Letter

Scope and Content

From C[atherine] Sleep in Helston to Mary Tooth in Madeley. Divine providence opened a way and they have now settled in this circuit – they were stationed here a few years ago. [William and Catherine Sleep were stationed in Helston in 1837-38]. During their previous residence here, they suffered greatly and the leading agents in that trouble did not behave very well to William, although at the same time, the work of God did prosper in the circuit and many were added to the membership. When William pointed out this success to one of his critics, the man angrily responded that he hoped that William did not think that he was responsible, and that it was in fact the young preachers stationed there at the time who were responsible. Yet William in his ministry ‘has generally been favoured with, if not a general revival … yet with an increase…’ Such matters bothered Catherine far more than they troubled William, especially as she knew her husband to be ‘useful and efficient’.

After leaving Helston, they were appointed in 1839 to K[ingsbridge], where Catherine had travelled for 2 years previously with great ‘comfort and profit’, [William and Catherine Sleep were stationed in Kingsbridge[?] in 1816-17] but again [during this later appointment], William suffered greatly ‘in mind and body’. The friends who they had known in earlier years were either dead, or had left the circuit. After toiling as the only preacher for 4 months and being subject to incessant rain, William caught a cold and developed a fever of the typhus kind, which reduced him to the brink of the grave. It was a long time before he was fit enough to preach again – a young preacher was sent to assist him until the end of the year. William has never regained the strength that he had previous to this bout of ill health and it has contributed to his superannuation from the ministry. Tooth could be excused for wondering why therefore the Sleeps have returned to this particular circuit? There are a number of reasons, particularly the fact that the people here are pleased to see William return as a supernumary. Catherine has tried to forget the unpleasant circumstances that she associates with this place, but she struggles and this is impacting on her spiritually.

The good work is prospering here and in adjacent circuits. Since last march, nearly 700 have been added in this circuit – 500 of them in the last few weeks in just 2 villages, mainly miners. The two circuit preachers have given out 85 tickets in one of the villages and 95 in the other. Some of the new converts had been previously hostile to Methodism – one of the local farmers was so agitated that he left his bed at 5 in the morning, travelled to the local chapel and sent for some of the class leaders to come and pray with him. One old woman who had never been near a chapel in her life was obliged at her home to cry aloud for mercy. The chapels have been crowded to excess – in one place where William went to preach one Sunday, the building was so packed that he could scarcely reach the pulpit. Catherine has seen miners come to the prayer meetings and fall down on their knees with tears streaming down their faces. Whole families have been brought to God. Here at Helston most of the servants at one of the large inns have been converted at a prayer meeting. The cook was on her knees for some hours crying for mercy before the Lord was gracious to grant it.

[Annotated by Tooth – ‘Answered August 8 1842’]