Bust of John Passmore Edwards

The Autobiography of John Passmore Edwards

Mother and Father


My mother was a Baptist, and my father, though not a Baptist, was a Calvinist in belief. He frequently went on Sunday mornings, taking one or two of his boys with him, to the Baptist chapel, about a mile off, and to the Wesleyan chapel in the village on Sunday afternoons. He was prone to criticise, in a hostile spirit, the sermons delivered at the Wesleyan chapel. He abjured Wesley as much as he admired Toplady, and balanced his depreciation of Arminianism by his appreciation of Calvinism. Though I heard, when a boy, several hundred sermons, I do not remember a single passage or anecdote given in any one of them. I well remember, however, how sleepy I frequently got at the afternoon services, and the scores of times I pinched myself or pulled my hair to prevent nodding or falling from the form. We all sat on forms without backs in Cornish village chapels in those days. I also well remember how eagerly I anticipated the perorations of a Wesleyan travelling minister (Christopher by name), when he described in glowing language the joys of the redeemed and the tortures of the damned. When he preached, and particularly at the end of his sermons, I was wide awake. I then listened with rapt attention, or as if I were witnessing the closing scene of a tragic performance on the stage. His florid descriptions so arrested and swayed my imagination that in my dreams I occasionally awoke in fright on seeing the world on fire, accompanied by scenes that might have given Dante excruciating suggestions for his Inferno. I mention these things not to undervalue preaching to young people, but to suggest that such preaching, to be beneficial, should be adapted to the youthful mind.

My mother rarely went to chapel. Her household duties and anxieties were as numerous and as necessary on Sundays as on other days. She put her religion into her life. She said little and did much. She quietly and without a murmur did the many things she had to do from day to day, and from hour to hour. The cares and claims of home bounded her ambition and fully occupied her thoughts and hands. She was essentially a peacemaker. - never knew her to cause a family jar, or to say a word against a neighbour, or to give offence to anyone. Blessed be her name and memory!


I sometimes think that, could she, when absorbed in work and anxiety, have glanced in fancy into the future, and seen how, fifty, sixty, or seventy years after, she would be so loved and reverenced, an additional smile might now and then have brightened her serious face. But perhaps it is better as it was and is. She did her best from a sense of duty and for the love of it, without a thought or expectation that for so doing her memory would be embalmed in the memory of others. She rests from her labours. She died in my brother Richard's house at Bath in May, 1870, soon after she had entered on the eighty-sixth year of her age. I have been privileged to dedicate to her memory the Cornwall Convalescent Home at Perranporth, the Public Library at Newton Abbot,2 where she was born, and one of the Homes at the Colony for the benefit of Epileptics at Chalfont, Buckinghamshire.

April 18, 2005
Acknowledgement of contributions and  copyright
© Dean Evans 2003