Mary Carey, 1802

This letter concerns the death of Charles Short, brother-in-law to Mary Carey (1759-1834) and her famous missionary brother, William Carey (1761-1834). Mary Carey (1765-1839) never married and lived much of her adult life with her sister, Ann Carey Hobson (1763-1843). Both sisters were ardent supporters of their brother's work in India. After becoming speechless and paralyzed (except for the use of one limb) in 1789, Mary Carey spent the last fifty years of her life mostly bedridden. Nevertheless, she managed to maintain a correspondence with Carey and other BMS leaders. Several letters of William Carey to his sisters, as well as from Mary to William, can be found in the BMS Archives at the Angus Library, Regent’s Park College, Oxford. For more on the Careys, see Terry G. Carter, ed., The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey (Macon GA: Mercer Press, 2000), 197; Mary Drewery, William Carey: A Biography (Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan, 1979), 72-73; Timothy George, Faithful Witness: The Life and Mission of William Carey (Birmingham AL: New Hope Press, 1991), 100-103; S. Pearce Carey, William Carey (London: Carey Press, 1942), pp. 152, 239.

M[ary]. Carey, [postmarked from Wobourn], to John Sutcliff, Olney, 4 October [1802].


Altho I cannot suppose you are ignorant of a circumstance which has appeared in the Biblical Magazine yet so my dear Mrs Short sensibly feels that her vow is upon her and that she wont be freed therefrom till you are thro my kindness informed of that intelligence which she has received.

I take this early opportunity of saying that yesterday and not till yesterday we heard the melancholy account of Mr Shorts death. It was transmitted us by Mr Morris of Clipstone who received it from Mr Carey. I lament that Mr C— was not present with him in his last expiring moment—and could with an empassioned heart exclaim

“Oh not to see him! not to see him die!

“Catch his last glance and close his languid eyes.”

I feel it much—yet feared in time it could not well be otherwise—tho’ I cannot help longing that someone present with keen and inquisitive feelings had urged Mr Carey to have ventured tho at midnight—but I have no philosophy on such occasions and therefore perhaps am less qualified to articulate the principles of my wiser friends. I am sensibly fearful of all large animals yet I know not in that case but I would have mounted an eastern Elephant and set off in the deepest shades for Hindostan—but he is now no more! and I fear we shall never know at home the real feelings of his mind at the last—if they can be gathered only by bits and scraps as it were I know it would be [a] matter of great comfort to Mrs Short. Mr S- dies informed and I am persuaded he knew the doctrines of the Gospel theoretically. Oh that he may have received the love of the truth—then is he saved!

I cannot well write any more

Believe me with real esteem


M Carey

Mrs Short intends writing Mr Carey by the post [illegible word] —will Mr Sutcliffe do us the favour to say how the letter may be convey’d? [?] respects [?] Mrs S yourself, and Miss J [Johnstone]—

October the 4th

Text: Eng. MS. 387, f. 19, Thomas Raffles Collection, John Rylands University Library of Manchester; Timothy Whelan, ed., Baptist Autographs in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 1741-1845 (Macon: Baptist History Series, Mercer University Press, 2009, pp. 114-15. The Biblical Magazine was edited and printed by J. W. Morris at Dunstable from January 1801 until December 1803, when it merged with the Theological Magazine. The notice about Charles Short’s death appeared in the volume for 1802, p. 384. William Carey wrote to Morris from Calcutta on 25 February 1802; the letter arrived sometime in late September and was published in the Periodical Accounts. Carey writes that in the first week of March he was informed that Short was near death. “I set out at daybreak on Tuesday morning,” Carey writes, “but he had been dead about four hours when I arrived. I paid him every possible attention while he lived, and afterwards saw him decently interred. His health was visibly on the decline ever since his arrival in this country.” Mary Carey believed that if her brother had left “at midnight,” rather than daybreak, he would have seen Short before he died, a moment of great significance within the evangelical English culture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. See Periodical Accounts of the BMS, vol. 2, p. 230.