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On the death of William Carey in 1834 Dr. Joshua Marshman promised to write the Life of his great colleague, with whom he had held almost daily converse since the beginning of the century, but he survived too short a time to begin the work. As a writer of culture, in full sympathy and frequent correspondence with Carey, the Rev. Christopher Anderson, of Edinburgh, was even better fitted for the task. In 1836 the Rev. Eustace Carey anticipated him by issuing what is little better than a selection of mutilated letters and journals made at the request of the Committee of the Baptist Missionary Society. It contains one passage of value, however. Dr. Carey once said to his nephew, whose design he seems to have suspected, “Eustace, if after my removal any one should think it worth his while to write my Life, I will give you a criterion by which you may judge of its correctness. If he give me credit for being a plodder he will describe me justly. Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod.
I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”
The Rev. Dr. Belcher was the first to publish, at Philadelphia, U.S.A., in 1853, a brief biography showing the man
as he was. In 1859 Mr. John Marshman, after his final return to England, published The Life and Times of Carey, Marshman, and Ward, a valuable history and defence of the Serampore Mission, but rather a biography of his father than of Carey. In 1881 the Rev. Dr. Culross wrote a short and charming sketch of William Carey. Mr. John Taylor, Northampton, has lately published a collection of biographical and literary notices of Carey, in his Bibliotheca Northantonensis.
When I first went to Serampore the great missionary had not been twenty years dead. During my long residence there as Editor of the Friend of India, I came to know, in most of its details, the nature of the work done by Carey for India and for Christendom in the first third of the century. I began to collect such materials for his Biography as were to be found in the office, the press, and the college, and among the Native Christians and Brahman pundits whom he had influenced. In addition to such materials and experience I have been favoured with the use of many unpublished letters written by Carey or referring to him; for which courtesy I here desire to thank Frederick George Carey, Esq., LL.B., of Lincoln's Inn; and the Rev. Jonathan P. Carey of Tiverton; also the Rev. C. B. Lewis, the biographer of Thomas, the first medical missionary.
Mr. Baynes, the Secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society—which is worthily conducting in Africa, on the Congo, an enterprise greater than even Carey prayed forhas generously granted me the use of several engravings from photographs, which he had taken during a recent visit to Serampore. Mr. R. Blechynden jun., of Calcutta,
caused the records of the Asiatic and Agricultural Societies there to be searched and copied for use in these pages.
My three Biographies of Carey of Serampore, Duff of Calcutta, and Wilson of Bombay, cover a period of nearly a century and a quarter, from 1761 to 1878. They have been written as contributions to that history of the Church of India which one of its native sons must some day attempt; but also to the annals of the Evangelical Revival, which may well be called the Second Reformation; and to the history of English-speaking peoples, whom the Foreign Missions begun by Carey have made the rulers and civilisers of the non-Christian world.