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CHAPTER XIV Borrow and The Bible Society
 That George Borrow should have become an agent for the Bible Society, then in the third decade of its flourishing career, has naturally excited doubts as to his moral honesty.  The position was truly a contrast to an earlier ideal contained in the letter to his Norwich friend, Roger Kerrison, that we have already given, in which, with all the zest1 of a Shelley, he declares that he intends to live in London, “write plays, poetry, etc., abuse religion, and get myself prosecuted2.”  But that was in 1824, and Borrow had suffered great tribulation3 in the intervening eight years.  He had acquired many languages, wandered far and written much, all too little of which had found a publisher.  There was plenty of time for his religious outlook to have changed in the interval4, and in any case Borrow was no theologian.  The negative outlook of “Godless Billy Taylor,” and the positive outlook of certain Evangelical friends with whom he was now on visiting terms, were of small account compared with the imperative5 need of making a living—and then there was the passionate6 longing7 of his nature for a wider sphere—for travelling activity which should not be dependent alone upon the vagabond’s crust.  What matter if, as Harriet Martineau—most generous and also most malicious8 of women, with much kinship with Borrow in temperament—said, that his appearance before the public as a devout9 agent of the Bible Society excited a “burst of laughter from all who remembered the old Norwich days”; what matter if another “scribbling woman,” as Carlyle called such strident female writers as were in vogue10 in mid-Victorian days—Frances Power Cobbe—thought him “insincere”; these were unable to comprehend the abnormal heart of Borrow, so entirely11 at one with Goethe in Wilhelm Meister’s Wanderjahre:  
p. 91Bleibe nicht am Boden heften,
Frisch gewagt und frisch hinaus!
Kopf und Arm, mit heitern Kräften,
Ueberall sind sie zu Haus;
Wo wir uns der Sonne freuen,
Sind wir jede Sorge los;
Dass wir uns in ihr zerstreuen,
Darum ist die Welt so gross. [91a]
Here was Borrow’s opportunity indeed.  Verily I believe that it would have been the same had it been a society for the propagation of the writings of Defoe among the Persians.  With what zest would Borrow have undertaken to translate Moll Flanders and Captain Singleton into the languages of Hafiz and Omar!  But the Bible Society was ready to his hand, and Borrow did nothing by halves.  A good hater and a staunch friend, he was loyal to the Bible Society in no half-hearted way, and not the most pronounced quarrel with forces obviously quite out of tune12 with his nature led to any real slackening of that loyalty13.  In the end a portion of his property went to swell14 the Bible Society’s funds. [91b]
When Borrow became one of its servants, the Bible Society was only in its third decade.  It was founded in the year 1804, and had the names of William Wilberforce, Granville Sharp, and Zachary Macaulay on its first committee.  To circulate the authorised version of the Bible without note or comment was the first ideal that these worthy15 men set before them; never to the entire satisfaction of the great printing organisations, which already had a considerable financial interest in such a circulation.  For long years the words “Sold under cost price” upon the Bibles of the Society excited mingled17 feelings among those interested in the book trade.  The Society’s first idea was limited to Bibles in the English tongue.  This was speedily modified.  p. 92A Bible Society was set up in Nuremberg to which money was granted by the parent organisation16.  A Bible in the Welsh language was circulated broadcast through the Principality, and so the movement grew.  From the first it had one of its principal centres in Norwich, where Joseph John Gurney’s house was open to its committee, and at its annual gatherings19 at Earlham his sister Elizabeth Fry took a leading part, while Wilberforce, Charles Simeon, the famous preacher, and Legh Richmond, whose Dairyman’s Daughter Borrow failed to appreciate, were of the company.  “Uncles Buxton and Cunningham are here,” we find one of Joseph John Gurney’s daughters writing in describing a Bible Society gathering18.  This was John Cunningham, rector of Harrow, and it was his brother who helped Borrow to his position in connection with the Society, as we shall see.  At the moment of these early meetings Borrow is but a boy, meeting Joseph Gurney on the banks of the river near Earlham, and listening to his discourse20 upon angling.  The work of the Bible Society in Russia may be said to have commenced when one John Paterson of Glasgow, who had been a missionary21 of the Congregational body, went to St. Petersburg during those critical months of 1812 that Napoleon was marching into Russia.  Paterson indeed, William Canton tells us, was “one of the last to behold22 the old Tartar wall and high brick towers” and other splendours of the Moscow which in a month or two were to be consumed by the flames.  Paterson was back again in St. Petersburg before the French were at the gates of Moscow, and it is noteworthy that while Moscow was burning, and the Czar was on his way to join his army, this remarkable23 Scot was submitting to Prince Galitzin a plan for a Bible Society in St. Petersburg, and a memorial to the Czar thereon:
The plan and memorial were examined by the Czar on the 18th (of December); with a stroke of his pen he gave his sanction—“So be it, Alexander”; and as he wrote, the last tattered24 remnants of the Grand Army struggled across the ice of the Niemen. [92]
The Society was formed in January 1813, and when the Czar returned to St. Petersburg in 1815, after the shattering of Napoleon’s power, he authorised a new translation of the p. 93Bible into modern Russian.  From Russia it was not a far cry, where the spirit of evangelisation held sway, to Manchuria and to China.  To these remote lands the Bible Society desired to send its literature.  In 1822 the gospel of St. Matthew was printed in St. Petersburg in Manchu.  Ten years later the type of the whole New Testament25 in that language was lying in the Russian capital.  “All that was required was a Manchu scholar to see the work through the press.”  Here came the chance for Borrow.  At this period there resided at Oulton Hall, Suffolk, but a few miles from Norwich, a family of the name of Skepper, Edmund and Anne his wife, with their two children, Breame and Mary.  Mary married in 1817 one Henry Clarke, a lieutenant26 in the Royal Navy.  He died afterwards of consumption.  A
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