Martyn, Henry known as "the scholar missionary," one of the most distinguished missionaries of modern times, was born of humble parentage at Truro, in Cornwall, England, Feb. 18, 1781. He was educated in the grammar-school of his native place; sought for a scholarship in Corpus Christi College, Oxford, but, failing in this, he went to Cambridge, and entered St. John's College in October, 1797. He was at that time outwardly moral, but still unconverted. But, while at college, the death of his father directed his mind to religious subjects, and, by his association with the celebrated evangelical preacher Charles Simeon, he soon became one of the most thoroughly Christian students in the college, where, in 1801, he came out "senior wrangler," the highest academical honor adjudged. He was chosen fellow of his college in March, 1802, and obtained the first prize for the best Latin prose composition in the university. Believing it to be his duty to preach the Gospel, he now devoted himself to the work of the ministry. England was at this time wide-awake in the cause of missions, and Martyn finally determined that he also must go forth to propagate Christianity among the nations who sat in darkness. He sought to be employed by the "Society for Missions to Africa and the East," now the "Church Missionary Society;" but, as he was too young to take holy orders, his appointment was postponed. He was ordained deacon Oct. 22,1803; was made bachelor of divinity in March, 1805, and was at the same time ordained priest, and, obtaining an appointment as missionary to India, embarked Sept. 10, 1805.
Henry Martyn reached Madras April 21, 1806. He stopped for a while at Calcutta, where he continued the study of Hindostance, which he had commenced in England, and applied himself also to Sanscrit, as the key to most of the Eastern languages, and to Persian. He then removed to the station of Dinapore, where he was appointed to labor, primarily among the English troops there posted, and the families of the civilians. But to the natives also he constantly addressed himself, and, amid all these labors, yet found time to complete a translation of the English liturgy into Hindostanee (Feb. 24, 1807), a translation of the N.T. in that language, and, this finished, commenced a version of the N.T. in Persian, in which he had the assistance of an Arab translator, Sabat (q.v.).
Near the close of 1809, Mr. Martyn commenced his first public ministrations among the heathen at Cawnpore, whither he had removed in April of this year. His auditory sometimes counted as many as eight hundred. They were young, old, male, female, bloated, wizened, clothed with abominable rags, nearly naked, some plastered with mud or cow- dung, others with matted, uncombed locks, streaming to the heels, others bald or scabby-headed. The authorities seem to have had a wide-open eye on his proceedings, and anything which appeared to graze roughly against the superstitions of his auditory would at once have wrecked his scheme. Finally, exhausted with these and other labors, his health began to give way, and he was recommended either to try the effects of a sea-voyage, or to return to England for a time. Having embraced the latter proposal, he determined to travel by way of Persia and Arabia, with a view of submitting his Persian and Arabic translations of the N.T. to the revision and critical judgment of learned Persians. He left Cawnpore in the last of September, 1810, and in the early summer of 1811 landed at Bushire, and thence proceeded to Shiraz, where he resided for more than ten months. Here he created great interest by the religious discussions which, as the sole advocate of the Christian faith, he carried on in the crowded conclaves of Mollahs and Sofis. He completed his Persian version of the N.T. Feb. 24, 1812, and a Persian translation of the Psalms six weeks later. From Shiraz he went to Tabriz, resolved on visiting the king in his summer camp, and presenting his work in person. His interview with the vizier, who was surrounded by a number of ignorant and intemperate Mollahs, called forth all the energies of Martyn's faith and patience, and at length it was found that, owing to an informality — the want of an introduction from the British ambassador — he could not be admitted to the royal presence. He now proceeded to Tabriz, where he was laid up for two months, and compelled to abandon all hopes of presenting his N.T. in person to the king, but Sir G. Ousely, the British ambassador, relieved his anxiety by kindly promising to present the volume himself. Ten days after his recovery from the fever which had laid him up, he proceeded on his journey homeward. His plan was to return to England via Constantinople, but, in consequence of too hurried traveling, he was laid Lup at Tocat with severe illness, and died Oct. 16, 1812. 'No more is known of Henry Martvp save that he died at Tocat, without a European near ... He died a pilgrim's solitary death, and lies in an unknown grave in a heathen land." The regrets in England which this event created were great. Mulch was expected from him, and much would probably have been done by him in the cause to which he had devoted himself. As it was, he brought not a few, both Hindus and Mohammedans, to make profession of the Christian faith, and he caused the Scriptures to be extensively dispersed among a people who had not previously known them. "The ardent zeal of the Celtic character; the religious atmosphere that John Wesley had spread over Cornwall, even among those who did not enroll themselves among his followers; the ability and sensitiveness hereditary in the Martyn family together with the strong influence of a university tutor — all combined to make such a bright and brief trail of light to the career of Henry Martyn" (Miss C . . Yonge, Pioneers and Founders, p. 71). An interesting account of his life, compiled from various journals left by him, was published by the Rev. John Sargent in 1819. Of his productions there were published Sermons preached in Calcutta and elsewhere (4th edit. Lond. 1822, 8vo): — Controversial Tracts on Christianity and Mohammedanism (edited by Prof. Samuel Lee, D.D., Camb. 1824, 8vo): — Journals and Letters (edited by the Rev. J. B. Wilberforce, later bishop of Oxford, Lond. 1837, 2 vols. 8vo; abridged 1839, post 8vo, and often). See. besides the biography already referred to, that by John Hall (N. Y. 18mo, published by the American Tract Society). See also Eclectic Review, 4th series, 3:321; Bost. Spirit of the Pilgrims, 4:428; Albert Barnes, Essays and Reviews (1855), 2:278; Edinb. Rev. 1844: (July), 80. 278; Cyclopaedia of Modern Religious Biography, p. 321; Timpson, Bible Triumps, p. 423; Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge; Lond. Quart. Rev. 1857 (July), art. 2, p. 329; Princeton Rev. 1853, p. 409; 1855, p. 327. (J. H. W.)