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Henry Martyn

1781-1812. Anglican missionary to India. Born in Cornwall, he received his early education there before embarking on a brilliant academic career at Cambridge. The sudden death of his father led eventually to a spiritual awakening, and to his ordination in 1803 as curate to Charles Simeon* at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge. He was the first Englishman to offer to the newly formed Church Missionary Society, but for reasons beyond his control he was not accepted. Further disappointment and intense unhappiness came when after a protracted period his proposal of marriage was not accepted. In 1805 Martyn sailed for India as a chaplain to the East India Company, and arrived at Calcutta where he enjoyed fellowship with two other Evangelical chaplains, Daniel Corrie and David Brown.

His outstanding linguistic gifts led to his great life-work, the translation of the NT and the Book of Common Prayer into Hindustani. His forthright preaching to British congregations caused offense, as did his constant attempts to make contact with native Indians, both Hindus and Muslims. Posted at first to Calcutta, he was appointed to Dinapore in 1806, and to Cawnpore in 1809, where incipient tuberculosis and the intense summer heat almost caused his death. In 1810 he was advised to take a sea voyage, and being anxious to complete an Arabic and Persian translation of the NT, he traveled to Shiraz, where he talked and worked for long hours with Persian scholars, gaining their respect and confidence in argument and debate, and finishing his task in February 1812. He set out for home, but hard traveling and constant fever brought about his death at Tokat in Armenia in October of that year. He was buried there. His Journals were brought home after his death and remain among the classics of English devotional literature, revealing the intensity of his dedication to the service of Christ and the cause of Christian missions.

See C.E. Padwick, Henry Martyn, Confessor of the Faith (1953).