This gentleman was descended from a very good family in Leicestershire, and received the rudiments of his education in Westminster school. We are informed by major Cleland, author of a Panegyric on Mr. Pope, prefixed to the Dunciad, that he was a member of both the universities. In a piece said to have been written by Mr. Welsted, called The Characters of the Times, printed in 8vo. 1728, he gives this account of himself;
"Mr. Welsted had in his youth raised so great expectations of his future genius, that there was a kind of struggle between the two universities, which should have the honour of his education; to compound this, he civilly became a member of both, and after having passed some time at the one, he removed to the other. From thence he returned to town, where he became the darling expectation of all the polite writers, whose encouragement he acknowledged in his occasional poems, in a manner that will make no small part of the fame of his protectors. It also appears from his works, that he was happy in the patronage of the most illustrious characters of the present age. Encouraged by such a combination in his favour, he published a book of poems, some in the Ovidian, some in the Horatian manner, in both which the most exquisite judges pronounced he even rivalled his masters. His love verses have rescued that way of writing from contempt. In his translations he has given us the very soul and spirit of his author. His Odes; his Epistles; his Verses; his Love Tales; all are the most perfect things in all poetry."
If this representation of our author's abilities were just, it would seem no wonder, if the two universities should strive with each other for the honour of his education, but it is certain the world have not coincided with this opinion of Mr. Welsted; who, by the way, can hardly be thought the author of such an extravagant self approbation, unless it be an irony, which does not seem improbable.
Our author, however, does not appear to have been a mean poet; he had certainly from nature an exceeding fine genius, but after he came to town he became a votary to pleasure, and the applauses of his friends, which taught him to overvalue his talents, perhaps slackened his diligence, and by making him trust solely to nature, slight the assistance of art.
In the year 1718 he wrote the Triumvirate, or a Letter in Verse from Palemon to Celia from Bath, which was meant as a satire against Mr. Pope. He wrote several other occasional pieces against this gentleman, who, in recompence of his enmity, has mentioned him in his Dunciad. In book ii. l. 200. where he represents the poets flattering their patrons with the fulsome strains of panegyric, in order to procure; from them that which they very much wanted, viz. money, he shews Welsted as unsuccessful.
But Welsted most the poet's healing balm,
Strives to extract from his soft giving palm;
Unlucky Welsted! thy unfeeling master,
The more thou ticklest, gripes his fist the faster.
Mr. Welsted was likewise characterised in the Treatise of the Art of Sinking, as a Didapper, and after as an Eel. He was likewise described under the character of another animal, a Mole, by the author of the following simile, which was handed about at the same time.
Dear Welsted, mark in dirty hole
That painful animal a Mole:
Above ground never born to go,
What mighty stir it keeps below?
To make a molehill all this strife!
It digs, pokes, undermines for life.
How proud a little dirt to spread!
Conscious of nothing o'er its head.
'Till lab'ring on, for want of eyes,
It blunders into light — and dies.
But mentioning him once was not enough for Mr. Pope. He is again celebrated in the third book, in that famous Parody upon Denham's Cooper's Hill,
O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
My great example, as it is my theme;
Tho' deep, yet clear; tho' gentle, yet not dull;
Strong without rage; without o'er flowing, full.
Which Mr. Pope has thus parodied;
Flow Welsted, flow; like thine inspirer, beer,
Tho' stale, not ripe; tho' thin, yet never clear;
So sweetly mawkish, and so smoothly dull;
Heady, not strong; and foaming, tho' not full.
How far Mr. Pope's insinuation is true, that Mr. Welsted owed his inspiration to beer, they who read his works may determine for themselves. Poets who write satire often strain hard for ridiculous circumstances, in order to expose their antagonists, and it will be no violence to truth to say, that in search of ridicule, candour is frequently lost.
In the year 1726 Mr. Welsted brought upon the Stage a comedy called The Dissembled Wanton, or My Son get Money. He met with the patronage of the duke of Newcastle, who was a great encourager of polite learning; and we find that our author had a very competent place in the Ordnance-Office.
His poetical works are chiefly these,
The Duke of Marlborough's Arrival, a Poem printed in fol. 1709, inscribed to the Right Hon. the Earl of Dorset and Middlesex.
A Poem to the Memory of Mr. Philips, inscribed to Lord Bolingbroke, printed in fol. 1710.
A Discourse to the Right Hon. Sir Robert Walpole; to which is annexed Proposals for Translating the whole Works of Horace, with a Specimen of the Performance, viz. Lib. Ist. Ode 1, 3, 5 and 22, printed in 4to. 1727.
An Ode to the Hon. Major General Wade, on Occasion of his disarming the Highlands, imitated from Horace.
To the Earl of Clare, on his being created Duke of Newcastle. An Ode on the Birth-Day of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. To the Princess, a Poem. Amintor and the Nightingale, a Song. These four were printed together in 1716.
Of False Fame, an Epistle to the Right Hon. the Earl of Pembroke, 8vo. 1732.
A Letter to his Grace the Duke of Chandos.
To the Duke of Buckingham, on his Essay on Poetry.
Several small pieces in the Free Thinker.
Epistles, Odes, &c. written on several Subjects; with a Dissertation concerning the Perfection of the English Language.
Mr. Welsted has translated Longinus's Treatise on the Sublime.