17th June 1703: The Birth of John Wesley

Why seek ye that which is not bread,

Nor can your hungry souls sustain?

On ashes, husks, and air ye feed;

Ye spend your little all in vain.

From: ‘Ho! Everyone That Thirsts, Draw Nigh’ by Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Years ago I visited the Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge near Los Angeles. The Director of the Gardens whose name sadly I can’t remember now, was a large affable, African American and when he heard that I came from the north of England he said – ‘Oh yes I’ve been there, I made a pilgrimage to John Wesley’s birthplace in Epworth’. It was a slightly bizarre experience, because Epworth is a tiny village in an isolated part of Lincolnshire called the Isle of Axeholme, which is where my father’s ancestors come from.  It was one of those little incidents in life that help make up the tapestry that binds us all together. 

Here's the beautiful Georgian vicarage he was referring to.

Chamber’s ‘Book of Days’ published in 1869 has this to say about the founder of Methodism.

‘It would be difficult to find in the whole circle of biography a man who worked harder and longer than John Wesley. Not an hour did he leave unappropriated. For fifty years he rose at four in the morning, summer and winter, and was accustomed to preach a sermon at five, an exercise he esteemed 'the healthiest in the world.' ...

Travelling did not suspend his industry. 'Though I am always in haste,' he says of himself, 'I am never in a hurry, because I never undertake any more work than I can go through with perfect calmness of spirit. It is true I travel 4,000 or 5,000 miles in a year, but I generally travel alone in my carriage, and am as retired ten hours a-day as if I were in a wilderness. On other days, I never spend less than three hours, and frequently ten or twelve, alone.'

In this way he found time to read much and to write voluminously. In eating and drinking he was very abstemious. Suppers he abhorred, and sometimes for years he never tasted animal food. Once for three or four years he lived almost exclusively on potatoes. From wine, beer, and spirits he habitually abstained, preferring water....
To the end of his life his complexion was fresh, his walk agile, his eye keen and active. A curious and pleasant picture he left in the memory of many who saw him in the street in his old age, and noted his lithe little figure, his long hair, white and bright as silver, his radiant countenance, his active pace and energetic air. He died painlessly, not of disease, but healthily worn out.’

Methodism flourished in those parts of Britain that were neglected by the established church – in Wales and Cornwall particularly and John Wesley came to Cornwall over thirty times. These are his words - 

12 July 1747.  'I rode to Newlyn... to a rising ground near the seashore where a smooth white sand to stand on. An immense multitude of people was gathered together...... Before I had ended my prayer some poor wretches of Penzance began cursing and swearing and thrusting people off the bank.... I was thrown into the midst of them, when one of Newlyn, a bitter opposer till then, turned about and swore, "none shall meddle with the man: I will lose my life first." Many others were of his mind, so I ... finished my sermon without interruption.'

25th September. 1748 'I reached Newlyn... Here a rude, gaping, staring rabble-route, some or other of them were throwing dirt or stones continually. But before I had done, all were quiet and still, and some looked as if they felt what was spoken.'

Wesley saw dire and desperate poverty in West Cornwall and the Methodist Chapels did an immeasurable amount to educate and support the people, who turned in their thousands to its simple and accessible message. Wesley wanted to save souls, but the Methodist Church he founded saved bodies too.  Eventually Methodism went round the world - from Cornwall to California it became the faith of millions.

Potatoes and water eh? That's a challenge. Actually the Cornish new potatoes are at their best at the moment and totally delicious. 

This a traditional potato salad without mayonnaise, Mrs Beeton has a similar recipe as does the wonderful Jane Grigson, Jane says - and I can vouch for it, that this is the way potato salad is made in Germany - for serving with smoked meats and sausages. We're having it with yesterday's leftover tarragon chicken. 

Traditional Potato Salad (for 2-3)

6 medium sized Cornish potatoes, or Jersey Royals, or other waxy salad potato
1 dessertspoonful white wine or tarragon vinegar
I teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt, pepper
3 tablespoons good olive oil

Onions - a mild Spanish one chopped small, or a big handful of chopped spring onions (scallions)
Capers or chopped gherkins - 
Big handful chopped herbs, I used a mixture of parley and tarragon.

Make the vinaigrette first by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl large enough to take the potatoes.  Scrape and boil the potatoes until tender. Whilst they are still hot, slice them into pieces a little thicker than a pound coin and tip them into the dressing. Turn them gently with a fork so they are covered with the vinaigrette and cover with a cloth - better than cling film, you don't want them to sweat and you want them to absorb the dressing. Leave to cool but don't refrigerate. 

When the salad is cold, add the onions  and the capers or gherkins. You may need a little more dressing at this stage. Cover thickly with chopped herbs.


'Finish, then, thy new creation; 

pure and spotless let us be. 

Let us see thy great salvation 

perfectly restored in thee...' 

From 'Love Divine, all loves excelling' by Charles Wesley (1707-1788)


Pilgrim said...

I think that song was sung by a duet of friends at our wedding.

Liz Woods said...

I's a good one for a wedding ....