1705 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Samuel Wesley

John Dunton, in Life and Errors (1705; 1818) 1:163-65.



I shall add my old Friend Mr. Samuel Wesley to the list of these Conformists. He was educated upon charity in a private Academy, if we may take his own word for it in his late Pamphlet, which was designedly written to expose and overthrow those Academies. One would have thought that either gratitude, or his own reputation in the world, and among his Relations and his best Friends, might have kept him silent, though, when a man is resolved to do himself a mischief, who can help it? But it is certainly so — "Apostata est osor sui ordinis."

Mr. Wesley had an early inclination to Poetry, but he usually wrote too fast to write well. Two hundred couplets a day are too many by two-thirds to be well-furnished with all the beauties and the graces of that art. He wrote very much for me both in Verse and Prose, though I shall not name over the titles, in regard I am altogether as unwilling to see my name at the bottom of them, as Mr. Wesley would be to subscribe his own. Mr. Wesley had read much, and is well skilled in the Languages; he is generous and good-humoured, and caresses his Friend with a great deal of passion so long as his circumstances are any thing in order, and then he drops him; and I challenge the Rector of Epworth (for he is not yet "My Lord," nor "His Grace") to prove I injure him in this Character; for that he was once glad of my Friendship, none can question that reads the following Letter (of which I have the Original still by me):

"DEAR BROTHER

Epworth, July 24, 1697.

It has been neither unkindness to you, with whom I have traded and been justly used for many years, much less unthankfulness to Mr. Rogers, for I shall own my obligations to that good man while I live, which has made me so long neglect answering your several Letters; but the hurry of a remove, and my extraordinary business, being obliged to preach the Visitation Sermon at Gainsborough, at the Bishop's coming thither, which is but just over. Besides, I would fain have sent you an Elegy as well as an Epitaph, but cannot get one to my mind, and therefore you must be content with half your desire; and if you please to accept this Epitaph, it is at your service, and I hope it will come before you need another Epithalamium. I am

Your obliged Friend and Brother, S. Wesley."

I could be very "maggoty" in the Character of this Conforming Dissenter (for so this Letter shews him to be); but, except he further provokes me, I bid him Farewell till we meet in Heaven; and there I hope we shall renew our friendship, for, human frailties excepted, I believe Sam Wesley a pious man. I shall only add, the giving this true Character of Parson Wesley is all the satisfaction I ever desire for his dropping an old Friend. I shall leave him to struggle through life, and to make the best of it; but, alas!

He loves too much the Heliconian strand,
Whose stream's unfurnish'd with the golden sand.

I do not speak this out of prejudice to Mr. Wesley; for to forgive a slight is easy to me, it is scarce a virtue. But this rhyming circumstance of Mr. Wesley is what I learn from the Poem called The Reformation of Manners, where are these words:

Wesley, with Pen and Poverty beset,
And Blackmore, vers'd in Physick as in Wit;
Though this of Jesus, that of Job may sing,
One bawdy Play will twice the profits bring:
And had not both caress'd the flatter'd Crown,
This had no Kingdom seen, nor that no Gown.