Henry Martyn was born in Truro, Cornwall, England, and he was only two years old when his mother died from tuberculosis. (His sisters followed their mother to an early grave and by the time he was 28, he was the only member of his family still surviving.)
Henry was a gifted student, and the ease with which he was able to learn, tempted him to avoid hard work and he gained a reputation for idleness. He was not popular and his small physique invited bullying by other boys. To protect him from bullying, the teachers placed him under the protection of another boy, who had an enduring Christian influence on his life.