My Dear Don Jorge

Jan Read describes how, between 1830 and 1840, two very different English travellers each produced a vivid account of Spanish scenes and personalities.

No two Englishmen have written about Spain with more authority than Richard Ford or George Borrow: after almost a century-and-a-half, Ford’s Handbook for Travellers in Spain is still the best guide to architecture and traditions, and in its insight into the Spanish character is rivalled only by Borrow’s The Bible in Spain.

Ford lived in Spain for three years from November 1830 to September 1833; and Borrow made three separate and extended visits during 1835 to 1840.

It was only after they had both returned to England that the two men met and entered into a lively correspondence which helped to shape both books. Their visits covered a disturbed and formative period when the shadow

of the Peninsular War still lay heavily across the country. Ford’s visit was marked by various liberal uprisings against the ‘absolutist’ regime of Ferdinand VII.

Before his death in 1833, Ferdinand had himself remarked that ‘Spain is a bottle of beer and I am the cork. Without me it would all go off in froth.’

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