their
state of preparedness to receive the Scriptures. On the afternoon of
1st January 1836 he set out, bound for Badajos, a hundred miles south
of Lisbon. From Badajos he intended to take the diligence on to
Madrid, which he decided to make his headquarters.

Having taken leave of his servant Antonio (who had accompanied him as
far as Aldea Gallega) almost with tears, Borrow mounted a hired mule,
and with no other companion than an idiot lad, who, when spoken to,
made reply only with an uncouth laugh, he plunged once more into the
dangerous and desolate Alemtejo on a four days' journey "over the
most savage and ill-noted track in the whole kingdom." At first he
was overwhelmed with a sense of loneliness, and experienced a great
desire for someone with whom to talk. There was no one to be seen--
he was hemmed in by desolation and despair.

At Montemor Novo Borrow appears in a new light when he kisses his
hand repeatedly to the tittering nuns who, with "dusky faces and
black waving hair," {160a} strove to obtain a glance of the stranger
who, a few minutes previously, had dared to tell one of their number
that he had come "to endeavour to introduce the gospel of Christ into
a country where it is not known." {160b}

One adventure befel him that might have ended in tragedy. Soon after
leaving Arrayolos he overtook a string of carts conveying ammunition
into Spain. One of the Portuguese soldiers of the guard began to
curse foreigners in general and Borrow, whom he mistook for a
Frenchmen, in particular, because "the devil helps foreigners and
hates the Portuguese." When about forty yards ahead of the advance
guard, with which the discontented soldier marched, Borrow had the
imprudence to laugh, with the result that the next moment two well-
aimed bullets sang past his ears. Taking the hint, Borrow put spurs
to his mule, and, followed by the terrified guide, soon outdistanced
these official banditti. With great naivete he remarks, "Oh, may I
live to see the day when soldiery will no longer be tolerated in any
civilised, or at least Christian country!" {161a}

For two and a half days the idiot guide had met Borrow's most
dexterous cross-examination with a determined silence; but on
reaching a hill overlooking Estremoz he suddenly found tongue, and,
in an epic of inspiration, told of the wonderful hunting that was to
be obtained on the Serre Dorso, the Alemtejo's finest mountain. "He
likewise described with great minuteness a wonderful dog, which was
kept in the neighbourhood for the purpose of catching the wolves and
wild boars, and for which the proprietor had refused twenty
moidores." {161b} From this it would appear that the idiocy of the
guide was an armour to be assumed at will by one who preferred the
sweetness of his own thoughts to the cross-questionings of his
master's clients.

At Elvas, which he reached on 5th January, Borrow showed very
strongly one rather paradoxical side of his character. Never
backward in his dispraise of Englishmen and things English, in
particular those responsible for the administration of the nation's
affairs, past and present, he demonstrated very clearly, in his
expressions of indignation at the Portuguese attitude towards
England, that he reserved this right of criticism strictly to
himself. At the inn where he stayed, he thoroughly discomfited a
Portuguese officer who dared to criticise the English Government for
its attitude in connection with the Spanish civil war. When refused
entrance to the fort, where he had gone in order to satisfy his
curiosity, Borrow exclaims, "This is one of the beneficial results of
protecting a nation, and squandering blood and treasure in its
defence." {162a}

Borrow was essentially an Englishman and proud of his blood, prouder
perhaps of that which came to him from Norfolk, {162b} and although
permitting himself and his fellow-countrymen considerable license in
the matter of caustic criticism of public men and things, there the
matter must end. Let a foreigner, a Portuguese, dare to say a word
against his, Borrow's, country, and he became subjected to either a
biting cross-examination, or was denounced in eloquent and telling
periods. "I could not command myself," he writes in extenuation of
his unchristian conduct in discomfiting the officer at Elvas, "when I
heard my own glorious land traduced in this unmerited manner. By
whom? A Portuguese? A native of a country which has been twice
liberated from horrid and detestable thraldom by the hands of
Englishmen." {162c}

On 6th January 1836, {162d} having sent back the "idiot" guide with
the two mules, Borrow "spurred down the hill of Elvas to the plain,
eager to arrive in old, chivalrous, romantic Spain," and having
forded the stream that separates the two countries, he crossed the
bridge over the Guadiana and entered the North Gate of Badajos,
immortalised by Wellington and the British Army. He had reached
Spain "in the humble hope of being able to cleanse some of the foul
stains of Popery from the minds of its children." {162e}


When Borrow entered Spain she was in the throes of civil war. In
1814 British blood and British money had restored to the throne
Ferdinand VII., who, immediately he found himself secure, and
forgetting his pledges to govern constitutionally, dissolved the
Cortes and became an absolute monarch. All the old abuses were
revived, including the re-establishment of the Inquisition. For six
years the people suffered their King's tyranny, then they revolted,
with the result that Ferdinand, bending to the wind, accepted a re-
imposition of the Constitution. In 1823 a French Army occupied
Madrid in support of Ferdinand, who promptly reverted to absolutism.

In 1829 Ferdinand married for the fourth time, and, on the birth of a
daughter, declared that the Salic law had no effect in Spain, and the
young princess was recognised as heir-apparent to the throne. This
drew from his brother, Don Carlos, who immediately left the country,
a protest against his exclusion from the succession. When his
daughter was four years of age, Ferdinand died, and the child was
proclaimed Queen as Isabel II.

A bitter war broke out between the respective adherents of the Queen
and her uncle Don Carlos. Prisoners and wounded were massacred
without discrimination, and an uncivilised and barbarous warfare
waged when Borrow crossed the Portuguese frontier "to undertake the
adventure of Spain."

Spain had always appealed most strongly to Borrow's imagination.

"In the day-dreams of my boyhood," he writes, "Spain always bore a
considerable share, and I took a particular interest in her, without
any presentiment that I should, at a future time, be called upon to
take a part, however humble, in her strange dramas; which interest,
at a very early period, led me to acquire her noble language, and to
make myself acquainted with the literature (scarcely worthy of the
language), her history and traditions; so that when I entered Spain
for the first time I felt more at home than I should otherwise have
done." {164a}

Whilst standing at the door of the Inn of the Three Nations on the
day following his arrival at Badajos, meditating upon the deplorable
state of the country he had just entered, Borrow recognised in the
face of one of two men who were about to pass him the unmistakable
lineaments of Egypt. Uttering "a certain word," he received the
reply he expected and forthwith engaged in conversation with the two
men, who both proved to be gypsies. These men spread the news abroad
that staying at the Inn of the Three Nations was a man who spoke
Romany. "In less than half an hour the street before the inn was
filled with the men, women, and children of Egypt." Borrow went out
amongst them, and confesses that "so much vileness, dirt, and misery
I had never seen among a similar number of human beings; but worst of
all was the evil expression of their countenances." {164b} He soon
discovered that their faces were an accurate index to their hearts,
which were capable of every species of villainy. The gypsies
clustered round him, fingering his hands, face and clothes, as if he
were a holy man.

Gypsies had always held for Borrow a strange attraction, {164c} and
he determined to prolong his stay at Badajos in order that he might
have an opportunity of becoming "better acquainted with their
condition and manners, and above all to speak to them of Christ and
His Word; for I was convinced, that should I travel to the end of the
universe, I should meet with no people more in need of a little
Christian exhortation." {165a}

Intimate though his acquaintance with the gypsies of other countries
had been, Borrow was aghast at the depravity of those of Spain. The
men were drunkards, brigands, and murderers; the women unchaste, and
inveterate thieves. Their language was terrifying in its foulness.
They seemed to have no religion save a misty glimmering of
metempsychosis, which had come down to them through the centuries,
and having been very wicked in this world they asked, with some show
of reason, why they should live again. They were incorrigible
heathens, keenly interested in the demonstration that their language
was capable of being written and read, but untouched by the parables
of Lazarus or the Prodigal Son, which Borrow read and expounded to
them. "Brother," exclaimed one woman, "you tell us strange things,
though perhaps you do not lie; a month since I would sooner have
believed these tales, than that this day I should see one who could
read Romany." {165b}

Neither by exhortation nor by translating into Romany a portion of
the Gospel of St Luke could Borrow make any impression upon the minds
of the gypsies, therefore when one of them, Antonio by name,
announced that "the affairs of Egypt" called for his presence "on the
frontiers of Costumbra," and that he and Borrow might as well journey
thus far together, he decided to avail himself of the opportunity.
It was arranged that Borrow's luggage should be sent on ahead, for,
as Antonio said, "How the Busne [the Spaniards] on the road would
laugh if they saw two Cales [Gypsies] with luggage behind them."
{166a} Thus it came about that an agent of the British and Foreign
Bible Society, mounted upon a most uncouth horse "of a spectral
white, short in the body, but with remarkably long legs" and high in
the withers, set out from Badajos on 16th January 1836, escorted by a
smuggler astride a mule; for the affairs of Egypt on this occasion
were the evasion of the Customs dues.

Towards evening on the first day the curiously assorted pair arrived
at Merida, and proceeded to a large and ruinous house, a portion of
which was occupied by some connections of the gypsy Antonio's. In
the large hall of the old mansion they camped, and here, acting on
the gypsy's advice, Borrow remained for three days. Antonio himself
was absent from early morning until late at night, occupied with his
own affairs. {166b}

The fourth night was spent in the forest by the campfire of some more
of Antonio's friends. On one occasion, but for the fortunate
possession of a passport, the affairs of Egypt would have involved
Borrow in some difficulties with the authorities. At another time,
for safety's sake, he had to part from Antonio and proceed on his way
alone, picking up the contrabandista further on the road.

When some distance beyond Jaraicejo, it was discovered that the
affairs of Egypt had ended disastrously in the discomfiture and
capture of Antonio's friends by the authorities. The news was
brought by the gypsy's daughter. Antonio must return at once, and as
the steed Borrow was riding, which belonged to Antonio, would be
required by him, Borrow purchased the daughter's donkey, and having
said good-bye to the smuggler, he continued his journey alone.

By way of Almaraz and Oropesa Borrow eventually reached Talavera
(24th Jan.). On the advice of a Toledo Jew, with whom he had become
acquainted during the last stage of his journey, he decided to take
the diligence from Talavera to Madrid, the more willingly because the
Jew amiably offered to purchase the donkey. On the evening of 25th
Jan. Borrow accordingly took his place on the diligence, and reached
the capital the next morning.

On arriving at Madrid, Borrow first went to a Posada; but a few days
later he removed to lodgings in the Calle de la Zarza (the Street of
the Brambles),--"A dark and dirty street, which, however, was close
to the Puerta del Sol, the most central point of Madrid, into which
four or five of the principal streets debouche, and which is, at all
times of the year, the great place of assemblage for the idlers of
the capital, poor or rich." {167a}

The capital did not at first impress Borrow very favourably. {167b}
"Madrid is a small town," he wrote to his mother, {167c} "not larger
than Norwich, but it is crammed with people, like a hive with bees,
and it contains many fine streets and fountains . . . Everything in
Madrid is excessively dear to foreigners, for they are made to pay
six times more than natives . . . I manage to get on tolerably well,
for I make a point of paying just one quarter of what I am asked."

He suffered considerably from the frost and cold. From the snow-
covered mountains that surround the city there descend in winter such
cold blasts "that the body is drawn up like a leaf." {167d} Then
again there were the physical discomforts that he had to endure.

"You cannot think," he wrote, {168a} "what a filthy, uncivilised set
of people the Spanish and Portuguese are. There is more comfort in
an English barn than in one of their palaces; and they are rude and
ill-bred to a surprising degree."

Borrow was angry with Spain, possibly for being so unlike his "dear
and glorious Russia." He saw in it a fertile and beautiful country,
inhabited by a set of beings that were not human, "almost as bad as
the Irish, with the exception that they are not drunkards." {168b}
They were a nation of thieves and extortioners, who regarded the
foreigner as their legitimate prey. Even his own servant was "the
greatest thief and villain that ever existed; who, if I would let
him, would steal the teeth out of my head," {168c} and who seems
actually to have destroyed some of his master's letters for the sake
of the postage. Being forced to call upon various people whose
addresses he did not know, Borrow found it necessary to keep the man,
in spite of his thievish proclivities, for he was clever, and had he
been dismissed his place would, in all probability, have been taken
by an even greater rogue.

At night he never went out, for the streets were thronged with
hundreds of people of the rival factions, bent on "cutting and
murdering one another; . . . for every Spaniard is by nature a cruel,
cowardly tiger. Nothing is more common than to destroy a whole town,
putting man, woman, and child to death, because two or three of the
inhabitants have been obnoxious." {168d} Thus he wrote to his
mother, all-unconscious of the anxiety and alarm that he was causing
her lest he, her dear George, should be one of the cut or murdered.

Later, Borrow seems to have revised his opinion of Madrid and of its
inhabitants. He confesses that of all the cities he has known Madrid
interested him the most, not on account of its public buildings,
squares or fountains, for these are surpassed in other cities; but
because of its population. "Within a mud wall scarcely one league
and a half in circuit, are contained two hundred thousand human
beings, certainly forming the most extraordinary vital mass to be
found in the entire world." {169a} In the upper classes he had
little interest. He mixed but little with them, and what he saw did
not impress him favourably. It was the Spaniard of the lower orders
that attracted him. He regarded this class as composed not of common
beings, but of extraordinary men. He admired their spirit of proud
independence, and forgave them their ignorance. His first
impressions of Spain had been unfavourable because, as a stranger, he
had been victimised by the amiable citizens, who were merely doing as
their fathers had done before them. Once, however, he got to know
them, he regarded with more indulgence their constitutional
dishonesty towards the stranger, a weakness they possessed in common
with the gypsies, and hailed them as "extraordinary men." Borrow's
impulsiveness frequently led him to ill-considered and hasty
conclusions, which, however, he never hesitated to correct, if he saw
need for correction.

The disappointment he experienced as regards Madrid and the Spaniards
is not difficult to understand. He arrived quite friendless and
without letters of introduction, to find the city given over to the
dissensions and strifes of the supporters of Isabel II. and Don
Carlos. His journey had been undertaken in "the hope of obtaining
permission from the Government to print the New Testament in the
Castilian language, without the notes insisted on by the Spanish
clergy, for circulation in Spain," and there seemed small chance of
those responsible for the direction of affairs listening to the
application of a foreigner for permission to print the unannotated
Scriptures. For one thing, any acquiescence in such a suggestion
would draw forth from the priesthood bitter reproaches and, most
probably, active and serious opposition. It is only natural that
despondency should occasionally seize upon him who sought to light
the lamp of truth amidst such tempests.

The man to approach was the premier, Juan Alvarez y Mendizabal,
{170a} a Christianised Jew. He was enormously powerful, and Borrow
decided to appeal to him direct; for, armed with the approval of
Mendizabal, no one would dare to interfere with his plans or
proceedings. Borrow made several attempts to see Mendizabal, who
"was considered as a man of almost unbounded power, in whose hands
were placed the destinies of the country." Without interest or
letters of introduction, he found it utterly impossible to obtain an
audience. Recollecting the assistance he had received from the Hon.
J. D. Bligh at St Petersburg, Borrow determined to make himself known
to the British Minister at Madrid, the Hon. George Villiers, {170b}
and, "with the freedom permitted to a British subject . . . ask his
advice in the affair." Borrow was received with great kindness, and,
after conversing upon various topics for some time, he introduced the
subject of his visit. Mr Villiers willingly undertook to help him as
far as lay in his power, and promised to endeavour to procure for him
an audience with the Premier. In this he was successful, and Borrow
had an interview with Mendizabal, who was almost inaccessible to all
but the few.

At eight o'clock on the morning of 7th February Borrow presented
himself at the palace, where Mendizabal resided, and after waiting
for about three hours, was admitted to the presence of the Prime
Minister of Spain, whom he found--"A huge athletic man, somewhat
taller than myself, who measure six foot two without my shoes. His
complexion was florid, his features fine and regular, his nose quite
aquiline, and his teeth splendidly white; though scarcely fifty years
of age, his hair was remarkably grey. He was dressed in a rich
morning gown, with a gold chain round his neck, and morocco slippers
on his feet." {171a}

Borrow began by assuring Mendizabal that he was labouring under a
grave error in thinking that the Bible Society had sought to
influence unduly the slaves of Cuba, that they had not sent any
agents there, and they were not in communication with any of the
residents. Mr Villiers had warned Borrow that the premier was very
angry on account of reports that had reached him of the action in
Cuba of certain people whom he insisted were sent there by the Bible
Society. In vain Borrow suggested that the disturbers of the
tranquillity of Spain's beneficent rule in the Island were in no way
connected with Earl Street; he was several times interrupted by
Mendizabal, who insisted that he had documentary proof. Borrow with
difficulty restrained himself from laughing in the premier s face.
He pointed out that the Committee was composed of quiet, respectable
English gentlemen, who attended to their own concerns and gave a
little of their time to the affairs of the Bible Society.

On Borrow asking for permission to print at Madrid the New Testament
in Spanish without notes, he was met with an unequivocal refusal. In
spite of his arguments that the whole tenor of the work was against
bloodshedding and violence, he could not shake the premier's opinion
that it was "an improper book."

At first Borrow had experienced some difficulty in explaining
himself, on account of the Spaniard's habit of persistent
interruption, and at last he was forced in self-defence to hold on in
spite of Mendizabal's remarks. The upshot of the interview was that
he was told to renew his application when the Carlists had been
beaten and the country was at peace. Borrow then asked permission to
introduce into Spain a few copies of the New Testament in the Catalan
dialect, but was refused. He next requested to be allowed to call on
the following day and submit a copy of the Catalan edition, and
received the remarkable reply that the prime-minister refused his
offer to call lest he should succeed in convincing him, and
Mendizabal did not wish to be convinced. This seemed to show that
the Mendizabal was something of a philosopher and a little of a

With this Borrow had to be content, and after an hour's interview he
withdrew. The premier was unquestionably in a difficult position.
On the one hand, he no doubt desired to assist a man introduced to
him by the representative of Great Britain, to whom he looked for
assistance in suppressing Carlism; on the other hand, he had the
priesthood to consider, and they would without question use every
means of which they stood possessed to preserve the prohibition
against the dissemination of the Scriptures, without notes, a
prohibition that had become almost a tradition.

But Borrow was not discouraged. He wrote in a most hopeful strain
that he foresaw the speedy and successful termination of the
Society's negotiations in the Peninsula. He looked forward to the
time when only an agent would be required to superintend the
engagement of colporteurs, and to make arrangements with the
booksellers. He proceeds to express a hope that his exertions have
given satisfaction to the Society.

Borrow received an encouraging letter from Mr Brandram, telling him
of the Committee's appreciation of his work, but practically leaving
with him the decision as to his future movements. They were inclined
to favour a return to Lisbon, but recognised that "in these wondrous
days opportunities may open unexpectedly." In the matter of the
Gospel of St Luke in Spanish Romany, the publication of extracts was
authorised, but there was no enthusiasm for the project. "We say,"
wrote Mr Brandram, "festina lente. You will be doing well to occupy
leisure hours with this work; but we are not prepared for printing
anything beyond portions at present."

In the meantime, however, an article in the Madrid newspaper, El
Espanol, upon the history, aims, and achievements of the British and
Foreign Bible Society, had determined Borrow to remain on at Madrid
for a few weeks at least.

"Why should Spain, which has explored the New World, why should she
alone be destitute of Bible Societies," asked the Espanol. "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?" {173a}

This article fired Borrow, and with the promise of assistance from
the liberal-minded Espanol, he set to work "to lay the foundation of
a Bible Society at Madrid." {173b} As a potential head of the
Spanish organization, Borrow's eyes were already directed towards the
person of "a certain Bishop, advanced in years, a person of great
piety and learning, who has himself translated the New Testament"
{173c} and who was disposed to print and circulate it.

Nothing, however, came of the project. Mr Brandram wrote to Borrow:-
"With regard to forming a Bible Society in Madrid, and appointing Dr
Usoz Secretary, it is so out of our usual course that the Committee,
for various reasons, cannot comply with your wishes--of the
desirableness of forming such a Society at present, you and your
friend must be the best judges. If it is to be an independent
society, as I suppose must be the case," Mr Brandram continues, and
the Bible Society's aid or that of its agent is sought, the new
Society must be formed on the principles of the British and Foreign
Bible Society, admitting, "on the one hand, general cooperation, and
on the other, that it does not circulate Apocryphal Bibles." There
was doubt at Earl Street as to whether the time was yet ripe; so the
decision was very properly left with Borrow, and he was told that he
"need not fear to hold out great hopes of encouragement in the event
of the formation of such a Society." {174a}

A serious difficulty now arose in the resignation of Mendizabal
(March 1836). Two of his friends and supporters, in the persons of
Francisco de Isturitz and Alcala Galiano, seceded from his party,
and, under the name of moderados, formed an opposition to their Chief
in the Cortes. They had the support of the Queen Regent and General
Cordova, whom Mendizabal had wished to remove from his position as
head of the army on account of his great popularity with the
soldiers, whose comforts and interests he studied. Isturitz became
Premier, Galiano Minister of Marine (a mere paper title, as there was
no navy at the time), and the Duke of Rivas Minister of the Interior.

Conscious of the advantage of possessing powerful friends, especially
in a country such as Spain, Borrow had used every endeavour to
enlarge the circle of his acquaintance among men occupying
influential positions, or likely to succeed those who at present
filled them. The result was that he was able to announce to Mr
Brandram that the new ministry, which had been formed, was composed
"entirely of MY friends." {175a} With Galiano in particular he was
on very intimate terms. Everything promised well, and the new
Cabinet showed itself most friendly to Borrow and his projects, until
the actual moment arrived for writing the permission to print the
Scriptures in Spanish. Then doubts arose, and the decrees of the
Council of Trent loomed up, a threatening barrier, in the eyes of the
Duke of Rivas and his secretary.

So hopeful was Borrow after his first interview with the Duke that he
wrote: --"I shall receive the permission, the Lord willing, in a few
days . . . The last skirts of the cloud of papal superstition are
vanishing below the horizon of Spain; whoever says the contrary
either knows nothing of the matter or wilfully hides the truth."

At Earl Street the good news about the article in the Espanol gave
the liveliest satisfaction. "Surely a new and wonderful thing in
Spain," wrote Mr Brandram {175c} in a letter in which he urged Borrow
to "guard against becoming too much committed to one political
party," and asked him to write more frequently, as his letters were
always most welcome. This letter reached Madrid at a time when
Borrow found himself absolutely destitute.

"For the last three weeks," he writes, {175d} "I have been without
money, literally without a farthing." Everything in Madrid was so
dear. A month previously he had been forced to pay 12 pounds, 5s.
for a suit of clothes, "my own being so worn that it was impossible
to appear longer in public with them." {175e} He had written to Mr
Wilby, but in all probability his letter had gone astray, the post to
Estremadura having been three times robbed. "The money may still
come," he continues, {176a} "but I have given up all hopes of it, and
I am compelled to write home, though what I am to do till I can
receive your answer I am at a loss to conceive . . . whatever I
undergo, I shall tell nobody of my situation, it might hurt the
Society and our projects here. I know enough of the world to be
aware that it is considered as the worst of crimes to be without
money." {176b}

For weeks Borrow devoted himself to the task of endeavouring to
obtain permission to print the Scriptures in Spanish. The Duke of
Rivas referred him to his secretary, saying, "He will do for you what
you want!" But the secretary retreated behind the decrees of the
Council of Trent. Then Mr Villiers intervened, saw the Duke and gave
Borrow a letter to him. Again the Council of Trent proved to be the
obstacle. Galiano took up the matter and escorted Borrow to the
Bureau of the Interior, and had an interview with the Duke's
secretary. When Galiano left, there remained nothing for the
conscientious secretary to do but to write out the formal permission,
all else having been satisfactorily settled; but no sooner had
Galiano departed, than the recollection of the Council of Trent
returned to the secretary with terrifying distinctness, and no
permission was given.

Tired of the Council of Trent and the Duke's secretary, Borrow would
sometimes retire to the banks of the canal and there loiter in the
sun, watching the gold and silver fish basking on the surface of its
waters, or gossiping with the man who sold oranges and water under
the shade of the old water-tower. Once he went to see an execution--
anything to drive from his mind the conscientious secretary and the
Council of Trent, the sole obstacles to the realisation of his plans.

Borrow informed Mr Brandram at the end of May that the Cabinet was
unanimously in favour of granting his request; nothing happened.
There seems no doubt that the Cabinet's policy was one of subterfuge.
It could not afford to offend the British Minister, nor could it, at
that juncture, risk the bitter hostility of the clergy, consequently
it promised and deferred. A petition to the Ecclesiastical Committee
of Censors, although strongly backed by the Civil Governor of Madrid
(within whose department lay the censorship), produced no better
result. There was nothing heard but "To-morrow, please God!"

Foiled for the time being in his constructive policy, Borrow turned
his attention to one of destruction. He had already announced to the
Bible Society that the authority of the Pope was in a precarious

"Little more than a breath is required to destroy it," he writes,
{177a} "and I am almost confident that in less than a year it will be
disowned. I am doing whatever I can in Madrid to prepare the way for
an event so desirable. I mix with the people, and inform them who
and what the Pope is, and how disastrous to Spain his influence has
been. I tell them that the indulgences, which they are in the habit
of purchasing, are of no more intrinsic value than so many pieces of
paper, and were merely invented with the view of plundering them. I
frequently ask: 'Is it possible that God, who is good, would
sanction the sale of sin? and, supposing certain things are sinful,
do you think that God, for the sake of your money, would permit you
to perform them?' In many instances my hearers have been satisfied
with this simple reasoning, and have said that they would buy no more

Mr Brandram promptly wrote warning Borrow against becoming involved
in any endeavour to hasten the fall of the Pope. Although deeply
interested in what their agent had to say, there was a strong
misgiving at headquarters that for a few moments Borrow had
"forgotten that our hopes of the fall of -- are founded on the simple
distribution of the Scriptures," {178a} and he was told that, as
their agent, he must not pursue the course that he described. The
warning was carefully worded, so that it might not wound Borrow's
feelings or lessen his enthusiasm.

Borrow had found that the climate of Madrid did not agree with him.
It had proved very trying during the winter; but now that summer had
arrived the heat was suffocating and the air seemed to be filled with
"flaming vapours," and even the Spaniards would "lie gasping and
naked upon their brick floors." {178b} In spite of the heat,
however, he was occupied "upon an average ten hours every day,
dancing attendance on one or another of the Ministers." {178c}

Sometimes the difficulties that he had to contend with reduced him
almost to despair of ever obtaining the permission he sought. "Only
those," he writes, {178d} "who have been in the habit of dealing with
Spaniards, by whom the most solemn promises are habitually broken,
can form a correct idea of my reiterated disappointments, and of the
toil of body and agony of spirit which I have been subjected to. One
day I have been told, at the Ministry, that I had only to wait a few
moments and all I wished would be acceded to; and then my hopes have
been blasted with the information that various difficulties, which
seemed insurmountable, had presented themselves, whereupon I have
departed almost broken-hearted; but the next day I have been summoned
in a great hurry and informed that 'all was right,' and that on the
morrow a regular authority to print the Scriptures would be delivered
to me, but by that time fresh and yet more terrible difficulties had
occurred--so that I became weary of my life."

Mr Villiers evidently saw through the Spanish Cabinet's policy of
delay; for he spoke to the ministers collectively and individually,
strongly recommending that the petition be granted. He further
pointed out the terrible condition of the people, who lacked
religious instruction of any kind, and that a nation of atheists
would not prove very easy to govern. It may have been these
arguments, or, what is more likely, a desire on the part of the
Cabinet to please the representative of Great Britain, in any case a
greater willingness was now shown to give the necessary permission.
Measures were accordingly taken to evade the law and protect the
printer into whose hands the work was to be entrusted, until an
appropriate moment arrived for repealing the existing statute.

Borrow forwarded to Earl Street the following interesting letter that
he had received from Mr Villiers, which confirms his words as to the
keen interest taken by the British Minister in the endeavour to
obtain the permission to print the New Testament in Spanish


I have had a long conversation with Mr Isturitz upon the subject of
printing the Testament, in which he showed himself to be both
sagacious and liberal. He assured me that the matter should have his
support whenever the Duque de Ribas brought it before the Cabinet,
and that as far as he was concerned the question MIGHT BE CONSIDERED

You are quite welcome to make any use you please of this note with
the D. de Ribas or Mr Olivan. {179a}

I am, Dear Sir,
Yours faithfully,
June 23rd [1836].

It was unquestionably Borrow's personality that was responsible for
Mr Villiers' interest in the scheme, as when Lieutenant Graydon
{179b} had applied to him on a previous occasion he declined to

At Borrow's suggestion the President of the Bible Society, Lord
Bentley, wrote to Mr Villiers thanking him for the services he had
rendered in connection with the Spanish programme. It was
characteristic of Borrow that he added to his letter as a reason for
his request, that "I may be again in need of Mr V's. assistance
before I leave Spain." {180a} Borrow was always keenly alive to the
advantage of possessing influential friends who would be likely to
assist him in his labours for the Society. He was not a profound
admirer of the Society of Jesus for nothing, and although he would
scorn to exercise tact in regard to his own concerns, he was fully
prepared to make use of it in connection with those of the Bible
Society. He was a Jesuit at heart, and would in all probability have
preferred a good compositor who had been guilty of sacrilege to a bad
one who had not. He saw that besides being something of a
diplomatist, an agent of the Bible Society had also to be a good
business man. He has been called tactless, until the word seems to
have become permanently identified with his name; how unjustly is
shown by a very hasty examination of his masterly diplomacy, both in
Russia and Spain. Diplomacy, as Borrow understood it, was the art of
being persuasive when persuasion would obtain for him his object, and
firm, even threatening, when strong measures were best calculated to
suit his ends. It is only the fool who defines tact as the gentle
art of pleasing everybody. Diplomacy is the art of getting what you
want at the expense of displeasing as few people as possible.

"The affair is settled--thank God!!! and we may begin to print
whenever we think proper." With these words Borrow announces the
success of his enterprise. "Perhaps you have thought," he continues,
"that I have been tardy in accomplishing the business which brought
me to Spain; but to be able to form a correct judgment you ought to
be aware of all the difficulties which I have had to encounter, and
which I shall not enumerate. I shall content myself with observing
that for a thousand pounds I would not undergo again all the
mortifications and disappointments of the last two months." {181a}

There were moments when Borrow forgot the idiom of Earl Street and
reverted to his old, self-confident style, which had so alarmed some
of the excellent members of the Committee. He had achieved a great
triumph, how great is best shown by the suggestion made by the prime
minister that if determined to avail himself of the permission that
had been obtained, he had better employ "the confidential printer of
the Government, who would keep the matter secret; as in the present
state of affairs he [the prime minister] would not answer for the
consequences if it were noised abroad." {181b} By giving the license
to print the New Testament without notes, the Cabinet was assuming a
very grave responsibility. All this shows how great was the
influence of the British Minister upon the Isturitz Cabinet, and how
considerable that of Borrow upon the British Minister.

Now that his object was gained, there was nothing further to keep
Borrow in Spain, and he accordingly asked for instructions,
suggesting that, as soon as the heats were over, Lieutenant Graydon
might return to Madrid and take charge, "as nothing very difficult
remains to be accomplished, and I am sure that Mr Villiers, at my
entreaty, would extend to him the patronage with which he has
honoured me." {181c} In conclusion he announced himself as ready to
do "whatever the Bible Society may deem expedient." {181d}

Borrow now began to suffer from the reaction after his great
exertions. He became so languid as scarcely to be able to hold a
pen. He had no books, and conversation was impossible, for the heat
had driven away all who could possibly escape, among them his
acquaintances, and he frequently remembered with a sigh the happy
days spent in St Petersburg.

A few days later (25th July) he wrote proposing as a member of the
Bible Society Dr Luis de Usoz y Rio, "a person of great
respectability and great learning." {182a} Dr Usoz, who was
subsequently to be closely associated with Borrow in his labours in
Spain, was a man of whom he was unable to "speak in too high terms of
admiration; he is one of the most learned men in Spain, and is become
in every point a Christian according to the standard of the New
Testament." {182b}

Dr Usoz also addressed a letter to the Society asking to be
considered as a correspondent and entrusted with copies of the
Scriptures, which he was convinced he could circulate in every
province of Spain. The advantage of having one of the editors of the
principal newspaper of Spain on the side of the Society did not fail
to appeal to Borrow. Dr Usoz not only became a member of the Bible
Society, but earned from Borrow a splendid tribute in the Preface to
The Bible in Spain.

Before advantage could be taken of the hardly earned permission to
print the New Testament in Madrid, the Revolution of La Granja {182c}
broke out, resulting in the proclamation of the Constitution of 1812,
by which the press became free. In Madrid chaos reigned as a result.
Borrow himself has given a vivid account of how Quesada, by his
magnificent courage, quelled for the time being the revolution, how
the ministers fled, how eventually the heroic tyrant was recognised
and killed, and, finally, how, at a celebrated coffee-house in
Madrid, Borrow saw the victorious Nationals drink to the Constitution
from a bowl of coffee, which had first been stirred with one of the
mutilated hands of the hated Quesada. {183a}

Now that no obstacle stood in the way of the printing of the Spanish
New Testament, Borrow was requested to return to England that he
might confer with the authorities at Earl Street. "You may now
consider yourself under marching orders to return home as soon as you
have made all the requisite arrangements; . . . you have done, we are
persuaded, a good and great work," {183b} Mr Brandram wrote. It was
thought by the Committee that the advantages to be derived from a
conference with Borrow would be well worth the expense involved in
his having to return again to Spain.

To this request for his immediate presence in London Borrow replied:

"I shall make the provisional engagement as desired [as regards the
printing of the New Testament] and shall leave Madrid as soon as
possible; but I must here inform you, that I shall find much
difficulty in returning to England, as all the provinces are
disturbed in consequence of the Constitution of 1812 having been
proclaimed, and the roads are swarming with robbers and banditti. It
is my intention to join some muleteers, and attempt to reach Granada,
from whence, if possible, I shall proceed to Malaga or Gibraltar, and
thence to Lisbon, where I left the greatest part of my baggage. Do
not be surprised, therefore, if I am tardy in making my appearance;
it is no easy thing at present to travel in Spain. But all these
troubles are for the benefit of the Cause, and must not be repined
at." {183c}

Leaving Madrid on 20th August, Borrow was at Granada on the 30th, as
proved by the Visitors' Book, in which he signed himself

"George Borrow Norvicensis."

The real object of this visit appears to have been his desire to
study more closely the Spanish gypsies. From Granada he proceeded to
Malaga. Neither place can be said to be on the direct road to
England; but the disturbed state of the country had to be taken into
consideration, and it was a question not of the shortest road but the

On his return to London, early in October, Borrow wrote a report
{184a} upon his labours, roughly sketching out his work since he left
Badajos. He repeated his view that the Papal See had lost its power
over Spain, and that the present moment was a peculiarly appropriate
one in which to spread the light of the Gospel over the Peninsula.
Forgetting the thievish propensities of the race, he wrote glowingly
of the Spaniards and their intellectual equipment, the clearness with
which they expressed themselves, and the elegance of their diction.
The mind of the Spaniard was a garden run to waste, and it was for
the British and Foreign Bible Society to cultivate it and purge it of
the rank and bitter weeds.

He foresaw no difficulty whatever in disposing of 5000 copies of the
New Testament in a short time in the capital and provincial towns, in
particular Cadiz and Seville where the people were more enlightened.
He was not so confident about the rural districts, where those who
assured him that they were acquainted with the New Testament said
that it contained hymns addressed to the Virgin which were written by
the Pope.


Borrow remained in England for a month (3rd October/4th November),
during which time he conferred with the Committee and Officials at
Earl Street as to the future programme in Spain. On 4th November,
having sent to his mother 130 pounds of the 150 pounds he had drawn
as salary, and promising to write to Mr Brandram from Cadiz, he
sailed from London in the steamer Manchester, bound for Lisbon and

In a letter to his mother, he describes his fellow passengers as
invalids fleeing from the English winter. "Some of them are three
parts gone with consumption," he writes, "some are ruptured, some
have broken backs; I am the only sound person in the ship, which is
crowded to suffocation. I am in a little hole of a berth where I can
scarcely breathe, and every now and then wet through."

The horrors of the voyage from Falmouth to Lisbon he has described
with terrifying vividness; {185a} how the engines broke down and the
vessel was being driven on to Cape Finisterre; how all hope had been
abandoned, and the Captain had told the passengers of their impending
fate; how the wind suddenly "VEERED RIGHT ABOUT, and pushed us from
the horrible coast faster than it had previously driven us towards
it." {185b}

During the whole of that terrible night Borrow had remained on deck,
all the other passengers having been battened down below. He was
almost drowned in the seas that broke over the vessel, and, on one
occasion, was struck down by a water cask that had broken away from
its lashings. Even after he had escaped Cape Finisterre, the ordeal
was not over; for the ship was in a sinking condition, and fire broke
out on board. Eventually the engines were repaired, the fire
extinguished, and Lisbon was reached on the 13th, where Borrow landed
with his water-soaked luggage, and found on examination that the
greater part of his clothes had been ruined. In spite of this
experience, he determined to continue his voyage to Cadiz in the
Manchester, probably for reasons of economy, indifferent to the fact
that she was utterly unseaworthy, and that most of the other
passengers had abandoned her. During his enforced stay in Lisbon,
whilst the ship was being patched up, Borrow saw Mr Wilby and made
enquiry into the state of the Society's affairs in Portugal. Many
changes had taken place and the country was in a distracted state.

After a week's delay at Lisbon the Manchester continued her voyage to
Cadiz, where she arrived without further mishap on the 21st. During
this voyage a fellow passenger with Borrow was the Marques de Santa
Coloma. "According to the expression of the Marques, when they
stepped on to the quay at Cadiz, Borrow looked round, saw some
Gitanos lounging there, said something that the Marques could not
understand, and immediately 'that man became une grappe de Gitanos.'
They hung round his neck, clung to his knees, seized his hands,
kissed his feet, so that the Marques hardly liked to join his comrade
again after such close embraces by so dirty a company." {186a}

Borrow now found himself in his allotted field--unhappy, miserable,
distracted Spain. Gomez, the Carlist leader, had been sweeping
through Estremadura like a pestilence, and Borrow fully expected to
find Seville occupied by his banditti; but Carlists possessed no
terrors for him. Unless he could do something to heal the spiritual
wounds of the wretched country, he assured Mr Brandram, he would
never again return to England.

On 1st December Mr Brandram wrote to Borrow expressing deep sympathy
with all he had been through, and adding: "If you go forward . . .
we will help you by prayer. If you retreat we shall welcome you
cordially." He appears to have written before consulting with the
Committee, who, on hearing of the actual state of affairs in Spain,
became filled with misgiving and anxiety for the safety of their
agent, who seemed to be destitute of fear. Mr Brandram had been
content for Borrow to go forward if he so decided, but, as he wrote
later, "your prospective dangers, while they created an absorbing
interest, were viewed in different lights by the Committee," who
thought they had "no right to commit you to such perils. My own
feeling was that, while I could not urge you forward, there were
peculiarities in your history and character that I would not keep you
back if you were minded to go. A few felt with me--most, however,
thought that you should have been restrained." {187a} It was decided
therefore to forbid him to proceed on his hazardous adventure, and
accordingly a letter was addressed to him care of the British Consul
at Cadiz. If Borrow received this he disregarded the instructions it

Cadiz proved to be in a state of great confusion. It was reported
that numerous bands of Carlists were in the neighbourhood, and the
whole city was in a state of ferment in consequence. In the coffee-
houses the din of tongues was deafening; would-be orators, sometimes
as many as six at one time, sprang up upon chairs and tables and
ventilated their political views. The paramount, nay, the only,
interest was not in the words of Christ; but the probable doings of
the Carlists.

On the night of his arrival Borrow was taken ill with what, at the
time, he thought to be cholera, and for some time in the little
"cock-loft or garret" that had been allotted to him at the over-
crowded French hotel, he was "in most acute pain, and terribly sick,"
drinking oil mixed with brandy. For two days he was so exhausted as
to be able to do nothing.

On the morning of the 24th he embarked in a small Spanish steamer
bound for Seville, which was reached that same night. The sun had
dissipated the melancholy and stupor left by his illness, and by the
time he arrived at Seville he was repeating Latin verses and
fragments of old Spanish ballads to a brilliant moon. The condition
of affairs at Seville was as bad if not worse than at Cadiz. There
was scarcely any communication with the capital, the diligences no
longer ran, and even the fearless arrieros (muleteers) declined to
set out. Famine, plunder and murder were let loose over the land.
Bands of banditti robbed, tortured and slew in the name of Don
Carlos. They stripped the peasantry of all they possessed, and the
poor wretches in turn became brigands and preyed upon those weaker
than themselves. Through all this Borrow had to penetrate in order
to reach Madrid. Had the road been familiar to him he would have
performed the journey alone, dressed either as a beggar or as a
gypsy. It is obvious that he appreciated the hazardous nature of the
journey he was undertaking, for he asked Mr Brandram, in the event of
his death, to keep the news from old Mrs Borrow as long as possible
and then to go down to Norwich and break it to her himself.

At Seville Borrow encountered Baron Taylor, {188a} whom he states
that he had first met at Bayonne (during the "veiled period"), and
later in Russia, beside the Bosphorus, and finally in the South of
Ireland. Than Baron Taylor there was no one for whom Borrow
entertained "a greater esteem and regard . . . There is a mystery
about him which, wherever he goes, serves not a little to increase
the sensation naturally created by his appearance and manner." {189a}
Borrow was much attracted to this mysterious personage, about whom
nothing could be asserted "with downright positiveness."

From Seville Borrow proceeded to Cordoba, accompanied by "an elderly
person, a Genoese by birth," whose acquaintance he had made and whom
he hoped later to employ in the distribution of the Testaments.
Borrow had hired a couple of miserable horses. The Genoese had not
been in the saddle for some thirty years, and he was an old man and
timid. His horse soon became aware of this, and neither whip nor
spur could persuade it to exert itself. When approaching night
rendered it necessary to make a special effort to hasten forward, the
bridle of the discontented steed had to be fastened to that of its
fellow, which was then urged forward "with spur and cudgel." Both
the Genoese and his mount protested against such drastic measures,
the one by entreaties to be permitted to dismount, the other by
attempting to fling itself down. The only notice Borrow took of
these protests was to spur and cudgel the more.

On the night of the third day the party arrived at Cordoba, and was
cordially welcomed by the Carlist innkeeper, who, although avowing
himself strictly neutral, confessed how great had been his pleasure
at welcoming the Carlists when they occupied the City a short time
before. It was at this inn that Borrow explained to the elderly
Genoese, who had indiscreetly resented his host's disrespectful
remarks about the young Queen Isabel, how he invariably managed to
preserve good relations with all sorts of factions. "My good man,"
he said, "I am invariably of the politics of the people at whose
table I sit, or beneath whose roof I sleep; at least I never say
anything which can lead them to suspect the contrary; by pursuing
which system I have more than once escaped a bloody pillow, and
having the wine I drank spiced with sublimate." {190a}

Borrow remained at Cordoba much longer than he had intended, because
of the reports that reached him of the unsafe condition of the roads.
He sent back the old Genoese with the horses, and spent the time in
thoroughly examining the town and making acquaintances among its
inhabitants. At length, after a stay of ten or eleven days,
despairing of any improvement in the state of the country, he
continued his journey in the company of a contrabandista, temporarily
retired from the smuggling trade, from whom he hired two horses for
the sum of forty-two dollars. Borrow allowed no compunction to
assail him as to the means he employed when he was thoroughly
convinced as to the worthiness of the end he had in view. To further
his projects he would cheerfully have travelled with the Pope

The journey to Madrid proved dismal in the extreme. The
contrabandista was sullen and gloomy, despite the fact that his
horses had been insured against loss and the handsome fee he was to
receive for his services. The Despenaperros in the Sierra Morena
through which Borrow had to pass, had, even in times of peace, a most
evil reputation; but by great good luck for Borrow, the local
banditti had during the previous day "committed a dreadful robbery
and murder by which they sacked 40,000 reals." {190b} They were in
all probability too busily occupied in dividing their spoil to watch
for other travellers. Another factor that was much in Borrow's
favour was a change in the weather.

"Suddenly the Lord breathed forth a frozen blast," Borrow writes,
"the severity of which was almost intolerable. No human being but
ourselves ventured forth. We traversed snow-covered plains, and
passed through villages and towns to all appearance deserted. The
robbers kept close to their caves and hovels, but the cold nearly
killed us. We reached Aranjuez late on Christmas day, and I got into
the house of an Englishman, where I swallowed nearly a pint of
brandy: {191a} it affected me no more than warm water. {191b}

Borrow arrived at Madrid on 26th December, having almost by a miracle
avoided death or capture by the human wolves that infested the
country. He took up his quarters at 16 Calle de Santiago at the
house of Maria Diaz, who was to prove so loyal a friend during many
critical periods of his work in Spain. His first care was to call
upon the British Minister, and enquire if he considered it safe to
proceed with the printing without special application to the new
Government. Mr Villiers' answer is interesting, as showing how
thoroughly he had taken Borrow under his protection.

"You obtained the permission of the Government of Isturitz," he
replied, "which was a much less liberal one than the present; I am a
witness to the promise made to you by the former Ministers, which I
consider sufficient; you had best commence and complete the work as
soon as possible without any fresh application, and should anyone
attempt to interrupt you, you have only to come to me, whom you may
command at any time." {191c}

Having saved the Bible Society 9000 reals in its paper bill alone,
{191d} Borrow proceeded to arrange for the printing. He had already
opened negotiations with Charles Wood, who was associated with
Andreas Borrego, {192a} the most fashionable printer in Madrid, who
not only had the best printing-presses in Spain, but had been
specially recommended by Isturitz. It had been tentatively arranged
that an edition of 5000 copies of the New Testament should be printed
from the version of Father Felipe Scio de San Miguel, confessor to
Ferdinand VII., without notes or commentaries, and delivered within


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