THE BIBLE IN SPAIN
or The Journeys, Adventures, and Imprisonments
of an Englishman, in an Attempt to
circulate the Scriptures in the Peninsula
cassell and company, ltd.
london, paris, new york,
toronto & melbourne
Blessed with a magnificent physique, and an unswerving belief in God’s beneficence; endowed with “the gift of tongues” and a cheerful disposition, George Borrow was well equipped for life. That he was called to be a Bible Society missionary was surely a curious turn of fortune. The son of a Militia captain, whose duties took him about the country, Borrow early acquired the taste for a roving life, and it must have been a severe hardship to him when, at the age of sixteen, he was articled to a Norwich firm of solicitors. Indeed, it would almost appear that the gypsy spirit was quenched, for on the completion of his five years he was engaged as literary hack to Phillips, the London publisher. But after a year or so the “call of the wild” came, and Borrow eagerly responded. What happened is not really known, though much of his gypsy life is pictured in Lavengro.
In 1832 he commenced his work for the Bible Society, and the next year went as its representative to Russia. He stayed there until 1835, when he was ordered to Spain and Portugal. In spite of their adventurous nature, the five years there spent were described by Borrow as “the most happy years of my life.” The Bible in Spain consists largely of his letters to the Society, and the vigour and directness of his language must ofttimes have startled the officials. The book was published in December, 1842.
George Henry Borrow was born July 5, 1803, and died July 26, 1881.
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 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 daydreams 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 daydream 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 bacalao I have eaten; who always treated me with kindness and courtesy, and to whom I have not unfrequently been indebted for shelter and protection.
“The generous bearing of Francisco Gonzales, and the high deeds of Ruy Diaz the Cid, are still sung amongst the fastnesses of the Sierra Morena.” 
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 Astruria; 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