1774 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Samuel Wesley the Younger

Anonymous, in "Some Account of the Family of the Wesleys" Westminster Magazine 2 (May 1774) 226.



Samuel Wesley, of Tiverton School, whose Poems have met with a pretty favourable acceptance; particularly his Tales, in which he hath united in a very happy manner, ease and wit, and approached very near his model, Prior. He was formerly Usher of Westminster School; and his merit entitled him to a higher seat in Priscian's Temple; but Fortune frowned — for, alas! the Premier, the Colossus of the the State, smiled not on him. In short, Sir Robert was his inflexible enemy: "And who could stand when once he was angry?" Wesley had joined the Tory party; paid his court to Lord Oxford, and adored the bishop of Rochester. This was rebellion with a witness; — such an alienation of devotion from the reigning idol of the day which the King had set up, as could not pass unpunished. And what could a Poet do against a Statesman? — a bantling of the Muses against the vulture of the Cabinet? Wesley vented his chagrin in a thousand jests, that died the moment they were born, and writ ballads in old stile and new, and in every possible form of poetry, and printed them to be laughed at by some, to be despised by others, to be forgotten by all. Indeed, he was an object of importance sufficient to provoke Sir Robert to swear in his wrath, that he never should rise higher than an Ushership. — And he kept his word here; — for junior Ushers, whom Wesley despised, were to his ineffable mortification exalted above him, and he left to bite the top of his pen, scratch his head, and write satires and epigrams, and spout a thousand jetteaus of spleeny wit. He unfortunately had over-rated his consequence from his connections; and "aut Caesar aut nullus" was his motto. At length he had his wish in little. He was made master of Tiverton school, and lived long enough to see the first start of his brother John Wesley into the regions of spiritual chimaeras. It shocked him to see "the extravagant and erring Spirit hie from his own confine." He did all he could by intreaties, and arguments, and remonstrances, dashed now and then with ridicule, to bring the wandering shepherd back again to the fold of the Church; but all in vain. The "drum ecclesiastic," the "most spirit-stirring drum" in the world, had roused John's martial courage, and he spoke and dreamt of nothing but the din of war.