Transcripts relating to Robert Morrison

Scope and Content

Papers relating to Robert Morrison, comprising typescript transcript [1989] of Robert Morrison's manuscript 'Domestic Memoir of Mrs Morrison' [1824], written as a memorial to his first wife Mary after her death, and including a letter of advice, 1824, to his two eldest children, Mary Rebecca and John Robert, his chronology of his life and family (1782-1823), genealogy of the Morrison family, including notes on Robert and Mary Morrison's parents, memoir of his life with Mary, extracts (not chronological) of letters between the couple (1811-1821), with observations on domestic and other affairs, including long periods when Mary remained in England with the children, and account of Mary's death and notes on her tombstone. Also a photocopy of an obituary of Morrison's second wife Eliza [1874], and a copy of the Morrison family tree (c1770-1988).

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Morrison: born near Morpeth, Northumberland, England, 1782; grew up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne; following a rudimentary education, apprenticed to his father as a last and boot-tree maker; joined the Presbyterian church, 1798; decided to prepare for missionary work; studied at Hoxton Academy (later Highbury College), London, 1803; studied at the Missionary Academy, Gosport, Hampshire, 1804; appointed by the London Missionary Society (LMS) and studied medicine, astronomy and Chinese in London, 1805; ordained and sailed via Philadelphia and New York to Canton, 1807; pioneering Protestant missionary to China, though he saw few conversions himself; married Mary Morton (1791-1821), daughter of an East India Company surgeon, in Macau, 1809; became translator to the East India Company's factory in Canton, securing a legal basis for residence and a means of supporting himself, 1809; completed the translation of the New Testament into Chinese, 1813; it was printed, 1814; viewed with hostility by Chinese officials; baptised the first Protestant Chinese Christian, 1814; served as translator on Lord Amherst's abortive embassy to Peking (Beijing), 1816-1817; returned to Canton, 1817; on the completion of his Anglo-Chinese dictionary, received the degree of Doctor of Divinity, University of Glasgow, 1817; with William Milne (1785-1822) founded the Anglo-Chinese College, Malacca, for training missionaries in the Far East, 1818; with Milne, completed the translation of the Bible, 1819; visited Malacca, 1823; travelled to England, 1823-1824; Fellow of the Royal Society, 1824; helped to established the short-lived Language Institution in London; ordained the first Chinese Indigenous pastor, 1825; married Eliza Armstrong (1795-1874), 1825; left England and returned to Canton, 1826; died at Canton, 1834. Publications include: Dictionary of the Chinese Language (1815-1823); Grammar of the Chinese Language (1815); Chinese Bible and numerous Chinese tracts, translations, and works on philology. His son from his first marriage, John Robert Morrison (1814-1843), succeeded his father at the East India Company and became secretary to the Hong Kong government.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Donated by descendants of Robert Morrison in 1989.

Other Finding Aids

Handlist available

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance

Related Material

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds the records of the London Missionary Society (Ref: CWM/LMS), including papers of and concerning Robert Morrison, among them undated [early 19th century] copy of Morrison's domestic memoir of 1824 (Ref: CWM/LMS China Personal Boxes 1-3), and also letters from Morrison (Ref: CWM/LMS South China Incoming Correspondence, CWM/LMS Ultra Ganges (Malacca) Incoming Correspondence Box 2), his candidate's papers (Ref: CWM/LMS Candidates' Papers Box 12 No 12), a photograph of a drawing of Morrison and a note from him, 1824 (Ref: CWM/LMS China Photographs Box 3 File 9), and various portraits of Morrison (Ref: CWM/LMS General Portraits Box 4). SOAS also holds a photocopy of a drawing of Morrison (Ref: CIM/PP Box 20 File 222) and the second edition of his translation of the New Testament (Ref: CIM Box 22); a biography of Morrison, 1960s, among the papers of Sir Alwyne Ogden (Ref: PP MS 47 Box 12 File 111); and papers relating to his library, 1916-1926 (Ref: MS 226830 SOAS Library Book Exchange passim). Morrison's collection of several thousand Chinese books was bequeathed to University College London and later passed to the School of Oriental and African Studies.