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CHAPTER XVII Three Visits to Spain
 From his journey to Russia Borrow had acquired valuable experience, but nothing in the way of fame, although his mother had been able to record in a letter to St. Petersburg that she had heard at a Bible Society gathering1 in Norwich his name “sounded through the hall” by Mr. Joseph John Gurney and Mr. Cunningham, to her great delight.  “All this is very pleasing to me,” she said, “God bless you!”  Even more pleasing to Borrow must have been a letter from Mary Clarke, his future wife, who was able to tell him that she heard Francis Cunningham refer to him as “one of the most extraordinary and interesting individuals of the present day.”  But these tributes were not all-satisfying to an ambitious man, and this Borrow undoubtedly2 was.  His Russian journey was followed by five weeks of idleness in Norwich varied3 by the one excitement of attending a Bible meeting at Oulton with the Reverend Francis Cunningham in the chair, when “Mr. George Borrow from Russia” [110] made one of the usual conventional missionary4 speeches, Mary Clarke’s brother, Breame Skepper, being also among the orators5.  Borrow begged for more work from the Society.  He urged the desirability of carrying out its own idea of an investigation6 in Portugal and perhaps also in Spain, and hinted that he could write a small volume concerning what he saw and heard which might cover the expense of the expedition.  So much persistency7 conquered.  Borrow sailed from London on 6th November, 1835, and reached Lisbon on 12th November, this his first visit to the Peninsula lasting8 exactly eleven months.  The next four years and six months were to be spent mainly in p. 111Spain.    
What a world of adventure do the mere9 names of these places call up.  Borrow entered the Peninsula at an exciting period of its history.  Traces of the great war in which Napoleon’s legions faced those of Wellington still abounded10.  Here and there a bridge had disappeared, and some of Borrow’s strange experiences on ferry-boats were indirectly11 due to the results of Napoleon’s ambition.  Everywhere there was still war in the land.  Portugal indeed had just passed through a revolution.  The partisans12 of the infant Queen Maria II. had been fighting with her uncle Dom Miguel for eight years, and it was only a few short months before Borrow landed at Lisbon that Maria had become undisputed queen.  Spain, to which Borrow speedily betook himself, was even in a worse state.  She was in the throes of a six years’ war.  Queen Isabel II., a child of three, reigned13 over a chaotic14 country with her mother Dona Christina as regent; her uncle Don Carlos was a formidable claimant to the throne and had the support of the absolutist and clerical parties.  Borrow’s political sympathies were always in the direction of absolutism; but in religion, although a staunch Church of England man, he was certainly an anti-clerical one in Roman Catholic Spain.  In any case he steered15 judiciously16 enough between contending factions17, describing the fanatics18 of either side with vigour20 and sometimes with humour.  Mr. Brandram’s injunction to Borrow “to be on his guard against becoming too much committed to one particular party” seems to have been unnecessary.
Borrow’s three expeditions to Spain have more to be said for them than had his journey to St. Petersburg.  The p. 112work of the Bible Society was and is at its highest point of human service when distributing either the Old or the New Testament21 in Christian22 countries, Spain, England, or another.  Few there be to-day in any country who, in the interests of civilisation23, would deny to the Bible a wider distribution.  In a remote village of Spain a Bible Society’s colporteur, carrying a coloured banner, sold me a copy of Cipriano de Valera’s New Testament for a peseta.  But in the minds of the worthy24 people who ran the Bible Society eighty years ago it was not so much that humanity was to be bettered as that Roman Catholicism was to be worsened.  Every New Testament sold in Spain was in the eyes of the English fanatic19 who subscribed25 his silver a blow to the Church of that land.  Otherwise and as to the humanising influence of the propaganda it may be said that the villages of Spain that Borrow visited could even at that time compare favourably27, morally and educationally, with villages of his own county of Norfolk at the same period.  The morals of the agricultural labourers of the English fen28 country eighty years ago were a scandal, and the peasantry read nothing; more than half of them could not read.  They had not, moreover, the humanising passion for song and dance that Andalusia knew.  But this is not to deny that the Bible Society under Borrow’s instrumentality did a good work in Spain, nor that they did it on the whole in a broad and generous way.  Borrow admits that there was a section of the Roman Catholic clergy29 “favourably disposed towards the circulation of the Gospel,” and the Society actually fixed30 upon a Roman Catholic version of the Spanish Bible, that by Scio de San Miguel, although this version Borrow considered a bad translation.  Much has been said about the aim of the Bible Society to provide the Bible without notes or comment—in its way a most meritorious31 aim, although then as now opposed to the instinct of a large number of the priests of the Roman Church.  It is true that their attitude does not in any way possess the sanction of the ecclesiastical authorities.  It may be urged, indeed, that the interpretation32 of the Bible by a priest, usually of mature judgment33, and frequently of a higher education than the people with whom he is associated, is at least as trustworthy as its interpretation at the hands of very partially34 educated young women and exceedingly inadequately35 equipped young p. 113men who to-day provide interpretation and comment in so many of the Sunday Schools of Protestant countries.
Behold36 George Borrow, then, first in Portugal and a little later in Spain, upon his great mission—avowedly at first a tentative mission—rather to see what were the prospects37 for Bible distribution than to distribute Bibles.  But Borrow’s zeal38 knew no such limitations.  Before very long he had a shop in one of the principal streets of Madrid—the Calle del Principe—much more in the heart of things than the very prosperous Bible Society of our day ventures upon. [113]  Meanwhile he is at present in Portugal not very certain of his movements, and he writes to his old friend Dr. Bowring the following letter with a request with which Bowring complied, although in the coldest manner:
To Dr. John Bowring
Evora in the Alemtejo, 27 Decr., 1835.
Dear Sir,—Pray excuse me for troubling you with these lines.  I write to you, as usual, for assistance in my projects, convinced that you will withhold39 none which it may be in your power to afford, more especially when by so doing you will perhaps be promoting the happiness of our fellow creatures.  I returned from dear, glorious Russia about three months since, after having edited there the Manchu New Testament in eight volumes.  I am now in Portugal, for the Society still do me the honour of employing me.  For the last six weeks I have been wandering amongst the wilds of the Alemtejo and have introduced myself to its rustics40, banditti, etc., and become very popular amongst them, but as it is much more easy to introduce oneself to the cottage than the hall (though I am not entirely41 unknown in the latter), I want you to give or procure42 me letters to the most liberal and influential43 minds of Portugal.  I likewise want a letter from the Foreign Office to Lord De Walden, in a word, I want to make what interest I can towards obtaining the admission of the Gospel of Jesus into the public schools of Portugal which are about to be p. 114established.  I beg leave to state that this is my plan, and not other persons’, as I was merely sent over to Portugal to observe the disposition44 of the people, therefore I do not wish to be named as an Agent of the B.S., but as a person who has plans for the mental improvement of the Portuguese45; should I receive these letters within the space of six weeks it will be time enough, for before setting up my machine in Portugal I wish to lay the foundation of something similar in Spain.  When you send the Portuguese letters direct thus:
Mr. George Borrow,
to the care of Mr. Wilby,
Rua Dos Restauradores, Lisbon.
I start for Spain to-morrow, and I want letters something similar (there is impudence46 for you) for Madrid, which I should like to have as soon as possible.  I do not much care at present for an introduction to the Ambassador at Madrid, as I shall not commence operations seriously in Spain until I have disposed of Portugal.  I will not apologise for writing to you in this manner, for you know me, but I will tell you one thing, which is that the letter which you procured47 for me, on my going to St. Petersburg, from Lord Palmerston, assisted me wonderfully.  I called twice at your domicile on my return; the first time you were in Scotland, the second in France, and I assure you I cried with vexation.  Remember me to Mrs. Bowring and God bless you.
G. Borrow.
P.S.—I am told that Mendizábal is liberal, and has been in England; perhaps he would assist me.
During this eleven months’ stay in the Peninsula Borrow made his way to Madrid, and here he interviewed the British Minister, Sir George Villiers, afterwards fourth Earl of Clarendon, and had received a quite remarkable49 encouragement from him for the publication and distribution of the Bible.  He also interviewed the Spanish Prime Minister, Mendizábal, “whom it is as difficult to get nigh as it is to approach the North Pole,” and he has given us a picturesque50 account of the interview in The Bible in Spain.  It was agreed that 5,000 copies of the Spanish Testament were to be reprinted from Scio’s text at the expense of the Bible Society, and all these Borrow was to handle as he thought fit.  Then Borrow made his way to Granada, where, under date 30th August, 1836, his autograph may be read in the visitors’ book of the Alhambra:
George Borrow Norvicensis.
p. 115Here he studied his friends the gypsies, now and probably then, as we may assume from his Zincali, the sordid51 scum on the hillside of that great city, but now more assuredly than then unutterably demoralised by the numerous but curious tourists who visit this rabble52 under police protection, the very policeman or gendarme53 not despising a peseta for his protective services.  But Borrow’s hobbies included the Romanies of every land, and a year later he produced and published a gypsy version of the Gospel of St. Luke.  In October, 1836, Borrow was back in England.  He found that the Bible Society approved of him.  In November of the same year he left London for Cadiz on his second visit to Spain.  The journey is described in The Bible in Spain; but here, from my Borrow Papers, is a kind letter that Mr. Brandram wrote to Borrow’s mother on the occasion:
No. 10 East Street, Jany. 11, 1837.
My dear Madam,—I have the joyful54 news to send you that your son has again safely arrived at Madrid.  His journey we were aware was exceedingly perilous55, more perilous than we should have allowed him to take had we sooner known the extent of the danger.  He begs me to write, intending to write to you himself without delay.  He has suffered from the intense cold, but nothing beyond inconvenience.  Accept my congratulations, and my best wishes that your dear son may be preserved to be your comfort in declining years—and may the God of all consolation56 himself deign57 to comfort your heart by the truths of that holy volume your son is endeavouring, in connection with our Society, to spread abroad.—Believe me, dear Madam, yours faithfully,
A. Brandram.
Mrs. Borrow, Norwich.
A brilliant letter from Seville followed soon after, and then he went on to Madrid, not without many adventures.  “The cold nearly killed me,” he said.  “I swallowed nearly two bottles of brandy; it affected58 me no more than warm water.”  This to kindly59 Mr. Brandram, who clearly had no teetotaler proclivities60, for the letter, as he said, “filled his heart with joy and gladness.”  Meanwhile those five thousand copies of the New Testament were a-printing, Borrow superintending the work with the assistance of a new friend, Dr. Usoz.  “As soon as the book is printed and issued,” he tells Mr. Brandram, “I will ride forth61 from Madrid into the wildest parts of Spain, . . .” and so, after some correspondence p. 116with the Society which is quite entertaining, he did.  The reader of The Bible in Spain will note some seventy separate towns and villages that Borrow visited, not without countless62 remarkable adventures on the way.  “I felt some desire,” he says in The Romany Rye, “to meet with one of those adventures which upon the roads of England are generally as plentiful63 as blackberries in autumn.”  Assuredly in this tour of Spanish villages Borrow met with no lack of adventures.  The committee of the Bible Society authorised this tour in March, 1837, and in May Borrow started off on horseback attended by his faithful servant, Antonio.  This tour was to last five months, and “if I am spared,” he writes to his friend Hasfeld, “and have not fallen a prey64 to sickness, Carlists, banditti, or wild beasts, I shall return to Madrid.”  He hopes a little later, he tells Hasfeld, to be sent to China.  We have then a glimpse of his servant, the excellent Antonio, which supplements that contained in The Bible in Spain.  “He is inordinately65 given to drink, and is of so quarrelsome a disposition that he is almost constantly involved in some broil66.”  Not all his weird67 experiences were conveyed in his letters to the Bible Society’s secretary.  Some of these letters, however—the more highly coloured ones—were used in The Bible in Spain, word for word, and wonderful reading they must have made for the secretary, who indeed asked for more, although, with a view to keeping Borrow humble68—an impossible task—Mr. Brandram takes occasion to say “Mr. Graydon’s letters, as well as yours, are deeply interesting,” Graydon being a hated rival, as we shall see.  The question of money was also not overlooked by the assiduous secretary.  “I know you are no accountant,” he writes, “but do not forget there are some who are,” and a financial document was forwarded to Borrow about this time as a stimulus69 and a warning.
But Borrow was happy, for next to the adventures of five glorious months in the villages between Madrid and Coruña nothing could be more to his taste than a good, wholesome70 quarrel.  He was imprisoned71 by order of the Spanish Government and released on the intervention72 of the British Embassy.  He tells the story so graphically73 in The Bible in Spain that it is superfluous74 to repeat it; but here he does not tell of the great quarrel with regard p. 117to Lieutenant75 Graydon that led him to attack that worthy zealot in a letter to the Bible Society.  This attack did indeed cause the Society to recall Graydon, whose zealous77 proclamation of anti-Romanism must, however, have been more to the taste of some of its subscribers than Borrow’s “trimming” methods.  Moreover, Graydon worked for love of the cause and required no salary, which must always have been in his favour.  Borrow was ten days in a Madrid prison, and there, as ever, he had extraordinary adventures if we may believe his own narrative78, but they are much too good to be torn from their context.  Suffice to say here that in the actual correspondence we find breezy controversy79 between Borrow and the Society.  Borrow thought that the secretary had called in question the accuracy of his statements as to this or that particular in his conduct.  Ever a fighter, he appealed to the British Embassy for confirmation80 of his word, and finally Mr. Brandram suggested he should come back to England for a time and talk matters over with the members of the committee.  An interesting letter to his future wife belongs to this period:
To Mrs. Clarke
Toledo, Decr. 5, 1837.
My dear Madam,—I received your letter the day previous to my leaving Madrid for this place, whither I arrived in safety on the 2nd inst.  I have availed myself of the very first opportunity of answering it which has presented itself.  Permit me in the first place to sympathise sincerely in the loss which you have, it appears, lately sustained in your excellent brother, more especially as he was my own good kind friend.  I little deemed when I parted from him only one short year since, at Oulton, that I was doomed81 never to press his honest hand again; but why should we grieve?  He was a devout82 and humble Christian, and we have no reason to doubt that he has been admitted to the joys of his Lord; he was also zealous in his way, and although he had but two talents entrusted83 to him, he turned them to the best account and doubled them; perhaps he now rules over as many heavenly cities; therefore why, why should we grieve?  Indeed it is possible that if we knew all, we should deem that we had high and cogent84 reason to rejoice that the Lord has snatched him from earth and earthly ties at this particular season.  His principles were very excellent, but an evil and undue85 influence, continually exerted over him, might have gradually corrupted86 his heart, until it became alienated87 from loyalty88 and true religion, which are indeed inseparable; p. 118for the latter he might have substituted the vulgar savage89 bigotry90 of what is called “Dissent,” for the former “Radicalism,” that upas tree of the British Isles91 whose root is in the infernal pit.
You have stated to me how unpleasantly you are situated92, and certain heavy trials which you have lately been subjected to.  You have, moreover, done me the honour to ask my advice upon these points.  I give it without hesitation93 and in a very few words.  Maintain unflinchingly your right, your whole right, without yielding one particle, without abandoning one position, as the slightest manifestation94 of weakness and hesitation will be instantly taken advantage of by your adversaries95, and be fraught96 with danger to yourself.  Permit me here to state that it was in anticipation97 of something allied98 to the evil spirit which has lately been displayed towards you, I advised you on my last visit never to be persuaded to resign the house which you now occupy; it is one of the strongest of your entrenchments—abandon it and the foot of the enemy is in your camp, and with the help of law and chicanery99 you might be reduced to extremity100.  A line of the poet Spencer is strongly applicable to your situation:
“Be firm, be firm, and everywhere be firm.”
I would likewise strongly advise that with the least possible delay you call in the entire amount of whatever claim you possess on the landed property lately your brother’s, else I foresee that you will be involved in an endless series of dispute and litigation, which by one single act of resolution you may avoid.  Remember that no forbearance on your part will be properly appreciated, and that every kindly feeling and desire of conciliation101 which you may display, will be set down to fear, and the consciousness of standing102 on weak ground.  I am old in the knowledge of the world and those who dwell upon it, and would rather trust myself to the loving mercies of the hungry wolves of the Spanish mountains, than to the generosity103 and sense of justice of the Radicals104 of England.  However determined105 you may show yourself, no reasonable person can cast any blame upon you, for from the contents of your letter, it appears, that your enemies have kept no terms with you, and entirely unprovoked, have done all in their power to outrage106 and harrow your feelings.  Enough on this point.
Toledo was formerly107 the capital of Spain.  Its population at present barely amounts to fifteen thousand souls, though in the time of the Romans and also during the Middle Ages, its population is said to have amounted to between two and three hundred thousand souls, which at present however does not amount to fifteen thousand.  It is situated about twelve leagues (40 miles) to the westward108 of Madrid, and is built upon a steep rocky hill, round which flows the Tagus on all sides but the North.  It still possesses a great many remarkable edifices109, notwithstanding that it has long since fallen into decay.  Its Cathedral is the most magnificent of Spain, and is the See of p. 119the Primate111.  In the tower of this Cathedral is the famous bell of Toledo, the largest in the world, with the exception of the monster-bell of Moscow, which I have also seen.  It weighs 1543 arrobes, or 37-032 pounds.  It has, however, a disagreeable sound, owing to a large cleft112 in its side.  Toledo could once boast the finest pictures in Spain, but many were stolen or destroyed [by the] French during the Peninsular War, and still more have lately been removed by order of the Government.  Perhaps the most remarkable still remains113.  I allude114 to that which represents the burial of the Count of Orgaz, the masterpiece of Domenico the Greek, a most extraordinary genius some of whose productions possess merit of a very high order; the picture in question is in the little parish church of San Tomé, at the bottom of the aisle115, at the left hand of the altar.  Could it be purchased, I should say it would be cheap at £5,000.  You will easily guess that I did not visit Toledo for the sake of seeing its curiosities, but rather ............
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