SIX YEARS IN NORTH BENGAL–MISSIONARY AND INDIGO PLANTER
Carey’s two missionary principles–Destitute in Calcutta–Bandel and Nuddea–Applies in vain to be under-superintendent of the Botanic Garden–Housed by a native usurer–Translation and preaching work in Calcutta–Secures a grant of waste land at Hasnabad–Estimate of the Bengali language, and appeal to the Society to work in Asia and Africa rather than in America–The Udny family–Carey’s summary of his first year’s experience–Superintends the indigo factory of Mudnabati–Indigo and the East India Company’s monopolies–Carey’s first nearly fatal sickness–Death of his child and chronic madness of his wife–Formation of first Baptist church in India–Early progress of Bible translation–Sanskrit studies; the Mahabarata–The wooden printing-press set up at Mudnabati–His educational ideal; school-work–The medical mission–Lord Wellesley–Carey seeks a mission centre among the Bhooteas–Describes his first sight of a Sati–Projects a mission settlement at Kidderpore.
CAREY was in his thirty-third year when he landed in Bengal. Two principles regulated the conception, the foundation, and the whole course of the mission which he now began. He had been led to these by the very genius of Christianity itself, by the example and teaching of Christ and of Paul, and by the experience of the Moravian brethren. He had laid them down in his Enquiry, and every month’s residence during forty years in India confirmed him in his adhesion to them. These principles are that (1) a missionary must be one of the companions and equals of the people to whom he is sent; and (2) a missionary must as soon as possible become indigenous, self-supporting, self-propagating, alike by the labours of the mission and of the converts. Himself a man of the people yet a scholar, a shoemaker and a schoolmaster yet a preacher and pastor to whom the great Robert Hall gloried in being a successor, Carey had led the two lives as Paul had done. Now that he was fairly in Calcutta he resumed the divine toil, and ceased it not till he entered on the eternal rest. He prepared to go up country to Malda to till the ground among the natives of the rich district around the ruined capital of Gour. He engaged as his pundit and interpreter Ram Basu, one of the professing inquirers whom Thomas had attracted in former days. Experience soon taught him that, however correct his principle, Malda is not a land where the white man can be a farmer. So he became, in the different stages of his career, a captain of labour as an indigo planter, a teacher of Bengali, and professor of Sanskrit and Marathi, and the Government translator of Bengali. Nor did he or his associates ever make the mistake–or commit the fraud–of the Jesuit missionaries, whose idea of equality with the people was not that of brotherhood in Christ, but that of dragging down Christian doctrine, worship and civilisation, to the level of idolatrous heathenism, and deluding the ignorant into accepting the blasphemous compromise.
Alas! Carey could not manage to get out of Calcutta and its neighbourhood for five months. As he thought to live by farming, Thomas was to practise his profession; and their first year’s income of £150 had, in those days when the foreign exchanges were unknown, to be realised by the sale of the goods in which it had been invested. As usual, Thomas had again blundered, so that even his gentle colleague himself half-condemned, half-apologised for him by the shrewd reflection that he was only fit to live at sea, where his daily business would be before him, and daily provision would be made for him. Carey found himself penniless. Even had he received the whole of his £75, as he really did in one way or other, what was that for such a family as his at the beginning of their undertaking? The expense of living at all in Calcutta drove the whole party thirty miles up the river to Bandel, an old Portuguese suburb of the Hoogli factory. There they rented a small house from the German hotel-keeper, beside the Augustinian priory and oldest church in North India, which dates from 1599 and is still in good order. There they met Kiernander, then at the great age of eighty-four. Daily they preached or talked to the people. They purchased a boat for regular visitation of the hamlets, markets, and towns which line both banks of the river. With sure instinct Carey soon fixed on Nuddea, as the centre of Brahmanical superstition and Sanskrit learning, where “to build me a hut and live like the natives,” language recalled to us by the words of the dying Livingstone in the swamps of Central Africa. There, in the capital of the last of the Hindoo kings, beside the leafy tols or colleges of a river port which rivals Benares, Poona, and Conjeeveram in sanctity, where Chaitanya the Vaishnaiva reformer was born, Carey might have attacked Brahmanism in its stronghold. A passage in his journal shows how he realised the position. Thomas, the pundit, and he “sought the Lord by prayer for direction,” and this much was the result–“Several of the most learned Pundits and Brahmans wished us to settle there; and, as that is the great place for Eastern learning, we seemed inclined, especially as it is the bulwark of heathenism, which, if once carried, all the rest of the country must be laid open to us.” But there was no available land there for an Englishman’s cultivation. From Bandel he wrote home these impressions of Anglo-Indian life and missionary duty:–
“26th Dec. 1793.–A missionary must be one of the companions and equals of the people to whom he is sent, and many dangers and temptations will be in his way. One or two pieces of advice I may venture to give. The first is to be exceedingly cautious lest the voyage prove a great snare. All the discourse is about high life, and every circumstance will contribute to unfit the mind for the work and prejudice the soul against the people to whom he goes; and in a country like this, settled by Europeans, the grandeur, the customs, and prejudices of the Europeans are exceeding dangerous. They are very kind and hospitable, but even to visit them, if a man keeps no table of his own, would more than ten times exceed the allowance of a mission; and all their discourse is about the vices of the natives, so that a missionary must see thousands of people treating him with the greatest kindness, but whom he must be entirely different from in his life, his appearance in everything, or it is impossible for him to stand their profuse way of living, being so contrary to his character and so much above his ability. This is a snare to dear Mr. Thomas, which will be felt by us both in some measure. It will be very important to missionaries to be men of calmness and evenness of temper, and rather inclined to suffer hardships than to court the favour of men, and such who will be indefatigably employed in the work set before them, an inconstancy of mind being quite injurious to it.”
He had need of such faith and patience. Hearing of waste land in Calcutta, he returned there only to be disappointed. The Danish captain, knowing that he had written a botanical work, advised him to take it to the doctor in charge of the Company’s Botanic Garden, and offer himself for a vacant appointment to superintend part of it. The doctor, who and whose successors were soon to be proud of his assistance on equal terms, had to tell him that the office had been filled up, but invited the weary man to dine with him. Houseless, with his maddened wife, and her sister and two of his four children down with dysentery, due to the bad food and exposure of six weeks in the interor, Carey found a friend, appropriately enough, in a Bengali money-lender.9 Nelu Dutt, a banker who had lent money to Thomas, offered the destitute family his garden house in the north-eastern quarter of Manicktolla until they could do better. The place was mean enough, but Carey never forgot the deed, and he had it in his power long after to help Nelu Dutt when in poverty. Such, on the other hand, was the dislike of the Rev. David Brown to Thomas, that when Carey had walked five miles in the heat of the sun to visit the comparatively prosperous evangelical preacher, “I left him without his having so much as asked me to take any refreshment.”
Carey would not have been allowed to live in Calcutta as a missionary. Forty years were to pass before that could be possible without a Company’s passport. But no one was aware of the existence of the obscure vagrant, as he seemed, although he was hard at work. All around him was a Mohammedan community whom he addressed with the greatest freedom, and with whom he discussed the relative merits of the Koran and the Bible in a kindly spirit, “to recommend the Gospel and the way of life by Christ.” He had helped Thomas with a translation of the book of Genesis during the voyage, and now we find this in his journal two months and a half after he had landed:–
“Through the delays of my companion I have spent another month, and done scarcely anything, except that I have added to my knowledge of the language, and had opportunity of seeing much more of the genius and disposition of the natives than I otherwise could have known. This day finished the correction of the first chapter of Genesis, which moonshi says is rendered into very good Bengali. Just as we had finished it, a pundit and another man from Nuddea came to see me. I showed it to them; and the pundit seemed much pleased with the account of the creation; only they have an imaginary place somewhere beneath the earth, and he thought that should have been mentioned likewise…
“Was very weary, having walked in the sun about fifteen or sixteen miles, yet had the satisfaction of discoursing with some money-changers at Calcutta, who could speak English, about the importance and absolute necessity of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. One of them was a very crafty man, and tried much to entangle me with hard questions; but at last, finding himself entangled, he desisted, and went to his old occupation of money-changing again. If once God would by his Spirit convince them of sin, a Saviour would be a blessing indeed to them: but human nature is the same all the world over, and all conviction fails except it is produced by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit.”
Ram Basu was himself in debt, was indeed all along a self-interested inquirer. But the next gleam of hope came from him, that the Carey family should move to the waste jungles of the Soondarbans, the tiger-haunted swamps south-east of Calcutta, and there cultivate a grant of land. With a sum of £16 borrowed from a native at twelve per cent. by Mr. Thomas, a boat was hired, and on the fourth day, when only one more meal remained, the miserable family and their stout-hearted father saw an English-built house. As they walked up to it the owner met them, and with Anglo-Indian hospitality invited them all to become his guests. He proved to be Mr. Charles Short, in charge of the Company’s salt manufacture there. As a deist he had no sympathy with Carey’s enterprise, but he helped the missionary none the less, and the reward came to him in due time in the opening of his heart to the love of Christ. He afterwards married Mrs. Carey’s sister, and in England the two survived the great missionary, to tell this and much more regarding him. Here, at the place appropriately named Hasnabad, or the “smiling spot,” Carey took a few acres on the Jamoona arm of the united Ganges and Brahmapootra, and built him a bamboo house, forty miles east of Calcutta. Knowing that the sahib’s gun would keep off the tigers, natives squatted around to the number of three or four thousand. Such was the faith, the industry, and the modesty of the brave little man that, after just three months, he wrote thus:–“When I know the language well enough to preach in it, I have no doubt of having a stated congregation, and I much hope to send you pleasing accounts. I can so far converse in the language as to be understood in most things belonging to eating and drinking, buying and selling, etc. My ear is somewhat familiarised to the Bengali sounds. It is a language of a very singular construction, having no plural except for pronouns, and not a single preposition in it: but the cases of nouns and pronouns are almost endless, all the words answering to our prepositions being put after the word, and forming a new case. Except these singularities, I find it an easy language. I feel myself happy in my present undertaking; for, though I never felt the loss of social religion so much as now, yet a consciousness of having given up all for God is a support; and the work, with all its attendant inconveniences, is to me a rich reward. I think the Society would do well to keep their eye towards Africa or Asia, countries which are not like the wilds of America, where long labour will scarcely collect sixty people to hear the Word: for here it is almost impossible to get out of the way of hundreds, and preachers are wanted a thousand times more than people to preach to. Within India are the Maratha country and the northern parts to Cashmere, in which, as far as I can learn, there is not one soul that thinks of God aright…My health was never better. The climate, though hot, is tolerable; but, attended as I am with difficulties, I would not renounce my undertaking for all the world.”
It was at this time that he drew his strength often from the experience of the first missionary, described by Isaiah, in all his solitude:–“Look unto Abraham your father, for I called him alone and blessed him and increased him. For the Lord shall comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places.” The sun of His comfort shone forth at last.
Carey’s original intention to begin his mission near Malda was now to be carried out. In the opening week of 1794 the small English community in Bengal were saddened by the news that, when crossing the Hoogli at Calcutta, a boat containing three of its principal merchants and the wife of one of them, had been upset, and all had been drowned. It turned out that two of the men recovered, but Mr. R. Udny and his young wife perished. His aged mother had been one of the godly circle in the Residency at Malda to whom Thomas had ministered; and Mr. G. Udny, her other son, was still the Company’s commercial Resident there. A letter of sympathy which Thomas sent to them restored the old relations, and resulted in Mr. G. Udny inviting first the writer and then Carey to become his assistants in charge of new indigo factories which he was building on his own account. Each received a salary equivalent to £250 a year, with the prospect of a commission on the out-turn, and even a proprietary share. Carey’s remark in his journal on the day he received the offer was:–“This appearing to be a remarkable opening in divine providence for our comfortable support, I accepted it…I shall likewise be joined with my colleague again, and we shall unitedly engage in our work.” Again:–“The conversion of the heathen is the object which above all others I wish to pursue. If my situation at Malda should be tolerable, I most certainly will publish the Bible in numbers.” On receiving the rejoinder to his acceptance of the offer he set this down:–“I am resolved to write to the Society that my circumstances are such that I do not need future help from them, and to devote a sum monthly for the printing of the Bengali Bible.” This he did, adding that it would be his glory and joy to stand in the same relation to the Society as if he needed support from them. He hoped they would be the sooner able to send another mission somewhere–to Sumatra or some of the Indian Islands. From the first he lived with such simplicity that he gave from one-fourth to one-third of his little income to his own mission at Mudnabati.
Carey thus sums up his first year’s experience before leaving his jungle home on a three weeks’ voyage up the Ganges, and records his first deliberate and regular attempt to preach in Bengali on the way.
“8th April 1794.–All my hope is in, and all my comfort arises from, God; without His power no European could possibly be converted, and His power can convert any Indian; and when I reflect that He has stirred me up to the work, and wrought wonders to prepare the way, I can hope in His promises, and am encouraged and strengthened…
“19th April.–O how glorious are the ways of God! ‘My soul longeth and fainteth for God, for the living God, to see His glory and beauty as I have seen them in the sanctuary.’ When I first left England, my hope of the conversion of the heathen was very strong; but, among so many obstacles, it would entirely die away unless upheld by God. Nothing to exercise it, but plenty to obstruct it, for now a year and nineteen days, which is the space since I left my dear charge at Leicester. Since that I have had hurrying up and down; a five months’ imprisonment with carnal men on board the ship; five more learning the language; my moonshi not understanding English sufficiently to interpret my preaching; my colleague separated from me; long delays and few opportunities for social worship; no woods to retire to, like Brainerd, for fear of tigers (no less than twenty men in the department of Deharta, where I am, have been carried away by them this season from the salt-works); no earthly thing to depend upon, or earthly comfort, except food and raiment. Well, I have God, and His Word is sure; and though the superstitions of the heathen were a million times worse than they are, if I were deserted by all, and persecuted by all, yet my hope, fixed on that sure Word, will rise superior to all obstructions, and triumph over all trials. God’s cause will triumph, and I shall come out of all trials as gold purified by fire. I was much humbled to-day by reading Brainerd. O what a disparity betwixt me and him, he always constant, I as inconstant as the wind!
“22nd April.–Bless God for a continuance of the happy frame of yesterday. I think the hope of soon acquiring the language puts fresh life into my soul; for a long time my mouth has been shut, and my days have been beclouded with heaviness; but now I begin to be something like a traveller who has been almost beaten out in a violent storm, and who, with all his clothes about him dripping wet, sees the sky begin to clear: so I, with only the prospect of a more pleasant season at hand, scarcely feel the sorrows of the present.
“23rd.–With all the cares of life, and all its sorrows, yet I find that a life of communion with God is sufficient to yield consolation in the midst of all, and even to produce a holy joy in the soul, which shall make it to triumph over all affliction. I have never yet repented of any sacrifice that I have made for the Gospel, but find that consolation of mind which can come from God alone.
“26th May.–This day kept Sabbath at Chandureea; had a pleasant day. In the morning and afternoon addressed my family, and in the evening began my work of publishing the Word of God to the heathen. Though imperfect in the knowledge of the language, yet, with the help of moonshi, I conversed with two Brahmans in the presence of about two hundred people, about the things of God. I had been to see a temple, in which were the images of Dukkinroy, the god of the woods, riding on a tiger; Sheetulla, goddess of the smallpox, without a head, riding on a horse without a head; Punchanon, with large ears; and Colloroy, riding on a horse. In another apartment was Seeb, which was only a smooth post of wood, with two or three mouldings in it, like the base of a Tuscan pillar. I therefore discoursed with them upon the vanity of idols, the folly and wickedness of idolatry, the nature and attributes of God, and the way of salvation by Christ. One Brahman was quite confounded, and a number of people were all at once crying out to him, ‘Why do you not answer him? Why do you not answer him?’ He replied, ‘I have no words.’ Just at this time a very learned Brahman came up, who was desired to talk with me, which he did, and so acceded to what I said, that he at last said images had been used of late years, but not from the beginning. I inquired what I must do to be saved; he said I must repeat the name of God a great many times. I replied, would you, if your son had offended you, be so pleased with him as to forgive him if he were to repeat the word ‘father’ a thousand times? This might please children or fools, but God is wise. He told me that I must get faith; I asked what faith was, to which he gave me no intelligible reply, but said I must obey God. I answered, what are His commands? what is His will? They said God was a great light, and as no one could see him, he became incarnate, under the threefold character of Brhumma, Bishno, and Seeb, and that either of them must be worshipped in order to life. I told them of the sure Word of the Gospel, and the way of life by Christ; and, night coming on, left them. I cannot tell what effect it may have, as I may never see them again.”
At the beginning of the great rains in the middle of June Carey joined Mr. Udny and his mother at the chief factory. On each of the next two Sabbaths he preached twice in the hall of the Residency of the Company, which excluded all Christian missionaries by Act of Parliament. As an indigo planter he received the Company’s licence to reside for at least five years. So on 26th June he began his secular duties by completing for the season of indigo manufacture the buildings at Mudnabati, and making the acquaintance of the ninety natives under his charge. Both Mr. Udny and he knew well that he was above all things a Christian missionary. “These will furnish a congregation immediately, and, added to the extensive engagements which I must necessarily have with the natives, will open a very wide door for activity. God grant that it may not only be large but effectual.”
These were the days, which continued till the next charter, when the East India Company was still not only a body of merchants but of manufacturers. Of all the old monopolies only the most evil one is left, that of the growth, manufacture, and sale of opium. The civil servants, who were termed Residents, had not political duties with tributary sovereigns as now, but from great factory-like palaces, and on large salaries, made advances of money to contractors, native and European, who induced the ryots to weave cloth, to breed and feed the silkworm, and to grow and make the blue dye to which India had long given the name of “indigo.” Mr. Carey was already familiar with the system of advances for salt, and the opium monopoly was then in its infancy. The European contractors were “interlopers,” who introduced the most valuable cultivation and processes into India, and yet with whom the “covenanted” Residents were often at war. The Residents had themselves liberty of private trade, and unscrupulous men abused it. Clive had been hurried out thirty years before to check the abuse, which was ruining not only the Company’s investments but the people. It had so spread on his departure that even judges and chaplains shared in the spoils till Cornwallis interfered. In the case of Mr. G. Udny and purely commercial agents the evil was reduced to a minimum, and the practice had been deliberately sanctioned by Sir John Shore on the ground that it was desirable to make the interests of the Company and of individuals go hand in hand.
The days when Europe got its cotton cloth from India, calling it “calico,” from Calicut, and its rich yellow silks, have long since passed, although the latter are still supplied in an inferior form, and the former is once more raising its head, from the combination of machinery and cheap labour. For the old abuses of the Company the Government by Parliament has to some extent atoned by fostering the new cultures of tea, coffee, and cinchona, jute and wheat. The system of inducing the ryots to cultivate by advances, protected by a stringent contract law, still exists in the case of opium. The indigo culture system of Carey’s time broke down in 1860 in the lower districts, where, following the Company itself, the planter made cash advances to the peasant, who was required to sow indigo on land which he held as a tenant but often as a proprietor, to deliver it at a fixed rate, and to bear the risk of the crop as well as the exactions of the factory servants. It still exists in the upper districts of Bihar, especially in Tirhoot, on a system comparatively free from economic objections.
The plant known as “Indigofera Tinctoria” is sown in March in soil carefully prepared, grows to about 5 feet, is cut down early in July, is fermented in vats, and the liquor is beaten till it precipitates the precious blue dye, which is boiled, drained, cut in small cakes, and dried. From first to last the growth and the manufacture are even more precarious than most tropical crops. An even rainfall, rigorous weeding, the most careful superintendence of the chemical processes, and conscientious packing, are necessary. One good crop in three years will pay where the factory is not burdened by severe interest on capital; one every other year will pay very well. Personally Carey had more than the usual qualifications of a successful planter, scientific knowledge, scrupulous conscientiousness and industry, and familiarity with the native character, so soon as he acquired the special experience necessary for superintending the manufacture. That experience he spared no effort to gain at once.
“1st, 2nd, and 3rd July.–Much engaged in the necessary business of preparing our works for the approaching season of indigo-making, which will commence in about a fortnight. I had on the evening of each of these days very precious seasons of fervent prayer to God. I have been on these evenings much drawn out in prayer for my dear friends at Leicester, and for the Society that it may be prosperous; likewise for the ministers of my acquaintance, not only of the Baptist but other denominations. I was engaged for the churches in America and Holland, as well as England, and much concerned for the success of the Gospel among the Hindoos. At present I know not of any success since I have been here. Many say that the Gospel is the word of truth; but they abound so much in flattery and encomiums, which are mere words of course, that little can be said respecting their sincerity. The very common sins of lying and avarice are so universal also, that no European who has not witnessed it can form any idea of their various appearances: they will stoop to anything whatsoever to get a few cowries, and lie on every occasion. O how desirable is the spread of the Gospel!
“4th July.–Rather more flat, perhaps owing to the excessive heat; for in the rainy season, if there be a fine day, it is very hot indeed. Such has been this day, and I was necessitated to be out in it from morning till evening, giving necessary directions. I felt very much fatigued indeed, and had no spirits left in the evening, and in prayer was very barren…
“9th July to 4th Aug.–Employed in visiting several factories to learn the process of indigo-making. Had some very pleasant seasons at Malda, where I preached several times, and the people seemed much affected with the Word. One day, as Mr. Thomas and I were riding out, we saw a basket hung in a tree, in which an infant had been exposed; the skull remained, the rest having been devoured by ants.”
Success in the indigo culture was indeed never possible in Mudnabati. The factory stood on the river Tangan, within what is now the district of Dinajpoor, thirty miles north of Malda. To this day the revenue surveyors of Government describe it as low and marshy, subject to inundation during the rains, and considered very unhealthy. Carey had not been there a fortnight when he had to make this record:–
“5th, 6th, 7th July.–Much employed in settling the affairs of the buildings, etc., having been absent so long, and several of our managing and principal people being sick. It is indeed an awful time here with us now, scarcely a day but some are seized with fevers. It is, I believe, owing to the abundance of water, there being rice-fields all around us, in which they dam up the water, so that all the country hereabouts is about a foot deep in water; and as we have rain, though moderate to what I expected the rainy season to be, yet the continual moisture occasions fevers in such situations where rice is cultivated…Felt at home and thankful these days. O that I may be very useful! I must soon learn the language tolerably well, for I am obliged to converse with the natives every day, having no other persons here except my family.”
Soon in September, the worst of all the months in Bengal, he himself was brought near to the grave by a fever, one of the paroxysms continuing for twenty-six hours without intermission, “when providentially Mr. Udny came to visit us, not knowing that I was ill, and brought a bottle of bark with him.” He slowly recovered, but the second youngest child, Peter, a boy of five, was removed by dysentery, and caste made it long difficult to find any native to dig his grave. But of this time the faithful sufferer could write:–
“Sometimes I enjoyed sweet seasons of self-examination and prayer, as I lay upon my bed. Many hours together I sweetly spent in contemplating subjects for preaching, and in musing over discourses in Bengali; and when my animal spirits were somewhat raised by the fever, I found myself able to reason and discourse in Bengali for some hours together, and words and phrases occurred much more readily than when I was in health. When my dear child was ill I was enabled to attend upon him night and day, though very dangerously ill myself, without much fatigue; and now, I bless God that I feel a sweet resignation to his will.”
A still harder fate befell him. The monomania of his wife became chronic. A letter which she wrote and sent by special messenger called forth from Thomas this loving sympathy:–“You must endeavour to consider it a disease. The eyes and ears of many are upon you, to whom your conduct is unimpeachable with respect to all her charges; but if you show resentment, they have ears, and others have tongues set on fire. Were I in your case, I should be violent; but blessed be God, who suits our burdens to our backs. Sometimes I pray earnestly for you, and I always feel for you. Think of Job, Think of Jesus. Think of those who were ‘destitute, afflicted, tormented.’”
A voyage up the Tangan in Mr. Udny’s pinnace as far as the north frontier, at a spot now passed by the railway to Darjeeling, restored the invalid. “I am no hunter,” he wrote, while Thomas was shooting wild buffaloes, but he was ever adding to his store of observations of the people, the customs and language. Meanwhile he was longing for letters from Fuller and Pearce and Ryland. At the end of January 1795 the missionary exile thus talks of himself in his journal:–“Much engaged in writing, having begun to write letters to Europe; but having received none, I feel that hope deferred makes the heart sick. However, I am so fully satisfied of the firmness of their friendship that I feel a sweet pleasure in writing to them, though rather of a forlorn kind; and having nothing but myself to write about, feel the awkwardness of being an egotist. I feel a social spirit though barred from society…I sometimes walk in my garden, and try to pray to God; and if I pray at all it is in the solitude of a walk. I thought my soul a little drawn out to-day, but soon gross darkness returned. Spoke a word or two to a Mohammedan upon the things of God, but I feel to be as bad as they…9th May. I have added nothing to these memoirs since the 19th of April. Now I observe that for the last three sabbaths my soul has been much comforted in seeing so large a congregation, and more especially as many who are not our own workmen come from the parts adjacent, whose attendance must be wholly disinterested. I therefore now rejoice in seeing a regular congregation of from two to six hundred people of all descriptions–Mussulmans, Brahmans and other classes of Hindus, which I look upon as a favourable token from God…Blessed be God, I have at last received letters and other articles from our friends in England…from dear brethren Fuller, Morris, Pearce, and Rippon, but why not from others?…14th June. I have had very sore trials in my own family, from a quarter which I forbear to mention. Have greater need for faith and patience than ever I had, and I bless God that I have not been altogether without supplies of these graces…Mr. Thomas and his family spent one Lord’s day with us, May 23rd…We spent Wednesday, 26th, in prayer, and for a convenient place assembled in a temple of Seeb, which was near to our house…I was from that day seized with a dysentery, which continued nearly a week with fearful violence; but then I recovered, through abundant mercy. That day of prayer was a good day to our souls. We concerted measures for forming a Baptist church.”
To his sister he wrote, on the 11th March, of the church, which was duly formed of Europeans and Eurasians. No native convert was made in this Dinapoor mission till 1806, after Carey had removed to Serampore. “We have in the neighbourhood about fifteen or sixteen serious persons, or those I have good hopes of, all Europeans. With the natives I have very large concerns; almost all the farmers for nearly twenty miles round cultivate indigo for us, and the labouring people working here to the number of about five hundred, so that I have considerable opportunity of publishing the Gospel to them. I have so much knowledge of the language as to be able to preach to them for about half an hour, so as to be understood, but am not able to vary my subjects much. I tell them of the evil and universality of sin, the sins of a natural state, the justice of God, the incarnation of Christ and his sufferings in our stead, and of the necessity of conversion, holiness, and faith, in order to salvation. They hear with attention in general, and some come to me for instruction in the things of God.”
“It was always my opinion that missionaries may and must support themselves after having been sent out and received a little support at first, and in consequence I pursue a very little worldly employment which requires three months’ closish attendance in the year; but this is in the rains–the most unfavourable season for exertion. I have a district of about twenty miles square, where I am continually going from village to village to publish the Gospel; and in this space are about two hundred villages, whose inhabitants from time to time hear the Word. My manner of travelling is with two small boats; one serves me to live in, and the other for cooking my food. I carry all my furniture and food with me from place to place–viz. a chair, a table, a bed, and a lamp. I walk from village to village, but repair to my boat for lodging and eating. There are several rivers in this extent of country, which is very convenient for travelling.”
Carey’s first convert seems to have been Ignatius Fernandez, a Portuguese descendant who had prospered as a trader in Dinapoor station. The first Protestant place of worship in Bengal, outside of Calcutta, was built by him, in 1797, next to his own house. There he conducted service both in English and Bengali, whenever Carey and Thomas, and Fountain afterwards, were unable to go out to the station, and in his house Thomas and Fountain died. He remained there as a missionary till his own death, four years before Carey’s, when he left all his property to the mission. The mission-house, as it is now, is a typical example of the bungalow of one story, which afterwards formed the first chapel in Serampore, and is still common as officers’ quarters in Barrackpore and other military stations.
Side by side with his daily public preaching and more private conversations with inquirers in Bengali, Carey carried on the work of Bible translation. As each new portion was prepared it was tested by being read to hundreds of natives. The difficulty was that he had at once to give a literary form to the rich materials of the language, and to find in these or adapt from them terms sufficiently pure and accurate to express the divine ideas and facts revealed through the Hebrew and the Greek of the original. He gives us this unconscious glimpse of himself at work on this loftiest and most fruitful of tasks, which Jerome had first accomplished for Latin Christendom, Ulfila for our Scandinavian forefathers, Wiclif for the English, and Luther for the Germans of the time.
“Now I must mention some of the difficulties under which we labour, particularly myself. The language spoken by the natives of this part, though Bengali, is yet so different from the language itself, that, though I can preach an hour with tolerable freedom so as that all who speak the language well, or can write or read, perfectly understand me, yet the poor labouring people can understand but little; and though the language is rich, beautiful, and expressive, yet the poor people, whose whole concern has been to get a little rice to satisfy their wants, or to cheat their oppressive merchants and zameendars, have scarcely a word in use about religion. They have no word for love, for repent, and a thousand other things; and every idea is expressed either by quaint phrases or tedious circumlocutions. A native who speaks the language well finds it a year’s work to obtain their idiom. This sometimes discourages me much; but blessed be God I feel a growing desire to be always abounding in the work of the Lord, and I know that my labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. I am much encouraged by our Lord’s expression, ‘He who reapeth’ (in the harvest) ‘receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto eternal life.’ If I, like David, only am an instrument of gathering materials, and another build the house, I trust my joy will not be the less.” This was written to the well-beloved Pearce, whom he would fain have had beside him at Mudnabati. To guide the two missionaries whom the Society were about to send to Africa on the salaries which he and Thomas had set free for this extension, Carey adds:–“They will do well to associate as much as possible with the natives, and to write down every word they can catch, with its meaning. But if they have children with them, it is by far the readiest way of learning to listen to them, for they will catch up every idiom in a little time. My children can speak nearly as well as the natives, and know many things in Bengali which they do not know in English. I should also recommend to your consideration a very large country, perhaps unthought of: I mean Bhootan or Tibet. Were two missionaries sent to that country, we should have it in our power to afford them much help…The day I received your letter I set about composing a grammar and dictionary of the Bengal language to send to you. The best account of Hindu mythology extant, and which is pretty exact, is Sonnerat’s Voyage, undertaken by order of the king of France.”
Without Sanskrit Carey found that he could neither master its Bengali offshoot nor enrich that vernacular with the words and combinations necessary for his translations of Scripture. Accordingly, with his usual rapidity and industry, we find that he had by April 1796 so worked his way through the intricate difficulties of the mother language of the Aryans that he could thus write to Ryland, with more than a mere scholar’s enthusiasm, of one of the two great Vedic epics:–“I have read a considerable part of the Mahabarata, an epic poem written in most beautiful language, and much upon a par with Homer; and it was, like his Iliad, only considered as a great effort of human genius, I should think it one of the first productions in the world; but alas! it is the ground of faith to millions of the simple sons of men, and as such must be held in the utmost abhorrence.” At the beginning of 1798 he wrote to Sutcliff:–“I am learning the Sanskrit language, which, with only the helps to be procured here, is perhaps the hardest language in the world. To accomplish this, I have nearly translated the Sanskrit grammar and dictionary into English, and have made considerable progress in compiling a dictionary, Sanskrit, including Bengali and English.”
By this year he had completed his first translation of the Bible except the historical books from Joshua to Job, and had gone to Calcutta to obtain estimates for printing the New Testament, of which he had reported to Mr. Fuller:–“It has undergone one correction, but must undergo several more. I employ a pundit merely for this purpose, with whom I go through the whole in as exact a manner as I can. He judges of the style and syntax, and I of the faithfulness of the translation. I have, however, translated several chapters together, which have not required any alteration in the syntax whatever: yet I always submit this article entirely to his judgment. I can also, by hearing him read, judge whether he understands his subject by his accenting his reading properly and laying the emphasis on the right words. If he fails in this, I immediately suspect the translation; though it is not an easy matter for an ordinary reader to lay the emphasis properly in reading Bengali, in which there is no pointing at all. The mode of printing, i.e. whether a printing-press, etc., shall be sent from England, or whether it shall be printed here, or whether it shall be printed at all, now rests with the Society.”
Fuller was willing, but the ardent scholar anticipated him. Seeing a wooden printing-press advertised in Calcutta for £40, Carey at once ordered it. On its arrival in 1798, “after worship” he “retired and thanked God for furnishing us with a press.” When set up in the Mudnabati house its working was explained to the natives, on whom the delighted missionary’s enthusiasm produced only the impression that it must be the idol of the English.
But Carey’s missionary organisation would not have been complete without schools, and in planning these from the very first he gives us the germs which blossomed into the Serampore College of 1818 on the one hand, and the primary school circles under native Christian inspectors on the other, a system carried out since the Mutiny of 1857 by the Christian Literature Society, and adopted by the state departments of public instruction.
“MUDNABATI, 27th January 1795.–Mr. Thomas and I (between whom the utmost harmony prevails) have formed a plan for erecting two colleges (Chowparis, Bengali), one here and the other at his residence, where we intend to educate twelve lads, viz. six Mussulmans and six Hindoos at each place. A pundit is to have the charge of them, and they are to be taught Sanskrit, Bengali, and Persian; the Bible is to be introduced, and perhaps a little philosophy and geography. The time of their education is to be seven years, and we find them meat, clothing, lodging, etc. We are now inquiring for children proper for the purpose. We have also determined to require that the Society will advance money for types to print the Bengali Bible, and make us their debtors for the sum, which we hope to be able to pay off in one year: and it will also be requisite to send a printing-press from England. We will, if our lives are spared, repay the whole, and print the Bible at our own expense, and I hope the Society will become our creditors by paying for them when delivered. Mr. Thomas is now preparing letters for specimens, which I hope will be sent by this conveyance.
“We are under great obligation to Mr. G. Udny for putting us in these stations. He is a very friendly man and a true Christian. I have no spirit for politics here; for whatever the East India Company may be in England, their servants and officers here are very different; we have a few laws, and nothing to do but to obey.” Of his own school he wrote in 1799 that it consisted of forty boys. “The school would have been much larger, had we been able to have borne the expense; but, as among the scholars there are several orphans whom we wholly maintain, we could not prudently venture on any further expense…The boys have hitherto learned to read and write, especially parts of the Scriptures, and to keep accounts. We may now be able to introduce some other useful branches of knowledge among them…I trust these schools may tend to promote curiosity and inquisitiveness among the rising generation; qualities which are seldom found in the natives of Bengal.”
The Medical Mission completed the equipment. “I submit it to the consideration of the Society whether we should not be furnished with medicines gratis. No medicines will be sold by us, yet the cost of them enters very deeply into our allowance. The whole supply sent in the Earl Howe, amounting to £35, besides charges amounting to thirty per cent., falls on me; but the whole will either be administered to sick poor, or given to any neighbour who is in want, or used in our own families. Neighbouring gentlemen have often supplied us. Indeed, considering the distance we are from medical assistance, the great expensiveness of it far beyond our ability, and the number of wretched, afflicted objects whom we continually see and who continually apply for help, we ought never to sell a pennyworth. Brother Thomas has been the instrument of saving numbers of lives. His house is constantly surrounded with the afflicted; and the cures wrought by him would have gained any physician or surgeon in Europe the most extensive reputation. We ought to be furnished yearly with at least half a hundredweight of Jesuit’s bark.”
Around and as the fruit of the completely organised mission, thus conducted by the ordained preacher, teacher, scholar, scientist, printer, and licensed indigo planter in one station, and by his medical colleague sixteen miles to the north of him at Mahipal, there gathered many native inquirers. Besides the planters, civil officials, and military officers, to whom he ministered in Malda and Dinapoor stations, there was added the most able and consistent convert, Mr. Cunninghame of Lainshaw, the assistant judge, who afterwards in England fought the battle of missions, and from his Ayrshire estate, where he built a church, became famous as an expounder of prophecy. Carey looked upon this as “the greatest event that has occurred since our coming to this country.” The appointment of Lord Mornington, soon to be known as the Marquis Wellesley, “the glorious little man,” as Metcalfe called him, and hardly second to his younger brother Wellington, having led Fuller to recommend that Carey should wait upon his Excellency at Calcutta, this reply was received:–“I would not, however, have you suppose that we are obliged to conceal ourselves, or our work: no such thing. We preach before magistrates and judges; and were I to be in the company with Lord Mornington, I should not hesitate to declare myself a missionary to the heathen, though I would not on any account return myself as such to the Governor-General in Council.”
Two years before this, in 1797, Carey had written:–“This mission should be strengthened as much as possible, as its situation is such as may put it in our power, eventually, to spread the Gospel through the greatest part of Asia, and almost all the necessary languages may be learned here.” He had just returned from his first long missionary tour among the Bhooteas, who from Tibet had overrun the eastern Himalaya from Darjeeling to Assam. Carey and Thomas were received as Christian Lamas by the Soobah or lieutenant-governor of the country below the hills, which in 1865 we were compelled to annex and now administer as Jalpaigori District. They seemed to have been the first Englishmen who had entered the territory since the political and commercial missions of Bogle and Buchanan-Hamilton sent by Warren Hastings.
“The genuine politeness and gentleman-like behaviour of the Soobah exceeded everything that can be imagined, and his generosity was astonishing. He insisted on supplying all our people with everything they wanted; and if we did but cast our eyes to any object in the room, he immediately presented us with one of the same sort. Indeed he seemed to interpret our looks before we were aware; and in this manner he presented each of us that night with a sword, shield, helmet, and cup, made of a very light beautiful wood, and used by all the Bhooteas for drinking in. We admiring the wood, he gave us a large log of it; which appears to be like fir, with a very dark beautiful grain: it is full of a resin or turpentine, and burns like a candle if cut into thin pieces, and serves for that use. In eating, the Soobah imitated our manners so quickly and exactly, that though he had never seen a European before, yet he appeared as free as if he had spent his life with them. We ate his food, though I confess the thoughts of the Jinkof’s bacon made me eat rather sparingly. We had much talk about Bhootan, and about the Gospel.
“We found that he had determined to give all the country a testimony of his friendship for us in a public manner; and the next day was fixed on to perform the ceremony in our tent on the market-place. Accordingly we got instructed in the necessary etiquette; and informed him we were only coming a short journey to see the country, were not provided with English cloth, etc., for presents. The time being come, we were waited on by the Soobah, followed by all his servants, both Bhooteas and Hindus. Being seated, we exchanged each five rupees and five pieces of betel, in the sight of the whole town; and having chewed betel for the first time in our lives, we embraced three times in the Eastern manner, and then shook hands in the English manner; after which, he made us a present of a piece of rich debang wrought with gold, each a Bhootan blanket, and the tail of an animal called the cheer cow, as bushy as a horse’s, and used in the Hindu worship…In the morning, the Soobah came with his usual friendship, and brought more presents, which we received, and took our leave. He sent us away with every honour he could heap upon us; as a band of music before us, guides to show us the way, etc….The Soobah is to pay us a visit in a little time, which I hope to improve for the great end of settling a mission in that country.”
Carey applied his unusual powers of detailed observation and memory in noting the physical and mental characteristics of these little Buddhists, the structure of the language and nature of their books, beliefs, and government, all of which he afterwards utilised. He was often in sight of snowy Kinchinjinga (28,156 feet), behind Darjeeling, and when the Soobah, being sick, afterwards sent messengers with gifts to induce him to return, he wrote:–“I hope to ascend those stupendous mountains, which are so high as to be seen at a distance of 200 or 250 miles. One of these distant mountains, which is seen at Mahipal, is concealed from view by the tops of a nearer range of hills, when you approach within sixty miles of them. The distant range forms an angle of about ten degrees with the horizon.” But the time did not come for a mission to that region till the sanitarium of Darjeeling became the centre of another British district opened up by railway from Calcutta, and now the aboriginal Lepchas are coming in large numbers into the church. Subsequent communications from the Soobah informed them of the Garos of Assam.
On his last visit to Calcutta, in 1799, “to get types cast for printing the Bible,” Carey witnessed that sight of widow-burning which was to continue to disgrace alike the Hindoos and the Company’s Government until his incessant appeals in India and in England led to its prevention in 1829. In a letter to Dr. Ryland he thus describes the horrid rite:–
“MUDNABATI, 1st April 1799.–As I was returning from Calcutta I saw the Sahamaranam, or, a woman burning herself with the corpse of her husband, for the first time in my life. We were near the village of Noya Serai, or, as Rennell calls it in his chart of the Hoogli river, Niaverai. Being evening, we got out of the boat to walk, when we saw a number of people assembled on the river-side. I asked them what they were met for, and they told me to burn the body of a dead man. I inquired if his wife would die with him; they answered Yes, and pointed to the woman. She was standing by the pile, which was made of large billets of wood, about two and a half feet high, four feet long, and two wide, on the top of which lay the dead body of her husband. Her nearest relation stood by her, and near her was a small basket of sweetmeats called Thioy. I asked them if this was the woman’s choice, or if she were brought to it by any improper influence? They answered that it was perfectly voluntary. I talked till reasoning was of no use, and then began to exclaim with all my might against what they were doing, telling them that it was a shocking murder. They told me it was a great act of holiness, and added in a very surly manner, that if I did not like to see it I might go farther off, and desired me to go. I told them that I would not go, that I was determined to stay and see the murder, and that I should certainly bear witness of it at the tribunal of God. I exhorted the woman not to throw away her life; to fear nothing, for no evil would follow her refusal to burn. But she in the most calm manner mounted the pile, and danced on it with her hands extended, as if in the utmost tranquillity of spirit. Previous to her mounting the pile the relation, whose office it was to set fire to the pile, led her six times round it, at two intervals–that is, thrice at each circumambulation. As she went round she scattered the sweetmeat above mentioned among the people, who picked it up and ate it as a very holy thing. This being ended, and she having mounted the pile and danced as above mentioned (N.B.–The dancing only appeared to be to show us her contempt of death, and prove to us that her dying was voluntary), she lay down by the corpse, and put one arm under its neck and the other over it, when a quantity of dry cocoa-leaves and other substances were heaped over them to a considerable height, and then Ghee, or melted preserved butter, poured on the top. Two bamboos were then put over them and held fast down, and fire put to the pile, which immediately blazed very fiercely, owing to the dry and combustible materials of which it was composed. No sooner was the fire kindled than all the people set up a great shout–Hurree-Bol, Hurree-Bol, which is a common shout of joy, and an invocation of Hurree, or Seeb. It was impossible to have heard the woman had she groaned, or even cried aloud, on account of the mad noise of the people, and it was impossible for her to stir or struggle on account of the bamboos which were held down on her like the levers of a press. We made much objection to their using these bamboos, and insisted that it was using force to prevent the woman from getting up when the fire burned her. But they declared that it was only done to keep the pile from falling down. We could not bear to see more, but left them, exclaiming loudly against the murder, and full of horror at what we had seen.” In the same letter Carey communicates the information he had collected regarding the Jews and Syrian Christians of the Malabar coast.
Mr. G. Udny had now found his private indigo enterprise to be disastrous. He resolved to give it up and retire to England. Thomas had left his factory, and was urging his colleague to try the sugar trade, which at that time meant the distillation of rum. Carey rather took over from Mr. Udny the out-factory of Kidderpore, twelve miles distant, and there resolved to prepare for the arrival of colleagues, the communistic missionary settlement on the Moravian plan, which he had advocated in his Enquiry. Mr. John Fountain had been sent out as the first reinforcement, but he proved to be almost as dangerous to the infant mission from his outspoken political radicalism as Thomas had been from his debts. Carey seriously contemplated the setting up of his mission centre among the Bhooteas, so as to be free from the East India Company. The authorities would not license Fountain as his assistant. Would they allow future missionaries to settle with him? Would they always renew his own licence? And what if he must cease altogether to work with his hands, and give himself wholly to the work of the mission as seemed necessary?
Four new colleagues and their families were already on the sea, but God had provided a better refuge for His servants till the public conscience which they were about to quicken and enlighten should cause the persecution to cease.