From the Archives: A Day in the Life of William Carey
As described in a letter from Calcutta, quoted in J.B. Middlebrook, William Carey, 1961, p. 64–5.
I ROSE THIS MORNING at a quarter before six, read a chapter in the Hebrew Bible, and spent the time till seven in private addresses to God, and then attended family prayer with the servants in Bengali. While tea was getting ready, I read a little in Persian with a moonshi who was waiting when I left my bedroom; and also before breakfast a portion of the Scripture in Hindustani. The moment breakfast was over, sat down to the translation of the Ramayana from Sanskrit, with a pundit, who was also waiting, and continued this translation till ten o’clock, at which hour I went to College and attended the duties there till between one and two o’clock. When I returned home, I examined a proof-sheet of the Bengali translation of Jeremiah, which took till dinner-time. I always, when down in Calcutta, dine at Mr. Rolt’s which is near. After dinner, translated, with the assistance of the chief pundit of the College, the greatest part of the eighth chapter of Matthew into Sanskrit. This employed me till six o’clock. After six, sat down with a Telinga pundit to learn that language. At seven I began to collect a few previous thoughts into the form of a sermon, and preached at half-past seven. About forty persons present, and among them one of the Puisne Judges of the Sudder Dewany Adawlut. After sermon I got a subscription from him for five hundred rupees towards erecting our new place of worship; he is an exceedingly friendly man. Preaching was over and the congregation gone by nine o’clock. I then sat down and translated the eleventh of Ezekiel into Bengali, and this lasted till near eleven; and now I sit down to write to you.
From William Carey’s “An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens”
As to learning their languages, the same means would be found necessary here as in trade between different nations. In some cases interpreters might be obtained, who might be employed for a time; and where these were not to be found, the missionaries must have patience, and mingle with the people till they have learned so much of their language as to be able to communicate their ideas to them in it. It is well known to require no very extraordinary talents to learn, in the space of a year, or two at most, the language of any people upon earth, so much of it at least as to be able to convey any sentiments we wish to their understandings.
The Missionaries must be men of great piety, prudence, courage, and forbearance; of undoubted orthodoxy in their sentiments, and must enter with all their hearts into the Spirit of their mission; they must be willing to leave all the comforts of life behind them, and to encounter all the hardships of a torrid, or a frigid climate, an uncomfortable manner of living, and every other inconvenience that can attend this undertaking: Clothing, a few knives, powder and shot, fishing tackle, and the articles of husbandry above-mentioned, must be provided for them; and when arrived at the place of their destination, their first business must be to gain some acquaintance with the language of the natives, (for which purpose two would be better than one) and by all lawful means to endeavor to cultivate a friendship with them, and as soon as possible let them know the errand for which they were sent. They must endeavor to convince them that it was their good alone, which induced them to forsake their friends, and all the comforts of their native country. They must be very careful not to resent injuries which may be offered to them, nor to think highly of themselves, so as to despise the poor.
By William Carey
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #6 in 1985]
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