CHAPTER X -- THE WYCLIF OF THE EAST--BIBLE TRANSLATION, 1801-1832
Hence the translation of the Bible into all the languages and principal dialects of India and Eastern Asia was the work above all others to which Carey set himself from the time, in 1793, when he acquired the Bengali. He preached, he taught, he "discipled" in every form then reasonable and possible, and in the fullest sense of his Master's missionary charge. But the one form of most pressing and abiding importance, the condition without which neither true faith, nor true science, nor true civilisation could exist or be propagated outside of the narrow circle to be reached by the one herald's voice, was the publishing of the divine message in the mother tongues of the millions of Asiatic men and women, boys and girls, and in the learned tongues also of their leaders and priests.
Wyclif had first done this for the English-reading races of all time, translating from the Latin, and so had begun the Reformation, religious and political, not only in Britain but in Western Christendom. Erasmus and Luther had followed him--the former in his Greek and Latin New Testament and in his Paraphrase of the Word for "women and cobblers, clowns, mechanics, and even the Turks"; the latter in his great vernacular translation of the edition of Erasmus, who had never ceased to urge his contemporaries to translate the Scriptures "into all tongues." Tyndale had first given England the Bible from the Hebrew and the Greek. And now one of these cobblers was prompted and enabled by the Spirit who is the author of the truth in the Scriptures, to give to South and Eastern Asia the sacred books which its Syrian sons, from Moses and Ezra to Paul and John, had been inspired to write for all races and all ages.
Emphatically, Carey and his later coadjutors deserve the language of the British and Foreign Bible Society, when, in 1827, it made to Serampore a last grant of money for translation-- "Future generations will apply to them the words of the translators of the English Bible--' Therefore blessed be they and most honoured their names that break the ice and give the onset in that which helped them forward to the saving of souls. Now what can be more available thereto than to deliver God's book unto God's people in a tongue which they understand?'" Carey might tolerate interruption when engaged in other work, but for forty years he never allowed anything to shorten the time allotted to the Bible work. "You, madam," he wrote in 1797 to a lady as to many a correspondent, "will excuse my brevity when I inform you that all my time for writting letters is stolen from the work of transcribing the Scriptures into the Bengali language."
When stripped of the extravagance of
statement into which they have grown in the course of a century in the
missionary periodicals and on the popular platforms of England, the facts
are more remarkable than the pious myth which has accreted round them.
From no mere humility, but with an accurate judgment in the state of scholarship
and criticism at the opening of the last century, Carey always insisted
that he was a forerunner, breaking up the way for successors like Yates,
Wenger, and Rouse, who, in their turn, must be superseded by purely native
Tyndales and Luthers in the Church of India. He more than once deprecated
the talk of his having translated the Bible into forty languages and dialects./1/
OF THE BIBLE,
As we proceed that will be apparent which he did with his own hand, that which his colleagues accomplished, that which he revised and edited both of their work and of the pundits', and that which he corrected and printed for others at the Serampore press under the care of Ward. It is to these four lines of work, which centred in him, as most of them originally proceeded from his conception and advocacy, that the assertion as to the forty translations is strictly applicable. The Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, and Sanskrit translations were his own. The Chinese was similarly the work of Marshman. The Hindi versions, in their many dialects, and the Ooriya, were blocked out by his colleagues and the pundits. He saw through the press the Hindostani, Persian, Malay, Tamil, and other versions of the whole or portions of the Scriptures. He ceased not, night and day, if by any means, with a loving catholicity, the Word of God might be given to the millions.
Writing in 1904 on the centenary of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Mr. George A. Grierson, C.I.E., Ph.D., D.Litt., the head of the Linguistic Survey of India, sums up authoritatively the work of Carey and his assistants. "The great-hearted band of Serampore missionaries issued translations of the Bible or of the New Testament in more than forty languages. Before them the number of Protestant versions of the Bible in the speeches of India could be counted on the fingers of one hand. The Dutch of Ceylon undertook a Tamil New Testament in 1688, which was followed in 1715 by another version from the pen of Ziegenbalg. The famous missionary, Schultze, between 1727 and 1732 made a Telugu version which was never printed, and later, between 1745 and 1758, he published at Halle a Hindostani translation of the New Testament and of a portion of Genesis. A manuscript version of portions of the Bible in Bengali was made by Thomas in 1791; and then the great Serampore series began with Carey's Bengali New Testament published in 1801. Most of these Serampore versions were, it is true, first attempts and have been superseded by more accurate versions, but the first step is always the most important one, and this was taken by Carey and his brethren."
Carey's correspondent in this and purely scholarly subjects was Dr. Ryland, an accomplished Hebraist and Biblical critic for that day, at the head of the Bristol College. Carey's letters, plentifully sprinkled with Hebrew and Greek, show the jealousy with which he sought to convey the divine message accurately, and the unwearied sense of responsibility under which he worked. Biblical criticism, alike as to the original text and to the exegesis of the sacred writings, is so very modern a science, that these letters have now only a historical interest. But this communication to Ryland shows how he worked from the first:--
"Calcutta, 14th Dec. 1803.--We some time ago engaged in an undertaking, of which we intended to say nothing until it was accomplished; but an unforeseen providence made it necessary for us to disclose it. It is as follows: About a year and a half ago, some attempts were made to engage Mr. Gilchrist in the translation of the Scriptures into the Hindostani language. By something or other it was put by. The Persian was also at the same time much talked of, but given up, or rather not engaged in. At this time several considerations prevailed on us to set ourselves silently upon a translation into these languages. We accordingly hired two moonshees to assist us in it, and each of us took our share; Brother Marshman took Matthew and Luke; Brother Ward, Mark and John; and myself the remaining part of the New Testament into Hindostani.But all these advantages, his own genius for languages, his unconquerable plodding directed by a divine motive, his colleagues' co-operation, the encouragement of learned societies and the public, and the number of pundits and moonshees increased by the College of Fort William, would have failed to open the door of the East to the sacred Scriptures, had the philological key of the Sanskrit been wanting or undiscovered. In the preface to his Sanskrit grammar, quoted by the Quarterly Review with high approbation, Carey wrote that it gave him the meaning of four out of every five words of the principal languages of the whole people of India:--
"The peculiar grammar of any one of these may be acquired in a couple of months, and then the language lies open to the student. The knowledge of four words in five enables him to read with pleasure, and renders the acquisition of the few new words, as well as the idiomatic expressions, a matter of delight rather than of labour. Thus the Ooriya, though possessing a separate grammar and character, is so much like the Bengali in the very expression that a Bengali pundit is almost equal to the correction of an Orissa proof sheet; and the first time that I read a page of Goojarati the meaning appeared so obvious as to render it unnecessary to ask the pundit questions."The mechanical apparatus of types, paper, and printing seem to have been provided by the same providential foresight as the intellectual and the spiritual. We have seen how, when he was far enough advanced in his translation, Carey amid the swamps of Dinajpoor looked to England for press, type, paper, and printer. He got the last, William Ward, a man of his own selection, worthy to be his colleague. But he had hardly despatched his letter when he found or made all the rest in Bengal itself. It was from the old press bought in Calcutta, set up in Mudnabati, and removed to Serampore, that the first edition of the Bengali New Testament was printed.The few rare and venerable copies have now a peculiar bibliographic interest; the type and the paper alike are coarse and blurred.
Sir Charles Wilkins, the Caxton of India, had with his own hands cut the punches and cast the types from which Halhed's Bengali grammar was printed at Hoogli in 1778. He taught the art to a native blacksmith, Panchanan, who went to Serampore in search of work just when Carey was in despair for a font of the sacred Devanagari type for his Sanskirt grammar, and for fonts of the other languages besides Bengali which had never been printed. They thus tell the story in a Memoir Relative to the Translations, published in 1807:--
"It will be obvious that in the present state of things in India it was in many instances necessary to cast new fonts of types in several of these languages. Happily for us and India at large Wilkins had led the way in this department; and by persevering industry, the value of which can scarcely be appreciated, under the greatest disadvantages with respect to materials and workmen, had brought the Bengali to a high degree of perfection. Soon after our settling at Serampore the providence of God brought to us the very artist who had wrought with Wilkins in that work, and in a great measure imbibed his ideas. By his assistance we erected a letter-foundry; and although he is now dead, he had so fully communicated his art to a number of others, that they carry forward the work of type-casting, and even of cutting the matrices, with a degree of accuracy which would not disgrace European artists. These have cast for us two or three fonts of Bengali; and we are now employing them in casting a font on a construction which bids fair to diminish the expense of paper, and the size of the book at least one-fourth, without affecting the legibility of the character. Of the Devanagari character we have also cast an entire new font, which is esteemed the most beautiful of the kind in India. It consists of nearly 1000 different combinations of characters, so that the expense of cutting the patterns only amounted to 1500 rupees, exclusive of metal and casting.Panchanan's apprentice, Monohur, continued to make elegant fonts of type in all Eastern languages for the mission and for sale to others for more than forty years, becoming a benefactor not only to literature but to Christian civilisation to an extent of which he was unconscious, for he remained a Hindoo of the blacksmith caste. In 1839, when he first went to India as a young missionary, the Rev. James Kennedy/2/ saw him, as the present writer has often since seen his successor, cutting the matrices or casting the type for the Bibles, while he squatted below his favourite idol, under the auspices of which alone he would work. Serampore continued down till 1860 to be the principal Oriental typefoundry of the East./3/
Hardly less service did the mission come to render to the manufacture of paper in course of time, giving the name of Serampore to a variety known all over India. At first Carey was compelled to print his Bengali Testament on a dingy, porous, rough substance called Patna paper. Then he began to depend on supplies from England, which in those days reached the press at irregular times, often impeding the work, and was most costly. This was not all. Native paper, whether mill or hand-made, being sized with rice paste, attracted the bookworm and white ant, so that the first sheets of a work which lingered in the press were sometimes devoured by these insects before the last sheets were printed off. Carey used to preserve his most valuable manuscripts by writing on arsenicated paper, which became of a hideous yellow colour, though it is to this alone we owe the preservation in the library of Serampore College of five colossal volumes of his polyglot dictionary prepared for the Bible translation work. Many and long were the experiments of the missionaries to solve the paper difficulty, ending in the erection of a tread-mill on which relays of forty natives reduced the raw material in the paper-engine, until one was accidentally killed.
The enterprise of Mr. William Jones, who first worked the Raneegunj coal-field, suggested the remedy in the employment of a steam-engine. One of twelve-horse power was ordered from Messrs. Thwaites and Rothwell of Bolton. This was the first ever erected in India, and it was a purely missionary locomotive. The "machine of fire," as they called it, brought crowds of natives to the mission, whose curiosity tried the patience of the engineman imported to work it; while many a European who had never seen machinery driven by steam came to study and to copy it. The date was the 27th of March 1820, when "the engine went in reality this day." From that time till 1865 Serampore became the one source of supply for local as distinguished from imported and purely native hand-made paper. Even the cartridges of Mutiny notoriety in 1857 were from this factory, though it had long ceased to be connected with the mission.
Dr. Carey thus took stock of the translating enterprise in a letter to Dr. Ryland:--
"22nd January 1808.--Last year may be reckoned among the most important which this mission has seen--not for the numbers converted among the natives, for they have been fewer than in some preceding years, but for the gracious care which God has exercised towards us. We have been enabled to carry on the translation and printing of the Word of God in several languages. The printing is now going on in six and the translation into six more. The Bengali is all printed except from Judges vii. to the end of Esther; Sanskrit New Testament to Acts xxvii.; Orissa to John xxi.; Mahratta, second edition, to the end of Matthew; Hindostani (new version) to Mark v., and Matthew is begun in Goojarati. The translation is nearly carried on to the end of John in Chinese, Telinga Kurnata, and the language of the Seeks. It is carried on to a pretty large extent in Persian and begun in Burman. The whole Bible was printed in Malay at Batavia some years ago. The whole is printed in Tamil, and the Syrian Bishop at Travancore is now superintending a translation from Syriac into Malayala. I learnt this week that the language of Kashmeer is a distinct language.Four years later, in another letter to Ryland, he takes us into his confidence more fully, showing us not only his sacred workshop, but ingenuously revealing his own humility and self-sacrifice:--
"10th December 1811.--I have of late been much impressed with the vast importance of laying a foundation for Biblical criticism in the East, by preparing grammars of the different languages into which we have translated or may translate the Bible. Without some such step, they who follow us will have to wade through the same labour that I have, in order to stand merely upon the same ground that I now stand upon. If, however, elementary books are provided, the labour will be greatly contracted; and a person will be able in a short time to acquire that which has cost me years of study and toil.The ardent scholar had twenty-three years of toil before him in this happy work. But he did not know this, while each year the labour increased, and the apprehension grew that he and his colleagues might at any time be removed without leaving a trained successor. They naturally looked first to the sons of the mission for translators as they had already done for preachers.
To Dr. Carey personally, however, the education of a young missionary specially fitted to be his successor, as translator and editor of the translations, was even more important. Such a man was found in William Yates, born in 1792, and in the county, Leicestershire, in which Carey brought the Baptist mission to the birth. Yates was in his early years also a shoemaker, and member of Carey's old church in Harvey Lane, when under the great Robert Hall, who said to the youth's father, "Your son, sir, will be a great scholar and a good preacher, and he is a holy young man." In 1814 he became the last of the young missionaries devoted to the cause by Fuller, soon to pass away, Ryland, and Hall.Yates had not been many months at Serampore when, with the approval of his brethren, Carey wrote to Fuller, on 17th May 1815:-- "I am much inclined to associate him with myself in the translations. My labour is greater than at any former period. We have now translations of the Bible going forward in twenty-seven languages, all of which are in the press except two or three. The labour of correcting and revising all of them lies on me."
By September we find Yates writing:-- "Dr. Carey sends all the Bengali proofs to me to review. I read them over, and if there is anything I do not understand, or think to be wrong, I mark it. We then converse over it, and if it is wrong, he alters it; but if not, he shows me the reason why it is right, and thus will initiate me into the languages as fast as I can learn them. He wishes me to begin the Hindi very soon. Since I have been here I have read three volumes in Bengali, and they have but six of consequence in prose. There are abundance in Sanskrit." "Dr. Carey has treated me with the greatest affection and kindness, and told me he will give me every information he can, and do anything in his power to promote my happiness." What Baruch was to the prophet Jeremiah, that Yates might have been to Carey, who went so far in urging him to remain for life in Serampore as to say, "if he did not accept the service it would be, in his judgment, acting against Providence, and the blessing of God was not to be expected." Yates threw in his lot with the younger men who, in Calcutta after Fuller's death, began the Society's as distinct from the Serampore mission. If Carey was the Wyclif and Tyndale, Yates was the Coverdale of the Bengali and Sanskrit Bible. Wenger, their successor, was worthy of both. Bengal still waits for the first native revision of the great work which these successive pioneers have gradually improved. When shall Bengal see its own Luther?
The Bengali Bible was the first as it was the most important of the translations. The province, or lieutenant-governorship then had the same area as France, and contained more than double its population, or eighty millions. Of the three principal vernaculars, Bengali is spoken by forty-five millions of Hindoos and Mohammedans. It was for all the natives of Bengal and of India north of the Dekhan ("south") tableland, but especially for the Bengali-speaking people, that William Carey created a literary language a century ago.
The first Bengali version of the whole New Testament Carey translated from the original Greek before the close of 1796. The only English commentary used was the Family Expositor of Doddridge, published in 1738, and then the most critical in the language. Four times he revised the manuscript, with a Greek concordance in his hand, and he used it not only with Ram Basu by his side, the most accomplished of early Bengali scholars, but with the natives around him of all classes. By 1800 Ward had arrived as printer, the press was perfected at Serampore, and the result of seven years of toil appeared in February 1801, in the first edition of 2000 copies, costing £612. The printing occupied nine months. The type was set up by Ward and Carey's son Felix with their own hands; "for about a month at first we had a Brahman compositor, but we were quite weary of him. We kept four pressmen constantly employed." A public subscription had been opened for the whole Bengali Bible at Rs. 32, or £4 a copy as exchange then was, and nearly fifty copies had been at once subscribed for. It was this edition which immediately led to Carey's appointment to the College of Fort William, and it was that appointment which placed Carey in a position, philological and financial, to give the Bible to the peoples of the farther East in their own tongue.
Some loving memories cluster round the first Bengali version of the New Testament which it is well to collect. On Tuesday, 18th March 1800, Ward's journal/4/ records: "Brother Carey took an impression at the press of the first page in Matthew." The translator was himself the pressman. As soon as the whole of this Gospel was ready, 500 copies of it were struck off for immediate circulation, "which we considered of importance as containing a complete life of the Redeemer." Four days after an advertisement in the official Calcutta Gazette, announcing that the missionaries had established a press at Serampore and were printing the Bible in Bengali, roused Lord Wellesley, who had fettered the press in British India. Mr. Brown was able to inform the Governor-General that this very Serampore press had refused to print a political attack on the English Government, and that it was intended for the spiritual instruction only of the natives. This called forth the assurance from that liberal statesman that he was personally favourable to the conversion of the heathen. When he was further told that such an Oriental press would be invaluable to the College of Fort William, he not only withdrew his opposition but made Carey first teacher of Bengali. It was on the 7th February 1801 that the last sheet with the final corrections was put into Carey's hands. When a volume had been bound it was reverently offered to God by being placed on the Communion-table of the chapel, and the mission families and the new-made converts gathered around it with solemn thanksgiving to God led by Krishna Pal. Carey preached from the words (Col. iii. 11) "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom." The centenary was celebrated in Calcutta in 1901, under Dr. Rouse, whose fine scholarship had just revised the translation.
When the first copies reached England, Andrew Fuller sent one to the second Earl Spencer, the peer who had used the wealth of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, to collect the great library at Althorp. Carey had been a poor tenant of his, though the Earl knew it not. When the Bengali New Testament reached him, with its story, he sent a cheque for £50 to help to translate the Old Testament, and he took care that a copy should be presented to George III., as by his own request. Mr. Bowyer was received one morning at Windsor, and along with the volume presented an address expressing the desire that His Majesty might live to see its principles universally prevail throughout his Eastern dominions. On this the lord in waiting whispered a doubt whether the book had come through the proper channel. At once the king replied that the Board of Control had nothing to do with it, and turning to Mr. Bowyer said, "I am greatly pleased to find that any of my subjects are employed in this manner."
This now rare volume, to be found on the shelves of the Serampore College Library, where it leads the host of the Carey translations, is coarse and unattractive in appearance compared with its latest successors. In truth the second edition, which appeared in 1806, was almost a new version. The criticism of his colleagues and others, especially of a ripe Grecian like Dr. Marshman, the growth of the native church, and his own experience as a Professor of Sanskrit and Marathi as well as Bengali, gave Carey new power in adapting the language to the divine ideas of which he made it the medium. But the first edition was not without its self-evidencing power.
Seventeen years after, when the mission extended to the old capital of Dacca, there were found several villages of Hindoo-born peasants who had given up idol-worship, were renowned for their truthfulness, and, as searching for a true teacher come from God, called themselves "Satya-gooroos." They traced their new faith to a much-worn book kept in a wooden box in one of their villages. No one could say whence it had come; all they knew was that they had possessed it for many years. It was Carey's first Bengali version of the New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In the wide and elastic bounds of Hindooism, and even, as we shall see, amid fanatical Mussulmans beyond the frontier, the Bible, dimly understood without a teacher, has led to puritan sects like this, as to earnest inquirers like the chamberlain of Queen Candace.
The third edition of the Bengali Testament was published in 1811 in folio for the use of the native congregations by that time formed. The fourth, consisting of 5000 copies, appeared in 1816, and the eighth in 1832. The venerable scholar, like Columba at Iona over the thirty-fourth psalm, and Baeda at Jarrow over the sixth chapter of John's Gospel, said as he corrected the last sheet--the last after forty years' faithful and delighted toil: "My work is done; I have nothing more to do but to wait the will of the Lord." The Old Testament from the Hebrew appeared in portions from 1802 to 1809. Such was the ardour of the translator, that he had finished the correction of his version of the first chapter of Genesis in January 1794.
When he read it to two pundits from Nuddea, he told Fuller in his journal of that month they seemed much pleased with the account of the creation, but they objected to the omission of patala, their imaginary place beneath the earth, which they thought should have been mentioned. At this early period Carey saw the weakness of Hindooism as a pretended revelation, from its identification with false physics, just as Duff was to see and use it afterwards with tremendous effect, and wrote:-- "There is a necessity of explaining to them several circumstances relative to geography and chronology, as they have many superstitious opinions on those subjects which are closely connected with their systems of idolatry." The Bengali Bible was the result of fifteen years' sweet toil, in which Marshman read the Greek and Carey the Bengali; every one of their colleagues examined the proof sheets, and Carey finally wrote with his own pen the whole of the five octavo volumes. In the forty years of his missionary career Carey prepared and saw through the press five editions of the Old Testament and eight editions of the New in Bengali.
The Sanskrit version was translated from the original, and written out by the toiling scholar himself. Sir William Jones is said to have been able to secure his first pundit's help only by paying him Rs. 500 a month, or £700 a year. Carey engaged and trained his many pundits at a twentieth of that sum. He well knew that the Brahmans would scorn a book in the language of the common people. "What," said one who was offered the Hindi version, "even if the books should contain divine knowledge, they are nothing to us. The knowledge of God contained in them is to us as milk in a vessel of dog's skin, utterly polluted." But, writes the annalist of Biblical Translations in India, Carey's Sanskrit version was cordially received by the Brahmans. Destroyed in the fire in 1812, the Old Testament historical books were again translated, and appeared in 1815. In 1827 the aged saint had strength to bring out the first volume of a thorough revision, and to leave the manuscript of the second volume, on his death, as a legacy to his successors, Yates and Wenger. Against Vedas and Upanishads, Brahmanas and Epics, he set the Sanskrit Bible.
The whole number of completely translated and published versions of the sacred Scriptures which Carey sent forth was twenty-eight. Of these seven included the whole Bible, and twenty-one contained the books of the New Testament. Each translation has a history, a spiritual romance of its own. Each became almost immediately a silent but effectual missionary to the peoples of Asia, as well as the scholarly and literary pioneer of those later editions and versions from which the native churches of farther Asia derive the materials of their lively growth.
The Ooriya version was almost the first to be undertaken after the Bengali, to which language it bears the same relation as rural Scotch to English, though it has a written character of its own. What is now the Orissa division of Bengal, separating it from Madras to the south-west, was added to the empire in 1803. This circumstance, and the fact that its Pooree district, after centuries of sun-worship and then shiva-worship, had become the high-place of the vaishnava cult of Jaganath and his car, which attracted and often slew hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year, led Carey to prepare at once for the press the Ooriya Bible. The chief pundit, Mritunjaya, skilled in both dialects, first adapted the Bengali version to the language of the Ooriyas, which was his own. Carey then took the manuscript, compared it with the original Greek, and corrected it verse by verse. The New Testament was ready in 1809, and the Old Testament in 1815, the whole in four volumes. Large editions were quickly bought up and circulated. These led to the establishment of the General Baptist Society's missionaries at Cuttak, the capital.
In 1814 the Serampore Bible translation college, as we may call it, began the preparation of the New Testament in Maghadi, another of the languages allied to the Bengali, and derived from the Sanskrit through the Pali, because that was the vernacular of Buddhism in its original seat; an edition of 1000 copies appeared in 1824. It was intended to publish a version in the Maithili language of Bihar, which has a literature stretching back to the fourteenth century, that every class might have the Word of God in their own dialect. But Carey's literary enthusiasm and scholarship had by this time done so much to develop and extend the power of Bengali proper, that it had begun to supersede all such dialects, except Ooriya and the northern vernaculars of the valley of the Brahmapootra.
In 1810 the Serampore press added the Assamese New Testament to its achievements. In 1819 the first edition appeared, in 1826 the province became British, and in 1832 Carey had the satisfaction of issuing the Old Testament, and setting apart Mr. Rae, a Scottish soldier, who had settled there, as the first missionary at Gowhatti. To these must be added, as in the Bengali character though non-Aryan languages, versions in Khasi and Manipoori, the former for the democratic tribes of the Khasia hills among whom the Welsh Calvinists have since worked, and the latter for the curious Hindoo snake-people on the border of Burma, who have taught Europe the game of polo.
Another immediate successor of the Bengali translation was the Marathi, of which also Carey was professor in the College of Fort William. By 1804 he was himself hard at work on this version, by 1811 the first edition of the New Testament appeared, and by 1820 the Old Testament left the press. It was in a dialect peculiar to Nagpoor, and was at first largely circulated by Lieutenant Moxon in the army there. In 1812 Carey sent the missionary Aratoon to Bombay and Surat just after Henry Martyn had written that the only Christian in the city who understood his evangelical sermon was a ropemaker just arrived from England. At the same time he was busy with a version in the dialect of the Konkan, the densely-peopled coast district to the south of Bombay city, inhabited chiefly by the ablest Brahmanical race in India. In 1819 the New Testament appeared in this translation, having been under preparation at Serampore for eleven years.
Thus Carey sought to turn to Christ the twelve millions of Hindoos who, from Western India above and below the great coast-range known as the Sahyadri or "delectable" mountains, had nearly wrested the whole peninsula from the Mohammedans, and had almost anticipated the life-giving rule of the British, first at Panipat and then as Assye. Meanwhile new missionaries had been taking possession of those western districts where the men of Serampore had sowed the first seed and reaped the first fruits. The charter of 1813 made it possible for the American Missionaries to land there, and for the local Bible Society to spring into existence. Dr. John Wilson and his Scottish colleagues followed them. Carey and his brethren welcomed these and retired from that field, confining themselves to providing, during the next seven years, a Goojarati version for the millions of Northern Bombay, including the hopeful Parsees, and resigning that, too, to the London Missionary Society after issuing the New Testament in 1820.
Mr. Christopher Anderson justly remarks, in his Annals of the English Bible, published half a century ago:-- "Time will show, and in a very singular manner, that every version, without exception, which came from Carey's hands, has a value affixed to it which the present generation, living as it were too near an object, is not yet able to estimate or descry. Fifty years hence the character of this extraordinary and humble man will be more correctly appreciated."
In none of the classes of languages derived from the Sanskrit was the zeal of Carey and his associates so remarkable as in the Hindi.So early as 1796 he wrote of this the most widely extended offspring of the Sanskrit:-- "I have acquired so much of the Hindi as to converse in it and preach for some time intelligibly... It is the current language of all the west from Rajmahal to Delhi, and perhaps farther. With this I can be understood nearly all over Hindostan." By the time that he issued the sixth memoir of the translations Chamberlain's experiences in North-Western India led Carey to write that he had ascertained the existence of twenty dialects of Hindi, with the same vocabulary but different sets of terminations.
The Bruj or Brijbhasa Gospels were finished in 1813, two years after Chamberlain had settled in Agra, and the New Testament was completed nine years after. This version of the Gospels led the Brahman priest, Anand Masih, to Christ. In their eagerness for a copy of the Old Testament, which appeared in 1818, many Sepoys brought testimonials from their commanding officers, and in one year it led eighteen converts to Christ. The other Hindi dialects, in which the whole New Testament or the Gospels appeared, will be found [in the chart above]. The parent Hindi translation was made by Carey with his own hand from the original languages between 1802 and 1807, and ran through many large editions till Mr. Chamberlain's was preferred by Carey himself in 1819.
We may pass over the story of the Dravidian versions, the Telugoo/5/ New Testament and Pentateuch, and the Kanarese. Nor need we do more than refer to the Singhalese, "derived from the previous labours of Dr. Carey" by Tolfrey, the Persian, Malayalam, and other versions made by others, but edited or carefully carried through the press by Carey. The wonderful tale of his Bible work is well illustrated by a man who, next to the Lawrences, was the greatest Englishman who has governed the Punjab frontier, the hero of Mr. Ruskin's book, A Knight's Faith. In that portion of his career which Sir Herbert Edwardes gave to the world under the title of A Year on the Punjab Frontier in 1848-49, and in which he describes his bloodless conquest of the wild valley of Bunnoo, we find this gem embedded. The writer was at the time in the Gundapoor country, of which Kulachi is the trade-centre between the Afghan pass of Ghwalari and Dera Ismail Kan, where the dust of Sir Henry Durand now lies:--
"A highly interesting circumstance connected with the Indian trade came under my notice. Ali Khan, Gundapoor, the uncle of the present chief, Gooldâd Khan, told me he could remember well, as a youth, being sent by his father and elder brother with a string of Cabul horses to the fair of Hurdwâr, on the Ganges. He also showed me a Pushtoo version of the Bible, printed at Serampore in 1818, which he said had been given him thirty years before at Hurdwâr by an English gentleman, who told him to 'take care of it, and neither fling it into the fire nor the river; but hoard it up against the day when the British should be rulers of his country!' Ali Khan said little to anybody of his possessing this book, but put it carefully by in a linen cover, and produced it with great mystery when I came to settle the revenue of his nephew's country, 'thinking that the time predicted by the Englishman had arrived!' The only person, I believe, to whom he had shown the volume was a Moolluh, who read several passages in the Old Testament, and told Ali Khan 'it was a true story, and was all about their own Muhommudan prophets, Father Moses and Father Noah.'Hurdwar, as the spot at which the Ganges debouches into the plains, is the scene of the greatest pilgrim gathering in India, especially every twelfth year. Then three millions of people used to assemble, and too often carried, all over Asia, cholera which extended to Europe. The missionaries made this, like most pilgrim resorts, a centre of preaching and Bible circulation, and doubtless it was from Thompson, Carey's Missionary at Delhi, that this copy of the Pushtoo Bible was received. It was begun by Dr. Leyden, and continued for seven years by the same Afghan maulavee under Carey, in the Arabic character. The Punjabi Bible, nearly complete, issued first in 1815, had become so popular by 1820 as to lead Carey to report of the Sikhs that no one of the nations of India had discovered a stronger desire for the Scriptures than this hardy race. At Amritsar and Lahore "the book of Jesus is spoken of, is read, and has caused a considerable stir in the minds of the people." A Thug, asked how he could have committed so many murders, pointed to it and said, "If I had had this book I could not have done it." A fakeer, forty miles from Lodiana, read the book, founded the community of worshippers of the Sachi Pitè Isa, and suffered much persecution in a native State.
When Felix Carey returned to Serampore in 1812 to print his Burmese version of the Gospel of Matthew and his Burmese grammar, his father determined to send the press at which they were completed to Rangoon. The three missionaries despatched with it a letter to the king of Ava, commending to his care "their beloved brethren, who from love to his majesty's subjects had voluntarily gone to place themselves under his protection, while they translated the Bible, the Book of Heaven, which was received and revered" by all the countries of Europe and America as "the source whence all the knowledge of virtue and religion was drawn." The king at once ordered from Serampore a printing-press, like that at Rangoon, for his own palace at Ava, with workmen to use it. In this Carey saw the beginning of a mission in the Burman capital, but God had other designs which the sons and daughters of America, following Judson first of all, are still splendidly developing, from Rangoon to Kareng-nee, Siam, and China. The ship containing the press sank in the Rangoon river, and the first Burmese war soon followed.
Three months after the complete and magnificent plan of translating the Bible into all the languages of the far East, which the assistance of his two colleagues and the college of Fort William led Carey to form, had been laid before Fuller in Northamptonshire, the British and Foreign Bible Society was founded in London. Joseph Hughes, the Nonconformist who was its first secretary, had been moved by the need of the Welsh for the Bible in their own tongue. But the ex-Governor-General, Lord Teignmouth, became its first president, and the Serampore translators at once turned for assistance to the new organisation whose work Carey had individually been doing for ten years at the cost of his two associates and himself. The catholic Bible Society at once asked Carey's old friend, Mr. Udny, then a member of the Government in Calcutta, to form a corresponding committee there of the three missionaries--their chaplain friends, Brown and Buchanan, and himself. The chaplains delayed the formation of the committee till 1809, but liberally helped meanwhile in the circulation of the other appeals issued from Serampore, and even made the proposal which resulted in Dr. Marshman's wonderful version of the Bible in Chinese and Ward's improvements in Chinese printing. To the principal tributary sovereigns of India Dr. Buchanan sent copies of the vernacular Scriptures already published.
From 1809 till 1830, or practically through the rest of Carey's life, the co-operation of Serampore and the Bible Society was honourable to both. Carey loyally clung to it when in 1811, under the spell of Henry Martyn's sermon on Christian India, the chaplains established the Calcutta Auxiliary Bible Society in order to supersede its corresponding committee. In the Serampore press the new auxiliary, like the parent Society, found the cheapest and best means of publishing editions of the New Testament in Singhalese, Malayalam, and Tamil. The press issued also the Persian New Testament, first of the Romanist missionary, Sebastiani--"though it be not wholly free from imperfections, it will doubtless do much good," wrote Dr. Marshman to Fuller--and then of Henry Martyn, whose assistant, Sabat, was trained at Serampore. Those three of Serampore had a Christ-like tolerance, which sprang from the divine charity of their determination to live only that the Word of God might sound out through Asia.
When in 1830 this auxiliary--which had at first sought to keep all missionaries out of its executive in order to conciliate men like Sydney Smith's brother, the Advocate-General of Bengal--refused to use the translations of Carey and Yates, and inclined to an earlier version of Ellerton, because of the translation or transliteration of the Greek words for "baptism," these two scholars acted thus, as described by the Bible Society's annalist--they, "with a liberality which does them honour, permitted the use of their respective versions of the Bengali Scriptures, with such alterations as were deemed needful in the disputed word for 'baptism,' they being considered in no way parties to such alterations." From first to last the British and Foreign Bible Society, to use its own language, "had the privilege of aiding the Serampore brethren by grants, amounting to not less than £13,500." Of this £1475 had been raised by Mr. William Hey, F.R.S., a surgeon at Leeds, who had been so moved by the translation memoir of 1816 as to offer £500 for the publication of a thousand copies of every approved first translation of the New Testament into any dialect of India. It was with this assistance that most of the Hindi and the Pushtoo and Punjabi versions were produced.
The cold season of 1811-12 was one ever to be remembered. Death entered the home of each of the staff of seven missionaries and carried off wife or children. An earthquake of unusual violence alarmed the natives. Dr. Carey had buried a grandson, and was at his weekly work in the college at Calcutta. The sun had just set on the evening of the 11th March 1812, and the native typefounders, compositors, pressmen, binders, and writers had gone. Ward alone lingered in the waning light at his desk settling an account with a few servants. His two rooms formed the north end of the long printing-office. The south rooms were filled with paper and printed materials. Close beyond was the paper-mill. The Bible-publishing enterprise was at its height. Fourteen fonts of Oriental types, new supplies of Hebrew, Greek, and English types, a vast stock of paper from the Bible Society, presses, priceless manuscripts of dictionaries, grammars, and translations, and, above all, the steel punches of the Eastern letters--all were there, with the deeds and account-books of the property, and the iron safe containing notes and rupees.
Suffocating smoke burst from the long type-room into the office. Rushing through it to observe the source of the fire, he was arrested at the southern rooms by the paper store. Returning with difficulty and joined by Marshman and the natives, he had every door and window closed, and then mounting the south roof, he had water poured through it upon the burning mass for four hours, with the most hopeful prospect of arresting the ruin. While he was busy with Marshman in removing the papers in the north end some one opened a window, when the air set the entire building on flame. By midnight the roof fell in along its whole length, and the column of fire leapt up towards heaven. With "solemn serenity" the members of the mission family remained seated in front of the desolation.
The ruins were still smoking when next evening Dr. Carey arrived from Calcutta, which was ringing with the sad news. The venerable scholar had suffered most, for his were the manuscripts; the steel punches were found uninjured. The Sikh and Telugoo grammars and ten Bible versions in the press were gone. Second editions of Confucius. A Dissertation on the Chinese Language, and of Ward on the Hindoos, and smaller works were destroyed. The translation of the Ramayana, on which he and Marshman had been busy for a year, was stopped for ever; fifty years after the present writer came upon some charred sheets of the fourth volume, which had been on the press and rescued. The Circular Letter for April 1812 is printed on paper scorched at the edge. Worst of all was the loss of that polyglot dictionary of all the languages derived from the Sanskrit which, if Carey had felt any of this world's ambition, would have perpetuated his name in the first rank of philologists.
With the delicacy which always marked him Dr. Marshman had himself gone down to Calcutta next morning to break the news to Carey, who received it with choking utterance. The two then called on the friendly chaplain, Thomason, who burst into tears. When the afternoon tide enabled the three to reach Serampore, after a two hours' hard pull at the flood, they found Ward rejoicing. He had been all day clearing away the rubbish, and had just discovered the punches and matrices unharmed. The five presses too were untouched. He had already opened out a long warehouse nearer the river-shore, the lease of which had fallen in to them, and he had already planned the occupation of that uninviting place in which the famous press of Serampore and, at the last, the Friend of India weekly newspaper found a home till 1875. The description of the scene and of its effect on Carey by an eye-witness like Thomason has a value of its own:--
"The year 1812 was ushered in by an earthquake which was preceded by a loud noise; the house shook; the oil in the lamps on the walls was thrown out; the birds made a frightful noise; the natives ran from their houses, calling on the names of their gods; the sensation is most awful; we read the forty-sixth Psalm. This fearful prodigy was succeeded by that desolating disaster, the Serampore fire. I could scarcely believe the report; it was like a blow on the head which stupefies. I flew to Serampore to witness the desolation. The scene was indeed affecting. The immense printing-office, two hundred feet long and fifty broad, reduced to a mere shell. The yard covered with burnt quires of paper, the loss in which article was immense. Carey walked with me over the smoking ruins. The tears stood in his eyes. 'In one short evening,' said he, 'the labours of years are consumed. How unsearchable are the ways of God! I had lately brought some things to the utmost perfection of which they seemed capable, and contemplated the missionary establishment with perhaps too much self-congratulation. The Lord has laid me low, that I may look more simply to Him.' Who could stand in such a place, at such a time, with such a man, without feelings of sharp regret and solemn exercise of mind. I saw the ground strewed with half-consumed paper, on which in the course of a very few months the words of life would have been printed. The metal under our feet amidst the ruins was melted into misshapen lumps--the sad remains of beautiful types consecrated to the service of the sanctuary. All was smiling and promising a few hours before--now all is vanished into smoke or converted into rubbish! Return now to thy books, regard God in all thou doest. Learn Arabic with humility. Let God be exalted in all thy plans, and purposes, and labours; He can do without thee."Carey himself thus wrote of the disaster to Dr. Ryland:--
"25th March 1812.--The loss is very great, and will long be severely felt; yet I can think of a hundred circumstances which would have made it much more difficult to bear. The Lord has smitten us, he had a right to do so, and we deserve his corrections. I wish to submit to His sovereign will, nay, cordially to acquiesce therein, and to examine myself rigidly to see what in me has contributed to this evil.Little did these simple scholars, all absorbed in their work, dream that this fire would prove to be the means of making them and their work famous all over Europe and America as well as India. Men of every Christian school, and men interested only in the literary and secular side of their enterprise, had their active sympathy called out. The mere money loss, at the exchange of the day, was not under ten thousand pounds. In fifty days this was raised in England and Scotland alone, till Fuller, returning from his last campaign, entered the room of his committee, declaring "we must stop the contributions." In Greenock, for instance, every place of worship on one Sunday collected money. In the United States Mr. Robert Ralston, a Presbyterian, a merchant of Philadelphia, who as Carey's correspondent had been the first American layman to help missions to India, and Dr. Staughton, who had taken an interest in the formation of the Society in 1792 before he emigrated, had long assisted the translation work, and now that Judson was on his way out they redoubled their exertions. In India Thomason's own congregation sent the missionaries £800, and Brown wrote from his dying bed a message of loving help. The newspapers of Calcutta caught the enthusiasm; one leading article concluded with the assurance that the Serampore press would, "like the phoenix of antiquity, rise from its ashes, winged with new strength, and destined, in a lofty and long-enduring flight, widely to diffuse the benefits of knowledge throughout the East." The day after the fire ceased to smoke Monohur was at the task of casting type from the lumps of the molten metal.
In two months after the first intelligence Fuller was able to send as "feathers of the phoenix" slips of sheets of the Tamil Testament, printed from these types, to the towns and churches which had subscribed. Every fortnight a font was cast; in a month all the native establishment was at work night and day. In six months the whole loss in Oriental types was repaired. The Ramayana version and Sanskrit polyglot dictionary were never resumed. But of the Bible translations and grammars, Carey and his two heroic brethren wrote:-- "We found, on making the trial, that the advantages in going over the same ground a second time were so great that they fully counter-balanced the time requisite to be devoted thereto in a second translation." The fire, in truth, the cause of which was never discovered, and insurance against which did not exist in India, had given birth to revised editions.
= = = = = = = = = = =
/1/ [What was formerly a note has been inserted into the etext in the form of the "Thirty-six Translations of the Bible" chart. -- FWP]
/2/Life and Work in Benares and Kumaon, 1839-77, London, 1884.
/3/ Mr. John Marshman, in his Life and Times of the three, states that Fry and Figgins, the London typefounders, would not produce under £700 half the Nagari font which the Serampore native turned out at about £100. In 1813 Dr. Marshman's Chinese Gospels were printed on movable metallic types, instead of the immemorial wooden blocks, for the first time in the twenty centuries of the history of Chinese printing. This forms an era in the history of Chinese literature, he justly remarks.
/4/ The fervent printer thus wrote to his Hull friends:--"To give to a man a New Testament who never saw it, who has been reading lies as the Word of God; to give him these everlasting lines which angels would be glad to read--this, this is my blessed work."
/5/ In 1795 Captain Dodds, a Madras officer from Scotland, translated part of the Bible into Telugoo, and, lingering on in the country to complete the work, died seven days after the date of his letter on the subject in the Missionary Magazines of 1796.
/6/ Then Editor of the Friend of India.
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