Martha Wilson, 1841

A likely candidate for authorship of this letter is Martha Wilson. James Thomas (1799-1858) was a Baptist Missionary Society missionary in India from 1826 to 1858. His first wife died in September 1840 during childbirth, leaving him with seven young children. In 1842 he married Martha Wilson, a young woman who had been originally sent to India by the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East. It is likely that the “wishes” of Thomas that the writer mentions below, as well as the later statement that Thomas had written to her again “entreating [her] to reconsider the subject,” concern Thomas’s proposal of marriage to Miss Wilson. The final sentences, though not completely clear, seem to suggest that, after consultation with Mr. and Mrs. Yates (BMS missionaries in India), Miss Wilson did indeed consider the “wishes” of Thomas, which led to their marriage that same year.

Undated, unsigned, and incomplete portion of a letter written by Martha Wilson, c. December 1841.

It is necessary now to mention some particulars relative to my leaving Solo which I did not before I very unwillingly yielded to the advice of friends to continue in Calcutta till after the rains. Early in October I had fixed for returning and had made every arrangement for so doing. Mrs Alexander was on her way to fetch me when I received a note from one of the ladies in answer to one I had written to her intimating the impropriety of my return on account of my health. This startled me. I could not understand what could be meant unless Dr Wise had spoken to that effect to them when he had not to me. Another thought also suggested itself whether any cause of dissatisfaction had arisen and he had expressed the opinion of the sort. This I could scarcely bring my mind to believe as all had ever expressed themselves perfectly satisfied. This caused me much uneasiness which was not lessened by a circumstance which happened in the evening. I was drinking tea at Dr Duff’s and was asked by Mr Lacroix (a London Missionary now on his way to England) in what ship I thought of returning he having heard I was going home I afterwards found this report had been partly freely circulated though I had never thought of such a thing. I then inquired of Mrs Chapman on further particulars but she seemed equally surprised with myself, and said I had better know the wishes of the Committee from the Secretary, saying it was not the wish of the Committee that I should return. Dr Wise thinking I should be less likely to keep my health in Kishnagur than in Calcutta they therefore advised my staying for a time at Central School. Though severely disappointed I should have felt satisfied with this decision had I not heard from good authority that the real cause was my religious sentiments which had not before been known by all. At this I felt much hurt having received so much kindness from so many in the Church who had known I did not expect such a result. I wrote to the Ladies stating what I had heard and assuring them my great object would ever be to make the children acquainted with the way of Salvation, and not to bring before them my peculiar views. At the same time I said if they had not full confidence in me to consent to my return I could not feel comfortable to continue my connexion with them. Their reply was the same not referring to this subject but my health. I saw Dr Wise after this and asked him if he thought I might safely return in a month or two if my health continued in its present state. His reply was in the affirmative and I once more wrote requesting to return upon this condition. Again they objected assigning the same reason—this would appear inexplicable, my health being now apparently as good as when I first landed, did I not know some do object most strenuously for the reason mentioned though the majority favored and wished my return and I concluded rather than have division among themselves adopted the other expedient. Thus situated I began to think of some other sphere and finding there was no school in which I could be employed by my Baptist friends turned my thoughts to Burdwan having heard a teacher was wanted there—Mr and Mrs Weitbrecht having about to return to England. Mr Thomas had made known his wishes in Septr but I would not then think of it. When these circumstances occurred I could not help thinking it seemed almost like an interposition of Divine Providence to bring it about; still I would not cherish it feeling determined to adopt a different course. Just after receiving the last communication from the ladies I was obliged to leave Central School—it being under repairs and having received an invitation from Mrs Yates to stay with her I availed myself of the offer. Here I received a note from Mr Thomas entreating me to reconsider the subject, I did so I trust prayerfully but thought if Burdwan wanted assistance I ought to go there. I wrote an answer accordingly. A week passed before I heard from Mrs Weitbrecht she then called upon me and from what she said I thought I ought to go there and wished to decide at once but Mrs Yates urged me to leave it till the next day. I did so and wrote an early referral to Mr Thomas but two letters that day caused me to waver. Not having parents at hand I felt I ought to view Dr and Mrs Yates in that light, they entirely approved of the step and two days after a note came needing a reply I felt that I must decide.

Text: Methodist Archives, MAW, Box 39, 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. 231-33. Other individuals mentioned in this letter include Dr. T. A. Wise (1801-89), a missionary educator in Calcutta and author of two works, Commentary on the Hindu System of Medicine (1845) and Thoughts on Education in India (1854); Alexander Duff (1806-78), Scottish-born educator and missionary to India under the Church of Scotland; Alphonse Francois Lacroix (1799-1859), Swiss-born educator and missionary (Congregationalist) in India who returned to England for a furlough in 1839; and John James Weitbrecht (1802-52) and his wife, Mary Edwards Weitbrecht (widow of LMS missionary Thomas Higgs), who served as Church Missionary Society (Anglican) missionaries in Burdwan, India, 1834-52. The Weitbrecht’s sailed for England on furlough in December 1841 (hence the dating of the above letter), returning to India in October 1844.