1785 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Samuel Wesley the Younger

Samuel Badcock, in "Reply to Mr. Wesley" Gentleman's Magazine 55 (May 1785) 364-65.



I would first, in general, observe, that when I called Mr. Sam. Wesley "a noted Jacobite," I only echoed back the voice of popular fame. His brother cannot be ignorant that he always bore this character; and his greatest friends, and most intimate associates in this part of the kingdom, made no scruple of applying to him a title, to which, I really believe, he had no dislike.

His daughter often assured me, that he was strongly attached to the exiled family; and she once shewed me a small print of the Pretender, which, she said, had been presented to her father, and which he esteemed as a sort of precious memorial. A late excellent and ever-honoured friend of mine, who was the pupil of Mr. Sam. Wesley, and who in his earlier days had imbibed a tincture from politics of the same colour and quality (though his maturer wisdom dictated far different judgments), frequently called his old master a Jacobite; and appeared to entertain no conception, that any one would question his right to an appellation, to which that good man affixed no moral turpitude or infamy, though a genuine "whig of the Revolution."

Other pupils of Mr. Wesley have confirmed to me this account of his political principles; but my conviction hath not arisen from general or vague report, even though backed by the authority I have mentioned; but from evidence more particular and more decisive.

Mr. Wesley says, in his Remarks on my paper, that "he [viz. S. W.] never published any thing political, whether satirical or not." — "He never wrote any thing of a treasonable tendency; he sacredly avoided it." — "He never wrote, much less published, one line against the king."

Had Mr. Wesley read the poems which Mrs. Earle, his brother's only child, put into my hands, he never could have expressed himself in such unqualified language. Amid a number which I once possessed, I can at present only lay my hands on one, entitled the "Regency." It was written by Mr. S. Wesley, purposely with a view to raise a laugh at the expence of the king (G. I.) in the choice which he made of the persons who were intrusted with the prerogative while he visited Hanover.

I will transcribe a few verses of this witty and sarcastic poem; and let our readers judge how far the author "sacredly avoided what had a "treasonable tendency."

As soon as the wind it came fairly about,
That kept the king in, and his enemies out;
He determin'd no longer his confinement to bear,
And thus to the dutchess his mind did declare.

Quoth he, "My dear Kenny, I've been tir'd a long while,
With living obscure in this poor little isle;
And now Spain and Pretender have no more mines to spring,
I'm resolv'd to go home and live like a king."

Quoth Kenny, "Great sir! I approve your design," &c.

And so Kenny ludicrously runs over the list of the regents; estimates their several qualifications; and, by exposing them obliquely, laughs at the king himself.

Of the duke of Argyle she is made to say:

"And had not the stars been equally strong,
To keep him in the right, and you in the wrong,
It might have induc'd him such schemes to pursue,
As had made him belov'd — full as little as you."

After lashing the lords of the regency all round, the dutchess says, in the conclusion,

"On the whole, I'll be hang'd, if all over the realm,
There are thirteen such fools to be put at the helm:
So for this time be easy, nor have jealous thought,
They ha'n't sense to sell you, nor are worth being bought."

"'Tis for that (quoth the king in very bad French)
I chuse them for my regents, and you for my wench:
And neither, I'm sure, will my trust e'er betray;
For the devil won't take you, if I turn away."

Let these lines be glossed over by any art or refinement whatever, yet they can never be accommodated to that reverence which Mr. Wesley would acknowledge to be to "the Lord's anointed," let him be whom he may.

I cannot produce the poem Mr. S. W. addressed to Sir Robert Walpole in behalf of his father. I have only a general recollection of it; but a recollection sufficient to make me assert with confidence, that such a poem did really exist: and I particularly remember, that he intreated the great statesman not to permit any prejudices, that he might have imbibed against himself, to stand in the way of his beneficence to his father.

But I will not any farther urge a circumstance, of which I am utterly incapable of producing the proof that may be required to establish it.