Leonard Welsted, M.A. the father of our Poet, was elected from Westminster school to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1677. He enjoyed the rectory of Abingdon in Northamptonshire from 1685 to 1692, when he resigned that preferment on being presented to the vicarage of St. Nicholas, at Newcastle upon Tyne; where he was buried Nov. 15, 1694. He married Dec. 12, 1686, Anne the second daughter of Thomas Staveley, Esq; a celebrated lawyer and antiquary, and steward of the court of records at Leicester; and by her left two sons and a daughter. By his last will, dated Nov. 7, 1694, and proved Oct. 1, 1695, he says, "As to my worldly estate, I give, devise, and bequeath the same unto my three children, Leonard, Thomas, and Anne Welsted, equally to be divided amongst them, share and share alike; and I do hereby commit the tuition, guardianship, and care of my said children, until they shall attain the respective ages of one and twenty years, unto my loving brothers and sister, Joshua Walker, rector of Great Billing in the county of Northampton; George Staveley, clerk; and Mary Brudenell, in the New-work in Leicester, widow; whom I make executors of this my will, in trust for my said children; requiring my said executors that upon all occasions, and as need shall require, in any thing relating to my said children and estate hereby bequeathed them, that they do consult with, and pursue the advice of, my worthy friend Nathan Wrighte, of Leicester, serjeant at law, who I doubt not but will be aiding and assisting to my said executors and to my children."
LEONARD WELSTED, the eldest son, admitted a King's scholar at Westminster in 1703, was thence elected to Trinity College, Cambridge, June 12, 1707. There is reason to think he did not remain long at the university; as he was very young when he married a daughter of the famous Harry Purcell. Early in life he obtained a place in the office of one of the secretaries of state, by the interest of the earl of Clare, to whom, in 1715, he addressed a small poem (which Jacob calls "a very good one"), on his being created duke of Newcastle. Mr. Welsted was afterwards appointed one of the clerks extraordinary to Leonard Smelt, Esq; clerk of the deliveries in the office of Ordnance, and consequently had a house in the Tower of London, which he celebrates in a poem, inscribed to the duke of Dorset, intituled [Greek characters, "Oikographia"], dated Nov. 30, 1725, lamenting the emptiness of his cellar. The Duke took the hint, and sent him a handsome present of Hermitage-wine; and this is called, in the notes of the Dunciad, "a poem either in praise of a cellar or a garret." Pope has in other places strongly wrested some things, even against his own knowledge, for the sake of insulting Welsted. The poem itself, however, is highly characteristic of our author, and descriptive of his friends. In 1730 he was advanced in the Ordnance-office (probably through the interest of Bishop Hoadly) to the office of clerk in ordinary; and May 18, 1731, was appointed one of the commissioners for managing the state-lottery. Both these employments he enjoyed till his death, which happened in the Tower, in 1746-7. By his first wife, Mr. Welsted had one daughter, who died about August 1726, at the age of eighteen, unmarried; and whose loss he lamented in "A Hymn to the Creator; written by a Gentleman on occasion of the Death of his only daughter." Mr. Cook, the translator of Hesiod, addressed to him, on this melancholy event, the following epistle, accompanied with a poem inserted in the present volume, p. 207.
"Sept. 27, 1726.
I perceive you are still obstinate in your grief for the death of your daughter: a crime, I can never pardon in you; and a misfortune, I can never enough regret, to myself. While you are lavish in your lamentations for the dead; for the dead, who is insensible of all your woes, who is beyond the read of the calamities we are subject to; you make the living mourn. What comfort can I propose to you, otherwise than to advise you to make use of, what you are always master of, Reason; the sovereign remedy, to which we must all apply, in the hour of distress? But, methinks, you answer, there was not an hour of the day that was not full of some pleasing action of my child; an action peculiar to each hour; so that every hour paints her in your mind. I grant you all: the most tender images which can be formed! But those are excuses only fit for weak and vulgar minds; for men who have nothing superior to their passions. Livia was inconsolable for the death of Drusus; but Livia was a woman, without the aid of philosophy. How did Cato bear the loss of his son, and Brutus the loss of his wife? They were men of exalted souls, like you; like them should you bear the common incidents of life. Cato shed a tear, and then again was Cato; in that is Cato superior to you: Brutus shed none; in that Brutus is superior to Cato. Let me prevail on you to read that scene of Shakespeare, in Julius Caesar, where Brutus receives the news of his wife's death; I am sure you will approve of both the Hero and the Poet. What lectures could I give you from your darling Classics! How redundant is your favourite Horace with those wise, and wholesome lessons; at the same time shewing the necessity of death, and the folly of excessive grief! Mistake me not in what I have hitherto said, nor think I have been speaking against the workings of nature. I am sensible they will have their vent; and I can weep an hour, or a day; but more would be offensive to myself: and doubtless the Stoicks I before mentioned had these workings, at the same time they had a greater strength of spirits than ordinary to suppress them. I have nothing more to add, than to beg you would esteem the inclosed copy of verses as a token of my sincere respect; and to believe me, dear Sir, your most faithful friend, and humble servant.
Mr. Welsted's second wife, Anna-Maria, a remarkable beauty, and the ZELINDA of his poems, was sister to Sir Hoveden Walker, and to Dr. George Walker the defender of Londonderry. She survived him but a few months. Thomas Welsted, the poet's only brother, who married Alice Throne, widow, was buried in the church of St. Mary, at Leicester, May 2, 1713. Their sister Anne, to whom administration of the Poet's effects was granted Nov. 1747, died Oct. 9, 1757; and was buried at Halloughton in Leicestershire, where the following epigraph preserves her memory:
ANNE, daughter of
the Rev. LEONDARD WELSTED,
late vicar of Newcastle upon
Tyne, having lived in this parish
the last 20 years of her life,
in exemplary piety and charity,
and a most intimate friendship
with ELIZABETH widow
of the Rev.
desired to rest here — with
her — in the hope of
a joyful resurrection through
Jesus Christ; and
in that hope departed,
Oct. 9, 1757, aged 63.
Whilst yet a boy at Westminste, Mr. Welsted wrote the celebrated little poem, called Apple Pye, which was universally attributed to Dr. King of the Commons, and as such has been by mistake incorporated in the last edition of that facetious Author's Works.
In 1709 he published A Poem occasioned by the late famous Victory of Audenarde; humbly inscribed to the Hon. Robert Harley, folio; and addressed some lines to the Earl of Mulgrave, in his Essay on Poetry, which Jacob mentions, but I have not been able to meet with. In 1710 he published A Poem to the Memory of the incomparable Mr. Philips, humbly inscribed to the Right Hon. Henry St. John; folio.
In 1712 he was editor of The Works of Dionysius Longinus on the Sublime; or a Treatise concerning the Sovereign Perfection of Writing; translated from the Greek; with some Remarks on the English Poets; 8vo; inscribed, in a handsome dedication, to that noble patron of literature, Sir Jonathan Trelawny, Lord Bishop of Winchester.
In the beginning of the year 1714 he attempted an imitation of Horace, Book I. Ode XV. addressed to Mr. Steele, under the title of A Prophecy. A fragment of this little piece is preserved, in p. 306, from Boyer's Political State. The Ode itself, after diligent enquiry, I cannot find. It was afterward again imitated by Tickell, in The Prophecy of Nereus.
In 1714 also Welsted published An Epistle to Mr. Steele, on the Accession of King George.
He addressed a poem, in 1716, to the Countess of Warwick, on her Marriage with Mr. Addison.
In 1717 he wrote The Genius, on Occasion of the Duke of Marlborough's Apoplexy; an Ode much commended by Steele, and so generally admired as to be attributed to Addison.
In the same year Mr. Welsted published The Triumvirate, or a Letter in verse from Palemon to Celia from Bath, which was a direct satire on Three Hours after Marriage, the unsuccessful dramatic attempt of Gay, Arbuthnot, and Pope. This was an inexpiable offence with the Bard of Twit'nam; who took his revenge by giving Welsted a conspicuous niche in The Dunciad. Speaking of the dull lordly Patron, on whom "With ready quills the dedicators wait," he says,
Welsted his mouth with classic flattery opes,
And the puff'd Orator bursts out in tropes.
But Oldmixon the Poet's healing balm
Strives to extract from his soft, yielding palm;
Unlucky Oldmixion! thy lordly master
The more thou ticklest, gripes the fist the faster.
Book II, ver. 197. ed. 1729.
And after plunging Concannen to the bottom of that sable stream, where "Th' unconscious flood sleeps o'er him like a lake," he adds,
Not Welsted so: drawn endlong by his scull,
Furious he sinks, precipitately dull.
Whirlpools and storms his circling arm invest,
With all the might of gravitation blest.
No crab more active in the dirty dance,
Downward to climb, and backward to advance.
He brings up half the bottom on his head,
And boldly claims the journals and the Lead.
Book II. ver. 293. ed. 1729.
Again, Book III, 173, ed. 1729 (ver. 170 ed. Johnson, 1779) he thus parodies a passage in Denham's Cooper's Hill:
Flow, Welsted, flow! like thine inspirer, beer;
Though stale, not ripe; though thin, yet never clear;
So sweetly mawkish, and so smoothly dull;
Heady, not strong; o'erflowing, though not full.
In the Notes on the above curious extracts, it is said, "He writ other things which we cannot remember. Smedley, in his Metamorphosis of Scriblerus, mentions one, the Hymn of a Gentleman to his Creator: and there was another in praise either of a Cellar or of a Garret. L. W. characterised in the [Greek characters, "Peri Bathos"], or the Art of Sinking, as a Didapper, and after as an Eel, is said to be this person, by Dennis, Daily Journal of May 11, 1728. He was characterized under the title of another animal, a Mole, by the author of the ensuing 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 grow;
What mighty stir is keeps below!
To make a Mole-hill all his strife!
It digs, pokes, undermines for life.
How proud a little dirt to spread,
Conscious of nothing o'er its head
Till, labouring on for want of eyes,
It blunders into light, and dies.
"But (to be impartial) add the following character of him. 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 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 rivaled his masters. His love-verses have rescued that way of writing from contempt. In translations he has given us the very soul and spirit of his author. His ode, his epistle, his verses, his love-tales, all are the most perfect things in all poetry. WELSTED of himself, Characters of the Times, 1728, 8vo, p. 23, 24. It should not be forgot for his honour, that he received at one time the sum of five hundred pounds for secret service, among the other excellent authors hired to write anonymously for the ministry. See Report of the Secret Committee, &c. in 1742."
If this pleasant 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. Our author, however, does not appear to have been a mean poet: he had certainly from nature a good genius; but, after he came to town, because 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, neglect the assistance of art.
It may not be impertinent to observe, that a gentleman now living recollects hearing of Welsted's fame as a chess-player at the Temple coffee-house.
From 1718 to 1721 he was coadjutor of Ambrose Philips, Dr. Boulter, lord chancellor West of Ireland, the Rev. Gilbert Burnet, and the Rev. Henry Stevens, in a periodical paper called The Free-thinker. Five poems of his, which originally appeared in that work, among which his "Love Tale" of Acon and Lavinia stands foremost in rank in merit, are particularly pointed out by A. Philips; who tells us, his friend was then engaged in a translation of Tibullus, of which a specimen was printed in the Free-thinker.
Another Elegy from Tibullus, Book III. iii. is given in p. 55; and two more poems by our Author originally appeared in the Free-thinker; a Translation of Horace Book I. Ode XIX. June 29, 1719; and a Song, Dec. 25, 1719. Another Ode of Horace (Book IV. Ode II.) June 12, 1721, I have ventured, p. 81, to ascribe to him on conjecture.
Mr. Welsted published a poetical Epistle to the Duke of Chandos, 1719.
Sir Richard Steele was indebted to him for both the Prologue and Epilogue to The Conscious Lovers, 1721; and Mr. A. Philips, the same year, for a complimentary poem on his tragedy of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester.
In 1722 he wrote An Epistle to the late Dr. Garth, on the Death of the Duke of Marlborough; and an Ode to the Earl Cadogan, which was highly extolled by Dean Smedley, in an Ode which he himself addressed to the same noble Peer—
So great a theme, so new a song,
To Welsted only does belong;
Like Ovid soft is he, like Flaccus strong.
In 1744 he published an octavo volume, dedicated to his good friend and patron the Duke of Newcastle, under the title of Epistles, Odes, &c. written on several Subjects; with a Translation of Longinus's Treatise on the Sublime. To which is prefixed a Dissertation concerning the Perfection of the English Language, the State of Poetry, &c. The poems were re-printed, without Longinus, in 12mo, 1725; and produced, in the December of that year, The Present State of Poetry, a Satire, addressed to a Friend, and dedicated to Mr. Welsted; a pamphlet of which I have not seen more than the title.
Mr. Welsted afterward published, Feb. 17, 1725-26, An Ode to the Right Hon. Lieutenant General Wade, on his disarming the Highlands; imitated from Horace; to which is added, the Fourth Ode, translated from the Fourth Book of the same Author; which is among the desiderata of the present edition.
He wrote the Epilogue to Southerne's Money's the Mistress, 1726; and in December that year The Dissembled Wanton; or, My Son get Money, a Comedy, inscribed to the Hon. George Dodington.
In 1727 he published A Discourse to the Right Honourable Sir Robert Walpole. To which are annexed, Proposals for translating the whole Works of Horace, with a Specimen of the Performance, 4to. The plan projected was, to print a translation of the whole Works of Horace in verse, with notes, and a new edition of the Latin, in five volumes 4to. at the price of five guineas, two to be paid at subscribing, a third on the delivery of two volumes, and the remainder on finishing the work. I need not add, that the project proved abortive. The Odes given as specimens were, Book I. Ode I. addressed to Mr. Dodington; Ode III. to the Yacht that is to bring over the Marquis of Blandford; Ode V. and Ode XXII. addressed to the Earl of Pembroke. These several translations are, in Mr. Welsted's pamphlet, respectively contrasted by those of Creech, Dryden, Milton, and Roscommon.
Two of Mr. Welsted's productions are set to music in The Musical Miscellany, 1729, 6 vols. 8vo; one in vol. I. p. 18. "While in the bower, with beauty blest," &c. And another in vol. IV. p. 17, "The Genius," &c. (see p. 33.)
In 1730 he wrote the Epilogue to Mottley's Widow bewitched; and in that year joined his friend Moore Smythe in One Epistle to Mr. Pope, occasioned by Two Epistles lately published. This was prefaced by a spirited introduction, in which some account is given of "the original design of the Dunciad, and the real reason for its productions." This Epistle exasperated Pope to the highest degree; and it was followed in 1732 by another, not less severe, intituled Of Dulness and Scandal, occasioned by the Character of Lord Timon in Mr. Pope's Epistle to the Earl of Burlington.
In the same year, 1732, appeared his poem, Of False Fame, an Epistle to the Earl of Pembroke.
In 1736 he gave the world a treatise, which shewed him to be at least a serious enquirer after truth. It was addressed to his noble friend the Duke of Chandos, and intituled, The Scheme and Conduct of Providence, from the Creation to the Coming of the Messiah; or, an Enquiry into the Reasons of the Divine Dispensations in that Period, 8vo. In this work, among other things, are particularly considered, the State of Man after the Fall, and till the Deluge. The Necessity of the immediate Dispersion of Mankind, and Confusion of Languages. The Reasons for raising and separating a particular People from the rest of the World, with the stupendous Steps and Procedures preparatory to it. The Nature and End of the Miracles, wrought in Aegypt; as well those of the Aegyptian Enchanters, as those of Moses. The general Grounds and Reasons of the Jewish Rites and Institutions. The true Purport and Intendment of the Denuntiation in the second Commandment, or of God's visiting the Sins of the Fathers on the Children. The Force and Foundation of Porphory's Objection, with respect to the Time of Messiah's Appearance.
In 1737, he again invoked the Muses, in A Poem to the Princess of Wales, on the Birth of a Princess; and in 1741 published his last known production, The Summum Bonum, or Wisest Philosophy, an Epistle to a Friend.
Mr. Welsted was in habits of intimacy with Anthony Hammond, Theobald, Moore, and Cooke. The latter of these, in an Epistle to Mr. Moore, observes that
—he has hours of bliss,
In which he more than seems to live,
Where Welsted, envy'd Bard divine,
And Hammond gladdening as the day,
(Long may they live, thy friends and mine!)
Conspire to chase the clouds away.
And in his Battle of the Poets, he makes him one of the principal heroes, and even an overmatch for Pope:
Foremost of this harmonious band is seen
A Chief at once adventurous and serene;
Firm as his shield the Roman Swan appears,
Horace bright shining through a length of years,
And there Lavinia by her dream betray'd,
And Acon smiling on the blushing maid:
Longinus there extends the laurel bough,
And with the ivy crowns the Critic's brow,
Thus arm'd the Bard advanc'd in heart sincere,
Welsted to Phoebus and the Muses dear.
After conducting his Favourite safely through the "barbarous numbers," and the "treacherous throng," who "conspired his fall," he prophetically bids him,
With patience wait the day when thou shalt shine,
In thy meridian glory, all divine!