At sea and Bombay, India: 1817-1818. Unbound. Four-page folded folio-sized sheet to Betsy Putnam of Danvers, Massachusetts signed by E. S. Nichols. Three separately dated letters are on the sheet: 31 Dec 1817, On board the Ship Saco; 2 Feb 1818, Off the coast of Ceylon; 30 Apr 1818, Bombay. Clean and legible with minor wear. Insignificant small tears at of some folds. Very good. Item #008665
At first, Nichols marvels at “the amazing distance that already separates us.!” floridly summarizing his ship’s travel, “Look at the Saco, floating on the surface of the trackless deep, at the rate of 9 or 10 miles an hour; look at this safe retreat when winds blow, when waves dash & the sea threatens to devour like the voracious Shark. Stand amazed at the goodness and long suffering of our Covenant God.” Later east of Ceylon, he notes, “This is farther east than we intended to go. But the winds have been contrary,” but eventually rejoices that “Through the great goodness of God, we safely arrived at this place. . . .” During the voyage, Nichols expressed his enthusiasm to serve the “benighted heathen,” and face “the superstition of the Hindoos.” After his arrival, Nichols declares, “The natives in this native world are in a deplorable state . . . extreme wretchedness,” and “our hearts melted into kindness and compassion. . . . Hundreds of thousands, hastening to eternity, ignorant of the way of life and the savior who died to save them. . . . The air is filled with tedious noise . . . of poor deluded females who assemble to do . . . what they call sing. . . . They sit on the ground . . . so sunk in degradation, that some times I cannot realize they have immortal souls. Oh that the light of divine truth might illuminate this vast multitude of heathen souls. " In addition to bewilderment that the Hindus continue to worship “their idols . . . numerous & insignificant,” he relates his mystification that “The Parsee (Zoroastrians) worship the rising & setting sun & the sea. . . I have repeatedly seen them offing their petitions and praying their homage to these objects.” E. S. was the son of John Nichols, the leader of these early American missionaries from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), which was founded in 1810 by Williams College graduates as one of the first American Christion missionary organizations. The ABCFM sent out its first missionary group in 1812, also to India; and, the minutes of the ABCFM show that “By the brethren and sisters at Bombay they (the Nichols contingent) were welcomed with affectionate tenderness and grateful joy.”.