Page images

of the High Church, and forgot the Nonconformity of his ancestors. He was the author of several large works; the merit of which was by no means thought proportionable to their bulk.

An heroic poem, called “The Life of Christ,' excited the ridicule of the wits, particularly of Garth *, in his Dispensary, and Swift in his Battle of the Books.

“ In one of the earlier editions of the Dunciad this Mr. Wesley was honoured with a nich in the temple of the Mighty Mother.' 'He was placed by the side of a respectable companion, Dr. Watts.

Now all the suffering brotherhood retire,
And’scape the martyrdom of jakes and fire;
A Gothic library of Greece and Rome

Well purg'd; and worthy Wesley, Watts, &c. [See the learned Commentator's note, by way of apology, as well as explanation.] They were afterwards deprived of this distinction; and I have heard that Mr. Pope substituted other names to fill up

the chasm, on a very serious, though gentlę, remonstrance made to him by Dr. Watts f. I never offended Mr. Pope," said the amiable Doctor, “but have always expressed my admiration of his superior genius. I only wished to see that genius more employed in the cause of Religion ; and always thought it capable of doing it great credit among the gay or the more witty part of mankind, who have generally despised it because it hath not always been so fortunate as to meet with advocates of such exalted abilities as Mr. Pope possesses, and who were capable of turning the finest exertions of wit * “ Had Wesley never aim'd in verse to please,

We had not rank'd him with our Ogilbys :
Still censures will on dull pretenders tall,

A Codrus should expect a Juvenal.” I have seen a MS poem of Wesley's, in which he thus retorts on the satirist:

“ What won<ler he should Wesley Codrus call,

Who dares surname himself a Juvenal ?" + I received this intelligence from my late worthy friend the Rev. Mr. Lamb of Dorchester; who had the information from Mr. Price, Dr. Waits's co-pastor, and with whom he was connected both in oflice and friendship, with an unbroken union, for thirty years.


and genius in its favour.” The remonstrance had its effect; and Dr. Watts was no longer to sit in the seat of the Dunces. The removal of Wesley might possibly be owing to the interposition of his son Samuel Wesley, with whom Mr. Pope corresponded, and for whom he always expressed a very particular regard. I have seen very friendly letters of Pope to him, when he was an usher at Westminster school,

« Mr. Samuel Wesley the elder published a poetical version of the Old and New Testament; and at a very advanced age a voluminous work in Latin on the book of Job, This last work was presented to Queen Caroline by Mr. John Wesley (the celebrated father of the Methodists), who, in a letter to his brother Samuel, acknowledges the very courteous reception he was honoured with from her Majesty, who gave him bows and smiles--but nothing for his poor father! The work was never held in any estimation by the learned. The engravings seem to have been the first rude efforts of an untutored boy. Nothing can be conceived more execrable.

“Old Samuel Wesley married a woman of extraordinary abilities. She was one of the daughters of Dr. Samuel Annesley, a celebrated Nonconformist minister. Her letters to her children bear the marks of sublime piety and great sense ; particularly one to her eldest son, on the principles of natural religion, which was some time in the possession of Dr. Priestley, with many others equally sensible and curious, This excellent pair had a very numerous offspring. Samuel Wesley, first an usher at Westminster-school, and afterwards head-master of Blundell's school at Tiverton, was the eldest; Charles, the Methodist preacher, was, if I have not been misinformed, the youngest.

“Samuel was a man of wit and learning: a High Churchman and a noted Jacobite. Sir Robert Walpole was the principal object of his political satires *;

* See one severe Poem by Mr. Wesley in Bp. Atterbury's Epistolary Correspondence, 1790, vol. III. p. 301; and two complisentary Poems to the Bishop, pp. 310, 312.


many of which remain unpublished, on account of their treasonable tendency; for, in the rage of Jacobitism, he was not scrupulous in the selection of characters, but poured out the very dregs of it on Royalty itself. He, however, published enough to render himself obnoxious to the Ministry'; so that little was left him but that penitence which, arising from mortification, only vents itself in abuse. Time, however, had so far gotten the better of his fury against Sir Robert, as to change the satirist into the suppliant. I have seen a copy of verses addressed to the great Minister in behalf of his poor and aged parent. But I have seen something much better. I have in my possession a letter of this poor and aged parent addressed to his son Samuel, in which he gratefully acknowledges his filial duty in terms so affecting, that I am at a loss which to admire most, the gratitude of the parent, or the affection, and generosity of the child. It was written when the good old man was nearly fourscore, and so weakened by a palsy as to be incapable of directing a pen, unless with his left hand. I preserve it as a curious memorial of what will make Wesley applauded when his wit is forgotten.

“ Mrs. Wesley lived long enough to deplore the extravagances of her two sons, John and Charles, She considered them as under strong delusions to believe a lie; and states her objections to their enthusiastic principles (particularly in the matter of Assurance) with great strength of argument, in a correspondence with their brother Samuel *. He too exerted his best powers to reclaim them from their wanderings : but in vain! The extravagant and erring spirit' could not be reduced to its own confine.' It had burst its bonds asunder, and ran violently down the steep!

“ Samuel Wesley married a woman of the name of Berry. Her father was a clergyman of the

* Samuel Wesley used to call them The Brethren of the New Assurance."


Established Church, and rector of Watton in Norfolk. Her grandfather was a Nonconformist minister; and after his ejectment from East Down in the North of Devonshire, resided at Barnstaple, where some of his descendants continue to live in reputation.-Samuel Wesley left an only daughter, who married a Mr. Earle, an apothecary at the lastmentioned place. They had an only daughter, who married a gentleman of the name of Mansel, She died in travail for her first child.

John WESLEY, the Methodist, was born about the beginning of the 18th century. Dr. Priestley had in his possession a letter from Mrs. Wesley to her son Samuel Wesley, who was at that time a scholar on the foundation at Westminster. She begins the letter with lamenting the great loss the family had sustained by a fire that had happened a few days before at the parsonage at Epworth,

by which they were all driven to great necessity. The house was burnt to the ground, and few things of value could be saved, the flames spread so rapidly. She thanks God that no lives were lost, though for some time they gave up poor Jacky (as she expresses herself); for his father had twice attempted to rescue the child, but was beaten back by the flames. Finding all his efforts abortive, he' resigned him to Divine Providence.' But parental tenderness prevailed over human fears, and Mr. Wesley once more attempted to save his child. By some means, equally unexpected and unaccountable, the boy got round to a window in the front of the house, and was taken out-I think by one man's leaping on the shoulders of another, and thus getting within his reach. Immediately on his rescue from this most perilous situation the roof fell in. This extraordinary incident explains a certain device in some of the earlier prints of John Wesley *, viz. a house in flames, with

* Engraved by Vertue, from a picture of Williams's, in the year 1745.

this motto from the prophet, “Is he not a brand plucked out of the burning? Many have supposed this device to be merely emblematical of his spiritual deliverance. But from this circumstance you must be convinced that it hath a primary as well as a secondary meaning. It is real as well as allusive.—This fire happened when John was about six years old; and, if I recollect right, in the year 1707.

“ I need not expatiate on the abilities of this singular man. They are certainly wonderful! In the early part of life he discovered an elegant turn for poetry; and some of his gayer pieces in this line are proofs of a lively fancy, and a fine classical taste: I have seen some translations from the Latin poets, done by him at college, which have great merit. I once had an opportunity, by the favour of his niece, of inspecting some curious original papers, which throw great light on his genius and character. He had early a very strong impression (like Count Zinzendorf) of his designation to some extraordinary work. This impression received additional force from some domestic incidents; all which his active fancy turned to his own account. His wonderful preservation, already noticed, naturally tended to cherish the idea of his being designed by Providence to accomplish some purpose or other that was out of the ordinary course of human events. There were some strange phænomena perceived at the parsonage at Epworth, and some uncommon noises heard there from time to time, which he was very curious in examining into, and very particular in relating. I have little doubt but that he considered himself as the chief object of this wonderful visitation. Indeed, Samuel Wesley's credulity was in some degree affected by it, since he collected all the evidences that tended to confirm the story, arranged them with scrupulous exactness, in a MS. consisting of several sheets, and which is still in being. I know not what became of the Ghost of Epworth; unless, considered as the prelude to the noise Mr. Johil


« PreviousContinue »