LEONARD WELSTED, a minor poet and miscellaneous writer, born at Abington in Northamptonshire in 1689, received the rudiments of his education in Westminsterschool, where he wrote the celebrated little poem called "Apple-Pie," which was universally attributed to Dr. King, and as such had been incorporated in his works. Very early in life Mr. Welsted obtained a place in the office of ordnance, by the interest of his friend 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; and to whom, in 1724, he dedicated an octavo volume, under the title of "Epistles, Odes, &c. written on several subjects; with a translation of Longinus's Treatise on the Sublime." 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; and afterwards "An Epistle to Dr. Garth, on the Duke's death." He addressed a poem to the countess of Warwick, on her marriage with Mr. Addison; a poetical epistle to the duke of Chandos; and an ode to earl Cadogan, which was highly extolled by Dean Smedley. Sir Richard Steele was indebted to him for both the prologue and epilogue to "The Conscious Lovers;" and Mr. Philips, for a complimentary poem on his tragedy of "Humfrey duke of Gloucester." In 1718, he wrote "The Triumvirate, or a letter in verse from Palemon to Celia, from Bath," which was considered as a satire against Mr. Pope. He wrote several other occasional pieces against this gentleman, who, in recompence for his enmity, thus mentioned him in his "Dunciad:"
Flow, Weisted, 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 1726 he published a comedy called "The Dissembled Wanton." In the notes on the "Dunciad," II. 207, it is invidiously said, "he wrote 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 a garret. L. W. characterised in the "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 also characterised under the title of another animal, a mole, by the author of a simile, which was handed about at the same time, and which is preserved in the notes on the Dunciad.
In another note, it is maliciously recorded 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. That sum did certainly pass through his hands; but it is now well known that it was for the use of sir Richard Steele. And in a piece, said, but falsely, to have been written by Mr. Welsted, called "The Characters of the Times," printed in 1728, 8vo, he is made to say of himself, that "he 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. 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 wake 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 translations he has given us the very soul and spirit of his authors. His odes, his epistles, his verses, his love-tales, all are the most perfect things in all poetry." 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, 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. Prefixed to the collection of his poems is "A Dissertation concerning the Perfection of the English language, the State of Poetry," &c.
Mr. Welsted married a daughter of Mr. Henry Purcell, who died in 1724; and by whom he had one daughter, who died at the age of eighteen, unmarried. His second wife, who survived him, was sister to sir Hoveden Walker, and to Mr. Walker, the defender of Londonderry. He had an official house in the Tower of London, where he died in 1747. His works were regularly collected in one octavo volume, and his fair fame as a man completely vindicated, by Mr. Nichols, in 1787.