페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

If indeed he has discovered the clue, or only indicated where it may be certainly found, he ought to be and will be regarded as one of the most successful and meritorious contributors that have yet arisen to the illustration not merely of the history of Ireland, but of Europe and civilization.

ART. X.-The Bible in Spain. By GEORGE BORROW. 3 vols. Murray.

MR. BORROW has entered upon many of his travels, and in a variety of countries, as an agent of the Bible Society,-Spain among others; and the present volumes contain his "Journeys, Adventures, and Imprisonments," while attempting to circulate the Scriptures in the Peninsula. Our readers will remember some of the curious and strange passages which we quoted from his "Gipsies of Spain;" and they will not be less amused by the lively sketches which are mingled up in the work before us, along with the author's odd adventures, and the queer positions in which he often placed himself.

Mr. Borrow's adventures and journies in the Peninsula extended over several years, with, however, considerable interruptions; the present work having more particularly for its period that which elapsed between 1835 and 1838. He started from Lisbon for the southern provinces of Portugal; thence proceeding through Elvas and Badajos to Madrid. Here he at once employed himself in negotiations with two successive ministers, in order to be permitted to print and circulate a Spanish version of the New Testament without notes; an object which, to a certain extent, was carried, through the influence of Mr. Villiers, now Lord Clarendon. Our author therefore, and as directed by his employers in England, commenced printing in the capital of Spain, and subsequently made a journey through the northern parts of the kingdom, distributing testaments in villages and cities, and appointing local agents wherever he could find any such assistants ready and competent to co-operate with him. And on his return to Madrid he actually opened a depôt for the sale and circulation of the Bible Society's book. This step, so bold in the circumstances, was ere long forbidden by authority. Mr. Borrow then set about printing a translation of St. Luke in the mongrel dialect of the Gipsies; but at length was arrested and thrown into confinement for his activity in propagating the Gospel. This check befel him at the instigation of the clergy; but he had his triumphs over them upon this occasion. For there being some informality in regard to his seizure and incarceration, he refused to go out privately, taking St. Paul's conduct for his model, and was at last liberated with flying colours, and being more determined than ever to proceed in his biblical course, whatever the authorities or the law of the land

might say. The premier of the period told him that it would be for his interest to be "still," and warned him to "beware." But Mr. Borrow answered that although the Church forbade such circulation, “it is pleasant to be persecuted for the Gospel's sake," and that "I shall make the attempt in every village in Spain to which I can penetrate."

We are not going to pronounce any opinion relative to the policy of our author's resolution and open avowal as concerns the real and lasting interests of religion. But certainly he placed himself very much at the mercy of an independent power, and which was in a secular sense on friendly terms with England. And yet hardly so independent on the occasion as the term literally imports; for, as already mentioned, the British ambassador at the court of Spain was not only eager but active in behalf of the circulation of Mr. Borrow's publications in that country, although not after the proceeding was authoritatively denounced and forbidden. Just at the moment when Mr. Borrow was meditating on one of his projected journies, a person belonging to the British embassy, we are told, made his appearance. "After a little conversation he informed me that Mr. Villiers had desired him to wait upon me to communicate a resolution which he had come to. Being apprehensive that alone and unassisted, I should experience considerable difficulty in propagating the Gospel of God to any considerable extent in Spain, he was bent upon exerting to the utmost his own credit and influence to further my views, which he himself considered, if carried into proper effect, extremely well calculated to operate beneficially on the political and moral state of the country. To this end it was his intention to purchase a very considerable number of copies of the New Testament, and to despatch them forthwith to the various British consuls established in different parts of Spain, with strict and positive orders to employ all the means which their official situation should afford them to circulate the books in question, and to assure their being noticed."

Now, upon this proceeding and interference by the representative of the British crown we are unwilling to speak on other than political and international grounds; but assuredly if viewed in these latter lights, and taking such a functionary in his universally understood capacity, there seems to have been at least great informality in Mr. Villiers's conduct; and which, in any Catholic country less distracted than Spain, might have brought not only the ambassador but the power that he represented into serious trouble.

But the influence and the circumstances to which we have been alluding, if preposterous in one sense, have contributed to the stirring character of Mr. Borrow's adventures; nor is it easy to name any other work in our language of a more amusing character. Certainly there is not one in the shape of travels that can be compared with it. Nor can its oddity and extraordinary fund of entertainment be

imagined by any person who may regard every agent of a Bible, a missionary, or a proselytizing society as necessarily a sedate and severely disciplined religionist.

But a word relative to the success of Mr. Borrow's agency in the Peninsula. No doubt he sowed and circulated with zeal and assiduity. We think it probable that there never was a person employed by the Bible Society who could rival him in respect of address,―knowledge of mankind, of nations, or of languages,— prompt resources,—and indifference to toil, privation and danger. In fact, he is eager rather than otherwise, for adventure, for encountering strange characters, and witnessing exciting scenes, even to the extent of jollity and recklessness. Our readers may remember that he cherished a sort of warm sympathy for the wild and unbelieving gipsies. But still the amount of his biblical service in Spain, speaking in a strictly religious sense, was not apparently, with all his versatility and perseverance, remarkably encouraging. Many books were purchased or distributed; numbers of the more educated of the people, such as schoolmasters, just as of those classes who could easily part with the price, seeming to be more desirous of obtaining a book, than to possess that in which the words of eternal truth are to be found. Some of the clergy, however, were not only willing to permit the distribution of the scriptures, but desirous of possessing a copy from Mr. Borrow; while many of the lower orders are represented to have cherished religious feeling, and to have welcomed his arrival in a degree equal to the dislike with which they looked upon their priests. But whatever was the amount of his success while unrestrained by authority, uninterrupted by bad health, or on short visits to England, he was finally obliged to leave, or felt himself too weary of the field to remain. Accordingly, his books having been seized, as also those in the hands of his agents, other severities being experienced, he withdrew first to Seville, then to Gibraltar, afterwards passing over to Africa, still circulating the scriptures to the close of the third volume, and leaving his reader there with about as little ceremony or forewarning as his narration of adventure commenced.

We repeat that these volumes are filled rather with stories of adventure and strange occasions, than the ordinary kind of description that abounds in books of travel. In the very choice and character of his Greek servant there was romance; while the encounters which Mr. Borrow experienced, not all unsought, with Carlists at one time and Christinos at another, with Jews and gipsies,-with priests and inquisitionists,—with Mahomedans and crazed creatures, &c. &c., and with each sort in an off-hand, free-and-easy manner; frequently, however, for the attainment of a distinct object—that object seldom to be seen as one that could be contemplated by a Bible Society's agent,-are features which all contribute to place

the present work in the first rank of entertaining and even of informing books. If the author be not one of the most profoundly, he is assuredly one of the most variously, acquainted persons, and therefore the easiest and pleasantest of companions. Without further preamble we proceed to prove all this. Begin with a Premier.

At

He

Early one morning I repaired to the palace, in a wing of which was the office of the Prime Minister; it was bitterly cold, and the Guadarama, of which there is a noble view of the palace-plain, was covered with snow. For at least three hours I remained shivering with cold in an ante-room, with several other aspirants for an interview with the man of power. last his private secretary made his appearance, and after putting various questions to the others, addressed himself to me, asking who I was and what I wanted. I told him that I was an Englishman, and the bearer of a letter from the British minister. "If you have no objection, I will myself deliver it to his Excellency," said he; whereupon I handed it to him and he withdrew. Several individuals were admitted before me; at last, however, my own turn came, and I was ushured into the presence of Mendizabal. stood behind a table covered with papers, on which his eyes were intently fixed. He took not the slightest notice when I entered, and I had leisure enough to survey him. He was a huge athletic man, somewhat taller than myself, who measure six feet two without my shoes; his complexion was florid, his features fine and regular, his nose quite aquiline, and his teeth splendidly white: though scarcely fifty years of age, his hair was remarkably grey; he was dressed in a rich morning gown, with a gold chain round his neck, and morocco slippers on his feet. His secretary, a fine intellectuallooking man, who, as I was subsequently informed, had acquired a name both in English and Spanish literature, stood at one end of the table with papers in his hands. After I had been standing about a quarter of an hour, Men. dizabal suddenly lifted up a pair of sharp eyes, and fixed them upon me with a peculiarly scrutinizing glance. "I have seen a glance very similar to that amongst the Beni Israel," thought I to myself.

* * *

As I was going away he said, "Yours is not the first application I have had. Ever since I have held the reins of government I have been pestered in this manner by English, calling themselves Evangelical Christians, who have of late come flocking over into Spain. Only last week a hunchback fellow found his way into my cabinet whilst I was engaged in important business, and told me that Christ was coming. And now you have made your appearance, and almost persuaded me to embroil myself yet more with the priesthood, as if they did not abhor me enough already. What a strange infatuation is this, which drives you over lands and waters with bibles in your hands. My good Sir, it is not bibles we want, but rather guns and gunpowder, to put the rebels down with, and above all, money, that we may pay the troops; whenever you come with these three things, you shall have a hearty welcome, if not, we really can dispense with your visits, however great the honour."

Take another minister, the Duke of Rivas, together with his gem of a secretary:

66

[ocr errors]

"Very

The duke was a very handsome young man, of about thirty, an Andalusian by birth, like his two colleagues. He had published several works, tragedies, I believe, and enjoyed a certain kind of literary reputation. He received me with the greatest affability, and having heard what I had to say, he replied, with a most captivating bow, and a genuine Andalusian grimace, "Go to my secretary; go to my secretary-el hara por usted el gusto. So I went to the secretary, whose name was Oliban, an Aragonese, who was not handsome, and whose manners were neither elegant nor affable. "You want permission to print the testament?" "I do," said I. "And you have come to His Excellency about it?" continued Oliban. true," I replied. I suppose you intend to print it without notes." "Yes." "Then His Excellency cannot give you permission," said the Aragonese secretary "it was determined by the Council of Trent that no part of the scripture should be printed in any Christian country without the notes of the church." "How many years was that ago?" I demanded. "I do not know how many years ago it was," said Oliban; "but such was the decree of the Council of Trent. "Is Spain at present governed according to the decrees of the Council of Trent?" I inquired. "In some points she is,' answered the Aragonese, "and this is one. But tell me who are you? Are you known to the British minister?" 0 yes, and he takes a great interest in the matter." "Does he?" said Oliban; the case if you can show me that His Excellency takes an interest in this business, I certainly shall not oppose myself to it."

[ocr errors]

66

66

that, indeed alters

The British minister having performed more than Mr. Borrow could have expected, and even written a private letter to the duke, we have these further particulars:

So I went to the duke and delivered the letter. He was ten times more affable than before: he read the letter, smiled most sweetly, and then, as if seized with sudden enthusiasm, he extended his arms in a manner almost theatrical, exclaiming, "Al secretario, el hara por usted el gusto." Away I hurried to the secretary, who received me with all the coolness of an icicle: I related to him the words of his principal, and then put into his hands the letter of the British ambassador to myself. The secretary read it very deliberately, and then said that it was evident that His Excellency did take an interest in the matter. He then asked my name, and taking a sheet of paper, sat down, as if for the purpose of writing the permission. I was in ecstacy-all of a sudden, however, he stopped, lifted up his head, seemed to consider a moment, and then putting his pen behind his ear, he said, "Amongst the decrees of the Council is one to the effect". "Oh dear!" said I.

Mr. Borrow obtains another interview with the secretary.

I remained with Oliban, who proceeded forthwith to write something, which having concluded, he took out a box of cigars, and having lighted one and offered me another, which I declined, as I do not smoke, he placed his feet against the table, and thus proceeded to address me "It is with

« 이전계속 »