The Bible in Spain. Volume 1 of 2
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It is very seldom that the preface of a work is read; indeed, of late years most books have been sent into the world without any. I deem it, however, advisable to write a preface, and to this I humbly call the attention of the courteous reader, as its perusal will not a little tend to the proper understanding and appreciation of these volumes.
The work now offered to the public, and which is styled The Bible in Spain, consists of a narrative of what occurred to me during a residence in that country, to which I was sent by the Bible Society, as its agent, for the purpose of printing and circulating the Scriptures. It comprehends, however, certain journeys and adventures in Portugal, and leaves me at last in “the land of the Corahai,” to which region, after having undergone considerable buffeting in Spain, I found it expedient to retire for a season.
It is very probable that had I visited Spain from mere curiosity, or with a view of passing a year or two agreeably, I should never have attempted to give any detailed account of my proceedings, or of what I heard and saw. I am no tourist, no writer of books of travels; but I went there on a somewhat remarkable errand, which necessarily led me into strange situations and positions, involved me in difficulties and perplexities, and brought me into contact with people of all descriptions and grades; so that, upon the whole, I flatter myself that a narrative of such a pilgrimage may not be wholly uninteresting to the public, more especially as the subject is not trite; for, though various books have been published about Spain, I believe that the present is the only one in existence which treats of missionary labour in that country.
Many things, it is true, will be found in the following volume which have little connexion with religion, or religious enterprise; I offer, however, no apology for introducing them. I was, as I may say, from first to last adrift in Spain, the land of old renown, the land of wonder and mystery, with better opportunities of becoming acquainted with its strange secrets and peculiarities than, perhaps, ever yet were afforded to any individual, certainly to a foreigner; and if in many instances I have introduced scenes and characters perhaps unprecedented in a work of this description, I have only to observe, that, during my sojourn in Spain, I was so unavoidably mixed up with such, that I could scarcely have given a faithful narrative of what befell me had I not brought them forward in the manner in which I have done.
It is worthy of remark, that, called suddenly and unexpectedly “to undertake the adventure of Spain,” I was not altogether unprepared for such an enterprise. In the day-dreams of my boyhood, Spain always bore a considerable share, and I took a particular interest in her, without any presentiment that I should, at a future time, be called upon to take a part, however humble, in her strange dramas; which interest, at a very early period, led me to acquire her noble language, and to make myself acquainted with her literature (scarcely worthy of the language), her history, and traditions; so that when I entered Spain for the first time I felt more at home than I should otherwise have done.
In Spain I passed five years, which, if not the most eventful, were, I have no hesitation in saying, the most happy years of my existence.Of Spain at the present time, now that the day-dream has vanished never, alas! to return, I entertain the warmest admiration: she is the most magnificent country in the world, probably the most fertile, and certainly with the finest climate. Whether her children are worthy of their mother, is another question, which I shall not attempt to answer; but content myself with observing that, amongst much that is lamentable and reprehensible, I have found much that is noble and to be admired: much stern heroic virtue; much savage and horrible crime; of low vulgar vice very little, at least amongst the great body of the Spanish nation, with which my mission lay; for it will be as well here to observe that I advance no claim to an intimate acquaintance with the Spanish nobility, from whom I kept as remote as circumstances would permit me; en revanche, however, I have had the honour to live on familiar terms with the peasants, shepherds, and muleteers of Spain, whose bread and bacallao I have eaten; who always treated me with kindness and courtesy, and to whom I have not unfrequently been indebted for shelter and protection.
I believe that no stronger argument can be brought forward in proof of the natural vigour and resources of Spain, and the sterling character of her population, than the fact that, at the present day, she is still a powerful and unexhausted country, and her children still, to a certain extent, a high-minded and great people. Yes, notwithstanding the misrule of the brutal and sensual Austrian, the doting Bourbon, and, above all, the spiritual tyranny of the court of Rome, Spain can still maintain her own, fight her own combat, and Spaniards are not yet fanatic slaves and crouching beggars. This is saying much, very much: she has undergone far more than Naples had ever to bear, and yet the fate of Naples has not been hers. There is still valour in Asturia, generosity in Aragon, probity in Old Castile, and the peasant women of La Mancha can still afford to place a silver fork and a snowy napkin beside the plate of their guest. Yes, in spite of Austrian, Bourbon, and Rome, there is still a wide gulf between Spain and Naples.
Strange as it may sound, Spain is not a fanatic country.22
But the arms of Spain became powerless abroad, and she retired within herself. She ceased to be the tool of the vengeance and cruelty of Rome. She was not cast aside, however. No! though she could no longer wield the sword with success against the Lutherans, she might still be turned to some account. She had still gold and silver, and she was still the land of the vine and olive. Ceasing to be the butcher, she became the banker of Rome; and the poor Spaniards, who always esteem it a privilege to pay another person’s reckoning, were for a long time happy in being permitted to minister to the grasping cupidity of Rome, who, during the last century, probably extracted from Spain more treasure than from all the rest of Christendom.
But wars came into the land. Napoleon and his fierce Franks invaded Spain; plunder and devastation ensued, the effects of which will probably be felt for ages. Spain could no longer pay pence to Peter so freely as of yore, and from that period she became contemptible in the eyes of Rome, who has no respect for a nation, save so far as it can minister to her cruelty or avarice. The Spaniard was still willing to pay, as far as his means would allow, but he was soon given to understand that he was a degraded being, – a barbarian; nay, a beggar. Now you may draw the last cuarto from a Spaniard, provided you will concede to him the title of cavalier, and rich man, for the old leaven still works as powerfully as in the time of the first Philip;33
I see that in a late pastoral letter directed to the Spaniards, the father of Rome complains bitterly of the treatment which he has received in Spain at the hands of naughty men. “My cathedrals are let down,” he says, “my priests are insulted, and the revenues of my bishops are curtailed.” He consoles himself, however, with the idea, that this is the effect of the malice of a few, and that the generality of the nation love him, especially the peasantry, the innocent peasantry, who shed tears when they think of the sufferings of their Pope and their religion. Undeceive yourself, Batuschca, undeceive yourself! Spain was ready to fight for you so long as she could increase her own glory by doing so; but she took no pleasure in losing battle after battle on your account. She had no objection to pay money into your coffers in the shape of alms, expecting, however, that the same would be received with the gratitude and humility which become those who accept charity. Finding, however, that you were neither humble nor grateful; suspecting, moreover, that you held Austria in higher esteem than herself, even as a banker, she shrugged up her shoulders, and uttered a sentence somewhat similar to that which I have already put into the mouth of one of her children, “These four bushels of barley,” etc.
It is truly surprising what little interest the great body of the Spanish nation took in the late struggle; and yet it has been called by some, who ought to know better, a war of religion and principle. It was generally supposed that Biscay was the stronghold of Carlism, and that the inhabitants were fanatically attached to their religion, which they apprehended was in danger. The truth is, that the Basques cared nothing for Carlos or Rome, and merely took up arms to defend certain rights and privileges of their own.44
Amongst the peasantry of Spain I found my sturdiest supporters; and yet the holy father supposes that the Spanish labourers are friends and lovers of his. Undeceive yourself, Batuschca!
But to return to the present work: it is devoted to an account of what befell me in Spain whilst engaged in distributing the Scripture. With respect to my poor labours, I wish here to observe that I accomplished but very little, and that I lay claim to no brilliant successes and triumphs; indeed, I was sent into Spain more to explore the country, and to ascertain how far the minds of the people were prepared to receive the truths of Christianity, than for any other object; I obtained, however, through the assistance of kind friends, permission from the Spanish government to print an edition of the sacred volume at Madrid, which I subsequently circulated in that capital and in the provinces.
During my sojourn in Spain there were others who wrought good service in the Gospel cause, and of whose efforts it were unjust to be silent in a work of this description. Base is the heart which would refuse merit its meed; and, however insignificant may be the value of any eulogium which can flow from a pen like mine, I cannot refrain from mentioning with respect and esteem a few names connected with Gospel enterprise. A zealous Irish gentleman, of the name of Graydon,55
More immediately connected with the Bible Society and myself, I am most happy to take this opportunity of speaking of Luis de Usoz y Rio,88
In conclusion, I beg leave to state that I am fully aware of the various faults and inaccuracies of the present work. It is founded on certain journals which I kept during my stay in Spain, and numerous letters written to my friends in England, which they had subsequently the kindness to restore; the greater part, however, consisting of descriptions of scenery, sketches of character, etc., has been supplied from memory. In various instances I have omitted the names of places, which I have either forgotten, or of whose orthography I am uncertain. The work, as it at present exists, was written in a solitary hamlet in a remote part of England, where I had neither books to consult, nor friends of whose opinion or advice I could occasionally avail myself, and under all the disadvantages which arise from enfeebled health. I have, however, on a recent occasion, experienced too much of the lenity and generosity of the public, both of Britain and America, to shrink from again exposing myself to its gaze; and trust that, if in the present volumes it find but little to admire, it will give me credit for good spirit, and for setting down nought in malice.
Nov. 26, 1842.
When George Borrow, in the month of November, 1835, steamed up the Tagus on his adventurous journey to distribute the Bible in Spain, the political situation throughout the Peninsula was so complicated and so extraordinary, that a brief review of the events of the few years immediately preceding his arrival will be necessary to enable any one but a specially instructed reader to appreciate, or even to understand, his position and his adventures.
When Ferdinand VII. was restored to his kingdom by the British arms in 1814, Spain was still governed by the Cortes elected under the Liberal Constitution of 1812.
Ferdinand, having sworn many oaths to maintain this Constitution and Parliamentary Institutions in the country, no sooner found himself firmly seated on the throne, than, encouraged by the clergy within his dominions, and by the Holy Alliance in Northern Europe, he issued an edict dissolving the Cortes, and reviving the old absolutism with all the old abuses in Spain.
The nobles were once again exempted from taxation; the monasteries were restored; the Jesuits returned to Spain; the Inquisition was formally re-established; all Liberal politicians were persecuted to the death. For six years this royalist reign of terror – more dreadful by far than the Terreur blanche in contemporary France – was continued, until at length, the great American colonies having asserted their independence,99
After much intrigue and factious opposition, both on the part of the extreme Royalists and the extreme Radicals, the election of Riego to the Presidency of the Cortes in 1822 marked the extreme limit of the triumph of the Liberal party in Spain.
The Congress of Verona in October, 1822; the growing pretensions of the Holy Alliance; the mission of the Duke of Wellington, with George Canning’s protest against the armed intervention of any of the Powers in the domestic affairs of the Peninsula; and the ultimate invasion of Spain by a French army of 100,000 men under the Duc d’Angoul?me, eldest son of the Comte d’Artois, afterwards Charles X., in April, 1823; – these things belong as much to European as to Spanish history, and need only be referred to in passing.
The French army, as may be supposed, met with no serious opposition. Madrid was easily occupied before the end of May. Cadiz, maintaining a brief but honourable resistance, yielded to a bombardment in September; and Ferdinand VII., reinvested with absolute power over his subjects by foreign artillery and foreign bayonets in October, 1823, immediately unswore all his oaths, and restored all the old tyranny and abuses in Spain. Riego was at once put to death. All Liberals and even moderados were exposed to a sanguinary and relentless persecution. The leaders and their richer and more important partisans were as a rule able to make good their flight, in many cases to England; but their humbler followers paid the penalty of their liberalism with their lives. The French army of occupation remained in Spain for four years – 1823–1827 – and Cadiz was not evacuated until 1828.
In September, 1824, Charles X. succeeded the more liberal Louis XVIII. on the throne of France, and George Canning, unable to compel or persuade the French to leave the Spanish people to themselves in Spain, “called a new world into existence to restore the balance in the old,” and recognized the independence of the Spanish American colonies.
In 1829 Ferdinand VII. married, as his fourth wife, Maria Christina of Naples, a sister of the Duchesse de Berri;1010
On Michaelmas Day, 1833, Ferdinand VII. died, and his daughter Isabella was immediately proclaimed queen, as Isabel II., with her mother Do?a Cristina as regent,1212
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