The Romany Rye, by George Borrow

Appendix II

On Priestcraft

The writer will now say a few words about priestcraft and the machinations of Rome, and will afterwards say something about himself and his motives for writing against them.

With respect to Rome and her machinations, much valuable information can be obtained from particular parts of Lavengro and its sequel. Shortly before the time when the hero of the book is launched into the world the Popish agitation in England had commenced. The Popish propaganda had determined to make a grand attempt on England; Popish priests were scattered over the land, doing the best they could to make converts to the old superstition. With the plans of Rome, and her hopes, and the reasons on which those hopes are grounded, the hero of the book becomes acquainted during an expedition which he makes into the country, from certain conversations which he holds with a priest in a dingle in which the hero had taken up his residence; he likewise learns from the same person much of the secret history of the Roman See and many matters connected with the origin and progress of the Popish superstition. The individual with whom he holds these conversations is a learned, intelligent, but highly unprincipled person, of a character, however, very common amongst the priests of Rome, who in general are people void of all religion, and who, notwithstanding they are tied to Rome by a band which they have neither the power nor wish to break, turn her and her practices, over their cups with their confidential associates, to a ridicule only exceeded by that to which they turn those who become the dupes of their mistress and themselves.

It is now necessary that the writer should say something with respect to himself and his motives for waging war against Rome. First of all, with respect to himself, he wishes to state that, to the very last moment of his life, he will do and say all that in his power may be to hold up to contempt and execration the priestcraft and practices of Rome; there is, perhaps, no person better acquainted than himself, not even among the choicest spirits of the priesthood, with the origin and history of Popery. From what he saw and heard of Popery in England at a very early period of his life, his curiosity was aroused, and he spared himself no trouble, either by travel or study, to make himself well acquainted with it in all its phases, the result being a hatred of it which he hopes and trusts he shall retain till the moment when his spirit quits the body. Popery is the great lie of the world — a source from which more misery and social degradation have flowed upon the human race than from all the other sources from which those evils come. It is the oldest of all superstitions, and, though in Europe it assumes the name of Christianity, it existed and flourished amidst the Himalayan hills at least two thousand years before the real Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea — in a word, it is Buddhism, and let those who may be disposed to doubt this assertion compare the Popery of Rome and the superstitious practices of its followers with the doings of the priests who surround the grand Lama, and the mouthings, bellowing, turnings round, and above all, the penances of the followers of Buddh with those of Roman devotees. But he is not going to dwell here on this point; it is dwelt upon at tolerable length in the text, and has likewise been handled with extraordinary power by the pen of the gifted but irreligious Volney; moreover, the elite of the Roman priesthood are perfectly well aware that their system is nothing but Buddhism under a slight disguise, and the European world in general has entertained for some time past an inkling of the fact.

And now a few words with respect to the motives of the writer for expressing a hatred for Rome.

This expressed abhorrence of the author for Rome might be entitled to little regard, provided it were possible to attribute it to any self-interested motive. There have been professed enemies of Rome, or of this or that system; but their professed enmity may frequently be traced to some cause which does them little credit; but the writer of these lines has no motive, and can have no motive, for his enmity to Rome, save the abhorrence of an honest heart for what is false, base, and cruel. A certain clergyman wrote with much heat against the Papists in the time of —— 185 who was known to favour the Papists, but was not expected to continue long in office, and whose supposed successor, the person, indeed, who did succeed him, was thought to be hostile to the Papists. This divine, who obtained a rich benefice from the successor of —— 186 who during ——‘s 187 time had always opposed him in everything he proposed to do, and who, of course, during that time affected to be very inimical to Popery — this divine might well be suspected of having a motive equally creditable for writing against the Papists, as that which induced him to write for them, as soon as his patron, who eventually did something more for him, had espoused their cause; but what motive, save an honest one, can the present writer have, for expressing an abhorrence of Popery? He is no clergyman, and consequently can expect neither benefices nor bishoprics, supposing it were the fashion of the present, or likely to be the fashion of any future administration, to reward clergymen with benefices or bishoprics, who, in the defence of the religion of their country write, or shall write, against Popery, and not to reward those who write, or shall write, in favour of it, and all its nonsense and abominations.

‘But if not a clergyman, he is the servant of a certain society, which has the overthrow of Popery in view, and therefore,’ etc. This assertion, which has been frequently made, is incorrect, even as those who have made it probably knew it to be. He is the servant of no society whatever. He eats his own bread, and is one of the very few men in England who are independent in every sense of the word.

It is true he went to Spain with the colours of that society on his hat — oh! the blood glows in his veins! oh! the marrow awakes in his old bones when he thinks of what he accomplished in Spain in the cause of religion and civilization with the colours of that society in his hat, and its weapon in his hand, even the sword of the word of God; how with that weapon he hewed left and right, making the priests fly before him, and run away squeaking: ‘Vaya! que demonio es este!’ Ay, and when he thinks of the plenty of bible swords which he left behind him, destined to prove, and which have already proved, pretty calthrops in the heels of popery. ‘Halloo! Batuschca,’ 188 he exclaimed the other night, on reading an article in a newspaper, ‘what do you think of the present doings in Spain? Your old friend the zingaro, the gitano who rode about Spain, to say nothing of Galicia, with the Greek Buchini behind him as his squire, had a hand in bringing them about; there are many brave Spaniards connected with the present movement who took bibles from his hands, and read them and profited by them, learning from the inspired page the duties of one man towards another, and the real value of a priesthood and their head, who set at nought the word of God, and think only of their own temporal interests; ay, and who learned Gitano — their own Gitano — from the lips of the London Caloro, and also songs in the said Gitano, very fit to dumbfounder your semi-Buddhist priests when they attempt to bewilder people’s minds with their school-logic and pseudo-ecclesiastical nonsense, songs such as —

   ‘Un Erajai

Sinaba chibando un sermon . . . ’ 189

But with that society he has long since ceased to have any connection; he bade it adieu with feelings of love and admiration more than fourteen years ago; so, in continuing to assault Popery, no hopes of interest founded on that society can sway his mind — interest! who, with worldly interest in view, would ever have anything to do with that society? It is poor and supported, like its founder Christ, by poor people; and so far from having political influence, it is in such disfavour, and has ever been, with the dastardly great, to whom the government of England has for many years past been confided, that the having borne its colours only for a month would be sufficient to exclude any man, whatever his talents, his learning, or his courage may be, from the slightest chance of being permitted to serve his country either for fee, or without. A fellow who unites in himself the bankrupt trader, the broken author, or rather book-maker, and the laughed down single speech spouter of the House of Commons, may look forward always supposing that at one time he has been a foaming radical, to the government of an important colony. Ay, an ancient fox who has lost his tail may, provided he has a score of radical friends, who will swear that he can bark Chinese, though Chinese is not barked but sung, be forced upon a Chinese colony, though it is well known that to have lost one’s tail is considered by the Chinese in general as an irreparable infamy, whilst to have been once connected with a certain society to which, to its honour be it said, all the radical party are vehemently hostile, would be quite sufficient to keep any one not only from a government, but something much less, even though he could translate the rhymed ‘Sessions of Hariri,’ and were versed, still retaining his tail, in the two languages in which Kien–Loung wrote his Eulogium on Moukden, that piece which, translated by Amyot, the learned Jesuit, won the applause of the celebrated Voltaire.

No! were the author influenced by hopes of fee or reward, he would, instead of writing against Popery, write for it; all the trumpery titled — he will not call them great again — would then be for him, and their masters the radicals, with their hosts of newspapers, would be for him, more especially if he would commence maligning the society whose colours he had once on his hat — a society which, as the priest says in the text, is one of the very few Protestant institutions for which the Popish Church entertains any fear, and consequently respect, as it respects nothing which it does not fear. The writer said that certain ‘rulers’ would never forgive him for having been connected with that society; he went perhaps too far in saying ‘never.’ It is probable that they would take him into favour on one condition, which is, that he should turn his pen and his voice against that society; such a mark ‘of a better way of thinking,’ would perhaps induce them to give him a government, nearly as good as that which they gave to a certain ancient radical fox at the intercession of his radical friends (who were bound to keep him from the pauper’s kennel), after he had promised to foam, bark, and snarl at corruption no more; he might even entertain hopes of succeeding, nay of superseding, the ancient creature in his government; but even were he as badly off as he is well off, he would do no such thing. He would rather exist on crusts and water; he has often done so, and been happy; nay, he would rather starve than be a rogue — for even the feeling of starvation is happiness compared with what he feels who knows himself to be a rogue, provided he has any feeling at all. What is the use of a mitre or a knighthood to a man who has betrayed his principles? What is the use of a gilt collar, nay, even of a pair of scarlet breeches, to a fox who has lost his tail? Oh! the horror which haunts the mind of the fox who has lost his tail; and with reason, for his very mate loathes him, and more especially if, like himself, she has lost her brush. Oh! the horror which haunts the mind of the two-legged rogue who has parted with his principles, or those which he professed — for what? We’ll suppose a government. What’s the use of a government, if, the next day after you have received it, you are obliged for very shame to scurry off to it with the hoot of every honest man sounding in your ears?

‘Lightly liar leaped away and ran.’

PIERS PLOWMAN.

But bigotry, it has been said, makes the author write against Popery; and thorough-going bigotry, indeed, will make a person say or do anything. But the writer is a very pretty bigot truly! Where will the public find traces of bigotry in anything he has written? He has written against Rome with all his heart, with all his mind, with all his soul, and with all his strength; but as a person may be quite honest, and speak and write against Rome, in like manner he may speak and write against her, and be quite free from bigotry; though it is impossible for any one but a bigot or a bad man to write or speak in her praise, her doctrines, actions, and machinations being what they are.

Bigotry! The author was born, and has always continued in the wrong Church for bigotry, the quiet, unpretending Church of England — a Church which had it been a bigoted Church, and not long suffering almost to a fault, might with its opportunities, as the priest says in the text, have stood in a very different position from which it occupies at present. No! let those who are in search of bigotry, seek for it in a Church very different from the inoffensive Church of England, which never encourages cruelty or calumny. Let them seek for it amongst the members of the Church of Rome, and more especially amongst those who have renegaded to it. There is nothing, however false and horrible, which a pervert to Rome will not say for his Church, and which his priests will not encourage him in saying; and there is nothing, however horrible — the more horrible indeed and revolting to human nature, the more eager he would be to do it — which he will not do for it, and which his priests will not encourage him in doing.

Of the readiness which converts to popery exhibit to sacrifice all the ties of blood and affection on the shrine of their newly-adopted religion, there is a curious illustration in the work of Luigi Pulci. This man, who was born at Florence in the year 1432, and who was deeply versed in the Bible, composed a poem, called the ‘Morgante Maggiore,’ which he recited at the table of Lorenzo de Medici, the great patron of Italian genius. It is a mock-heroic and religious poem, in which the legends of knight-errantry, and of the Popish Church, are turned to unbounded ridicule. The pretended hero of it is a converted giant, called Morgante; though his adventures do not occupy the twentieth part of the poem, the principal personages being Charlemagne, Orlando, and his cousin Rinaldo of Montalban. Morgante has two brothers, both of them giants, and, in the first canto of the poem, Morgante is represented with his brothers as carrying on a feud with the abbot and monks of a certain convent, built upon the confines of heathenesse; the giants being in the habit of flinging down stones, or rather huge rocks, on the convent. Orlando, however, who is banished from the court of Charlemagne, arriving at the convent, undertakes to destroy them, and, accordingly, kills Passamonte and Alabastro, and converts Morgante, whose mind had been previously softened by a vision, in which the ‘Blessed Virgin’ figures. No sooner is he converted than, as a sign of his penitence, what does he do but hastens and cuts off the hands of his two brothers, saying —

‘Io vo’ tagliar le mani a tutti quanti

E porterolle a que’ monaci santi.’

And he does cut off the hands of his brethren, and carries them to the abbot, who blesses him for so doing. Pulci here is holding up to ridicule and execration the horrid butchery or betrayal of friends by popish converts, and the encouragement they receive from the priest. No sooner is a person converted to popery than his principal thought is how he can bring the hands and feet of his brethren, however harmless they may be, and different from the giants, to the ‘holy priests,’ who, if he manages to do so, never fail to prate him, saying to the miserable wretch, as the abbot said to Morgante:

‘Tu sarai or perfetto e vero amico

A Cristo, quanto tu gli eri nemico.’

Can the English public deny the justice of Pulci’s illustration, after something which it has lately witnessed? 190 Has it not seen equivalents for the hands and feet of brothers carried by popish perverts to the ‘holy priests’? and has it not seen the manner in which the offering his been received? Let those who are in quest of bigotry seek for it amongst the perverts to Rome, and not amongst those who, born in the pale of the Church of England, have always continued in it.

185 ‘Canning (1827),’ (Kn.).

186 Ibid.

187 ‘Viscount Goderich’ (Kn.).

188 Little Father (Russian).

189 The full text and translation of this pointless little song are given in the ‘Romano Lavo-lil,’ pp. 200, 201.

190 This was written in 1854. (G.B.)

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/borrow/george/romany/appendix2.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 14:18