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The Life of George Borrow by Herbert Jenkins

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MADRID, 19th May 1838.

I have the honor to inform You that in consequence of what has taken
place at Malaga and other places, respecting the publication and sale
of the Bible translated by Padre Scio, which are not complete (since
they do not contain all the Books which the Catholic Church
recognises as Canonical) nor even being complete could they be
printed unless furnished with the Notes of the said Padre Scio,
according to the existing regulations; Her Majesty has thought proper
to prevent this publication and sale, but without insulting or
molesting those British Subjects who for some time past have been
introducing them into the Kingdom and selling them at the lowest
prices, thinking they were conferring a benefit when in reality they
were doing an injury.

I have also to state to You that in order to carry this Royal
determination into effect, orders have been issued to prohibit its
being printed in Spain, in the vulgar tongue, unless it should be the
entire Bible as recognised by the Catholic Church with corresponding
Notes, preventing its admittance at the Frontiers, as is the case
with books printed in Spanish abroad; that the Bibles exposed for
public sale be seized and given to their owners in a packet marked
and sealed, upon the condition of its being sent out of the country
through the Custom Houses on the Frontier or at the Ports.

I avail myself, etc., etc.


Borrow and Graydon were advised of this inhibition, and both ordered
their establishments for the sale of books to be closed, thus showing
that they were "Gentlemen who are animated with due respect for the
Laws of Spain." {255b} At Valladolid, Santiago, Orviedo, Pontevedra,
Seville, Salamanca, and Malaga the decree was at once enforced. On
learning that the books at his depots had all been seized, Borrow
became apprehensive for the safety of his Madrid stock of New
Testaments, some three thousand in number. He accordingly had them
removed, under cover of darkness, to the houses of his friends.

Borrow was not the man to accept defeat, and he wrote to Mr Brandram
with great cheerfulness:

"This, however, gives me little uneasiness, for, with the blessing of
God, I shall be able to repair all, always provided I am allowed to
follow my own plans, and to avail myself of the advantages which have
lately been opened--especially to cultivate the kind feeling lately
manifested towards me by the principal Spanish clergy. {255c}

Later he wrote:

"Another bitter cup has been filled for my swallowing. The Bible
Society and myself have been accused of blasphemy, sedition, etc. A
collection of tracts has been seized in Murcia, in which the Catholic
religion and its dogmas are handled with the most abusive severity;
{256a} these books have been sworn to as having been left BY THE
has been called upon to sign an order for my arrest and banishment
from Spain. Sir George, however, advises me to remain quiet and not
to be alarmed, as he will answer for my innocence." {256b}

Borrow strove to galvanise the General Committee into action. The
Spanish newspapers were inflamed against the Society as a sectarian,
not a Christian institution. "Zeal is a precious thing," he told Mr
Brandram, when accompanied with one grain of common sense." The
theme of his letters was the removal of Graydon. "Do not be cast
down," he writes; "all will go well if the stumbling block [Graydon]
be removed."

Borrow's state of mind may well be imagined, and if by his impulsive
letters he unwittingly harmed his own cause at Earl Street, he did so
as a man whose liberty, perhaps his life even, was being jeopardised,
although not deliberately, by another whom the reforming spirit
seemed likely to carry to any excess. It must be admitted that for
the time being Borrow had forgotten the idiom of Earl Street.

The president (a bishop) of the body of ecclesiastics that was
engaged in examining the Society's Spanish Bible, communicated with
Borrow, through Mr Charles Wood, the suggestion that "the Committee
of the Bible Society should in the present exigency draw up an
exposition of their views respecting Spain, stating what they are
prepared to do and what they are not prepared to do; above all,
whether in seeking to circulate the Gospel in this Country they
harbour any projects hostile to the Government or the established
religion; moreover, whether the late distribution of tracts was done
by their connivance or authority, and whether they are disposed to
sanction in future the publication in Spain of such a class of
writings." {257a}

Borrow was of the opinion that this should be done, although he would
not take upon himself to advise the Committee upon such a point, he
merely remarked that "the Prelate in question is a most learned and
respectable man, and one of the warmest of our friends." {257b} The
Society very naturally declined to commit itself to any such
undertaking. It would not have been quite logical or conceivable
that a Protestant body should give a guarantee that it harboured no
projects hostile to Rome.

Undeterred by the official edict against the circulation in Spain of
the Scriptures, Borrow wrote to Mr Brandram (14th June):

"I should wish to make another Biblical tour this summer, until the
storm be blown over. Should I undertake such an expedition, I should
avoid the towns and devote myself entirely to the peasantry. I have
sometimes thought of visiting the villages of the Alpujarra Mountains
in Andalusia, where the people live quite secluded from the world;
what do you think of my project?"

All this time Borrow had heard nothing from Earl Street as to the
effect being produced there by his letters. On 15th or 16th June he
received a long letter from Mr Brandram enclosing the Resolutions of
the General Committee with regard to the crisis. They proved
conclusively that the officials failed entirely to appreciate the
state of affairs in Spain, and the critical situation of their paid
and accredited agent, George Borrow. Their pride had probably been
wounded by Borrow's impetuous requests, that might easily have
appeared to them in the light of commands. It may have struck some
that the Spanish affairs of the Society were being administered from
Madrid, and that they themselves were being told, not what it was
expedient to do, but what they MUST do. Another factor in the
situation was the Committee's friendliness for their impulsive,
unsalaried servant Lieut. Graydon, who was certainly a picturesque,
almost melodramatic figure. In any case the letter from Mr Brandram
that accompanied the Resolutions was couched in a strain of fair play
to Graydon that became a thinly disguised partizanship. At the
meeting of the Committee held on 28th May the following Resolutions
had been adopted:-

First.--"That Mr Borrow be requested to inform Sir George Villiers
that this Committee have written to Mr Graydon through their
Secretary, desiring him to leave Spain on account of his personal

Second.--"That Mr Borrow be informed that in the absence of specific
documents, this Committee cannot offer any opinion on the proceedings
of Mr Graydon, and that therefore he be desired to obtain, either in
original or copy, the objectionable papers alleged to have been
issued by Mr Graydon and to transmit them hither."

Third.--"That Mr Borrow be requested not to repeat the Advertisement
contained in the Correo Nacional of the 17th inst., and that he be
cautioned how he commits the Society by advertisements of a similar
character. And further, that he be desired to state to Sir George
Villiers that the advertisement in question was inserted by him on
the spur of the moment, and without any opportunity of obtaining
instructions from this Committee."

In justice to the Committee, it must be said that they did not
appreciate the delicacy of the situation, being only Christians and
not diplomatists. Perhaps they were unaware that the WHOLE OF SPAIN
WAS UNDER MARTIAL LAW, or if they were, the true significance of the
fact failed to strike them. Mr Brandram's letter accompanying these
Resolutions is little more than an amplification of the Committee's

"I have, I assure you," he writes, "endeavoured to place myself in
your situation and enter into your feelings strongly excited by the
irreparable mischief which you suppose Mr G. to have done to our
cause so dear to you. Under the influence of these feelings you have
written with, what appears to us, unmitigated severity of his
conduct. But now, let me entreat you to enter into our feelings a
little, and to consider what we owe to Mr Graydon. If we have at
times thought him imprudent, we have seen enough in him to make us
both admire and love him. He has ever approved himself as an
upright, faithful, conscientious, indefatigable agent; one who has
shrunk from no trials and no dangers; one who has gone through in our
service many and extraordinary hardships. What have we against him
at present? He has issued certain documents of a very offensive
character, as is alleged. We have not seen them, neither does it
appear that you have, but that you speak from the recollections of Mr
Sothern." {259a}

The letter goes on to say that if it can be shown that Lieut. Graydon
is acting in the same manner as he did in Valencia, for which he was

"he will assuredly be recalled on this ground. You wonder perhaps
that we for a moment doubt the fact of his reiterated imprudence; but
audi alteram partem must be our rule--and besides, on reviewing the
Valencia proceedings, we draw a wide distinction. Had he been as
free, as you suppose him to be, of the trammels of office in our
service, many would say and think that he was prefectly at liberty to
act and speak as he did of the Authorities, if he chose to take the
consequences. Really in such a country it is no marvel if his Spirit
has been stirred within him! Will you allow me to remind you of the
strong things in your own letter to the Valencia ecclesiastic, the
well pointed and oft repeated Vae!"

Mr Brandram points out that strong language is frequently the sword
of the Reformer, and that there are times when it has the highest
sanction; but

"the judgment of all [the members of the Committee] will be that an
Agent of the Bible Society is a Reformer, not by his preaching or
denouncing, but by the distribution of the Bible. If Mr G's. conduct
is no worse than it was in Valencia," the letter continues, rather
inconsistently, in the light of the assurance in the early part that
recall would be the punishment for another such lapse into
indiscretion, "you must not expect anything beyond a qualified
disavowal of it, and that simply as unbecoming an Agent of such a
Society as ours.

"After what I have written, you will hardly feel surprised that our
Committee could not quite approve of your Advertisement. We have
ever regarded Mr Graydon as much our Agent as yourself. In three of
our printed reports in succession we make no difference in speaking
of you both. We are anxious to do nothing to weaken your hands at so
important a crisis, and we conceive that the terms we have employed
in our Resolution are the mildest we could have used. Do not insert
the Advertisement a second time. Let it pass; let it be forgotten.
If necessary we shall give the public intimation that Mr G. was, but
is not our agent any longer. Remember, we entreat you, the very
delicate position that such a manifesto places us in, as well as the
effect which it may have on Mr Graydon's personal safety. We give
you full credit for believing it was your duty, under the peculiar
circumstances of the case, to take so decided and bold a step, and
that you thought yourself fully justified by the distinction of
salaried and unsalaried Agent, in speaking of yourself as the alone
accredited Agent of the Society. Possibly when you reflect a little
upon the matter you may view it in another light. There are besides
some sentiments in the Advertisement which we cannot perhaps fully
accord with . . . If to our poor friend there has befallen the
saddest of all calamities to which you allude, should we not speak of
him with all tenderness. If he be insane I believe much of it is to
be attributed to that entire devotion with which he has devoted
himself to our work.

No complaint can be urged against the Committee for refusing to
condemn one of their agents unheard, and without documentary
evidence; but it was strange that they should pass resolutions that
contained no word of sympathy with Borrow for his sufferings in a
typhus-infested prison. It is even more strange that the covering
letter should refer to Graydon's sufferings and hardships and the
danger to his person, without apparently realising that Borrow HAD
ACTUALLY suffered what the Committee feared that Graydon MIGHT
suffer. There is no doubt that Borrow's impulsive letters had
greatly offended everybody at Earl Street, where Lieut. Graydon
appears to have been extremely popular; and the few words of sympathy
with Borrow that might have saved much acrimonious correspondence
were neither resolved nor written.

The other side of the picture is shown in a vigorous passage from
Borrow's Report, which was afterwards withdrawn:

"A helpless widow [the mother of Don Pascual Mann] was insulted, her
liberty of conscience invaded, and her only son incited to rebellion
against her. A lunatic [Lieut. Graydon] was employed as the
repartidor, or distributor, of the Blessed Bible, who, having his
head crammed with what he understood not, ran through the streets of
Valencia crying aloud that Christ was nigh at hand and would appear
in a short time, whilst advertisements to much the same effect were
busily circulated, in which the name, the noble name, of the Bible
Society was prostituted; whilst the Bible, exposed for sale in the
apartment of a public house, served for little more than a decoy to
the idle and curious, who were there treated with incoherent railings
against the Church of Rome and Babylon in a dialect which it was well
for the deliverer that only a few of the audience understood. But I
fly from these details, and will now repeat the consequences of the
above proceedings to myself; for I, I, and only I, as every
respectable person in Madrid can vouch, have paid the penalty for
them all, though as innocent as the babe who has not yet seen the

If the General Committee at a period of anxiety and annoyance failed
to pay tribute to Borrow's many qualities, the official historian of
the Society makes good the omission when he describes him as "A
strange, impulsive, more or less inflammable creature as he must have
occasionally seemed to the Secretaries and Editorial Superintendent,
he had proved himself a man of exceptional ability, energy, tact,
prudence--above all, a man whose heart was in his work." {262a}

Borrow's acknowledgment of the Resolutions was dated 16th June. It

"I have received your communication of the 30th ult. containing the
resolutions of the Committee, to which I shall of course attend.

"Of your letter in general, permit me to state that I reverence the
spirit in which it is written, and am perfectly disposed to admit the
correctness of the views which it exhibits; but it appears to me that
in one or two instances I have been misunderstood in the letters
which I have addressed [to you] on the subject of Graydon.

"I bear this unfortunate gentleman no ill will, God forbid, and it
will give me pain if he were reprimanded publicly or privately;
moreover, I can see no utility likely to accrue from such a
proceeding. All that I have stated hitherto is the damage which he
has done in Spain to the cause and myself, by the--what shall I call
it?--imprudence of his conduct; and the idea which I have endeavoured
to inculcate is the absolute necessity of his leaving Spain

"Take now in good part what I am about to say, and O! do not
misunderstand me! I owe a great deal to the Bible Society, and the
Bible Society owes nothing to me. I am well aware and am always
disposed to admit that it can find thousands more zealous, more
active, and in every respect more adapted to transact its affairs and
watch over its interests; yet, with this consciousness of my own
inutility, I must be permitted to state that, linked to a man like
Graydon, I can no longer consent to be, and that if the Society
expect such a thing, I must take the liberty of retiring, perhaps to
the wilds of Tartary or the Zingani camps of Siberia.

"My name at present is become public property, no very enviable
distinction in these unhappy times, and neither wished nor sought by
myself. I have of late been subjected to circumstances which have
rendered me obnoxious to the hatred of those who never forgive, the
Bloody Church of Rome, which I have [no] doubt will sooner or later
find means to accomplish my ruin; for no one is better aware than
myself of its fearful resources, whether in England or Spain, in
Italy or in any other part. I should not be now in this situation
had I been permitted to act alone. How much more would have been
accomplished, it does not become me to guess.

"I had as many or more difficulties to surmount in Russia than I
originally had here, yet all that the Society expected or desired was
effected, without stir or noise, and that in the teeth of an imperial
Ukase which forbade the work which I was employed to superintend.

"Concerning my late affair, I must here state that I was sent to
prison on a charge which was subsequently acknowledged not only to be
false but ridiculous; I was accused of uttering words disrespectful
towards the Gefe Politico of Madrid; my accuser was an officer of the
police, who entered my apartment one morning before I was dressed,
and commenced searching my papers and flinging my books into
disorder. Happily, however, the people of the house, who were
listening at the door, heard all that passed, and declared on oath
that so far from mentioning the Gefe Politico, I merely told the
officer that he, the officer, was an insolent fellow, and that I
would cause him to be punished. He subsequently confessed that he
was an instrument of the Vicar General, and that he merely came to my
apartment in order to obtain a pretence for making a complaint. He
has been dismissed from his situation and the Queen [Regent] has
expressed her sorrow at my imprisonment. If there be any doubt
entertained on the matter, pray let Sir George Villiers be written

"I should be happy to hear what success attends our efforts in China.
I hope a prudent conduct has been adopted; for think not that a
strange and loud language will find favour in the eyes of the
Chinese; and above all, I hope that we have not got into war with the
Augustines and their followers, who, if properly managed, may be of
incalculable service in propagating the Scriptures . . . P.S.--The
Documents, or some of them, shall be sent as soon as possible."

Nine days later (25th June) Borrow wrote:

"I now await your orders. I wish to know whether I am at liberty to
pursue the course which may seem to me best under existing
circumstances, and which at present appears to be to mount my horses,
which are neighing in the stable, and once more betake myself to the
plains and mountains of dusty Spain, and to dispose of my Testaments
to the muleteers and peasants. By doing so I shall employ myself
usefully, and at the same time avoid giving offence. Better days
will soon arrive, which will enable me to return to Madrid and reopen
my shop, till then, however, I should wish to pursue my labours in
comparative obscurity."

Replying to Borrow's letter of 16th June, Mr Brandram wrote (29th
June): "I trust we shall not easily forget your services in St
Petersburg, but suffer me to remind you that when you came to the
point of distribution your success ended." {265a} This altogether
unworthy remark was neither creditable to the writer nor to the
distinguished Society on whose behalf he wrote. Borrow had done all
that a man was capable of to distribute the books. His reply was
dignified and effective.

"It was unkind and unjust to taunt me with having been unsuccessful
in distributing the Scriptures. Allow me to state that no other
person under the same circumstances would have distributed the tenth
part; yet had I been utterly unsuccessful, it would have been wrong
to check me with being so, after all I have undergone, and with how
little of that are you acquainted." {265b}

In response, Mr Brandram wrote (28th July):

"You have considered that I have taunted you with want of success in
St Petersburg. I thought that the way in which I introduced that
subject would have prevented any such unpleasant and fanciful

That was all! It became evident to all at Earl Street that a
conference between Borrow, the Officials and the General Committee
was imperative if the air were to be cleared of the rancour that
seemed to increase with each interchange of letters. {265c} Unless
something were done, a breach seemed inevitable, a thing the Society
did not appear to desire. When Borrow first became aware that he was
wanted at Earl Street for the purpose of a personal conference, he in
all probability conceived it to be tantamount to a recall, and he was
averse from leaving the field to the enemy.

"In the name of the Highest," he wrote, {266a} "I entreat you all to
banish such a preposterous idea; a journey home (provided you intend
that I should return to Spain) could lead to no result but expense
and the loss of precious time. I have nothing to explain to you
which you are not already perfectly well acquainted with by my late
letters. I was fully aware at the time I was writing them that I
should afford you little satisfaction, for the plain unvarnished
truth is seldom agreeable; but I now repeat, and these are perhaps
among the last words which I shall ever be permitted to pen, that I
cannot approve, and I am sure no Christian can, of the system which
has lately been pursued in the large sea-port cities of Spain, and
which the Bible Society has been supposed to sanction,
notwithstanding the most unreflecting person could easily foresee
that such a line of conduct could produce nothing in the end but
obloquy and misfortune."

Borrow saw that his departure from Spain would be construed by his
enemies as flight, and that their joy would be great in consequence.

The Spanish authorities were determined if possible to rid the
country of missionaries. The Gazeta Oficial of Madrid drew attention
to the fact that in Valencia there had been distributed thousands of
pamphlets "against the religion we profess." Sir George Villiers
enquired into the matter and found that there was no evidence that
the pamphlets had been written, printed, or published in England; and
when writing to Count Ofalia on the subject he informed him that the
Bible Society distributed, not tracts or controversial writings, but
the Scriptures.

The next move on the part of the authorities was to produce sworn
testimony from three people (all living in the same house, by the
way) that they had purchased copies of "the New Testament and other
Biblical translations at the Despacho on 5th May." Borrow was in
prison at the time, and his assistant denied the sale. Documents
were also produced proving that the imprint on the title-page of the
Scio New Testament was false, as at the time it was printed no such
printer as Andreas Borrego (who by the way was the Government printer
and at one time a candidate for cabinet rank) lived in Madrid. In
drawing the British Minister's attention to these matters, Count
Ofalia wrote (31st May):

"It would be opportune if you would be pleased to advise Mr Borrow
that, convinced of the inutility of his efforts for propagating here
the translation in the vulgar tongue of Sacred Writings without the
forms required by law, he would do much better in making use of his
talents in some other class of scientifical or literary Works during
his residence in Spain, giving up Biblical Enterprises, which may be
useful in other countries, but which in this Kingdom are prejudicial
for very obvious reasons."


Borrow's spirit chafed under this spell of enforced idleness. His
horses were neighing in the stable and "Senor Antonio was neighing in
the house," as Maria Diaz expressed it; and for himself, Borrow
required something more actively stimulating than pen and ink
encounters with Mr Brandram. He therefore determined to defy the
prohibition and make an excursion into the rural districts of New
Castile, offering his Testaments for sale as he went, and sending on
supplies ahead. His first objective was Villa Seca, a village
situated on the banks of the Tagus about nine leagues from Madrid.

He was aware of the danger he ran in thus disregarding the official

"I will not conceal from you," he writes to Mr Brandram on 14th July,
"that I am playing a daring game, and it is very possible that when I
least expect it I may be seized, tied to the tail of a mule, and
dragged either to the prison of Toledo or Madrid. Yet such a
prospect does not discourage me in the least, but rather urges me on
to persevere; for I assure you, and in this assertion there lurks not
the slightest desire to magnify myself and produce an effect, that I
am eager to lay down my life in this cause, and whether a Carlist's
bullet or a gaol-fever bring my career to an end, I am perfectly

He was not averse from martyrdom; but he objected to being
precipitated into it by another man's folly. In his interview with
Count Ofalia, he had been solemnly warned that if a second time he
came within the clutches of the authorities he might not escape so
easily, and had replied that it was "a pleasant thing to be
persecuted for the Gospel's sake."

In his decision to make Villa Seca his temporary headquarters, Borrow
had been influenced by the fact that it was the home of Maria Diaz,
his friend and landlady. Her husband was there working on the land,
Maria herself living in Madrid that her children might be properly
educated. Borrow left Madrid on 10th July, and on his arrival at
Villa Seca he was cordially welcomed by Juan Lopez, the husband of
Maria Diaz, who continued to use her maiden name, in accordance with
Spanish custom. Lopez subsequently proved of the greatest possible
assistance in the work of distribution, shaming both Borrow and
Antonio by his energy and powers of endurance.

The inhabitants of Villa Seca and the surrounding villages of Bargas,
Coveja, Villa Luenga, Mocejon, Yuncler eagerly bought up "the book of
life," and each day the three men rode forth in heat so great that
"the very arrieros frequently fall dead from their mules, smitten by
a sun-stroke." {269a}

It was in Villa Seca that Borrow found "all that gravity of
deportment and chivalry of disposition which Cervantes is said to
have sneered away" {269b} and there were to be heard "those grandiose
expressions which, when met with in the romances of chivalry, are
scoffed at as ridiculous exaggerations." {269c} Borrow so charmed
the people of the district with the elaborate formality of his
manner, that he became convinced that any attempt to arrest or do him
harm would have met with a violent resistance, even to the length of
the drawing of knives in his defence.

In less than a week some two hundred Testaments had been disposed of,
and a fresh supply had to be obtained from Madrid. Borrow's methods
had now changed. He had, of necessity, to make as little stir as
possible in order to avoid an unenviable notoriety. He carefully
eschewed advertisements and handbills, and limited himself almost
entirely to the simple statement that he brought to the people "the
words and life of the Saviour and His Saints at a price adapted to
their humble means." {270a}

It is interesting to note in connection with this period of Borrow's
activities in Spain, that in 1908 one of the sons of Maria Diaz and
Juan Lopez was sought out at Villa Seca by a representative of the
Bible Society, and interrogated as to whether he remembered Borrow.
Eduardo Lopez (then seventy-four years of age) stated that he was a
child of eight {270b} when Borrow lived at the house of his mother;
yet he remembers that "El ingles" was tall and robust, with fair hair
turning grey. Eduardo and his young brother regarded Borrow with
both fear and respect; for, their father being absent, he used to
punish them for misdemeanours by setting them on the table and making
them remain perfectly quiet for a considerable time. The old man
remembered that Borrow had two horses whom he called "la Jaca" and
"el Mondragon," and that he used to take to the house of Maria Diaz
"his trunk full of books which were beautifully bound." He
remembered Borrow's Greek servant, "Antonio Guchino" (the Antonio
Buchini of The Bible in Spain), who spoke very bad Spanish.

The most interesting of Eduardo Lopez' recollections of Borrow was
that he "often recited a chant which nobody understood," and of which
the old man could remember only the following fragment

"Sed un la in la en la la
Sino Mokhamente de resu la."

It has been suggested, {271a} and with every show of probability,
that "this is the Moslem kalimah or creed which he had heard sung
from the minarets":

"La illaha illa allah
Wa Muhammad rasoul allah."

Borrow recognised that he must not stay very long in any one place,
and accordingly it was his intention, as soon as he had supplied the
immediate wants of the Sagra (the plain) of Toledo, "to cross the
country to Aranjuez, and endeavour to supply with the Word the
villages on the frontier of La Mancha." {271b} As he was on the
point of setting out, however, he received two letters from Mr
Brandram, which decided him to return immediately to Madrid instead
of pursuing his intended route.

Borrow was informed that if, after consulting with Sir George
Villiers, it was thought desirable that he should leave Madrid, he
was given a free hand to do so. Furthermore, the President of the
Bible Society (Lord Bexley), with whom Mr Brandram had consulted, was
of the opinion that Borrow should return home to confer with the
Committee. It was clear from the correspondence that nothing short
of an interview could remove the very obvious feeling of irritation
that existed between Borrow and the Society. In his reply (23rd
July), Borrow showed a dignity and calmness of demeanour that had
been lacking from his previous letters; and it most likely produced a
far more favourable effect at Earl Street than the impassioned
protests of the past two months:-

"My answer will be very brief;" he wrote, "as I am afraid of giving
way to my feelings; I hope, however, that it will be to the purpose.

"It is broadly hinted in yours of the 7th that I have made false
statements in asserting that the Government, in consequence of what
has lately taken place, had come to the resolution of seizing the
Bible depots in various parts of this country. [Borrow had written
to Mr Brandram on 25th June, "The Society are already aware of the
results of the visit of our friend to Malaga; all their Bibles and
Testaments having been seized throughout Spain, with the exception of
my stock in Madrid."]

"In reply I beg leave to inform you that by the first courier you
will receive from the British Legation at Madrid the official notice
from Count Ofalia to Sir George Villiers of the seizures already
made, and the motives which induced the Government to have recourse
to such a measure.

"The following seizures have already been made, though some have not
as yet been officially announced:- The Society's books at Orviedo,
Pontevedra, Salamanca, Santiago, Seville, and Valladolid.

"It appears from your letters that the depots in the South of Spain
have escaped. I am glad of it, although it be at my own expense. I
see the hand of the Lord throughout the late transactions. He is
chastening me; it is His pleasure that the guilty escape and the
innocent be punished. The Government gave orders to seize the Bible
depots throughout the country on account of the late scenes at Malaga
and Valencia--I have never been there, yet only MY depots are meddled
with, as it appears! The Lord's will be done, blessed be the name of
the Lord!

"I will write again to-morrow, I shall have then arranged my
thoughts, and determined on the conduct which it becomes a Christian
to pursue under these circumstances. Permit me, in conclusion, to
ask you:

"Have you not to a certain extent been partial in this matter? Have
you not, in the apprehension of being compelled to blame the conduct
of one who has caused me unutterable anxiety, misery and persecution,
and who has been the bane of the Bible cause in Spain, refused to
receive the information which it was in YOUR power to command? I
called on the Committee and yourself from the first to apply to Sir
George Villiers; no one is so well versed as to what has lately been
going as himself; but no. It was God's will that I, who have risked
all and lost ALMOST all in the cause, be taunted, suspected, and the
sweat of agony and tears which I have poured out be estimated at the
value of the water of the ditch or the moisture which exudes from
rotten dung; but I murmur not, and hope I shall at all times be
willing to bow to the dispensations of the Almighty.

"Sir George Villiers has returned to England for a short period; you
have therefore the opportunity of consulting him. I WILL NOT leave
Spain until the whole affair has been thoroughly sifted. I shall
then perhaps appear and bid you an eternal farewell. {273a} Four
hundred Testaments have been disposed of in the Sagra of Toledo.

"P.S.--I am just returned from the Embassy, where I have had a long
interview with that admirable person Lord Wm. Hervey [Charge
d'Affaires during Sir George Villiers' absence]. He has requested me
to write him a letter on the point in question, which with the
official documents he intends to send to the Secretary of State in
order to be laid before the Bible Society. He has put into my hands
the last communication from Ofalia {273b} it relates to the seizure
of MY depots at Malaga, Pontevedra, etc. I have not opened it, but
send it for your approval."

It is pleasant to record that the Sub-Committee expressed itself as
unable to see in Mr Brandram's letter what Borrow saw. There was no
intention to convey the impression that he had made false statements,
and regret was expressed that he had thought it necessary to apply to
the Embassy for confirmation of what he had written. All this Mr
Brandram conveyed in a letter dated 6th August. He continues: "I am
now in full possession of all that Mr Graydon has done, and find it
utterly impossible to account for that very strong feeling that you
have imbibed against him."

On 20th July Mr Brandram had written that, after consulting with two
or three members of the Committee, they all confirmed a wish already
expressed that their Agent should not continue to expose himself to
such dangers. If, however, he still saw the way open before him,

"as so pleasantly represented in your letter . . . you need not think
of returning . . . Do allow me to suggest to you," he continues, "to
drop allusion to Mr Graydon in your letters. His conduct is not
regarded here as you regard it. I could fancy, but perhaps it is all
fancy, that you have him in your eye when you tell us that you have
eschewed handbills and advertisements. Time has been when you have
used them plentifully . . . Sir George Villiers is in England--but I
do not know that we shall seek an interview with him--We are afraid
of being hampered with the trammels of office."

The Committee, however, did not endorse Mr Brandram's view as to
Borrow continuing in Spain, and further, they did "not see it right,"
the secretary wrote (6th August), "after the confidential
communication in which you have been in with the Government, that you
should be acting now in such open defiance of it, and putting
yourself in such extreme jeopardy." Later Borrow made reference to
the remark about the handbills.

"It would have been as well," he wrote, "if my respected and revered
friend, the writer, had made himself acquainted with the character of
my advertisements before he made that observation. There is no harm
in an advertisement, if truth, decency and the fear of God are
observed, and I believe my own will be scarcely found deficient in
any of these three requisites. It is not the use of a serviceable
instrument, but its abuse that merits reproof, and I cannot conceive
that advertising was abused by me when I informed the people of
Madrid that the New Testament was to be purchased at a cheap price in
the Calle del Principe." {275a}

Elsewhere he referred to these same advertisements as "mild yet

In spite of the strained state of his relations with the Bible
Society, Borrow had no intention of remaining in Madrid brooding over
his wrongs. Encouraged by the success that had attended his efforts
in the Sagra of Toledo, and indifferent to the fact that his renewed
activity was known at Toledo, where it was causing some alarm, he
determined to proceed to Aranjuez, and, on his arrival there, to be
guided by events as to his future movements. Accordingly about 28th
July he set out attended by Antonio and Lopez, who had accompanied
him from Villa Seca to Madrid, proceeding in the direction of La
Mancha, and selling at every village through which they passed from
twenty to forty Testaments. At Aranjuez they remained three days,
visiting every house in the town and disposing of about eighty books.
It was no unusual thing to see groups of the poorer people gathered
round one of their number who was reading aloud from a recently
purchased Testament.

Feeling that his enemies were preparing to strike, Borrow determined
to push on to the frontier town of Ocana, beyond which the clergy had
only a nominal jurisdiction on account of its being in the hands of
the Carlists. Lopez was sent on with between two and three hundred
Testaments, and Borrow, accompanied by Antonio, followed later by a
shorter route through the hills. As they approached the town, a man,
a Jew, stepped out from the porch of an empty house and barred their
way, telling them that Lopez had been arrested at Ocana that morning
as he was selling Testaments in the streets, and that the authorities
were now waiting for Borrow himself.

Seeing that no good could be done by plunging into the midst of his
enemies, who had their instructions from the corregidor of Toledo,
Borrow decided to return to Aranjuez. This he did, on the way
narrowly escaping assassination at the hands of three robbers. The
next morning he was rejoined by Lopez, who had been released. He had
sold 27 Testaments, and 200 had been confiscated and forwarded to
Toledo. The whole party then returned to Madrid.

The unfortunate affair at Ocana by no means discouraged Borrow. It
was his intention "with God's leave" to "fight it out to the last."
He saw that his only chance of distributing his store of Testaments
lay in visiting the smaller villages before the order to confiscate
his books arrived from Toledo. His enemies were numerous and
watchful; but Borrow was as cunning as a gypsy and as far-seeing as a
Jew. Thinking that his notoriety had not yet crossed the Guadarrama
mountains and penetrated into Old Castile, he decided to anticipate
it. Lopez was sent ahead with a donkey bearing a cargo of
Testaments, his instructions being to meet Borrow and Antonio at La
Granja. Failing to find Lopez at the appointed place, Borrow pushed
on to Segovia, where he received news that some men were selling
books at Abades, to which place he proceeded with three more donkeys
laden with books that had been consigned to a friend at Segovia. At
Abades Lopez was discovered busily occupied in selling Testaments.

Hearing that an order was about to be sent from Segovia to Abades for
the confiscation of his Testaments, Borrow immediately left the town,
donkeys, Testaments and all, and for safety's sake passed the night
in the fields. The next day they proceeded to the village of
Labajos. A few days after their arrival the Carlist leader
Balmaceda, at the head of his robber cavalry, streamed down from the
pine woods of Soria into the southern part of Old Castile, Borrow
"was present at all the horrors which ensued--the sack of Arrevalo,
and the forcible entry into Marrin Munoz and San Cyprian. Amidst
these terrible scenes we continued our labours undaunted." {277a} He
witnessed what "was not the war of men or even cannibals . . . it
seemed a contest of fiends from the infernal pit." Antonio became
seized with uncontrollable fear and ran away to Madrid. Lopez soon
afterwards disappeared, and, left alone, Borrow suffered great
anxiety as to the fate of the brave fellow. Hearing that he was in
prison at Vilallos, about three leagues distant, and in spite of the
fact that Balmaceda's cavalry division was in the neighbourhood,
Borrow mounted his horse and set off next day (22nd Aug.) alone. He
found on his arrival at Vilallos, that Lopez had been removed from
the prison to a private house. Disregarding an order from the
corregidor of Avila that only the books should be confiscated and
that the vendor should be set at liberty, the Alcalde, at the
instigation of the priest, refused to liberate Lopez. It had been
hinted to the unfortunate man that on the arrival of the Carlists he
was to be denounced as a liberal, which would mean death. "Taking
these circumstances into consideration," Borrow wrote, {277b} "I
deemed it my duty as a Christian and a gentleman to rescue my
unfortunate servant from such lawless hands, and in consequence,
defying opposition, I bore him off, though perfectly unarmed, through
a crowd of at least one hundred peasants. On leaving the place I
shouted 'Viva Isabella Segunda.'"

In this affair Borrow had, not only the approval of Lord William
Hervey, but of Count Ofalia also. In all probability the Bible
Society has never had, and never will have again, an agent such as
Borrow, who on occasion could throw aside the cloak of humility and
grasp a two-edged sword with which to discomfit his enemies, and who
solemnly chanted the creed of Islam whilst engaged as a Christian
missionary. There was something magnificent in his Christianity; it
savoured of the Crusades in its pre-Reformation virility. Martyrdom
he would accept if absolutely necessary; but he preferred that if
martyrs there must be they should be selected from the ranks of the
enemy, whilst he, George Borrow, represented the strong arm of the

After the Vilallos affair, Borrow returned to Madrid, crossing the
Guadarramas alone and with two horses. "I nearly perished there," he
wrote to Mr Brandram (1st Sept.), "having lost my way in the darkness
and tumbled down a precipice." The perilous journey north had
resulted in the sale of 900 Testaments, all within the space of three
weeks and amidst scenes of battle and bloodshed.

On his return to Madrid, Borrow found awaiting him the Resolution of
the General Committee (6th Aug.), recalling him "without further

"I will set out for England as soon as possible," he wrote in reply;
{278a} "but I must be allowed time. I am almost dead with fatigue,
suffering and anxiety; and it is necessary that I should place the
Society's property in safe and sure custody."

On 1st September he wrote to Mr Brandram that he should "probably be
in England within three weeks." Shortly after this he was attacked
with fever, and confined to his bed for ten days, during which he was
frequently delirious. When the fever departed, he was left very weak
and subject to a profound melancholy.

"I bore up against my illness as long as I could," he wrote, {279a}
"but it became too powerful for me. By good fortune I obtained a
decent physician, a Dr Hacayo, who had studied medicine in England,
and aided by him and the strength of my constitution I got the better
of my attack, which, however, was a dreadfully severe one. I hope my
next letter will be from Bordeaux. I cannot write more at present,
for I am very feeble."

The actual date that Borrow left Madrid is not known. He himself
gave it as 31st August, {279b} which is obviously inaccurate, as on
19th September he wrote to Mr Brandram: "I am now better, and hope
in a few days to be able to proceed to Saragossa, which is the only
road open." He travelled leisurely by way of the Pyrenees, through
France to Paris, where he spent a fortnight. Of Paris he was very
fond; "for, leaving all prejudices aside, it is a magnificent city,
well supplied with sumptuous buildings and public squares, unequalled
by any town in Europe." {279c} Having bought a few rare books he
proceeded to Boulogne, "and thence by steamboat to London," {279d}
where in all probability he arrived towards the end of October.

He had "long talks on Spanish affairs" with his friends at Earl
Street, where personal interviews seem to have brought about a much
better feeling. The General Committee requested Borrow to put into
writing his views as to the best means to be adopted for the future
distribution of the Scriptures in Spain. He accordingly wrote a
statement, {280a} a fine, vigorous piece of narrative, putting his
case so clearly and convincingly as to leave little to be said for
the unfortunate Graydon. He expressed himself as "eager to be
carefully and categorically questioned." This Report appears
subsequently to have been withdrawn, probably on the advice of
Borrow's friends, who saw that its uncompromising bluntness of
expression would make it unacceptable to the General Committee. It
was certainly presented to and considered by the Sub-Committee.
Another document was drawn up entitled, "Report of Mr Geo. Borrow on
Past and Future Operations in Spain." This reached Earl Street on
28th November. In it Borrow states that as the inhabitants of the
cities had not shown themselves well-disposed towards the Scriptures,
it would be better to labour in future among the peasantry. It was
his firm conviction, he wrote,

"that every village in Spain will purchase New Testaments, from
twenty to sixty, according to its circumstances. During the last two
months of his sojourn in Spain he visited about forty villages, and
in only two instances was his sale less than thirty copies in each .
. . If it be objected to the plan which he has presumed to suggest
that it is impossible to convey to the rural districts of Spain the
book of life without much difficulty and danger, he begs leave to
observe that it does not become a real Christian to be daunted by
either when it pleases his Maker to select him as an instrument; and
that, moreover, if it be not written that a man is to perish by wild
beasts or reptiles he is safe in the den even of the Cockatrice as in
the most retired chamber of the King's Palace; and that if, on the
contrary, he be doomed to perish by them, his destiny will overtake
him notwithstanding all the precautions which he, like a blind worm,
may essay for his security."

In conclusion Borrow calls attention, without suggesting intimate
alliance and co-operation, to the society of the liberal-minded
Spanish ecclesiastics, which has been formed for the purpose of
printing and circulating the Scriptures in Spanish WITHOUT COMMENTARY
OR NOTES. This had reference to a movement that was on foot in
Madrid, supported by the Primate and the Bishops of Vigo and Joen, to
challenge the Government in regard to its attempt to prevent the free
circulation of the Scriptures. It was held that nowhere among the
laws of Spain is it forbidden to circulate the Scriptures either with
or without annotations. The only prohibition being in the various
Papal Bulls. Charles Wood was chosen as "the ostensible manager of
the concern"; but had it not been for the trouble in the South,
Borrow would have been the person selected.

It would have been in every way deplorable had Borrow severed his
connection with the Bible Society as a result of the Graydon episode.
Borrow had been impulsive and indignant in his letters to Earl
Street, Mr Brandram, on the other hand, had been "a little partial,"
and on one or two occasions must have written hastily in response to
Borrow's letters. There is no object in administering blame or
directing reproaches when the principals in a quarrel have made up
their differences; but there can be no question that the failure of
the Officials and Committee of the Bible Society to appreciate the
situation in Spain retarded their work in that country very
considerably. This fact is now generally recognised. Mr Canton has
admirably summed up the situation when he says:

"Borrow had his faults, but insincerity and lack of zeal in the cause
he had espoused were not among them. Both Sir George Villiers and
his successor [during Sir George's visit to England], Lord William
Hervey, were satisfied with the propriety of his conduct. Count
Ofalia himself recognised his good faith--'cuia buena fe me es
conocida.' To see his plans thwarted, his work arrested, the objects
of the Society jeopardised, and his own person endangered by the
indiscretion of others, formed, if not a justification, at least a
sufficient excuse for the expression of strong feeling. On the other
hand, it was difficult for those at home to ascertain the actual
facts of the case, to understand the nicety of the situation, and to
arrive at an impartial judgment. Mr Brandram, who in any case would
have been displeased with Borrow's unrestrained speech, appears to
have suspected that his statements were not free from exaggeration,
and that his discretion was not wholly beyond reproach. Happily the
tension caused by this painful episode was relieved by Lieut.
Graydon's withdrawal to France in June." {282a}


On 14th December 1838 it was resolved by the General Committee of the
Bible Society that Borrow should proceed once more to Spain to
dispose of such copies of the Scriptures as remained on hand at
Madrid and other depots established by him in various parts of the
country. He left London on the 21st, and sailed from Falmouth two
days later, reaching Cadiz on the 31st, after a stormy passage, and
on 2nd January he arrived at Seville, "rather indisposed with an old
complaint," probably "the Horrors."

In such stirring times to be absent from the country, even for so
short a period as two months, meant that on his return the traveller
found a new Spain. Borrow learned that the Duke of Frias had
succeeded Count Ofalia in September. The Duke had advised the
British Ambassador in November that the Spanish authorities were
possessed of a quantity of Borrow's Bibles (?New Testaments) that had
been seized and taken to Toledo, and that if arrangements were not
made for them to be taken out of Spain they would be destroyed. Sir
George Villiers had replied that Mr Borrow, who was then out of the
country, had been advised of the Duke's notification, and as soon as
word was received from him, the Duke should be communicated with.
Then the Duke of Frias in turn passed out of office and was succeeded
by another, and so, politically, change followed change.

The Government, however, had no intention of putting itself in the
wrong a second time. Great Britain's friendship was of far too great
importance to the country to be jeopardised for the mere
gratification of imprisoning George Borrow. An order had been sent
out to all the authorities that an embargo was to be placed upon the
books themselves; but those distributing them were not to be arrested
or in any way harmed.

At Seville he found evidences of the activity of the Government in
the news that of the hundred New Testaments that he had left with his
correspondent there, seventy-six had been seized during the previous
summer. Hearing that the books were in the hands of the
Ecclesiastical Governor, Borrow astonished that "fierce, persecuting
Papist by calling to make enquiries concerning them." The old man
treated his visitor to a stream of impassioned invective against the
Bible Society and its agent, expressing his surprise that he had ever
been permitted to leave the prison in Madrid. Seeing that nothing
was to be gained, although he had an absolute right to the books,
provided he sent them out of the country, Borrow decided not to press
the matter.

On the night of 12th Jan. 1839, he left Seville with the Mail Courier
and his escort bound for Madrid, where he arrived on the 16th without
accident or incident, although the next Courier traversing the route
was stopped by banditti. It was during this journey, whilst resting
for four hours at Manzanares, a large village in La Mancha, that he
encountered the blind girl who had been taught Latin by a Jesuit
priest, and whom he named "the Manchegan Prophetess." {284a} In
telling Mr Brandram of the incident, Borrow tactlessly remarked,
"what wonderful people are the Jesuits; when shall we hear of an
English rector instructing a beggar girl in the language of Cicero?"
Mr Brandram clearly showed that he liked neither the remark, which he
took as personal, nor the use of the term "prophetess."

On reaching Madrid a singular incident befell Borrow. On entering
the arch of the posada called La Reyna, he found himself encircled by
a pair of arms, and, on turning round, found that they belonged to
the delinquent Antonio, who stood before his late master "haggard and
ill-dressed, and his eyes seemed starting from their sockets." The
poor fellow, who was entirely destitute, had, on the previous night,
dreamed that he saw Borrow arrive on a black horse, and, in
consequence, had spent the whole day in loitering about outside the
posada. Borrow was very glad to engage him again, in spite of his
recent cowardice and desertion. Borrow once more took up his abode
with the estimable Maria Diaz, and one of his first cares was to call
on Lord Clarendon (Sir George Villiers had succeeded his uncle as
fourth earl), by whom he was kindly received.

A week later, there arrived from Lopez at Villa Seca his "largest and
most useful horse," the famous Sidi Habismilk (My Lord the Sustainer
of the Kingdom), "an Arabian of high caste . . . the best, I believe,
that ever issued from the desert," {285a} Lopez wrote, regretting
that he was unable to accompany "The Sustainer of the Kingdom" in
person, being occupied with agricultural pursuits, but he sent a
relative named Victoriano to assist in the work of distributing the

Borrow's plan was to make Madrid his headquarters, with Antonio in
charge of the supplies, and visit all the villages and hamlets in the
vicinity that had not yet been supplied with Testaments. He then
proposed to turn eastward to a distance of about thirty leagues.

"I have been very passionate in prayer," he writes, {285b} "during
the last two or three days; and I entertain some hope that the Lord
has condescended to answer me, as I appear to see my way with
considerable clearness. It may, of course, prove a delusion, and the
prospects which seem to present themselves may be mere palaces of
clouds, which a breath of wind is sufficient to tumble into ruin;
therefore bearing this possibility in mind it behoves me to beg that
I may be always enabled to bow meekly to the dispensations of the
Almighty, whether they be of favour or severity."

Mr Brandram's comment on this portion of Borrow's letter is rather
suggestive of deliberate fault-finding.

"May your 'passionate' prayers be answered," he writes. {286a} "You
see I remark your unusual word--very significant it is, but one
rather fitted for the select circle where 'passion' is understood in
its own full sense--and not in the restricted meaning attached to it
ordinarily. Perhaps you will not often meet with a better set of men
than those who assembled in Earl Street, but they may not always be
open to the force of language, and so unwonted a phrase may raise odd
feelings in their minds. Do not be in a passion, will you, for the
freedom of my remarks. You will perhaps suppose remarks were made in
Committee. This does not happen to be the case, though I fully
anticipated it. Mr Browne, Mr Jowett and myself had first privately
devoured your letter, and we made our remarks. We could relish such
a phrase."

Sometimes there was a suggestion of spite in Mr Brandram's letters.
He was obviously unfriendly towards Borrow during the latter portion
of his agency. It was clear that the period of Borrow's further
association with the Bible Society was to be limited. If he replied
at all to this rather unfair criticism, he must have done so
privately to Mr Brandram, as there is no record of his having
referred to it in any subsequent letters among the Society's

All unconscious that he had so early offended, Borrow set out upon
his first journey to distribute Testaments among the villages around
Madrid. Dressed in the manner of the peasants, on his head a
montera, a species of leathern helmet, with jacket and trousers of
the same material, and mounted on Sidi Habismilk, he looked so unlike
the conventional missionary that the housewife may be excused who
mistook him for a pedlar selling soap.

In some villages where the people were without money, they received
Testaments in return for refreshing the missionaries. "Is this
right?" Borrow enquires of Mr Brandram. The village priests
frequently proved of considerable assistance; for when they
pronounced the books good, as they sometimes did, the sale became
extremely brisk. After an absence of eight days, Borrow returned to
Madrid. Shortly afterwards, when on the eve of starting out upon
another expedition to Guadalajara and the villages of Alcarria, he
received a letter from Victoriano saying that he was in prison at
Fuente la Higuera, a village about eight leagues distant. Acting
with his customary energy and decision, Borrow obtained from an
influential friend letters to the Civil Governor and principal
authorities of Guadalajara. He then despatched Antonio to the
rescue, with the result that Victoriano was released, with the
assurance that those responsible for his detention should be severely

Whilst Victoriano was in prison, Borrow and Antonio had been very
successful in selling Testaments and Bibles in Madrid, disposing of
upwards of a hundred copies, but entirely to the poor, who "receive
the Scriptures with gladness," although the hearts of the rich were
hard. The work in and about Madrid continued until the middle of
March, when Borrow decided to make an excursion as far as Talavera.
The first halt was made at the village of Naval Carnero. Soon after
his arrival orders came from Madrid warning the alcaldes of every
village in New Castile to be on the look out for the tall, white-
haired heretic, of whom an exact description was given, who to-day
was in one place and to-morrow twenty leagues distant. No violence
was to be offered either to him or to his assistants; but he and they
were to be baulked in their purpose by every legitimate means.

Foiled in the rural districts, Borrow instantly determined to change
his plan of campaign. He saw that he was less likely to attract
notice in the densely-populated capital than in the provinces. He
therefore galloped back to Madrid, leaving Victoriano to follow more
leisurely. He rejoiced at the alarm of the clergy. "Glory to God!"
he exclaims, "they are becoming thoroughly alarmed, and with much
reason." {288a} The "reason" lay in the great demand for Testaments
and Bibles. A new binding-order had to be given for the balance of
the 500 Bibles that had arrived in sheets, or such as had been left
of them by the rats, who had done considerable damage in the Madrid

It was at this juncture that Borrow's extensive acquaintance with the
lower orders proved useful. Selecting eight of the most intelligent
from among them, including five women, he supplied them with
Testaments and instructions to vend the books in all the parishes of
Madrid, with the result that in the course of about a fortnight 600
copies were disposed of in the streets and alleys. A house to house
canvass was instituted with remarkable results, for manservant and
maidservant bought eagerly of the books. Antonio excelled himself
and made some amends for his flight from Labajos, when, like a
torrent, the Carlist cavalry descended upon it. Dark Madrid was
becoming illuminated with a flood of Scriptural light. In two of its
churches the New Testament was expounded every Sunday evening.
Bibles were particularly in demand, a hundred being sold in about
three weeks. The demand exceeded the supply. "The Marques de Santa
Coloma," Borrow wrote, "has a large family, but every individual of
it, old or young, is now in possession of a Bible and likewise of a
Testament." {288b}

Borrow appears to have enlisted the aid of other distributors than
the eight colporteurs. One of his most zealous agents was an
ecclesiastic, who always carried with him beneath his gown a copy of
the Bible, which he offered to the first person he encountered whom
he thought likely to become a purchaser. Yet another assistant was
found in a rich old gentleman of Navarre, who sent copies to his own

One night after having retired to bed, Borrow received a visit from a
curious, hobgoblin-like person, who gave him grave, official warning
that unless he present himself before the corregidor on the morrow at
eleven A.M., he must be prepared to take the consequences. The hour
chosen for this intimation was midnight. On the next day at the
appointed time Borrow presented himself before the corregidor, who
announced that he wished to ask a question. The question related to
a box of Testaments that Borrow had sent to Naval Carnero, which had
been seized and subsequently claimed on Borrow's behalf by Antonio.
In Spain they have the dramatic instinct. If it strike the majestic
mind of a corregidor at midnight that he would like to see a citizen
or a stranger on the morrow about some trifling affair, time or place
are not permitted to interfere with the conveyance of the intimation
to the citizen or stranger to present himself before the gravely
austere official, who will carry out the interrogation with a
solemnity becoming a capital charge.

By the middle of April barely a thousand Testaments remained; these
Borrow determined to distribute in Seville. Sending Antonio, the
Testaments and two horses with the convoy, Borrow decided to risk
travelling with the Mail Courier. For one thing, he disliked the
slowness of a convoy, and for another the insults and irritations
that travellers had to put up with from the escort, both officers and
men. His original plan had been to proceed by Estremadura; but a
band of Carlist robbers had recently made its appearance, murdering
or holding at ransom every person who fell into its clutches. Borrow

"I therefore deem it wise to avoid, if possible, the alternative of
being shot or having to pay one thousand pounds for being set at
liberty . . . It is moreover wicked to tempt Providence
systematically. I have already thrust myself into more danger than
was, perhaps, strictly necessary, and as I have been permitted
hitherto to escape, it is better to be content with what it has
pleased the Lord to do for me up to the present moment, than to run
the risk of offending Him by a blind confidence in His forbearance,
which may be over-taxed. As it is, however, at all times best to be
frank, I am willing to confess that I am what the world calls
exceedingly superstitious; perhaps the real cause of my change of
resolution was a dream, in which I imagined myself on a desolate road
in the hands of several robbers, who were hacking me with their long,
ugly knives." {290a}

In the same letter, which was so to incur Mr Brandram's disapproval,
Borrow tells of the excellent results of his latest plan for
disposing of Bibles and Testaments, three hundred and fifty of the
former having been sold since he reached Spain. He goes on to
explain and expound the difficulties that have been met and overcome,
and hopes that his friends at Earl Street will be patient, as it may
not be in his power to send "for a long time any flattering accounts
of operations commenced there." In conclusion, he assures Mr
Brandram that from the Church of Rome he has learned one thing, "EVER

Nothing could have been more unfortunate than the effect produced
upon Mr Brandram's mind by this letter.

"I scarcely know what to say," he writes. "You are in a very
peculiar country; you are doubtless a man of very peculiar
temperament, and we must not apply common rules in judging either of
yourself or your affairs. What, e.g., shall we say to your
confession of a certain superstitiousness? It is very frank of you
to tell us what you need not have told; but it sounded very odd when
read aloud in a large Committee. Strangers that know you not would
carry away strange ideas . . . In bespeaking our patience, there is
an implied contrast between your own mode of proceeding and that
adopted by others--a contrast this a little to the disadvantage of
others, and savouring a little of the praise of a personage called
number one . . . Perhaps my vanity is offended, and I feel as if I
were not esteemed a person of sufficient discernment to know enough
of the real state of Spain . . .

"Bear with me now in my criticisms on your second letter [that of 2nd
May]. You narrate your perilous journey to Seville, and say at the
beginning of the description: 'My usual wonderful good fortune
accompanying us.' This is a mode of speaking to which we are not
well accustomed; it savours, some of our friends would say, a little
of the profane. Those who know you will not impute this to you. But
you must remember that our Committee Room is public to a great
extent, and I cannot omit expressions as I go reading on. Pious
sentiments may be thrust into letters ad nauseam, and it is not for
that I plead; but is there not a via media? "We are odd people, it
may be, in England; we are not fond of prophets or 'prophetesses' [a
reference to her of La Mancha about whom Borrow had previously been
rebuked]. I have not turned back to your former description of the
lady whom you have a second time introduced to our notice. Perhaps
my wounded pride had not been made whole after the infliction you
before gave it by contrasting the teacher of the prophetess with
English rectors."

Borrow replied to this letter from Seville on 28th June, and there
are indications that before doing so he took time to deliberate upon

"Think not, I pray you," he wrote, "that any observation of yours
respecting style, or any peculiarities of expression which I am in
the habit of exhibiting in my correspondence, can possibly awaken in
me any feeling but that of gratitude, knowing so well as I do the
person who offers them, and the motives by which he is influenced. I
have reflected on those passages which you were pleased to point out
as objectionable, and have nothing to reply further than that I have
erred, that I am sorry, and will endeavour to mend, and that,
moreover, I have already prayed for assistance to do so. Allow me,
however, to offer a word, not in excuse but in explanation of the
expression 'wonderful good fortune' which appeared in a former letter
of mine. It is clearly objectionable, and, as you very properly
observe, savours of pagan times. But I am sorry to say that I am
much in the habit of repeating other people's sayings without
weighing their propriety. The saying was not mine; but I heard it in
conversation and thoughtlessly repeated it. A few miles from Seville
I was telling the Courier of the many perilous journeys which I had
accomplished in Spain in safety, and for which I thank the Lord. His
reply was, 'La mucha suerte de Usted tambien nos ha acompanado en
este viage." {292a}

Thus ended another unfortunate misunderstanding between secretary and

Borrow had taken considerable risk in making the journey to Seville
with the Courier. The whole of La Mancha was overrun with the
Carlist-banditti, who, "whenever it pleases them, stop the Courier,
burn the vehicle and letters, murder the paltry escort which attends,
and carry away any chance passenger to the mountains, where an
enormous ransom is demanded, which if not paid brings on the dilemma
of four shots through the head, as the Spaniards say." The Courier's
previous journey over the same route had ended in the murder of the
escort and the burning of the coach, the Courier himself escaping
through the good offices of one of the bandits, who had formerly been
his postilion. Borrow was shown the blood-soaked turf and the skull
of one of the soldiers. At Manzanares, Borrow invited to breakfast
with him the Prophetess who was so unpopular at Earl Street.
Continuing the journey, he reached Seville without mishap, and a few
days later Antonio arrived with the horses. It was found that the
two cases of Testaments that had been forwarded from Madrid had been
stopped at the Seville Customs House, and Borrow had recourse to
subterfuge in order to get them and save his journey from being in

"For a few dollars," he tells Mr Brandram (2nd May), "I procured a
fiador or person who engaged THAT THE CHESTS should be carried down
the river and embarked at San Lucar for a foreign land. Yesterday I
hired a boat and sent them down, but on the way I landed in a secure
place all the Testaments which I intend for this part of the

The fiador had kept to the letter of his undertaking, and the chests
were duly delivered at San Lucar; but a considerable portion of their
contents, some two hundred Testaments, had been abstracted, and these
had to be smuggled into Seville under the cloaks of master and
servant. The officials appear to have treated Borrow with the
greatest possible courtesy and consideration, and they told him that
his "intentions were known and honored."

Borrow had great hopes of achieving something for the Gospel's sake
in Seville; but the operation would be a delicate one. To Mr
Brandram he wrote:-

"Consider my situation here. I am in a city by nature very
Levitical, as it contains within it the most magnificent and
splendidly endowed cathedral of any in Spain. I am surrounded by
priests and friars, who know and hate me, and who, if I commit the
slightest act of indiscretion, will halloo their myrmidons against
me. The press is closed to me, the libraries are barred against me,
I have no one to assist me but my hired servant, no pious English
families to comfort or encourage me, the British subjects here being
ranker papists and a hundred times more bigoted than the Spanish
themselves, the Consul, a RENEGADE QUAKER. Yet notwithstanding, with
God's assistance, I will do much, though silently, burrowing like the
mole in darkness beneath the ground. Those who have triumphed in
Madrid, and in the two Castiles, where the difficulties were seven
times greater, are not to be dismayed by priestly frowns at Seville."

On arriving at Seville Borrow had put up at the Posada de la Reyna,
in the Calle Gimios, and here on 4th May (he had arrived about 24th
April) he encountered Lieut.-Colonel Elers Napier. Borrow liked
nothing so well as appearing in the role of a mysterious stranger.
He loved mystery as much as a dramatic moment. His admiration of
Baron Taylor was largely based upon the innumerable conjectures as to
who it was that surrounded his puzzling personality with such an air
of mystery. That May morning Colonel Napier, who was also staying at
the Posada de la Reyna, was wandering about the galleries overlooking
the patio. He writes:-

"whilst occupied in moralising over the dripping water spouts, I
observed a tall, gentlemanly-looking man dressed in a semarra
[zamarra, a sheepskin jacket with the wool outside] leaning over the
balustrades and apparently engaged in a similar manner with myself .
. . From the stranger's complexion, which was fair, but with
brilliant black eyes, I concluded he was not a Spaniard; in short,
there was something so remarkable in his appearance that it was
difficult to say to what nation he might belong. He was tall, with a
commanding appearance; yet, though apparently in the flower of
manhood, his hair was so deeply tinged with the winter of either age
or sorrow as to be nearly snow white." {294a}

Colonel Napier was thoroughly mystified. The stranger answered his
French in "the purest Parisian Accent"; yet he proved capable of
speaking fluent English, of giving orders to his Greek servant in
Romaic, of conversing "in good Castillian with 'mine host'," and of
exchanging salutations in German with another resident at the fonda.
Later the Colonel had the gratification of startling the Unknown by
replying to some remark of his in Hindi; but only momentarily, for he
showed himself "delighted on finding I was an Indian, and entered
freely, and with depth and acuteness, on the affairs of the East,
most of which part of the world he had visited." {294b}

No one could give any information about "the mysterious Unknown," who
or what he was, or why he was travelling. It was known that the
police entertained suspicions that he was a Russian spy, and kept him
under strict observation. Whatever else he was, Colonel Napier found
him "a very agreeable companion." {295a}

On the following morning (a Sunday) Colonel Napier and his Unknown
set out on horseback on an excursion to the ruins of Italica. As
they sat on a ruined wall of the Convent of San Isidoro,
contemplating the scene of ruin and desolation around, "the 'Unknown'
began to feel the vein of poetry creeping through his inward soul,
and gave vent to it by reciting with great emphasis and effect" some
lines that the scene called up to his mind.

"I had been too much taken up with the scene," Colonel Napier
continues, "the verses, and the strange being who was repeating them
with so much feeling, to notice the approach of a slight female
figure, beautiful in the extreme, but whose tattered garments, raven
hair, swarthy complexion and flashing eyes proclaimed to be of the
wandering tribe of Gitanos. From an intuitive sense of politeness,
she stood with crossed arms and a slight smile on her dark and
handsome countenance until my companion had ceased, and then
addressed us in the usual whining tone of supplication--
'Caballeritos, una limosnita! Dios se la pagara a ustedes!'--
'Gentlemen, a little charity; God will repay it to you!' The gypsy
girl was so pretty and her voice so sweet, that I involuntarily put
my hand in my pocket.

"'Stop!' said the Unknown. 'Do you remember what I told you about
the Eastern origin of these people? You shall see I am correct.'--
'Come here, my pretty child,' said he in Moultanee, 'and tell me
where are the rest of your tribe.'

"The girl looked astounded, replied in the same tongue, but in broken
language; when, taking him by the arm, she said in Spanish, 'Come,
cabellero--come to one who will be able to answer you'; and she led
the way down amongst the ruins, towards one of the dens formerly
occupied by the wild beasts, and disclosed to us a set of beings
scarcely less savage. The sombre walls of the gloomy abode were
illumined by a fire the smoke from which escaped through a deep
fissure in the mossy roof; whilst the flickering flames threw a
blood-red glare on the bronzed features of a group of children, of
two men, and a decrepit old hag, who appeared busily engaged in some
culinary preparations.

"On our entrance, the scowling glance of the males of the party, and
a quick motion of the hand towards the folds of the 'faja' [a sash in
which the Spaniard carries a formidable clasp-knife] caused in me, at
least, anything but a comfortable sensation; but their hostile
intentions, if ever entertained, were immediately removed by a wave
of the hand from our conductress, who, leading my companion towards
the sibyl, whispered something in her ear. The old crone appeared
incredulous. The 'Unknown' uttered one word; but that word had the
effect of magic; she prostrated herself at his feet, and in an
instant, from an object of suspicion he became one of worship to the
whole family, to whom, on taking leave, he made a handsome present,
and departed with their united blessings, to the astonishment of
myself and what looked very like terror in our Spanish guide.

"I was, as the phrase goes, dying with curiosity, and as soon as we
mounted our horses, exclaimed--'Where, in the name of goodness, did
you pick up your acquaintance with the language of those
extraordinary people?'

"'Some years ago, in Moultan,' he replied.

"'And by what means do you possess such apparent influence over
them?' But the 'Unknown' had already said more than he perhaps
wished on the subject. He drily replied that he had more than once
owed his life to gypsies, and had reason to know them well; but this
was said in a tone which precluded all further queries on my part.
The subject was never again broached, and we returned in silence to
the fonda . . . This is a most extraordinary character, and the more
I see of him the more am I puzzled. He appears acquainted with
everybody and everything, but apparently unknown to every one
himself. Though his figure bespeaks youth--and by his own account
his age does not exceed thirty [he would be thirty-six in the
following July]--yet the snows of eighty winters could not have
whitened his locks more completely than they are. But in his dark
and searching eye there is an almost supernatural penetration and
lustre, which, were I inclined to superstition, might induce me to
set down its possessor as a second Melmoth." {297a}


Borrow confesses that he was at a loss to know how to commence
operations in Seville. He was entirely friendless, even the British
Consul being unapproachable on account of his religious beliefs.
However, he soon gathered round him some of those curious characters
who seemed always to gravitate towards him, no matter where he might
be, or with what occupied. Surely the Scriptures never had such a
curious assortment of missionaries as Borrow employed? At Seville
there was the gigantic Greek, Dionysius of Cephalonia; the "aged
professor of music, who, with much stiffness and ceremoniousness,
united much that was excellent and admirable"; {298a} the Greek
bricklayer, Johannes Chysostom, a native of Morea, who might at any
time become "the Masaniello of Seville." With these assistants
Borrow set to work to throw the light of the Gospel into the dark
corners of the city.

Soon after arriving at Seville, he decided to adopt a new plan of

"On account of the extreme dearness of every article at the posada,"
he wrote to Mr Brandram on 12th June, "where, moreover, I had a
suspicion that I was being watched [this may have reference to the
police suspicion that he was a Russian spy], I removed with my
servant and horses to an empty house in a solitary part of the town .
. . Here I live in the greatest privacy, admitting no person but two
or three in whom I had the greatest confidence, who entertain the
same views as myself, and who assist me in the circulation of the

The house stood in a solitary situation, occupying one side of the
Plazuela de la Pila Seca (the Little Square of the Empty Trough). It
was a two-storied building and much too large for Borrow's
requirements. Having bought the necessary articles of furniture, he
retired behind the shutters of his Andalusian mansion with Antonio
and the two horses. He lived in the utmost seclusion, spending a
large portion of his time in study or in dreamy meditation. "The
people here complain sadly of the heat," he writes to Mr Brandram
(28th June 1839), "but as for myself, I luxuriate in it, like the
butterflies which hover about the macetas, or flowerpots, in the
court." In the cool of the evening he would mount Sidi Habismilk and
ride along the Dehesa until the topmost towers of the city were out
of sight, then, turning the noble Arab, he would let him return at
his best speed, which was that of the whirlwind.

Throughout his work in Spain Borrow had been seriously handicapped by
being unable to satisfy the demand for Bibles that met him everywhere
he went. In a letter (June) from Maria Diaz, who was acting as his
agent in Madrid, {299a} the same story is told.

"The binder has brought me eight Bibles," she writes, "which he has
contrived to make up out of THE SHEETS GNAWN BY THE RATS, and which
would have been necessary even had they amounted to eight thousand (y
era necesario se puvieran vuelto 8000), because the people are
innumerable who come to seek more. Don Santiago has been here with
some friends, who insisted upon having a part of them. The Aragonese
Gentleman has likewise been, he who came before your departure, and
bespoke twenty-four; he now wants twenty-five. I begged them to take
Testaments, but they would not." {300a}

The Greek bricklayer proved a most useful agent. His great influence
with his poor acquaintances resulted in the sale of many Testaments.
More could have been done had it not been necessary to proceed with
extreme caution, lest the authorities should take action and seize
the small stock of books that remained.

When he took and furnished the large house in the little square,
there had been in Borrow's mind another reason than a desire for
solitude and freedom from prying eyes. Throughout his labours in
Spain he had kept up a correspondence with Mrs Clarke of Oulton, who,
on 15th March, had written informing him of her intention to take up
her abode for a short time at Seville.

For some time previously Mrs Clarke had been having trouble about her
estate. Her mother (September 1835) and father (February 1836) were
both dead, and her brother Breame had inherited the estate and she
the mortgage together with the Cottage on Oulton Broad. Breame
Skepper died (May 1837), leaving a wife and six children. In his
will he had appointed Trustees, who demanded the sale of the Estate
and division of the money, which was opposed by Mrs Clarke as
executrix and mortgagee. Later it was agreed between the parties
that the Estate should be sold for 11,000 pounds to a Mr Joseph Cator
Webb, and an agreement to that effect was signed. Anticipating that
the Estate would increase in value, and apparently regretting their
bargain, the Trustees delayed carrying out their undertaking, and Mr
Webb filed a bill in Chancery to force them to do so. Mrs Clarke's
legal advisers thought it better that she should disappear for a
time. Hence her letter to Borrow, in replying to which (29th March),
he expresses pleasure at the news of his friend's determination "to
settle in Seville for a short time--which, I assure you, I consider
to be the most agreeable retreat you can select . . . for THERE the
growls of your enemies will scarcely reach you." He goes on to tell
her that he laughed outright at the advice of her counsellor not to
take a house and furnish it.

"Houses in Spain are let by the day: and in a palace here you will
find less furniture than in your cottage at Oulton. Were you to
furnish a Spanish house in the style of cold, wintry England, you
would be unable to breathe. A few chairs, tables, and mattresses are
all that is required, with of course a good stock of bed-linen . . .

"Bring with you, therefore, your clothes, plenty of bed-linen, etc.,
half-a-dozen blankets, two dozen knives and forks, a mirror or two,
twelve silver table spoons, and a large one for soup, tea things and
urn (for the Spaniards never drink tea), a few books, but not many,--
and you will have occasion for nothing more, or, if you have, you can
purchase it here as cheap as in England."

Borrow's ideas of domestic comfort were those of the old campaigner.
For all that, he showed himself very thorough in the directions he
gave as to how and where Mrs Clarke should book her passage and
obtain "a passport for yourself and Hen." (Henrietta her daughter,
now nearly twenty years of age), and the warning he gave that no
attempt should be made to go ashore at Lisbon, "a very dangerous

On 7th June Mrs Clarke and her daughter Henrietta sailed from London
on board the steam-packet Royal Tar bound for Cadiz, where they
arrived on the 16th, and, on the day following, entered into
possession of their temporary home where Borrow was already
installed, safe for the time from Mr Webb's Chancery bill. It was no
doubt to Mrs and Miss Clarke that Borrow referred when he wrote to Mr
Brandram {301a} saying that "two or three ladies of my acquaintance
occasionally dispose of some [Testaments] amongst their friends, but
they say that they experience some difficulty, the cry for Bibles
being great."

Borrow continued to reside at 7 Plazuela de la Pila Seca, and Mrs
Clarke and Henrietta soon learned something of the vicissitudes and
excitements of a missionary's life. On Sunday, 8th July, as Borrow
"happened to be reading the Liturgy," he received a visit from
"various alguacils, headed by the Alcade del Barrio, or headborough,
who made a small seizure of Testaments and Gypsy Gospels which
happened to be lying about." {302a} This circumstance convinced
Borrow of the good effect of his labours in and around Seville.

The time had now arrived, however, when the whole of the smuggled
Testaments had been disposed of, and there was no object in remaining
longer in Seville, or in Spain for that matter. There were books at
San Lucar that might without official opposition be shipped out of
the country, and Borrow therefore determined to see what could be
done towards distributing them among the Spanish residents on the
Coast of Barbary. This done, he hoped to return to Spain and dispose
of the 900 odd Testaments lying at Madrid. On 18th July he wrote to
Mr Brandram:-

"I should wish to be permitted on my return from my present
expedition to circulate some in La Mancha. The state of that
province is truly horrible; it appears peopled partly with spectres
and partly with demons. There is famine, and such famine; there is
assassination and such unnatural assassination [another of Borrow's
phrases that must have struck the Committee as odd]. There you see
soldiers and robbers, ghastly lepers and horrible and uncouth maimed
and blind, exhibiting their terrible nakedness in the sun. I was
prevented last year in carrying the Gospel amongst them. May I be
more successful this."

Antonio had been dismissed, his master being "compelled to send [him]
back to Madrid . . . on account of his many irregularities," and in
consequence it was alone, on the night of 31st July, that Borrow set
out upon his expedition. From Seville he took the steamer to
Bonanza, from whence he drove to San Lucar, where he picked up a
chest of New Testaments and a small box of St Luke's Gospel in
Gitano, with a pass for them to Cadiz. It proved expensive, this
claiming of his own property, for at every step there was some fee to
be paid or gratuity to be given. The last payment was made to the
Spanish Consul at Gibraltar, who claimed and received a dollar for
certifying the arrival of books he had not seen.

Borrow was instinctively a missionary, even a great missionary. At
the Customs House of San Lucar some questions were asked about the
books contained in the cases, and he seized the occasion to hold an
informal missionary meeting, with the officials clustered round him
listening to his discourse. One of the cases had to be opened for
inspection, and the upshot of it was that, to the very officials
whose duty it was to see that the books were not distributed in
Spain, Borrow sold a number of copies, not only of the Spanish
Testament, but of the Gypsy St Luke. Such was the power of his
personality and the force of his eloquence.

From San Lucar Borrow returned to Bonanza and again took the boat,
which landed him at Cadiz, where he was hospitably entertained by Mr
Brackenbury, the British Consul, who gave him a letter of
introduction to Mr Drummond Hay, the Consul-General at Tangier. On
4th August he proceeded to Gibraltar. It was not until the 8th,
however, that he was able to cross to Tangier, where he was kindly
received by Mr Hay, who found for him a very comfortable lodging.

Taking the Consul's advice, Borrow proceeded with extreme caution.
For the first fortnight of his stay he made no effort to distribute
his Testaments, contenting himself with studying the town and its
inhabitants, occasionally speaking to the Christians in the place
(principally Spanish and Genoese sailors and their families) about
religious matters, but always with the greatest caution lest the two
or three friars, who resided at what was known as the Spanish
Convent, should become alarmed. Again Borrow obtained the services
of a curious assistant, a Jewish lad named Hayim Ben Attar, who
carried the Testaments to the people's houses and offered them for
sale, and this with considerable success. On 4th September Borrow
wrote to Mr Brandram:-

"The blessed book is now in the hands of most of the Christians of
Tangier, from the lowest to the highest, from the fisherman to the
consul. One dozen and a half were carried to Tetuan on speculation,
a town about six leagues from hence; they will be offered to the
Christians who reside there. Other two dozen are on their way to
distant Mogadore. One individual, a tavern keeper, has purchased
Testaments to the number of thirty, which he says he has no doubt he
can dispose of to the foreign sailors who stop occasionally at his
house. You will be surprised to hear that several amongst the Jews
have purchased copies of the New Testament with the intention, as
they state, of improving themselves in Spanish, but I believe from

During his stay in Tangier, Borrow had some trouble with the British
Vice-Consul, who seems to have made himself extremely offensive with
his persistent offers of service. His face was "purple and blue" and
in whose blood-shot eyes there was an expression "much like that of a
departed tunny fish or salmon," and he became so great an annoyance
that Borrow made a complaint to Mr Drummond Hay. This is one of the
few instances of Borrow's experiencing difficulty with any British
official, for, as a rule, he was extremely popular. In this
particular instance, however, the Vice-Consul was so obviously
seeking to make profit out of his official position, that there was
no other means open to Borrow than to make a formal complaint.

In the case of Mr Drummond Hay, he obtained the friendship of a "true
British gentleman." At first the Consul had been reserved and
distant, and apparently by no means inclined to render Borrow any
service in the furtherance of his mission; but a few days sufficed to
bring him under the influence of Borrow's personal magnetism, and he
ended by assuring him that he would be happy to receive the Society's
commands, and would render all possible assistance, officially or
otherwise, to the distribution of the Scriptures "in Fez or Morocco."

Borrow was thoroughly satisfied with the result of his five weeks'
stay in Tangier. He reached Cadiz on his way to Seville on 21st
Sept., after undergoing a four days' quarantine at Tarifa, when he
wrote to Mr Brandram (29th Sept.):

"I am very glad that I went to Tangier, for many reasons. In the
first place, I was permitted to circulate many copies of God's Word
both among the Jews and the Christians, by the latter of whom it was
particularly wanted, their ignorance of the most vital points of
religion being truly horrible. In the second place, I acquired a
vast stock of information concerning Africa and the state of its
interior. One of my principal Associates was a black slave whose
country was only three days' journey from Timbuctoo, which place he
had frequently visited. The Soos men also told me many of the
secrets of the land of wonders from which they come, and the Rabbis
from Fez and Morocco were no less communicative."

Borrow had started upon his expedition to the Barbary Coast without
any definite instructions from Earl Street. On 29th July the Sub-
Committee had resolved that as his mission to Spain was "nearly
attained by the disposal of the larger part of the Spanish Scriptures
which he went out to distribute," the General Committee be
recommended to request him to take measures for selling or placing in
safe custody all copies remaining on hand and returning to England
"without loss of time." This was adopted on 5th Aug.; but before it
received the formal sanction of the General Committee Mr Browne had
written (29th July) to Borrow acquainting him with the feeling of the
Sub-Committee, thinking that he ought to have early intimation of
what was taking place. This letter Borrow found awaiting him at
Cadiz on his return from Tangier. He replied immediately (21st

"Had I been aware of that resolution before my departure for Tangier
I certainly should not have gone; my expedition, however, was the
result of much reflection. I wished to carry the Gospel to the
Christians of the Barbary shore, who were much in want of it; and I
had one hundred and thirty Testaments at San Lucar, which I could
only make available by exportation. The success which it has pleased
the Lord to yield me in my humble efforts at distribution in Barbary
will, I believe, prove the best criterion as to the fitness of the

"I stated in my last communication to Mr Brandram the plan which I
conceived to be the best for circulating that portion of the edition
of the New Testament which remains unsold at Madrid, and I scarcely
needed a stimulant in the execution of my duty. At present, however,
I know not what to do; I am sorrowful, disappointed and unstrung.

I wish to return to England as soon as possible; but I have books and
papers at Madrid which are of much importance to me and which I
cannot abandon, this perhaps alone prevents me embarking in the next
packet. I have, moreover, brought with me from Tangier the Jewish
youth [Hayim Ben Attar], who so powerfully assisted me in that place
in the work of distribution. I had hoped to have made him of service
in Spain, he is virtuous and clever . . .

"I am almost tempted to ask whether some strange, some unaccountable
delusion does not exist: what should induce me to stay in Spain, as
you appear to suppose I intend? I may, however, have misunderstood
you. I wish to receive a fresh communication as soon as possible,
either from yourself or Mr Brandram; in the meantime I shall go to
Seville, to which place and to the usual number pray direct."

It would appear that the Bible Society had become aware of Borrow's
menage at Seville, and concluded that he meant to take up his abode
in Spain more or less permanently.

Borrow's next plan was to order a chest of Testaments to be sent to
La Mancha, where he had friends, then to mount his horse and proceed
there in person. With the assistance of his Jewish body-servant he
hoped to circulate many copies before the authorities became aware of
his presence. Later he would proceed to Madrid, put his affairs in
order, and make for France by way of Saragossa (where he hoped to
accomplish some good), and then--home.

In September a circular signed by Lord Palmerston was received by all
the British Consuls in Spain, strictly forbidding them "to afford the
slightest countenance to religious agents. {307a} What was the cause
of this last blow?" {307b} Borrow rather unfortunately enquired of
Mr Brandram. The Consul at Cadiz, Mr Brackenbury, explained it,
according to Borrow, as due to "an ill-advised application made to
his Lordship to interfere with the Spanish Government on behalf of a
certain individual {307c} [Lieut. Graydon] whose line of conduct
needs no comment." {307d} After pointing out that once the same
consuls had received from a British Ambassador instructions to
further, in their official capacity, the work of the Bible Society,
he concludes with the following remark, as ill-advised as it is
droll: "When dead flies fall into the ointment of the apothecary
they cause it to send forth an unpleasant savour." {308a}

It must have been obvious to both Borrow and Mr Brandram that matters
were rapidly approaching a crisis. Mr Brandram seems to have been
almost openly hostile, and draws Borrow's attention to the fact that
after all his distributions have been small. Borrow replies by
saying that the fault did not rest with him. Had he been able to
offer Bibles instead of Testaments for sale, the circulation would
have been ten times greater. He expresses it as his belief that had
he received 20,000 Bibles he could have sold them all in Madrid
during the Spring of 1839.

"When the Bible Society has no further occasion for my poor labours,"
he wrote {309b} somewhat pathetically, "I hope it will do me justice
to the world. I have been its faithful and zealous servant. I shall
on a future occasion take the liberty of addressing you as a friend
respecting my prospects. I have the materials of a curious book of
travels in Spain; I have enough metrical translations from all
languages, especially the Celtic and Sclavonic, to fill a dozen
volumes; and I have formed a vocabulary of the Spanish Gypsy tongue,
and also a collection of the songs and poetry of the Gitanos, with
introductory essays. Perhaps some of these literary labours might be
turned to account. I wish to obtain honourably and respectably the
means of visiting China or particular parts of Africa."

It is clear from this that Borrow saw how unlikely it was that his
association with the Bible Society would be prolonged beyond the
present commission. For one thing Spain was, to all intents and
purposes, closed to the unannotated Scriptures. Something might be
done in the matter of surreptitious distribution; but that had its
clearly defined limitations, as the authorities were very much alive
to the danger of the light that Borrow sought to cast over the gloom
of ignorance and superstition.

At Earl Street it was clearly recognised that Borrow's work in Spain
was concluded. On 1st November the Sub-Committee resolved that it
could "not recommend to the General Committee to engage the further
services of Mr Borrow until he shall have returned to this country
from his Mission in Spain." Again, on 10th January following, it
recommends the General Committee to recall him "without further

Although he had been officially recalled, nothing was further from
Borrow's intentions than to retire meekly from the field. He
intended to retreat with drums sounding and colours flying, fighting
something more than a rearguard action. This man's energy and
resource were terrible--to the authorities! Seville he felt was
still a fruitful ground, and sending to Madrid for further supplies
of Testaments, he commenced operations. "Everything was accomplished
with the utmost secrecy, and the blessed books obtained considerable
circulation." {309a} Agents were sent into the country and he went
also himself, "in my accustomed manner," until all the copies that
had arrived from the capital were put into circulation. He then
rested for a while, being in need of quiet, as he was indisposed.

By this action Borrow was incurring no little risk. The Canons of
the Cathedral watched him closely. Their hatred amounted "almost to
a frenzy," and Borrow states that scarcely a day passed without some
accusation of other being made to the Civil Governor, all of which
were false. People whom he had never seen were persuaded to perjure
themselves by swearing that he had sold or given them books. The
same system was carried on whilst he was in Africa, because the
authorities refused to believe that he was out of Spain.

There now occurred another regrettable incident, and Borrow once more
suffered for the indiscretion of those whom he neither knew nor
controlled. To Mr Brandram he wrote:

"Some English people now came to Seville and distributed tracts in a
very unguarded manner, knowing nothing of the country or the
inhabitants. They were even so unwise as TO GIVE TRACTS INSTEAD OF
me and requested my cooperation and advice, and likewise
introductions to people spiritually disposed amongst the Spaniards,
to all which requests I returned a decided negative. But I foresaw
all. In a day or two I was summoned before the Civil Governor, or,
as he was once called, the Corregidor, of Seville, who, I must say,
treated me with the utmost politeness and indeed respect; but at the
same time he informed me that he had (to use his own expression)
terrible orders from Madrid concerning me if I should be discovered
in the act of distributing the Scriptures or any writings of a
religious tendency; he then taxed me with having circulated both
lately, especially tracts; whereupon I told him that I had never
distributed a tract since I had been in Spain nor had any intention
of doing so. We had much conversation and parted in kindness."

For a few days nothing happened; then, determined to set out on an
expedition to La Mancha (the delay had been due to the insecure state
of the roads), Borrow sent his passport (24th Nov.) for signature to
the Alcalde del Barrio.

"This fellow," Borrow informs Mr Brandram, "is the greatest ruffian
in Seville, and I have on various occasions been insulted by him; he
pretends to be a liberal, but he is of no principle at all, and as I
reside within his district he has been employed by the Canons of the
Cathedral to vex and harrass me on every possible occasion."

In the following letter, addressed to the British Charge d'Affaires
(the Hon. G. S. S. Jerningham), Borrow gives a full account of what
transpired between him and the Alcalde of Seville:-


I beg leave to lay before you the following statement of certain
facts which lately occurred at Seville, from which you will perceive
that the person of a British Subject has been atrociously outraged,
the rights and privileges of a foreigner in Spain violated, and the
sanctuary of a private house invaded without the slightest reason or
shadow of authority by a person in the employ of the Spanish

For some months past I have been a resident at Seville in a house
situated in a square called the "Plazuela de la Pila Seca." In this
house I possess apartments, the remainder being occupied by an
English Lady and her daughter, the former of whom is the widow of an
officer of the highest respectability who died in the naval service
of Great Britain. On the twenty-fourth of last November, I sent a
servant, a Native of Spain, to the Office of the "Ayuntamiento" of
Seville for the purpose of demanding my passport, it being my
intention to set out the next day for Cordoba. The "Ayuntamiento"
returned for answer that it was necessary that the ticket of
residence (Billete de residencia) which I had received on sending in
the Passport should be signed by the Alcalde of the district in which
I resided, to which intimation I instantly attended. I will here
take the liberty of observing that on several occasions during my
residence at Seville, I have experienced gross insults from this
Alcalde, and that more than once when I have had occasion to leave
the Town, he has refused to sign the necessary document for the
recovery of the passport; he now again refused to do so, and used
coarse language to the Messenger; whereupon I sent the latter back
with money to pay any fees, lawful or unlawful, which might be
demanded, as I wished to avoid noise and the necessity of applying to
the Consul, Mr Williams; but the fellow became only more outrageous.
I then went myself to demand an explanation, and was saluted with no
inconsiderable quantity of abuse. I told him that if he proceeded in
this manner I would make a complaint to the Authorities through the
British Consul. He then said if I did not instantly depart he would
drag me off to prison and cause me to be knocked down if I made the
slightest resistance. I dared him repeatedly to do both, and said
that he was a disgrace to the Government which employed him, and to
human nature. He called me a vile foreigner. We were now in the
street and a mob had collected, whereupon I cried: "Viva Inglaterra
y viva la Constitucion." The populace remained quiet,
notwithstanding the exhortations of the Alcalde that they would knock
down "the foreigner," for he himself quailed before me as I looked
him in the face, defying him. At length he exclaimed, with the usual
obscene Spanish oath, "I will make you lower your head" (Yo te hare
abajar la cabeza), and ran to a neighbouring guard-house and
requested the assistance of the Nationals in conducting me to prison.
I followed him and delivered myself up at the first summons, and
walked to the prison without uttering a word; not so the Alcalde, who
continued his abuse until we arrived at the gate, repeatedly
threatening to have me knocked down if I moved to the right or left.

I was asked my name by the Authorities of the prison, which I refused
to give unless in the presence of the Consul of my Nation, and indeed
to answer any questions. I was then ordered to the Patio, or
Courtyard, where are kept the lowest thieves and assassins of
Seville, who, having no money, cannot pay for better accommodation,
and by whom I should have been stripped naked in a moment as a matter
of course, as they are all in a state of raging hunger and utter
destitution. I asked for a private cell, which I was told I might
have if I could pay for it. I stated my willingness to pay anything
which might be demanded, and was conducted to an upper ward
consisting of several cells and a corridor; here I found six or seven
Prisoners, who received me very civilly, and instantly procured me
paper and ink for the purpose of writing to the Consul. In less than
an hour Mr Williams arrived and I told him my story, whereupon he
instantly departed in order to demand redress of the Authorities.
The next morning the Alcalde, without any authority from the
Political [Civil] Governor of Seville, and unaccompanied by the
English Consul, as the law requires in such cases, and solely
attended by a common Escribano, went to the house in which I was
accustomed to reside and demanded admission. The door was opened by
my Moorish Servant, Hayim Ben-Attar, whom he commanded instantly to
show the way to my apartments. On the Servant's demanding by what
authority he came, he said, "Cease chattering" (Deje cuentos), "I
shall give no account to you; show me the way; if not, I will take
you to prison as I did your master: I come to search for prohibited
books." The Moor, who being in a strange land was somewhat
intimidated, complied and led him to the rooms occupied by me, when
the Alcalde flung about my books and papers, finding nothing which
could in the slightest degree justify his search, the few books being
all either in Hebrew or Arabic character (they consisted of the
Mitchna and some commentaries on the Coran); he at last took up a
large knife which lay on a chair and which I myself purchased some
months previous at Santa Cruz in La Mancha as a curiosity--the place
being famous for those knives--and expressed his determination to
take it away as a prohibited article. The Escribano, however,
cautioned him against doing so, and he flung it down. He now became
very vociferous and attempted to force his way into some apartments

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