Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Marshman, Joshua
MARSHMAN, JOSHUA (1768–1837), orientalist and missionary, son of John Marshman, a weaver, said to be descended from an officer in the parliamentary army, and Mary Couzener, who was sprung from a Huguenot stock, was born at Westbury Leigh, Wiltshire, where his father lived, on 20 April 1768. After some scanty teaching at the village school, where one Coggeshall ruled, he was apprenticed at fifteen to Cater, a London bookseller and a native of Westbury Leigh, but at the end of live months came back to assist his father at weaving. Both in London and at home he read omnivorously, mastering, it is said, over five hundred volumes before he was eighteen. He usually had a book before him on the loom.
Weary of weaving, he became in 1794 master of the baptist school at Broadmead, Bristol, at the same time studying classics in the Bristol academy. The accounts which he read of the labours of William Carey (1761-1834) [q. v.] in India led him to offer himself to the Baptist Missionary Societv, and in company with William Ward and two others he sailed from Portsmouth for India on 29 May 1799, arriving at Serampur, where Carey soon joined them, on 13 Oct. The East India Company not allowing missionaries into their territory, they remained here under Danish protection, living in common, translating the Bible into various languages, and not only preaching and teaching in Serampur, but itinerating through the surrounding country. In a few years they had established several stations, and had rendered the scriptures, in whole or in part, into Bengali, Oriva, Sanscrit, Telugu, Punjabi, Hindustani, Manratti, Hindi, Sikh, and other languages, Marshman taking a foremost part in this work. In 1811 he received the degree of D.D. from Brown University, U.S. In 1818, in conjunction with his son and the other missionaries, he established the first newspaper ever printed in any Eastern language, the 'Sumachar Durpun, or Mirror of News,' and in the same year commenced the publication of the 'Friend of India,' a monthly magazine. Marshman now drew up the prospectus of a missionary ' college for the instruction of Asiatic Christian and other youth in Eastern literature and European science,' which was built at Serampur on the banks of the Hugh at a cost of 15,000l. In 1820 he started the 'Quarterly Friend of India.' In the same year a controversy with Rammohun Roy on the doctrine of the atonement much occupied him. In 1827 the connection between the Baptist Missionary Society and the Serampur missionaries was severed owing to differences as to administration, and a painful and protracted controversy took place, Marshman acting as representative of the missionaries. Like Carey, he suffered at times from melancholia. On 6 Dec. 1837 he died at Serampur, and on the 6th was buried in the mission cemetery.
Marshman was undoubtedly one of the ablest orientalists and most earnest missionaries that laboured in India. In addition to the works mentioned above he published:
- 'The Works of Confucius, containing the Original Text, with a Translation and a preliminary Dissertation on the Language of China,' Serampur, 1809.
- 'A Dissertation on the Characters and Sounds of the Chinese Language,' Serampur, 1809.
- 'Clavis Sinica, or Elements of Chinese Grammar, with an Appendix containing the Ta-Hyoth of Confucius, with a Translation,' Serampur, 1814, towards the expense of publishing which government granted 1,000l.
- A Chinese version of the Bible, the first complete edition printed in that language, and the first Chinese book printed from moveable metal types. This work cost him fourteen years' labour.
He also assisted Carey in the preparation of his Sanscrit grammar. By his marriage in 1791 to Hannah Shepherd he had twelve children, six of whom died in infancy. His son John Clark Marshman is noticed separately. His youngest daughter married Sir Henry Havelock.
[Life and Times of the Serampore Missionaries, by John C. Marshman, 2 vols. 1859; Carey, Marshman, and Ward, an abridgment of above, 1864.]