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Letters of George Borrow to the British and Foreign Bible Society

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I will now conclude, and repeat 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. With my best respects to Mr.
Brandram, I have the honour to remain, Revd. and dear Sir, most
truly yours,


LETTER: 28th April, 1835

To J. Tarn, Esq.
(ENDORSED: recd. May, 1835)
ST. PETERSBURG, APRIL 28th [old style], 1835.

I SEND you an account of monies spent in the editing of the Acts of
the Apostles and the first volume of the Epistles. I beg leave at
the same time to acknowledge the receipt of Mr. Jackson's letter.
I am sorry that any mistake should have occurred, but the cause of
the one in question was, that at the time I last wrote to you, I
was unable to refer to my previous account; however, the mistake
now stands rectified.

I take this opportunity of informing you that I shall be obliged to
order sixty or seventy more reams of paper, as the quantity which I
at present possess will not be sufficient to complete the work.
You will see the reason of this in the account which I now send
you. In the first volume of the Epistles there are forty-three
sheets, and in the second there will be nearly the same number;
these two volumes in thickness will be equal to three of the
previous parts. During the last month I have experienced great
difficulty in keeping the printers at work on account of the
festivals of the season, but I am glad to say that I have never
failed to obtain six sheets every week.

I have received the Revd. Mr. Jowett's letter, and shall write to
him in a few days.


LETTER: 3rd May, 1835

To the Rev. J. Jowett
(ENDORSED: recd. June 1, 1835)
MAY 3, 1835 [old style], ST. PETERSBURG.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, - I write a few hasty lines for the purpose of
informing you that I shall not be able to obtain a passport for
Siberia, except on the condition that I carry not one single
Mandchou Bible thither. The Russian Government is too solicitous
to maintain a good understanding with that of China to encourage
any project at which the latter could take umbrage. Therefore pray
inform me to what place I am to despatch the Bibles. I have had
some thoughts of embarking the first five parts without delay to
England, but I have forborne from an unwillingness to do anything
which I was not commanded to do. By the time I receive your answer
everything will be in readiness, or nearly so, to be forwarded
wherever the Committee shall judge expedient. I wish also to
receive orders respecting what is to be done with the types. I
should be sorry if they were to be abandoned in the same manner as
before, for it is possible that at some future time they may prove
eminently useful.

As for myself, 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 honour 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. I 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. Should it now become a question what is to be done with
these Mandchou Bibles which have been printed at a considerable
expense, I should wish to suggest that Baron Schilling be
consulted. In a few weeks he will be in London, which he intends
visiting during a summer tour which he is on the point of
commencing. He will call at the Society's House, and as he is a
nobleman of great experience and knowledge in all that relates to
China, it would not be amiss to interrogate him on such a subject.

In your last letter but one you stated that our noble President had
been kind enough to declare that I had but to send in an account of
any extraordinary expenses which I had been put to in the course of
the work to have them defrayed. 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

I have the honour to remain, Revd. and dear Sir, your obedient
humble servant,


LETTER: 15th June, 1835

To J. Thornton, Esq.
(ENDORSED: recd. July 20, 1835)

SIRS, - Having drawn upon Messrs. Asmus, Simondsen & Compy. of St.
Petersburg for the following sums, I have to request that you will
honour this draft to a like amount,

1000 roubles (one thousand), received the 11th May.

2000 (two thousand), received at the present moment.

I take the liberty of stating that the printing of the Mandchou
Testament is brought to a conclusion, and that six of the eight
parts are bound. As soon as the other two are completed I shall
take my departure for England.

I have the honour to remain, Sir,

Your most obedient and most humble servant,


LETTER: 16th July, 1835

To J. Tarn, Esq.
(ENDORSED: recd. 17 Aug. 1835)

MY DEAR SIR, - I herewith send you a bill of lading for six of the
eight parts of the New Testament which I have at last obtained
HOUSE OF INTERIOR AFFAIRS. The seventh part is bound and packed
up; the eighth is being bound and will be completed in about ten
days. It would have been ready a month since, having been nearly
six weeks in the book-binder's hands, but he was disappointed in
obtaining the necessary paper; I hope to have shipped all off, and
to have bidden adieu to Russia, at the expiration of a fortnight.
I take this opportunity of informing you that I was obliged to
purchase additional 85 reams of paper, of every sheet of which I
shall give an account. 1020 copies of every sheet I ordered to be
printed, that we might have a full 1000 at the conclusion. 20
reams have at various times been sent to the binder for frontings
and endings to the work, and there were 36 sheets in the seventh
and 33 in the eighth part, consequently the demand for paper is not
surprising. Since my last drafts upon the Treasurer I have
received two thousand roubles from Asmus, Simondsen and Co., for
which I shall give them a draft on my departure when I receive my
salary. My accompt since the period of my last writing to you,
when I held in hand 518 roubles of the Society's money, I shall
deliver to you on my arrival.

I have the honour to remain, Dear Sir,

Truly yours,


Pray excuse this hasty letter, which I write from the Custom House.

LETTER: 12th August, 1835

To Rev. J. Jowett
(ENDORSED: recd. Sept. 14th, 1835)
ST. PETERSBURG, AUG. 12, 1835.

As it is probable that yourself and my other excellent and
Christian friends at the Bible House are hourly expecting me and
wondering at my non-appearance, I cannot refrain from sending you a
few lines in order to account for my prolonged stay abroad. For
the last fortnight I have been detained at St. Petersburg in the
most vexatious and unheard-of manner. The two last parts of our
Testaments have been bound and ready for shipping a considerable
time, and are at present in the warehouse of a most pious and
excellent person in this place, whom the Bible Society are well
acquainted with; but I have hitherto not been able to obtain
permission to send them away. You will ask how I contrived to
despatch the first six volumes, which you have doubtless by this
time received. But I must inform you that at that time I had only
a verbal permission, and that the Custom House permitted them to
pass because they knew not what they were. But now,
notwithstanding I obtained a regular permission to print, and
transacted everything in a legal and formal manner, I am told that
I had no right at all to print the Scriptures at St. Petersburg,
and that my coming thither on that account (I use their own words)
was a step in the highest degree suspicious and mysterious, and
that there are even grounds for supposing that I am not connected
with the Bible Society or employed by them. To-day, however, I
lost patience, and said that I would not be trifled with any
longer; that next week I should send away the books by a vessel
which would then sail, and that whosoever should attempt to stop
them would do so at his peril - and I intend to act up to what I
said. I shall then demand my passport and advertise my departure,
as every one before quitting Russia must be advertised in the
newspapers two weeks successively. Pray do me the justice to
believe that for this unpleasant delay I am by no means
accountable. It is in the highest degree tormenting to myself. I
am very unwell from vexation and disquietude of mind, and am
exposed to every kind of inconvenience. The term for which I took
my chambers is expired, and I am living in a dirty and expensive
hotel. But there is One above who supports me in these troubles,
and I have no doubt that everything will turn out for the best.

I take this opportunity of sending my accounts to Mr. Tarn; if
there be any inaccuracy let him excuse it, for the post hurries me.


Report of Mr. George Borrow

GENTLEMEN, - It is now about two years since I quitted England for
St. Petersburg in consequence of the duty which you have been
pleased to confide to my hands, namely, that of editing at the
Russian capital the New Testament in the Mandchou language which
has been translated by Mr. Lipoftsoff, at present Councillor of
State and Chinese Translator at that place, but formerly one of the
members of the Russian mission at Pekin. On my arrival, before
entering upon this highly important and difficult task, I, in
obedience to your command, assisted Mr. Swan, the missionary from
Selinginsk, to complete a transcript which he had commenced some
time previous of a manuscript translation of the principal part of
the Old Testament into Mandchou executed by Puerot, who, originally
a Jesuit emissary at Pekin, passed the latter years of his life in
the service of the Russian mission in the capacity of physician.
The united labours of Mr. Swan and myself speedily brought the task
in question to a conclusion, so that the transcript has for a
considerable time been in the possession of the Bible Society. I
will here take the liberty of offering a few remarks upon this
translation; but as the work is not at the present moment before
me, it is impossible to enter upon a critical and minute
examination of its merits. Nevertheless, having either transcribed
or at various times perused it, I have formed a general opinion
concerning it which, though very probably a faulty one, I shall lay
before you in a few words, which at any future time I hope you will
permit me to recall, if fresh lights upon the subject compel me to
believe that my original conclusion was an erroneous one; having no
doubt that those who are embarked in so noble a cause as the
propagation of The Great Truth, will be at all times willing to
excuse error when confessed, as by the confession of error the
truth becomes more glaringly manifest.

The merits of this translation are, upon the whole, of a very high
order; but it would be an untruth and an absurdity to say that it
does not exhibit defects and blemishes of a striking and peculiar
kind - peculiar, from the singular fact that those portions of the
original which, being narrative are exceedingly simple as to idea
and style, have been invariably rendered in a manner the most
liable to censure, exhibiting not only a slovenly carelessness in
regard to diction, but not unfrequently a disregard of accuracy
when the slightest particle of attention was only necessary to
render the meaning which the sacred writer endeavours to convey.
These are its greatest, and, it may perhaps be said, its only
defects; for if a regard for truth compel me to state that the
style of the translation frequently sinks far below the original
when at its lowest grade, that same regard compels me to say that
in yet more instances it rises with the same [to a degree] which I
believe it is scarcely possible for any individual with the limited
powers of uninspired man to surpass. This soaring tendency is
particularly observable in the version of the Book of Job, which is
certainly the most beautiful, is believed by many to be the most
ancient, and is confessedly one of the most important portions of
the Old Testament. I consider myself in some degree entitled to
speak particularly of this part of the Mandchou version in
question, having frequently at the time I was engaged upon it
translated into English several of the chapters which particularly
struck me, for the purpose of exhibiting them to Mr. Swan, who
invariably sympathised with my admiration. The translation of most
of the writings of the prophets, as far as Puerot went, has been
executed in the same masterly manner, and it is only to be lamented
that, instead of wasting much of his time and talents upon the
Apocryphal writings, as is unfortunately the case, the ex-Jesuit
left behind him no Mandchou version of Isaiah and the Psalms, the
lack of which will be sensibly felt whenever his work shall be put
in a printed state into the hands of those for whose benefit it is
intended, an event most devoutly to be wished for by all those who
would fain see Christ reign triumphant in that most extraordinary
country of which the Mandchou constitutes one of the principal
languages, being used in diplomacy and at court, and being
particularly remarkable for possessing within it translations of
all the masterpieces of Chinese, Tibetian, and Brahmanic literature
with which it has been enriched since the period of the accession
of the present Tartar dynasty to the Chinese throne, the proper
language of which dynasty it is well known to be.

To translate literally, or even closely, according to the common
acceptation of the term, into the Mandchou language is of all
impossibilities the greatest; partly from the grammatical structure
of the language, and partly from the abundance of its idioms. The
Mandchou is the only one of any of the civilised languages of the
world with which the writer of these lines has any acquaintance,
whose grammar stands far aloof from the rest in wonderful
singularity; the most remarkable feature of which is the want of
some of those conjunctions generally considered as indispensable,
and which are certainly of the first utility. The result of this
peculiarity is that such a combination of other parts of speech
must be employed as will express the idea without the aid of the
conjunction; but as these combinations are invariably and
necessarily lengthy, much more space is required in the translation
of a sentence into this language than the original occupies. I am
induced to make this remark, which I am afraid will be considered
an excursory one, from the apprehensiveness that some, observing
the translations of the Scriptures into this language to be bulkier
than the originals, might conclude that extraneous and unnecessary
matter had crept in, which a knowledge of the above fact will

The transcript of the Mandchou Old Testament having been brought to
a conclusion and permission having been obtained to print the New
at St. Petersburg - the accomplishment of which last point was, as
you are well aware, attended with much difficulty - I set myself
seriously to work upon the principal object of my mission. With
the recapitulation of my labours I wish not to trouble you, the
various particulars having been communicated to you in letters
written at various times upon the subject. I will content myself
with observing that within ten months from the commencement of
printing, the entire work, consisting of eight volumes, had with
the blessing of the Almighty passed through the press, and, I
believe, with as few typographical errors as would have been the
case had a much more considerable portion of time been devoted to
the enterprise, which, it is true, I was in haste to accomplish,
but in a manner not calculated to render the undertaking futile nor
cast discredit upon the Society and myself [being well aware that
an edition of the Scriptures exhibiting marks of carelessness must
at best be a futile work, and that the speed with which it was
executed could be no apology; as few will be tempted to deny that
no edition at all of the sacred volume in the languages of the
heathen is far preferable to one whose incorrectness would
infallibly and with some reason awaken ridicule, which, though one
of the most contemptible, is certainly one of the most efficacious
weapons in the armoury of the Prince of Darkness and the Enemy of
Light, as it is well known that his soldiers here on earth
accomplish by its means what they would never be able to effect by
the utmost force of eloquence and carnal reasoning, in the use and
management of which they are, however, by no means unskilled, as
many a follower of Jesus from his own individual experience can

After the termination of my editorial task, having little to employ
myself upon whilst the two last volumes were undergoing the process
of binding, I determined upon a journey to Moscow, the ancient
capital of the Russian Empire, which differs widely from St.
Petersburg in appearance, structure, and in the manners, habits,
and opinions of its inhabitants. I arrived there after a journey
of four days. Moscow is by far the most remarkable city it has
ever been my fortune to see; but as it has been frequently
described, and with tolerable correctness, there is no necessity
for me to enter into a particular account of all that presented
itself to my observation. I ascended the celebrated tower of Ivan
Velike, situated within the walls of the Kremlin, from the top of
which there is a glorious view of Moscow and of the surrounding
country, and at the foot of which, in a deep hole in the earth, is
the gigantic bell which weighs 27,000 POODS, or eight hundred and
seventy thousand pounds. I likewise visited the splendid church of
the Kremlin, and had much conversation with the priest who is in
the habit of showing its curiosities to strangers. He is a most
intelligent and seemingly truly pious person, and well acquainted
with English spiritual literature, especially with the writings of
Bishops Taylor and Tillotson, whom he professed to hold in great
admiration; though he asserted that both these divines, great men
as they undoubtedly were, were far inferior writers to his own
celebrated countryman Archbishop Teekon, and their productions less
replete with spiritual manna - against which assertion I felt
little inclined to urge any objection, having myself perused the
works of the great Russian divine with much comfort and
satisfaction, and with which I can only regret [that] the devout
part of the British public are up to the present moment utterly

As one of the principal motives of my visit to Moscow was to hold
communication with a particular part of its population, which from
the accounts I had received of it had inspired me with the most
vivid interest, I did not fail shortly after my arrival to seek an
opportunity of accomplishing my work, and believe that what I have
now to communicate will be of some interest to the Christian and
the philosopher. I allude to the people called Zigani or Gypsies,
or, as they style themselves, Rommany, of which there are several
thousands in and about Moscow, and who obtain a livelihood by
various means. Those who have been accustomed to consider these
people as wandering barbarians, incapable of civilisation and
unable to appreciate the blessings of a quiet and settled life,
will be surprised at learning that many of those in Moscow inhabit
large and handsome houses, appear abroad in elegant equipages, and
if distinguishable from the genteel class of the Russians [are]
only so by superior personal advantages and mental accomplishments.
Of this singular phenomenon at Moscow the female Gypsies are the
principal cause, 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 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. The sums obtained by these
performers are very large, enabling them to live in luxury of every
description and to maintain their husbands in a princely way. Many
of them are married to Russian gentlemen; and every one who has
resided for any length of time in Russia cannot but be aware that
the lovely, talented, and domesticated wife of Count Alexander
Tolstoi is by birth a Gypsy, and was formerly one of the ornaments
of a Rommany choir at Moscow as she is now one of the principal
ornaments of the marriage state and of illustrious life. It is
not, however, to be supposed that all the female Gypsies in Moscow
are of this high, talented, and respectable order; amongst them
there are 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. The principal place of resort of
this class is Marina Rotche, lying about two VERSES from Moscow,
and thither I drove, attended by a VALET-DE-PLACE. Upon my
arriving there the Gypsies swarmed out from their tents and from
the little TRACTEER or tavern, and surrounded me. Standing on the
seat of the CALECHE, 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 Rommany, amongst
which, however, the most pronounced cry was: AH KAK MI TOUTE
KARMUMA - '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. Their countenances exactly
resembled those of their race in England and Spain, brown, and for
the most part beautiful, their eyes fiery and wildly intelligent,
their hair coal-black and somewhat coarse. I asked them numerous
questions, especially as to their religion and original country.
They said that they believed in 'Devil,' which, singularly enough,
in their language signifies God, and that they were afraid of the
evil spirit, or 'Bengel'; that their fathers came from Rommany
land, but where that land lay they knew not. They sang many songs
both in the Russian and Rommany languages; the former were modern
popular pieces which are in vogue on the stage, but the latter were
evidently very ancient, being composed in a metre or cadence to
which there is nothing analogous in Russian prosody, and exhibiting
an internal character which was anything but European or modern. I
visited this place several times during my sojourn at Moscow, and
spoke to them upon their sinful manner of living, upon the advent
and suffering of Christ Jesus, and expressed, upon my taking a
final leave of them, a hope that they would be in a short period
furnished with the word of eternal life in their own language,
which they seemed to value and esteem much higher than the Russian.
They invariably listened with much attention; and during the whole
time I was amongst them exhibited little in speech or conduct which
was objectionable.

I returned to Petersburg, and shortly afterwards, the business
which had brought me to Russia being successfully terminated, I
quitted that country, and am compelled to acknowledge, with regret.
I went thither 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. True it is that they have many
vices, and their minds are overshadowed by the gloomy clouds of
Grecian superstition, but the efforts of many excellent and pious
persons amongst the English at St. Petersburg are directed to
unveiling to them the cheering splendour of the lamp of the Gospel;
and it is the sincere prayer of the humble individual who now
addresses you that the difficulties which at present much obstruct
their efforts may be speedily removed, and that from the boundless
champains of Russia may soon resound the Jubilee hymn of millions,
who having long groped their way in the darkness of the shadow of
death, are at once blessed with light, and with joyful hearts
acknowledge the immensity of the blessing.


LETTER: 26th October, 1835

To the Rev. J. Jowett
(ENDORSED: recd. Oct. 27, 1835)

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, - Pray excuse the liberty I take in troubling
you with these lines, which I write for the purpose of informing
you that I am perfectly ready to undertake anything which yourself
or Mr. Brandram may deem expedient. I should be most happy to
explore -Portugal and Spain, and to report upon the possibility of
introducing the Gospel into those countries, provided that plan has
not been given up; or to commence the Armenian Testament forthwith,
if the types are ready. If you would so far condescend as to
return an answer as soon as it suits your convenience, you would
confer no slight obligation upon me, for I am weary of doing
nothing, and am sighing for employment.

I have the honour to remain, Revd. and Dear Sir, your most obliged
and most obedient servant,


LETTER: 27th October, 1835

To the Rev. A. Brandram
(ENDORSED: recd. Oct. 28,1835)
27 OCTR., 1835.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, - I have received your letter of the 26th, as I
suppose Mr. Jowett has received mine of the same date which I
needlessly sent. 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. Many
thanks to you for enclosing the letter from St. Petersburg: it was
written in Danish, and came from a very dear and excellent friend
who rendered me in Russia services of no common nature.

I have the honour to be, Revd. and Dear Sir, your most obedient


P.S. - 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.

LETTER: 30th November, 1835

To the Rev. J. Jowett
(ENDORSED: recd. Dec. 8, 1835)
LISBON, 30 NOV. 1835.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, - I arrived safe at Lisbon on the twelfth of
the present month after a passage which, considering the season in
which it was made, may be termed a fair one. On the morning of the
tenth we found ourselves about two leagues from the coast of
Galicia, whose lofty mountains gilded by the rising sun presented a
magnificent appearance. We soon passed Cape Finisterre, and
standing farther out to sea speedily lost sight of land. On the
morning of the eleventh the sea was very rough, and a most
remarkable circumstance occurred. I was on the forecastle,
discoursing with two of the sailors, [and] one of them who had just
left his hammock told me that he had had a most disagreeable dream,
for, said he, pointing up to the mast, 'I dreamt that I fell into
the sea from off the cross-trees.' He was heard to say this by
several of the crew besides myself. A moment after, the captain of
the vessel, perceiving that the squall was increasing, ordered the
topsails to be taken in, whereupon this man with several others
instantly ran up aloft. The yard was presently loosened, and in
the act of being hauled down, when a violent gust of wind whirled
it round with violence, and a man was struck down from the cross-
trees into the sea, which was raging and tumbling below. In a few
moments he emerged, and I saw his head distinctly on the crest of a
wave, and I recognised in the unfortunate man the sailor who
shortly before had been relating his dream. I shall never forget
the look of agony he cast us whilst the ship hurried past him. The
alarm was given, and in a moment everything was in confusion. It
was at least two minutes before the vessel was stopped, and the man
was left a considerable way behind, but I still kept my eye upon
him, and could perceive that he was struggling gallantly with the
waves. A boat was at length lowered, but the rudder unfortunately
was not at hand, and only two oars could be procured, with which
the men who manned her could make but little progress in the
tremendous sea; however, they did their best, and had arrived
within ten yards of the man who had continued struggling for his
life, when I lost sight of him, and the men on their return said
that they saw him below the waters at glimpses, sinking deeper and
deeper, his arms stretched out and his body to all appearance
stiff, but they found it impossible to save him. Presently
afterwards the sea, as if satisfied with the prey it had received,
became comparatively calm, and the squall subsided. The poor
fellow who was drowned in this singular manner was a fine young
man, twenty-seven years of age, the only son of a widowed mother.
He was the best sailor on board, and beloved by every one who was
acquainted with him. The event occurred on the 11th of November
1835, the vessel was the 'London Merchant' Steamship, commanded by
Captain Whittingham. Wonderful indeed are the ways of Providence.

I experienced some difficulty in landing at Lisbon, the custom-
house officers being exceedingly dilatory in examining the baggage.
I had yet more difficulty in obtaining a lodging, but at last found
one, dark, dirty, and exceedingly expensive, without attendance. I
shall not trouble you with a description of Lisbon, for as I have
much that is important to communicate I must not waste paper with
uninteresting details. I will merely observe that it is a noble
town, situated on seven hills on the left bank of the Tagus, the
houses are very lofty, like castles, the streets are in general
precipitously steep, and no animals of burden but mules, asses, and
oxen can traverse them with safety. I found the streets by no
means so dirty as they have been represented, and at night they are
tolerably well lighted, but between the hours of nine and twelve
they swarm with robbers and assassins.

I should have written to you before, but I wished to transmit in my
first letter a stock of information which would enable you at once
to form some idea as to the state of this country; and in order to
acquire such I have visited every part of Lisbon, entered into
discourse with the people on all occasions, and have made a journey
of nearly one hundred miles about the country, during which I
visited Cintra and Mafra, at the former of which places I remained
four days, making excursions in the meanwhile on foot or on a mule
amongst the mountains, and visiting whatever villages are contained
within its beautiful and picturesque neighbourhood.

In Lisbon carelessness for religion of any kind seems to prevail.
The people appear in general to have shaken off the old
superstition and to feel no inclination to bend their necks to
another yoke. Many of them have told me that the priests are the
veriest knaves in the world, and that they have for many years
subsisted by imposing upon them, and that they wished the whole
body was destroyed from the face of the earth. I have enquired of
many of the lower orders whether they ever confessed themselves,
whereupon they laughed in my face and said that they had not done
so for years, demanding what good would result to them for so
doing, and whether I was fool enough to suppose that a priest could
forgive sins for a sum of money. One day whilst speaking to a
muleteer I pointed to a cross over the gate of a chapel opposite to
us, and asked him if he reverenced it; he 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: 'I believe that there is
a God,' he added, 'but as for the nonsense which the priests tell
us I believe no part of it.' It has not yet been my fortune during
my researches in Lisbon to meet one individual of the populace
amongst the many I have addressed who had read the Scripture or
knew anything of its contents; though many of them have assured me
that they could read, which in many instances I have found to be
the fact, having repeatedly taken from my pocket the New Testament
in Portuguese which I constantly carry with me, and requested them
to read a few verses, which they were able to do. Some of these
individuals had read much in their own language, which indeed
contains a store of amusing and instructive literature - for
example, the chronicles of the various kings of Portugal and of the
heroes who distinguished themselves in the various wars of India,
after Vasco da Gama had opened the way into the vast regions of the
East by doubling the Cape.

Amongst the many public places which I have visited at Lisbon is
the Convent of San Geronymo, the church of which is the most
beautiful specimen of Gothic architecture in the Peninsula, and is
furnished with the richest shrines. Since the expulsion of the
monks from the various religious houses in Portugal, this edifice
has served as an asylum for orphans, and at present enjoys the
particular patronage of the young [Queen]. In this establishment
upwards of five hundred children, some of them female, are educated
upon the Lancastrian system, and when they have obtained a
sufficient age are put out to the various trades and professions
for which they are deemed most suited, the tallest and finest of
the lads being drafted into the army. One of the boys of his own
accord became my guide and introduced me to the various classes,
where I found the children clean and neat and actively employed
upon their tasks. I asked him if the Holy Scripture (SANTA
ESCRITURA) was placed in the hands of the scholars. He answered in
the affirmative; but I much doubt the correctness of his answer,
for upon my requesting him to show me a copy of the Holy Scripture,
he did not appear to know what I meant by it. When he said that
the scholars read the Holy Scripture he probably meant the vile
papistical book called 'Christian Doctrine,' in which the office of
the mass is expounded, which indeed I saw in the hands of the
junior boys, and which, from what I have since seen, I believe to
be a standard school-book in Portugal. I spent nearly two hours in
examining the various parts of this institution, and it is my
intention to revisit it in a short time, when I hope to obtain far
better information as to the moral and religious education of its

On my arrival at Lisbon I was disappointed in my expectation of
finding Mr. Wilby, who was in the country and was not expected for
a week. I therefore had at first no person to whom I could apply
for counsel as to the best means of proceeding; but unwilling to
remain idle till the period of his arrival, I at once commenced
operations at Lisbon as I have narrated. At the end of four or
five days I started for Cintra, distant about four leagues from
Lisbon, situate on a ledge of the northern declivity of a wild and
picturesque mountain. Cintra contains about eight hundred
inhabitants, and in its environs are many magnificent QUINTAS or
country seats of some of the first families in Portugal; it is
likewise a royal residence, for at its north-eastern side stands an
ancient palace, which though unfurnished is preserved in [good
repair], and which was the favourite residence of the ancient
kings. On one of the ridges of [this] mountain are seen the ruins
of an immense castle, which for centuries was the stronghold of the
Moors in this part of the Peninsula. The morning after my arrival
I was about to ascend the mountain to examine it, when I observed a
person, advanced in years, whom, by his dress, I judged to be an
ecclesiastic; upon enquiry I found in effect that he was one of the
three priests of the place. I instantly accosted him, and had no
reason to repent for so doing, for I found him affable and
communicative. After praising the beauty of the scenery, I made
some enquiry as to the state of education amongst the people
beneath his care. He told me that he was sorry to [say that] they
were in a state of great ignorance, that very few of them could
either write or [read], that there was no school in the place but
one at which a few children were taught the alphabet, but which was
not then open, that there was a school at Colhares, about a league
[distant]. He said that nothing so surprised him as to see
English, the most learned and intelligent people in the world,
visiting a place like Cintra, where there was no literature and
ALGUMA COUSA QUE PRESTA). You may easily guess that I was in no
slight degree surprised to hear a priest of Portugal lament the
ignorance of the populace, and began to entertain hopes that I
should not find the priests in general so indisposed to the mental
improvement of the people as I at first imagined.

That same day I visited Colhares, a romantic village lower down the
mountain to the west, near the sea. Seeing some peasants collected
round the smithy I enquired about the school, and one instantly
offered to be my guide thither. I went upstairs into a small
apartment where I found the master with about a dozen pupils
standing in a row, for there was but one chair, or rather stool, to
which, after having embraced me, he conducted me with great
civility. After some discourse he shewed me the books which he
used for the instruction of his pupils; they were spelling-books
like those used in our village schools and the before-mentioned
'Christian Doctrine.' Upon my enquiring whether it was his custom
to use the Scripture in his school, he told me that long before the
children had acquired sufficient intelligence to understand the
Scriptures their parents took them from school in order that they
might assist them in the labours of the field, and that in general
they were by no means solicitous that their children should learn
anything, as they considered the time occupied in acquiring
learning as squandered away. He added that all the village schools
in Portugal were supported by the Government, but that many of them
had lately been discontinued, as the schoolmasters experienced the
greatest difficulty in obtaining their salaries; but that he had
heard that it was the intention of the Government to establish
schools in all parts of the country on the Lancastrian system -
which since my return to Lisbon I have discovered to be a fact. He
told me that he had a copy of the New Testament in his possession,
which I desired to see; but on examining it I discovered that it
was only the Epistles (from Pereira's version) with long Popish
notes. I asked him whether he considered that there was any harm
in reading the Scripture without notes; he said that there was
certainly no harm in it, but that simple people without the
assistance of notes could derive but little benefit therefrom, as
the greatest part that they read would be unintelligible to them.
Whereupon I shook hands with him, and on departing said that there
was no part of Scripture so difficult to understand as those very
notes which were intended to elucidate it, and that the Almighty
would never have inspired His saints with a desire to write what
was unintelligible to the great mass of mankind.

For some days after this I 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. (I have now communicated about half of what I
have to say; the remainder next week. G. BORROW.)

LETTER: 15th December, 1835

To the Rev. A. Brandram
(ENDORSED: recd. Jan. 10, 1836)

AT length I departed for Mafra; the principal part of the way lay
over steep and savage hills, very dangerous for horses, and I had
reason to repent, before I got back to Cintra, that I had not
mounted one of the sure-footed mules of the country. I reached
Mafra in safety; it is a large village, which has by degrees sprung
up in the vicinity of an immense building, originally intended to
serve as a convent and palace, and which next to the Escurial is
the most magnificent edifice in the Peninsula. In this building is
to be seen the finest library in Portugal, comprising books in all
sciences and languages, and which, if not suited to the place in
which the building stands, which is almost a desert, is yet well
suited to the size and grandeur of the building which contains it.
But here are now no monks to take care of it; they have been driven
forth, some of them to beg their bread, some of them to serve under
the banners of Don Carlos in Spain, and many, as I have been
informed, to prowl about as banditti. The place is now abandoned
to two or three menials, and exhibits an aspect of solitude and
desolation which is truly appalling. Whilst I was viewing the
cloisters an exceedingly fine and intelligent-looking lad came up
to me, and asked (I suppose in the hope of obtaining a trifle) if I
would permit him to show me the village church, which he told me
was well worth seeing. I said 'No,' but that if he would show me
the village school, I should be much obliged to him. He looked at
me with astonishment, and assured me that there was nothing to be
seen in the school, at which not more than half a dozen boys were
instructed, and that he himself was one of the number; but I told
him that he should show me no other place, and he at last
unwillingly attended me. On the way he said that the schoolmaster
was one of the brothers of the convent who had lately been
expelled, and that he was a very learned man and spoke French and
Greek. We went past a stone cross, and the boy bent and crossed
himself with much devotion: I mention this circumstance, as it was
the first instance of devotion which I had observed amongst the
Portuguese since my arrival. When near the house where the
schoolmaster resided, he pointed it out to me and then hid himself
behind a wall, where he waited till I returned.

On stepping over the threshold I was confronted by a short stout
man, between sixty and seventy years of age, dressed in a blue
jerkin and grey trousers, without shirt or waistcoat. He looked at
me sternly, and enquired in the French language what was my
pleasure. I apologised for intruding upon him, and stated that,
being informed that he occupied the situation of schoolmaster to
the place, I had come to pay my respects to him, and to beg to be
informed respecting the manner of instruction which he adopted. He
said that whosoever told me that he was a schoolmaster lied, for
that he was a brother of the convent. I replied that I had heard
that all the friaries had been broken up and the brothers
dismissed; whereupon he sighed, and said it was too true. He was
then silent for a minute, and his better nature overcoming his
angry feelings he produced a snuff-box and offered it to me. The
snuff-box is the olive-branch of the Portuguese, and he who wishes
to be on good terms with them, or to conciliate them, must never
refuse to put his finger and thumb into it when preferred; I took
therefore a large pinch, though I detest the dust, and we were soon
friendly enough. He was eager to obtain news, especially from
Lisbon and Spain. I told him that the officers of the regiments at
Lisbon had the day before I left that place gone in a body to the
Queen, and insisted upon her either receiving their swords or
dismissing her Ministers; whereupon he rubbed his hands and said,
'I am sure that things will not remain tranquil at Lisbon.' Upon
my saying that the affairs of Don Carlos were on the decline, he
frowned, and said that it could not possibly be, for that God was
too just to suffer it. I felt for the poor man, who had been
driven from his home in the noble convent close by, and from a
state of comfort and affluence reduced in his old age to indigence
and misery, for his dwelling seemed to contain scarcely an article
of furniture. I tried twice or thrice to induce him to converse on
the school, but he always avoided the subject or said shortly that
he knew nothing about it; the idea of being a schoolmaster was
evidently humiliating to him.

On my leaving him, the boy came from his hiding-place and rejoined
me; he said his reason for hiding himself was fear that his master
might know that it was he who brought me to him, for that the old
man was ashamed of appearing in the character of a schoolmaster. I
asked the boy whether he or his parents were acquainted with the
Scripture and ever read it; but he did not understand me. I must
here observe that the boy was fifteen years of age, and that he was
in many respects very intelligent and had some knowledge of the
Latin language; nevertheless he knew not the Scripture even by
name, and I have no doubt that at least one half of his countrymen
are, in that respect, no wiser than himself. I have questioned the
children of Portugal at the doors of village inns, at the hearths
of their cottages, in the fields where they labour, at the stone
Mountains by the way-sides where they water their cattle, about the
Scripture, the Bible, the Old and New Testament, and in scarcely
one instance have they known what I was alluding to or could return
me a rational answer, though in all other instances I had no reason
to complain of their want of apprehension. Indeed nothing has
surprised me more than the free and unembarrassed manner with which
the Portuguese peasantry sustain a conversation, and the purity of
the language in which they express their thoughts; and yet very few
of them can write or read, whereas the peasantry of our own
country, whose education is in general much superior, are in their
conversation coarse and dull almost to brutality, and absurdly
ungrammatical in the language which they use, though the English
tongue, upon the whole, is more simple in its grammar than the

On my way back from Mafra to Cintra I very nearly lost my life. As
the night was closing in fast, we left the regular road by the
advice of the guide, and descending the hill on which Mafra stands
reached the bottom of the valley, from which there is a narrow
pathway winding round the next hill, exceedingly steep, with a
precipice on the left side; the horse on which I was mounted, and
which was by no means suited for such climbing, in his violent
struggles to accomplish the ascent burst the girth of the saddle,
so that I was cast violently off, with the saddle beneath me.
Fortunately, I fell on the right side, or I should have rolled down
the hill and probably have been killed; as it was, I remained
stunned and senseless for two or three minutes, when I revived, and
with the assistance of the guide and the man who waits on me,
walked up the remaining part of the hill, when, the saddle being
readjusted, I mounted again. I was very drowsy and stupid for two
or three days, from the influence of the fall, but I am happy to
say at present, thanks to the Almighty, I have long ceased to feel
any inconvenience from it.

On my return to Lisbon I saw Mr. Wilby, who received me with great
kindness; the next ten days were exceedingly rainy and prevented me
from making any excursions into the country, and during this time I
saw him frequently and had a good deal of conversation with him,
concerning the best means of causing God's glorious Gospel to be
read in Portugal. He informed me that four hundred copies of the
Bible and New Testament were arrived, and he thought that we could
do no better than put them into the hands of the booksellers; but I
strongly advised that at least half of them should be entrusted to
colporteurs, to hawk about, upon receiving a certain profit on
every copy they sold. He thought the idea a good one, as far as
regards Lisbon, but said that no colporteur would venture to carry
them about the country, as the fanatical priests would probably
cause him to be assassinated. He was kind enough to promise to
look out for people suited to make the essay in the streets of
Lisbon; and as the lower orders are very poor I wrote to Mr.
Whiteley at Oporto, requesting to be informed whether he had any
objection to our selling the books to the populace at Lisbon at a
lower price than a CRUZADO NOVO, which he had determined to sell
them at. I thought it but right to consult him on the subject, as
the Society are under great obligations to him; and I was unwilling
to do anything at which he could possibly take umbrage. During one
of my conversations with Mr. Wilby I enquired which was the
province of Portugal, the population of which he considered to be
the most ignorant and benighted: he replied, 'The Alemtejo.' The
Alemtejo means 'the other side of the Tagus.' This province is not
beautiful and picturesque like the other portions of Portugal, it
has few hills or mountains; the greatest part of it consists of
heaths, broken by knolls and gloomy dingles, swamps, and forests of
stunted pine. These places are infested with banditti, and not a
week passes by without horrible murders and desperate robberies
occurring. The principal town is Evora, one of the most ancient
cities in Portugal, and formerly the seat of an Inquisition far
more cruel and baneful than the terrible one of Lisbon. Evora lies
about sixty miles from the farther bank of the Tagus, which is at
Lisbon three leagues broad; and to Evora I determined on going with
a small cargo of Testaments and Bibles. My reasons I need not
state, as they must be manifest to every Christian; but I cannot
help thinking that it was the Lord who inspired me with the idea of
going thither, as by so doing I have introduced the Scriptures into
the worst part of the Peninsula, and have acquired lights and
formed connections (some of the latter most singular ones, I admit)
which if turned to proper account will wonderfully assist us in our
object of making the heathen of Portugal and Spain acquainted with
God's holy word. My journey to Evora and my success there shall be
detailed in my next letter.


LETTER: 8th January, 1836

To the Rev. A. Brandram
(ENDORSED: recd. Feb. 15, 1836)
Badajoz, JANRY. 8, 1836.



ON the afternoon of the sixth of December I set out for this place,
accompanied by my servant Anthonio. I had been informed that the
tide would serve for the FELOUKS, or passage-boats, employed in
crossing the Tagus, at about four o'clock, but on reaching the
river's side opposite Aldea Gallega, between which place and Lisbon
they ply, I found that the tide would not permit them to start
before eight o'clock. Had I waited for them I should probably have
landed at Aldea Gallega at midnight, and I felt little inclination
to make my ENTREE in the Alemtejo at that hour; therefore as I saw
small boats which can push off at any time lying near in abundance,
I determined upon hiring one of them for the passage, though the
expense would be thus considerably increased. I soon agreed with a
wild-looking lad to take us over, who told me that he was in part
owner of one of the boats. I was not aware of the danger in
crossing the Tagus at any time in these small boats at its broadest
part, which is between Lisbon and Aldea Gallega, but especially at
close of day in the winter season, or I should certainly not have
ventured. The lad and his comrade, a miserable object, whose only
clothing, notwithstanding the severity of the weather, was a
battered jerkin and trousers, rowed until we had advanced about
half a mile from the land; they then hoisted a large sail, and the
lad, who seemed to be the principal and to direct everything, took
the helm and steered. The evening was now setting in; the sun was
not far from its bourne in the horizon, the air was very cold, the
wind was rising, and the waves of the noble Tagus began to be
crested with foam. I told the boy that it was scarcely possible
for the boat to carry so much sail without upsetting; upon which he
laughed, and began to gabble in a most incoherent manner. He had
the most harsh and rapid articulation that has ever come under my
observation; it was the scream of the hyena blended with the bark
of the terrier; but it was by no means an index of his disposition,
which I soon found to be light, merry, and anything but malevolent;
for when I, in order to show him that I cared little about him,
began to hum: 'EU QUE SOU CONTRABANDISTA' ('I, who am a
smuggler'), he laughed heartily, and clapping me on the shoulder
said that he would not drown us if he could help it. The other
poor fellow seemed by no means averse to go to the bottom; he sat
at the forepart of the boat looking the image of famine, and only
smiled when the waters broke over the side and drenched his scanty
clothing. In a little time I had made up my mind that our last
hour was come; the wind was becoming higher, the short dangerous
waves were more foamy, the boat was frequently on its beam-ends,
and the water came over the lee side in torrents; but still the
wild lad at the helm held on, laughing and chattering, and
occasionally yelling out parts of the Miguelite air 'QUANDO EL REY
CHEGOU' ['When the King arrived'], the singing of which in Lisbon
is punished with imprisonment. The stream was against us, but the
wind was in our favour, and we sprang along at a wonderful rate. I
saw that our only chance of escape was in speedily getting under
the shelter of that part of the farther bank of the Tagus, where
the bight or bay commences at the extremity of which stands Aldea
Gallega, as we should not then have to battle with the waves of the
adverse stream, which the wind lashed into fury. It was the will
of the Almighty to permit us speedily to gain this shelter, but not
before the boat was nearly filled with water, and we were all wet
to the skin. At about seven o'clock in the evening we reached
Aldea Gallega, shivering with cold and in a most deplorable plight.

Aldea Gallega, or the Galician Village, for the two words have that
signification, is a place containing, I should think, about four
thousand inhabitants. It was pitchy dark when we landed, but
rockets soon began to fly about in all directions, illumining the
air far and wide. As we passed along the dirty unpaved street
which leads to the LARGO or square in which the town is situated, a
horrible uproar of drums and voices assailed our ears. On
enquiring the cause of all this bustle, I was informed that it was
the Eve of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin. As it was not the
custom of the people of the inn to provide provisions for the
guests, I wandered about in search of food, and at last seeing some
soldiers eating and drinking in a sort of wine-house, I went in and
asked the people to let me have some supper. In a short time they
furnished me with a tolerable meal, for which, however, they
charged two crowns.

Having engaged with a person for mules to carry us to Evora, which
were to be ready at five next morning, I soon retired to bed, my
servant sleeping in the same apartment, which was the only one in
the house vacant. I closed not an eye during the whole night;
beneath us was a stable in which some ALMOCREVES, or carriers,
slept with their mules, and at our back in the yard was a hog-stye.
How could I sleep? The hogs grunted; the mules screamed; and the
ALMOCREVES snored most horribly. I heard the village clock strike
the hours until midnight, and from midnight till four in the
morning, when I sprang up and began to dress, and despatched my
servant to hasten the man with his mules, for I was heartily tired
of the place, and wished to leave it.

An old man, but remarkably bony and hale, accompanied by a bare-
footed lad, brought the beasts. He was the proprietor of them, and
intended to accompany us to Evora with the lad, who was his nephew.
When we started the moon was shining brightly, and the morning was
piercingly cold. We soon entered a sandy, hollow way, emerging
from which we passed by a large edifice, standing on a high, bleak
sand-hill, on our left. We were speedily overtaken by five or six
men on horseback, riding at a rapid pace, each with a long gun
slung at his saddle, the muzzle depending about two feet below the
horses belly. I questioned the old man as to the cause of their
going thus armed; he answered that the roads were very bad (meaning
that they abounded with robbers), and that these people carried
arms for their defence. They soon turned off to the right towards

We reached a sandy plain studded with stunted pine; the road was
little more than a footpath, and as we proceeded the trees
thickened and became a wood, which extended for two leagues with
clear spaces at intervals, in which herds of cattle and sheep were
feeding. The sun was just beginning to show itself, but the
morning was misty and dreary, which together with the aspect of
desolation which the country exhibited had an unfavourable effect
on my spirits. I got down and walked, entering into conversation
with the man. He seemed to have but one theme of conversation,
'the robbers' and the atrocities they were in the habit of
practising in the very spots we were passing. The tales he related
were truly horrible, and to avoid them I mounted again and rode on
considerably in front.

In about an hour and a half we emerged from the forest and entered
upon wild broken ground covered with MATO or brushwood. The mules
stopped to drink at a shallow pool, and on looking to the right I
saw a ruined wall. This, the guide informed me, was the remains of
the Vendal Velhas, or the old inn, formerly the haunt of the
celebrated robber Sabocha. This Sabocha, it seems, had, about
sixteen years since, a band of forty ruffians at his command, who
infested these wilds, and supported themselves by plunder. For a
considerable time Sabocha pursued his atrocious trade unsuspected,
and many an unfortunate traveller was murdered, in the dead of
night, at the solitary inn by the wood's side, which he kept;
indeed a more fit situation for plunder and murder I never saw.
The gang were in the habit of watering their horses at the pool,
and perhaps of washing therein their hands stained with the blood
of their victims. The brother of Sabocha was the lieutenant of the
troop, a fellow of great strength and ferocity, particularly famous
for the skill he possessed in darting a long knife and transfixing
his opponents. Sabocha's connection with the gang at last became
known, and he fled with the greatest part of his associates across
the Tagus, to the northern provinces. He and his brother
eventually lost their lives on the road to Coimbra, in an
engagement with the military. His house was razed by order of the

The ruins of this house are still frequently visited by banditti,
who eat and drink amongst the stones and look out for prey, as the
place commands a view of the road. The old man assured me that
about two months previous, on returning from Aldea Gallega with his
mules from accompanying some travellers, he had been knocked down,
stript naked, and had all his money taken from him, by a fellow
who, he believed, came from this murderers' nest. He said that he
was an exceedingly powerful young man with immense moustaches and
whiskers, and was armed with an ESPINGARDA or musket. About ten
days subsequently he saw the robber at Vendas Novas, where we were
to pass the night. The fellow on recognising him took him aside
and threatened, with horrid imprecations, that he should never be
permitted to return home if he attempted to discover him; he
therefore held his peace, as he said there was little to be gained
and everything to be lost by apprehending him, as he would have
been speedily set at liberty for want of evidence to criminate him,
and then he would not have failed to have his revenge, or would
have been anticipated therein by his comrades.

I dismounted and went up to the place, and saw the vestiges of a
fire and a broken bottle. The sons of plunder had been there very
lately. I left a New Testament and some tracts amongst the ruins,
and hastened away.

The sun had dispelled the mists and was beaming very hot; we rode
on for about an hour, when I heard the neighing of a horse in our
rear, and our guide said that there was a party of horsemen behind.
Our mules were good, and they did not overtake us for at least
twenty minutes. The foremost rider was a gentleman in a
fashionable travelling dress; a little way behind were an officer,
two soldiers, and a servant in livery. I heard the principal
horseman, on overtaking Anthonio, enquiring who I was, and whether
I was French or English. He was told I was an English gentleman,
travelling. He then asked whether I understood Portuguese; the man
said I understood it, but that he believed I spoke French and
Italian better. The gentleman then spurred on his horse and
accosted me, not in Portuguese, or in French, or Italian, but in
the purest English that I have ever heard spoken by a foreigner.
It had indeed nothing of foreign accent or pronunciation in it, and
had I not known by the countenance of the speaker that he was no
Englishman (for there is a peculiarity in the English countenance
which, though it cannot be described, is sure to betray the
Englishman), I should have concluded that I was conversing with a
countryman. He continued in company and discourse until we arrived
at Pegoens.

Pegoens consists of about two or three houses and an inn; there is
likewise a species of barrack, where half a dozen soldiers are
stationed. In the whole of Portugal there is no place of worse
reputation, and the inn is nicknamed ESTALAGEM DE LADROENS, or the
hostelry of thieves; for it is there that the banditti of the
wilderness, which extends around it on every side for leagues, are
in the habit of coming and spending the fruits of their criminal
daring; there they dance and sing, feast on fricasseed rabbits and
olives, and drink the muddy but strong wine of the Alemtejo. An
enormous fire, fed by the trunk of a cork-tree, was blazing in a
niche on the left hand on entering the spacious kitchen; by it,
seething, were several large jars, which emitted no disagreeable
odour, and reminded me that I had not yet broken my fast, although
it was now nearly one o'clock and I had ridden five leagues. Some
wild-looking men, who, if they were not banditti, might easily be
mistaken for such, were seated on logs about the fire; I asked them
some unimportant question, to which they replied with readiness and
civility, and one of them, who said he could read, accepted a tract
which I offered him.

My new friend, who had been bespeaking dinner, or rather breakfast,
now with great civility invited me to partake of it, and at the
same time introduced me to the officer who accompanied him, and who
was his brother, and also spoke English, though not so well as
himself. I found I had become acquainted with Don Geronimo Joze
d'Azveto, Secretary to the Government at Evora. His brother
belonged to a regiment of hussars, whose headquarters were at
Evora, but which had outlying parties along the road; for example,
at the place where we were stopping. Rabbits at Pegoens seem to be
a standard article of food, being produced in abundance on the
moors around. We had one fricasseed, the gravy of which was
delicious; and afterwards a roasted one, which was brought up on a
dish entire. The hostess having first washed her hands proceeded
to tear the animal to pieces, which having accomplished she poured
over the fragments a sweet sauce. I ate remarkably heartily of
both dishes, particularly of the last, owing perhaps to the novel
and curious manner in which it was served up. Excellent figs from
the Algarves and apples completed our repast, which we ate in a
little side room with a mud-floor, which sent such a piercing chill
into my system as prevented me from deriving that pleasure from my
good fare and agreeable companions which I might otherwise have
experienced. Don Joze d'Azveto had been educated in England, in
which country he passed his boyhood, which to a certain degree
accounted for his proficiency in the English language, the idioms
and pronunciation of which can only be acquired by a residence in
the country at that period of one's life. He had also fled thither
shortly after the usurpation of the throne of Portugal by Don
Miguel, and from thence had passed over to the Brazils, where he
had devoted himself to the service of Don Pedro, and had followed
him in that expedition which terminated in the downfall of the
Usurper and the establishment of the constitutional government in
Portugal. Our conversation rolled chiefly on literary and
political subjects, and my acquaintance with the writings of the
most celebrated authors of Portugal was hailed with surprise and
delight; for nothing is more gratifying to a well-educated
Portuguese than to observe a foreigner taking an interest in the
literature of his nation, of which he is so justly proud.

About two o'clock we were once more in the saddle, and pursued our
way through a country exactly resembling that which we had
previously been traversing, rugged and broken, with here and there
a clump of pines. The afternoon was exceedingly fine, and the
bright rays of the sun relieved the desolation of the scene.
Having advanced about two leagues, I caught sight of a large
edifice in the distance, which I learnt was a royal palace,
standing at the farther extremity of Vendas Novas, the village
where we were to halt. It was considerably more than a league from
us, yet, seen through the clear transparent atmosphere of Portugal,
it appeared much nearer. Before reaching it, we passed by a stone
cross, on the pedestal of which was an inscription commemorating a
horrible murder of a native of Lisbon, which had been perpetrated
on that spot. It looked ancient, and was covered with moss, and
the greatest part of the inscription was illegible, at least it was
to me, who could not bestow much time on the deciphering of it.

Having arrived at Vendas Novas and bespoke supper, my new friends
and myself strolled forth to view the palace. It was built by the
late King of Portugal, and presents little that is remarkable in
its exterior. It is a long edifice with wings, and is only two
stories high, though it can be seen afar, owing to its being
situated on elevated ground. It has fifteen windows in the upper
and twelve in the lower story, with a paltry-looking door something
like that of a barn, the ascent to which is by a single step. The
interior corresponds with the exterior, offering nothing which can
gratify curiosity, if we except the kitchens, which are indeed
magnificent, and so large that food enough might be prepared in
them to serve as a repast to all the inhabitants of the Alemtejo.
I passed the night with great comfort in a clean bed, remote from
all those noises in general so rife in a Portuguese inn, and the
next morning at six we again set out on our journey, which we hoped
to terminate before sunset, as Evora is but ten leagues from Vendas
Novas. The preceding morning had been cold, but the present one
was far more, so much so that just before sunrise I could no longer
support it whilst riding, and therefore dismounting ran and walked
until we reached a few houses, at the termination of these desolate
moors. It was in one of these houses that the commissioners of Don
Pedro and Miguel met, and it was there agreed that the latter
should resign the crown in favour of Donna Maria; for Evora was the
last stronghold of the Usurper, and the moors of the Alemtejo the
last area of the combats which so long agitated unhappy Portugal.
I therefore gazed on the miserable huts with considerable interest,
and did not fail to scatter in the neighbourhood several of the
precious little tracts with which, together with a small quantity
of Bibles, my carpet-bag was provided.

The country began to improve, the savage heaths were left behind,
and we saw hills and dales, cork-trees and AZINEIRIAS, on the last
of which trees grows that kind of sweet acorn called BOLOTA, which
is pleasant as a chestnut, and forms in winter the principal food
on which the numerous swine of the Alemtejo subsist. Gallant swine
they are, with short legs and portly bodies, of a black or dark-red
colour, and for the excellence of their flesh I can avouch, having
frequently partaken of it in the course of my wanderings in this
province. The LUMBO, or loin, when broiled on the live embers, is
delicious, especially when eaten with olives.

We were now in sight of Monte Moro, which as the name denotes was
once a fortress of the Moors; it is a high, steep hill, on the
summit and sides of which are ruined walls and towers. At its
western side is a deep ravine or valley, through which a small
stream rushes, traversed by a stone bridge; farther down there is a
ford, through which we passed and ascended to the town, which
commencing near the northern base, passes over the lower ridge
towards the north-east; the town is exceedingly picturesque, and
many of the houses are very ancient and built in the Moorish
fashion. I wished much to examine the relics of Moorish sway on
the upper part of the mountain, but time pressed, and the shortness
of our stay in this place did not permit me to gratify my

Monte Moro is the head of a range of hills crossing this part of
the Alemtejo, and from hence they fork towards the east and south-
east, in the former of which directions lies the direct road to
Elvas, Badajoz, and Madrid, and in the latter the road to Evora. A
beautiful mountain, covered to the top with cork trees, is the
third in the chain which skirts the way in the direction of Evora.
It is called Monte Almo; a brook brawls at its base, and as I
passed it the sun was shining gloriously on the green herbage, on
which flocks of goats were feeding with their bells ringing
merrily, so that the TOUT ENSEMBLE resembled a fairy scene; and
that nothing might be wanted to complete the picture, I here met a
man, a goat-herd, beneath an AZINEIRIA whose appearance recalled to
my mind the Brute-man mentioned in an ancient Danish poem:

'A wild swine on his shoulders he kept,
And upon his bosom a black bear slept,
And about his fingers with hair o'erhung
The squirrel sported and weasel clung.'

Upon the shoulders of the goat-herd was a beast, which he told me
was a LONTRA or otter, which he had lately caught in the
neighbouring brook, it had a string round its neck which was
attached to his arm; at his left side was a bag from the top of
which peeped the heads of two or three singular-looking animals;
and beside him was squatted the sullen cub of a wolf, which he was
endeavouring to tame. His whole appearance was to the last degree
savage and wild. After a little conversation, such as those who
meet on the road frequently hold, I asked him if he could read; but
he made no answer. I then enquired if he knew anything of God or
Jesus Christ; he looked me fixedly in the face for a moment, and
then turned his countenance towards the sun which was beginning to
sink, nodded to it, and then again looked fixedly upon me. I
believed I understood this mute reply, which probably was, that it
was God who made that glorious light which illumines and gladdens
all creation; and gratified with this belief I left him, and
hastened after my companions who were, by this time, a considerable
way in advance.

I have always found amongst the children of the fields a more
determined tendency to religion and piety than amongst the
inhabitants of towns and cities, and the reason is obvious; they
are less acquainted with the works of man's hands than with those
of God; their occupations are simple, and requiring less of
ingenuity and skill than those which engage the intention of the
other portion of their fellow-creatures, are less favourable to the
engendering of self-conceit and sufficiency, so utterly at variance
with that lowliness of spirit which constitutes the best test of
piety. The sneerers and scoffers at religion do not spring from
amongst the simple children of nature, but are the excrescences of
overwrought refinement, and though their baneful influence has
indeed penetrated to the country and corrupted many there, the
fountain-head was amongst crowded houses where nature is scarcely
known. I am not one of those who look for perfection amongst the
rural population of any country; perfection is not to be found
amongst the children of the fall, be their abode where it may; but
until the heart disbelieve the existence of a God, there is still
hope for the possessor, however stained with crime he may be, for
even Simon the Magician was converted. But when the heart is once
steeled with infidelity, infidelity confirmed by carnal reasoning,
an exuberance of the grace of God is required to melt it, which is
seldom or never manifested; for we read in the blessed book that
the Pharisee and the Wizard became receptacles of grace, but where
is mention made of the conversion of the sneering Sadducee? and is
the modern infidel aught but a Sadducee of later date?


LETTER: 10th January, 1836

To the Rev. Andrew Brandram
(ENDORSED: recd. Feb. 29th, 1836)


THE night had closed in before we reached Evora, and having taken
leave of my friends, who kindly requested me to consider their
house my home, myself and my little party proceeded to the Largo de
San Francisco, where was a hostelry, which the muleteer informed me
was the best in the town. We rode into the kitchen, at the extreme
end of which was the stable, as is customary in Portugal. The
house was kept by an aged gypsy-like female and her daughter, a
fine blooming girl about eighteen years of age. The house was
large; in the upper story was a very long room, like a granary,
extending nearly the whole length of the house; the further end was
partitioned off, and formed a tolerably comfortable chamber, but
rather cold, the floor being of tiles, as was that of the large
room in which the muleteers were accustomed to sleep on the
furniture of their mules. Having supped I went to bed, and after
having offered up my devotions to Him who had protected me through
a dangerous journey, I slept soundly till the morning.

Evora is a walled town, but not regularly fortified, and could not
sustain a siege of a day. It has five gates; before that to the
south-west is the principal promenade of the inhabitants; the fair
on St. John's Day is likewise held there. The houses are mostly
very ancient; many of them are unoccupied. It contains about five
thousand inhabitants, though twice that number would be by no means
disproportionate to its size. The two principal edifices are the
See or Bishop's Palace, and the Convent of San Francisco, opposite
to which I had taken up my abode. A large barrack for cavalry
stands on the right-hand side on entering the south-west gate. The
adjacent country is uninteresting; but to the south-east, at the
distance of six leagues, is to be seen a range of blue hills, the
highest of which is called Serra Dorso. It is picturesquely
beautiful, and contains within its recesses wolves and wild boars
in numbers. About a league and a half on the other side of this
hill is Estremoz.

I passed the day succeeding my arrival principally in examining the
town and its environs, and as I strolled about I entered into
conversation with various people that I met. Several of these were
of the middle classes, shopkeepers and professional men; they were
all Constitutionalists, or pretended to be so, but had very little
to say, except a few commonplace remarks on the way of living of
the friars, their hypocrisy and laziness. I endeavoured to obtain
some information respecting the state of instruction at Evora, and
from their replies was led to believe that it must be very low, for
it seemed that there was neither book-shop nor school in the place.
When I spoke of religion, they exhibited the utmost apathy, and
making their bows left me as soon as possible. Having a letter of
introduction to a person who kept a shop in the market-place, I
called upon him, found him behind his counter and delivered it to
him. I found that he had been persecuted much whilst the old
system was in its vigour, and that he entertained a hearty aversion
to it. I told him that the nurse of that system had been the
ignorance of the people in religious matters, and that the surest
means to prevent its return was to enlighten them in those points.
I added that I had brought with me to Evora a small stock of
Testaments and Bibles, which I wished to leave for sale in the
hands of some respectable merchant, and that if he were desirous to
lay the axe to the root of superstition and tyranny he could not do
so more effectually than by undertaking the charge of these books.
He declared his willingness to do so, and that same evening I sent
him ten Testaments and a Bible, being half my stock.

I returned to the hostelry, and sat down on a log of wood on the
hearth within the immense chimney in the common apartment. Two men
were on their knees on the stones; before them was a large heap of
pieces of iron, brass, and copper; they were assorting it and
stowing it away in various large bags. They were Spanish
CONTRABANDISTAS, or smugglers of the lowest class, and earned a
miserable livelihood by smuggling such rubbish from Portugal into
Spain. Not a word proceeded from their lips, and when I addressed
them in their native language they returned no answer but a kind of
growl. They looked as dirty and rusty as the iron in which they
trafficked. The woman of the house and her daughter were
exceedingly civil, and coming near to me crouched down, asking
various questions about England. A man dressed something like an
English sailor, who sat on the other side of the hearth,
confronting me, said: 'I hate the English, for they are not
baptized, and have not the law' (meaning the law of God). I
laughed, and told him, that according to the law of England no one
who was not baptized could be buried in consecrated ground;
whereupon he said; 'Then you are stricter than we.' He then asked:
'What is meant by the lion and the unicorn which I saw the other
day on the coat of arms over the door of the English consul at St.
Uves?' I said that they were the arms of England. 'Yes,' he
replied; 'but what do they represent?' I said I did not know.
'Then,' said he, 'you do not know the story of your own house.' I
answered: 'Suppose I were to tell you that they represented the
lion of Belem (Bethlehem) and the horned monster of the flaming pit
in combat as to which should obtain the mastery in England, what
would you say?' He replied: 'I should say that you gave a fair
answer.' This man and myself became great friends; he came from
Palmella, not far from St. Uves; he had several mules and horses
with him, and dealt in corn and barley.

I again walked out in the environs of the town. About half a mile
from the southern wall is a stone fountain, where the muleteers and
other people approaching the town are accustomed to water their
cattle. I sat down by it, and there I remained about two hours,
entering into discourse with every one who halted at the fountain;
and I will here observe that during the time of my sojourn at Evora
I repeated my visit every day, and remained there about the same
time, and by following this plan I believe that I spoke to near two
hundred of the children of Portugal upon matters connected with
their eternal welfare. Of those whom I addressed I found very few
had received any species of literary education; none of them had
seen the Bible, and not more than half a dozen had the slightest
knowledge of what the Holy Book consisted. I found that most of
them were bigoted Romanists and Miguelites at heart. When they
told me they were Christians, I denied the possibility of their
being so, as they were ignorant of Christ and His commandments, and
rested their hope of salvation in outward forms and superstitious
observances which were the inventions of Satan, who wished to keep
them in darkness in order that at last they might stumble into the
pit which he had digged for them. I said repeatedly that the Pope
whom they revered was a deceiver and the prime minister of Satan
here on earth, and that the monks and friars, to whom they had been
accustomed to confess themselves, and whose absence they so
deplored, were his subordinate agents. When called upon for
proofs, I invariably cited the ignorance of my hearers respecting
the Scripture, and said that if their spiritual guides had been
really ministers of Christ they would not have permitted their
flocks to remain unacquainted with His word. Since this occasion I
have been frequently surprised that I received no insult or ill-
treatment from the people whose superstitions I was thus attacking,
but I really experienced none; and am inclined to believe that the
utter fearlessness which I displayed, trusting in the protection of
the Almighty, may have been the cause. When threatened by danger
the best policy is to fix your eye steadily upon it, and it will in
general vanish like the morning mist before the sun; whereas if you
quail before it, it becomes more imminent. I have fervent hope
that the words which I uttered sunk deep into the hearts of some of
my hearers, as I observed many of them depart musing and pensive.
I occasionally distributed tracts among them, for although they
themselves were unable to turn them to much account, I thought that
by their means they might become of service at some future time,
and might fall into the hands of others to whom they might be
instruments of regeneration; as many a book which is cast on the
waters is wafted to some remote shore, and there proves a blessing
and a comfort to millions who are ignorant from whence it came.

The next day, which was Friday, I called at the house of my friend
Azveto; I did not find him there, but was directed to the Episcopal
Palace, in an apartment of which I found him writing with another
gentleman, to whom he introduced me. It was the Governor of Evora,
who welcomed me with every mark of kindness and affability. After
some discourse we went out together to examine an ancient edifice,
which was reported to have served in ancient times as a temple to
Diana. Part of it was evidently of Roman architecture, for there
was no mistaking the beautiful light pillars which supported a
dome, under which the sacrifices to the most captivating and
poetical divinity of the heathen Theocracy had probably been made;
but the original space between the pillars had been filled up with
rubbish of a modern date, and the rest of the building was
apparently of the architecture of the latter end of the middle
ages. It is situated at one end of the building which was once the
seat of the Inquisition, and I was informed that before the
erection of the present See, it served as the residence of the

Within the See, where the Governor now resides, is a superb
library, occupying an immense vaulted room, like the aisle of a
cathedral, and in a side apartment is a collection of pictures by
Portuguese artists, chiefly portraits, amongst which is that of Don
Sebastian. I hope it did not do him justice; for it represents him
in the shape of an awkward lad, of about eighteen, with staring
eyes and a bloated booby face, and wearing a ruff round a short
apoplectic neck.

I was shown several beautifully illuminated missals and other
manuscripts, but the one which most arrested my attention, I
scarcely need say why, bore the following title:-


It seemed a voice from the olden times of my dear native land.
This library and picture-gallery had been formed by one of the
latter Bishops, a person of commendable learning and piety.

In the evening I dined with Don Joze d'Azveto and his brother; the
latter soon left us, in order to attend to his military duties. My
friend and myself had then much conversation of considerable
interest. He lamented feelingly the deplorable state of ignorance
in which his countrymen were at present buried, and said that his
friend the Governor and himself were endeavouring to establish a
school in the vicinity, and that they had made application to the
Government for the use of an empty convent called the ESPINHERO, or
thorn-tree, at about a league's distance, and that they had little
doubt of their request being complied with. I had before told him
who I was; and now, after expressing my joy at the plan which he
had in contemplation, I urged him in the most pressing manner to
use all his influence to cause the knowledge of the Scripture to be
the basis of the education of the pupils in the intended school,
and added that half of the Testaments and Bibles which I had
brought with me to Evora were heartily at his service. He
instantly gave me his hand, [and] said he accepted my offer with
the greatest pleasure, and would do all in his power to further my
views, which were in many respects his own. I now told him that I
did not come to Portugal with the view of introducing the dogmas of
any particular sect, but with the hope of introducing the Bible,
which is the well-head of all that is useful and conducive to the
happiness of society and individuals; that I cared not what people
called themselves, provided they read the Scripture, for that where
the Scripture was read neither priestcraft nor tyranny could long
exist; and instanced my own country, the cause of whose freedom and
happiness was the Bible, and that only, for that before the days of
Tyndal it was the seat of ignorance, oppression, and cruelty, and
that after the fall of ignorance, the oppression and cruelty soon
ceased, for that the last persecutor of the Bible, the last
upholder of ignorance - THE BLOODY AND INFAMOUS MARY - was the last
tyrant who had sat on the throne of England. We did not part till
the night was considerably advanced; and the next day I sent him
the books, in the steadfast hope that a bright and glorious morning
was about to rise upon the night which had so long cast its dreary
shadow over the regions of the Alemtejo.

The day after this interesting event, which was Saturday, I had
more conversation with the man from Palmella. I asked him if in
his journeys he had never been attacked by robbers; he answered
'No,' for that he generally travelled in company with others;
'however,' said he, 'were I alone I should have little fear, for I
am well protected.' I said that I supposed he carried arms with
him. 'No other arms than this,' said he, and he pulled out a long,
desperate-looking knife of English manufacture, like that with
which every Portuguese peasant is provided, and which I should
consider a far more efficient weapon than a dagger. 'But,' said
he, 'I do not place much confidence in the knife.' I then enquired
in what were his hopes of protection. 'In this,' he replied; and
unbuttoning his waistcoat he showed me a small bag, attached to his
neck by a silken string. 'In this bag is an ORACAM (or prayer),
written by a person of power; and as long as I carry it about me no
ill can befall me.' Curiosity is one of the leading features of my
character, and I instantly said that to be allowed to read the
prayer would give me great pleasure. 'Well,' he replied, 'you are
my friend, and I would do for you what I would do for few others.
I will show it you.' He then asked me for my penknife and
proceeded to unrip the bag, and took out of it a large piece of
paper closely folded up. I hurried with it to my chamber, and
commenced the examination of it. It was scrawled over in a very
illegible hand, and was moreover much stained with perspiration, so
that I had considerable difficulty in making myself master of its
contents; but at last I accomplished the following literal
translation of the charm, which was written in bad Portuguese, but
which struck me at the time as being the most remarkable
composition I had ever seen.


'Just Judge and divine Son of the Virgin Maria, who wast born at
Bethlehem, a Nazarene, and who wast crucified in the midst of all
Jewry! I beseech Thee, O Lord, by virtue of Thy sixth day that the
body of me, Francisco, be not caught nor put to death by the hands
of Justice! Pazes teco (pax tecum), pazes Cristo. May you receive
peace, said Christ to His disciples. If the accursed Justice
should distrust me, or have its eye on me, in order to take me, or
to rob me, may it have an eye which shall not see me; may it have a
mouth which shall not speak to me; may it have an ear which shall
not hear me; may it have a hand which shall not seize me; may it
have a foot which shall not overtake me; for may I be armed with
the arms of Saint George; may I be covered with the cloak of
Abraham; and embarked in the ark of Noah; so that it can neither
see me, nor hear me, nor draw the blood from my body! I also
conjure Thee, O Lord, by those three blessed crosses - by those
three blessed chalices - by those three blessed clergymen - by
those three consecrated hosts, that Thou give me that sweet company
which Thou gavest the Virgin Maria, from the gates of Bethlehem
even unto the portals of Jerusalem, that I may go and come with
peace and joy with Jesus Christ, Son of the Virgin Maria, the
prolific, yet nevertheless the eternal Virgin Maria our Lady.'

The woman of the house and her daughter had similar bags tied to
their necks, containing charms, which they said prevented the
witches having power to harm them. The belief in witchcraft is
very prevalent amongst the peasantry of the Alemtejo, and I believe
of other provinces of Portugal. This is one of the relics of the
monkish system, the aim of which in all countries where it has
existed, or does exist, seems to be to besot the minds of the
people that they may be the more easily plundered and misled. The
monks of the Greek and Syriac Churches likewise deal in this kind
of ware, which they know to be poison, but which, as it brings them
a price and fosters delusion by which they are maintained in luxury
and idleness, they would rather vend than the wholesome drug.

The Sunday morning was fine, and the plain before the church of the
Convent of San Francisco was thronged with people going to mass or
returning. After having performed my morning devotions and
breakfasted, I went down to the kitchen. The fine girl Geronima
was seated by the fire. I asked if she had heard mass; she
replied, 'No,' and that she did not intend to hear it. Upon my
inquiring her motive for absenting herself, she replied that, since
the friars had been expelled from their churches and convents, she
had ceased to attend mass or to confess herself, for that the
Government priests had no spiritual power, and consequently she
never troubled them. She said the friars were holy men and
charitable; for that every morning those of the convent over the
way had fed forty poor persons with the remains of their meals of
the preceding day, but that now these people were allowed to
starve. I replied that the friars who had lived upon the dainties
of the land could well afford to bestow a few bones on the poor,
and that their doing so was not the effect of charity, but merely a
part of their artful policy, by which they hoped to secure to
themselves friends in time of need. The girl then said that as it
was Sunday I should perhaps like to see some of her books, and
without waiting for a reply she produced them. They consisted
principally of popular stories and lives and miracles of saints,
but amongst them was a translation of Volney's RUINS OF EMPIRES. I
inquired how she became possessed of this book; she said that a
young man, a great Constitutionalist, had given it her some months
since and had pressed her much to read it, telling her that it was
the best book in the world. Whereupon I told her that the author
of the book in question was an emissary of Satan and an enemy of
Jesus Christ and the souls of mankind; that he had written it with
the sole view of bringing all religion into contempt, and that he
had inculcated therein the doctrine that there was no future state
nor rewards for the righteous nor punishments for the wicked. She
made no reply, but going into another room, returned with her apron
full of dry brushwood and faggot; all of this she piled upon the
fire, and produced a bright blaze. She then took the book from my
hand, and placed it upon the flaming pile; then sitting down, took
her rosary out of her pocket, and told her beads till the volume
was consumed. This was an AUTO-DA-FE, in the true sense of the

On the Monday and Tuesday I paid my usual visits to the fountain,
and likewise rode about the neighbourhood for the purpose of
circulating tracts. I dropped a great many in the favourite walks
of the people of Evora, as I felt rather dubious of their accepting
them had I proffered them with my own hands; whereas if they found
them on the ground, I thought that curiosity might induce them to
pick them up and examine them. I likewise on the Tuesday evening
paid a farewell visit to my friend Don Azveto, as it was my
intention to leave Evora on the Thursday following; in which view I
had engaged a cabriolet of a man who informed me that he had served
as a soldier in the GRANDE ARMEE of Napoleon, and had been present
throughout the Russian campaign. He looked the image of a
drunkard; his face was covered with carbuncles, and his breath
impregnated with the fumes of strong waters. He wished much to
converse with me in French, in the speaking of which language, it
seems, he prided himself much; but I refused, and told him to speak
the language of the country, or I would hold no discourse with him.

Wednesday was stormy, with occasional rain. On coming down I found
that my friend from Palmella had departed, but several
CONTRABANDISTAS had arrived from Spain. They were mostly fine
fellows, and, unlike the two I had seen the previous week, who were
of much lower degree, were chatty and communicative; they spoke
their native language and no other, and seemed to hold Portuguese
in great contempt; their magnificent Spanish tones were heard to
great advantage amidst the shrill chirping dialect of Portugal. I
was soon in deep conversation with them, and was much pleased to
find that all of them could read. I presented the eldest of them,
a man of about fifty years of age, with a tract in Spanish. He
examined it for some time with great attention; he then rose from
his seat, and going into the middle of the apartment, began reading
it aloud, slowly and emphatically; his companions gathered round
him, and every now and then expressed their satisfaction at what
they heard. The reader occasionally called upon me to explain
particular passages which, as they referred to Scripture, he did
not exactly understand, for not one of the party had ever seen
either the Old or New Testament. He continued reading for nearly
an hour until he had finished the tract, and at its conclusion the
whole party were clamorous for similar ones, with which I was happy
to be able to supply them. Most of them spoke of priestcraft and
the monks with the utmost abhorrence, and said that they should
prefer death to again submitting to the yoke which had formerly
galled their necks. I questioned them very particularly respecting
the opinion of their neighbours and acquaintances on this point,
and they assured me that in their part of the Spanish frontier all
were of the same mind, and that they cared as little for the Pope
and his monks as they did for Don Carlos, for the latter was a
dwarf (CHICOTITO) and a tyrant, and the others were plunderers and
robbers. I told them that they must beware of confounding religion
with priestcraft, and that in their abhorrence of the latter they
must not forget that there is a God and a Christ, to whom they must
look for salvation, and whose word it was incumbent upon them to
study on every occasion; whereupon they all expressed a devout
belief in Christ and the Virgin.

These men, though in many respects far more enlightened than the
surrounding peasantry, were in others quite as much in the dark;
they believed in witchcraft and in the efficacy of particular
charms. The night was very stormy, and about nine we heard a
galloping towards the door, and then a loud knocking; it was
opened, and in rushed a wild-looking man mounted upon a donkey. He
wore a jerkin of sheepskin, called in Spanish ZAMARRAS, with
breeches of the same as far down as his knee; his legs were bare.
Around his SOMBRERO, or shadowy hat, was tied a large quantity of
the herb called in English rosemary, in Spanish ROMERO, and in the
rustic language of Portugal ELLECRIN, which last is a word of
Scandinavian origin, and properly signifies the elfin plant. [It
was probably] carried into the south by the Vandals or the Alani.
The [man seemed] frantic with terror, and said that the witches had
been pursuing him, and hovering over his head, for the last two
leagues. He came from the Spanish frontier with meal and other
articles; he informed us that his wife was following him and would
soon arrive, and within a quarter of an hour she made her
appearance, dripping with rain, and also mounted upon a donkey. I
asked my friends the CONTRABANDISTAS why he wore the rosemary in
his hat, and they told me that it was good against witches and the
mischances of the road. I had no time to argue against this
superstition, for as the chaise was to be ready at five o'clock
next morning I wished to make the most of the few hours which I
could devote to rest.

LETTER: Undated

To the Rev. A. Brandram
(ENDORSED. recd. Feb. 15, 1836)

The following Translations into the Romanee, or language of the
Spanish Tchai, Tchabos, Gitanos, Callos, or Gypsies, were made by
me at Badajoz during the first two weeks of January 1836.


[Here follow thirty-two verses of the translation, followed by a
version of the Lord's Prayer.]


[Here follow sixteen of these 'curses,' to each of which is added a
rendering in English.]

LETTER: 13th February, 1836

To the Rev. A. Brandram
(ENDORSED. recd. Feb. 29th, 1836)
FEBY. 13TH, 1836.

THE game is now in our own hands, and it is our fault if we do not
win it, for a little patience and a little prudence is all that is
required. I came to Madrid without a single letter of
introduction, and without knowing an individual there. I have now
some powerful friends, and through the kindness of Sir Geo.
Villiers, the British Ambassador at the Spanish Court, I have had
an interview with that most singular man, Mendizabal, whom it is as
difficult to get nigh as it is to approach the North Pole. I have
obtained his promise that when matters are in some degree settled
in this country, he will allow us to commence our operations; but
the preposterous idea, which by some means or other he has
embraced, that we have been endeavouring to foment disturbances
amongst the slaves of Cuba, prevents his looking upon us with
favourable eyes.

I now write for orders; if you have received my letters and
journals (copious extracts from which you had better print), you
will see how successful I have been in the Alemtejo, as our books
are now for sale at Evora and Elvas, the two principal towns, and
the Gospel of Christ has been preached to many who were ignorant of
it even by name; you will see what I have been doing at Badajoz,
especially amongst the Spanish Gypsies, whose dialect of the
Rommany I have so far mastered as to be able to translate into it
with tolerable ease. Now, until my friends here and myself can
claim the fulfilment of Mr. Mendizabal's promise, do you wish me to
go to Granada, or back to Badajoz, and finish my translation of St.
Luke into Rommany, with the assistance of the Gypsies of those
places, who are far more conversant with their native language than
their brethren in other parts of Spain; or shall I return to Lisbon
and exert all my interest towards the execution of the plan which I
communicated first to Mr. Wilby, and then to yourself, namely,
attempting to induce the Government to adopt the Scriptures in the
schools which they are about to establish? Since I have been at
Madrid I have obtained letters to individuals of great importance
at Lisbon, and I know that Don Jose d'Azveto will do anything to
serve me within the limits of reason. Therefore let the Committee
be summoned, and a resolution forthwith adopted as to my next
course. I think all our negotiations in the Peninsula may be
brought to a successful termination in a few months; then you must
send over an agent, a plain man of business, to engage colporteurs
and to come to arrangements with booksellers, both in Spain and in
the provincial towns of Portugal, but let him not be a hesitater
and starter of needless doubts and difficulties; anything may be
accomplished with a little shrewdness, a little boldness, and a
great trust in God. I hope that my exertions have afforded
satisfaction at home, but if not, let me be allowed to state that
it was not in my power to accomplish more than I have. I have
borne hunger and thirst, cold and fatigue, I have exposed myself to
danger from robbers, and was near losing my life from the ruffian
soldiery at Arrayolos, whose bullets so narrowly missed me. I have
been as economical as possible, though the charges in Portugal for
everything are enormous, and a stranger there is like a ship on
shore, a mark for plunder. In Spain the people are far more
honest, and the charges, though high, reasonable in comparison.
Before leaving Lisbon I drew on excellent Mr. Wilby for 75 pounds;
of this sum 12 pounds was remitted to Malaja, through which place I
shall probably pass on my return to Lisbon. I have still remaining
by me money sufficient for two months, I therefore need not enter
into a detail of my expenses. I now wait for a letter from you;
and when you write, please to remit to me a small letter of credit
on some one at Madrid, or request Mr. Wilby to do so, as he has
correspondents here, and in that case communicate my address to
him. I give you below an abridgment of my interview with Mr.
Mendizabal. I think it will make you laugh. I have the honour to
remain, Revd. and dear Sir, etc.,



At about 8 o'clock in the morning of the 7th inst. I went to the
palace, where Mr. Mendizabal resides. I informed the usher that I
came from the British Ambassador, whereupon I was shown into a
room, and after waiting about three hours I was admitted to the
presence of the Prime Minister of Spain. He was dressed in a
morning gown and sat behind a table covered with papers. He is a
man of about five-and-forty, somewhat above the middle height, with
very handsome features, aquiline nose and large sparkling eyes; his
hair is partly grey. I presented him the letter with which Sir
Geo. Villiers had furnished me, and when he had read it, I said
that before entering upon the matter which more immediately brought
me to him, I begged leave to set him right upon a point relating to
which he was labouring under considerable error: Sir Geo. Villiers
had informed me that Mr. M. entertained an opinion that the Bible
Society had been endeavouring to exercise an undue influence over
the minds of the slave population of Cuba by means of their agents;
but that I could assure him with truth, that neither directly nor
indirectly had they exerted or attempted to exert any influence at
all over any part of the inhabitants of that island, as they had
neither sent agents there, nor held any communication with the
residents. While I was saying this, he interrupted me several
times, insisting that it was so, and that he had documents to prove
it. I told him that it was probable he confounded the Bible
Society with some other institution for the propagation of
religion, perhaps with one of the missionary societies, more
especially one of those belonging to the United States, which might
have sent individuals to the island in question for the purpose of
communicating religious instruction to the slaves - but all I could
say was to no avail; he would have it that it was the British Bible
Society who had despatched missionaries to Cuba to incite the
blacks to rise up against their masters. The absurdity of this
idea struck me so forcibly that it was with difficulty I restrained
myself from laughing outright. I at last said that, whatever he
might think to the contrary, the Committee of the Bible Society
were by no means of that turbulent and outrageous disposition; that
they were for the most part staid, quiet gentlemen, who attended to
their own affairs, and a little, and but a little to the
promulgation of Christ's Gospel, which, however, they too much
respected to endeavour to kindle a spirit of insurrection anywhere,
as they all know full well that it is the Word of God says that
servants are to obey their masters at all times and occasions. I
then requested permission to print the New Testament in Spanish at
Madrid. He said he should not grant it, for that the New Testament
was a very dangerous book, especially in disturbed times. I
replied that I was not aware that the holy book contained any
passages sanctioning blood-shedding and violence, but I rather
thought that it abounded with precepts of an entirely opposite
tendency; but he still persisted that it was an improper book. I
must here observe that it was with the utmost difficulty I obtained
an opportunity of explaining myself, on account of the propensity
which he possesses of breaking in upon the discourse of the person
who is addressing him; and at last, in self-defence, I was myself
obliged to infringe the rules of conversation, and to hold on
without paying any attention to his remarks - not that I gained
much by so doing, for he plainly told me that he was an obstinate
man, and that he never abandoned his opinions. I certainly do not
think him the most tractable of men, but I am inclined to think
that he is not ill-natured, as he preserved his temper very well
during the interview, and laughed heartily at two or three of my
remarks. At last he said: 'I will not give you permission now:
but let the war be concluded, let the factious be beaten, and the
case will be altered; come to me six months hence.' I then
requested to be allowed to introduce into Spain a few copies of the
New Testament in the Catalan dialect, as we had lately printed a
most beautiful edition at London, but he still said 'No, no,' and
when I asked if he had any objection to my calling again on the
morrow and showing him a copy, he made use of these remarkable
words: 'I do not wish you should come, lest you should convince
me, and I do not wish to be convinced.'

LETTER: 22nd March, 1836

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


REVD. AND DEAR SIR, - I received your letter of the 8th inst.,
which gave me much pleasure, as I understood from it that my humble
efforts had afforded satisfaction. I also received the two letters
from St. Petersburg which were written by a dear friend of that
place, to whom I shall trouble you to forward a letter as soon as I

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