Felix Carey

Young missionary and prodigal son

At age 8 Felix Carey went to India as a companion to his missionary father. He picked up Bengali even faster than his father did.

With his father absorbed in mission work, though, Felix was neglected. He became characterized by, as Hannah Marshman put it, “obstinacy and self-will.” With the arrival of William Ward (who became his “spiritual father”) and Hannah to India, he got hold of himself. He and William Ward and Krishna Pal (William Carey’s first Indian convert) had many discussions, which eventually led to the baptism of him and Pal on the same day.

Young Felix, along with Joshua Marshman and two Indians of upper caste, once carried the coffin of a lowcaste believer—a monumental act that initiated the breakdown of the caste system among believers in that area.

In 1807, at age 21, Felix was sent as a missionary to Rangoon [Burma], but mission life proved costly. His wife died within a year, and seven years later, he lost his second wife and his children in a boating accident.

Having noticed Felix Carey’s linguistic and medical gifts (he had introduced smallpox vaccination to Burma), the king of Burma offered Felix an ambassadorship to the governor-general in Calcutta. The weary Felix accepted, resigning from mission activities in 1814. His disappointed father commented: “Felix is shrivelled from a missionary into an ambassador.”

Felix lived in fine ambassadorial style in Calcutta (with “a red umbrella with an ivory top, gold betel box, gold lefeek cup, and a sword of state,” he wrote), soon overspending and drinking heavily. He was recalled to Burma in disgrace. Felix then disappeared across the border into Assam, where he wandered for three years.

Missionary William ...

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