Letter from a Missionary Bound to India Aboard the Ship Saracen. December 1836 – February 1837.
4to sheets, 25 cm. 12 pages of manuscript, approximately 3500 words.
A lengthy and informative letter from a young missionary, bound for India with his new wife “that I might preach Christ to the gentiles.” The letter is not signed, but we know from a book by Geoffry Ward, “A Disposition to be Rich” that the “Saracen” was an Ice Ship, carrying ice, cotton fabric, and half a dozen missionaries from Boston to Madras. There is also a stash of letters written by one Robert R. Hunter, dated 1839, in the Eberstadt Collection at the University of Texas, pertaining to the “Saracen.” Regardless of its authorship, this letter is worthy of close study for the details of shipboard life it reveals, and also because of a most interesting disposition of the Captain toward religious matters. For example, “Our water however is not quite so good. Once or twice it has acted as an emetic… The smell alone is sufficient sometimes to excite vomiting.” Later, he writes of his wife, “Emily has been quite sick with dysentery.” The missionaries have regular services aboard, but they are not well-attended by the crew. The young author and his fellow missionaries – “the brethren” – continue their attempts to convert the crew. This occasions the ire of the captain, whose reasons are unclear, but probably have something to do with all this religious folderol interfering with the work of the sailors. “Yesterday our hearts were filled with joy at the prospect of doing something for the poor seamen around us. Today we seem shut out from the hope of doing much more to benefit them. The Capt. has forbidden our speaking with the men…” Toward the end of the letter, the writer refers to “Capt. T.” but that is the only clue to the Captain’s identity. His name is not given in Ward’s book, However the “Report of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions” lists the missionaries who sailed to India in 1836. Clean and legible, also easily readable.