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Memoirs of the Wesley family : collected principally from original documents online

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Butterie, and three large upper rooms ; besydes some others
of common use ; and also a little garden erapailed, betweene
the stone wall and the South, on the South.

Item. One Barn of 6 Baies, built all of timber and clay
walls, and covered with straw thache ; and out shotts about
it, and one free house therebye.

Item. One Dovecoate of Timber and Plaister, covered
with straw thache, &c.

As the rest of this terrier refers to the glebe lands be-
longing to the rectory, it is unnecessary to transcribe it.
Only one thing may be noticed, that about twenty-sevea
acres that originally belonged to this rectory are not now
to be found, as the boundaries in the description are no
longer capable of being ascertained.

Such was the parsonage house at Epworth, which by
this fire was nearly consumed ; and which, in a iew years
afterward, was totally burned down, and rebuilt at Mr.
Wesley's own expense ; which house remains to the pre-
sent day, in all respects greatly superior to the preceding.

The archbishop to whom this account was sent, came
forward both with his purse and his influence, as on for-
mer occasions ; and this produced the following letter,
drawn up in the true spirit of gratitude, and in language
at once deeply pious, and highly dignified : —

" Epworth, Mart. 20, 1703.
" My Lord, — I have heard that all great men have the
art of forgetfulness, but never found it in such perfection
as in your lordship : only it is in a different way from
others ; for most forget their promises, but your grace
those benefits you have conferred. I am pretty confident
your grace neither reflects on nor imagines how much you
have done for mc ; nor what sums I have received by
your lordship's bounty and favor; without which I had



174 THE WESLEY FAMILY.

been, ere this, moldy in a jail, and sunk a thousand
fathom below nothing.

" Will your grace permit me to show you an account of
some of them 1



From the marchioness of Normanby

The lady Northampton (I think)

Duke of Buckingham and duchess, two years since

The queen* .......

The bishop of Sarum

The archbishop of York, at least

Besides lent to (almost) a desperate debtor



£


s.


d.


20








20








26


17


6


43








40








10








25









184 17



" A frightful sum, if one saw it altogether ; but it is
beyond thanks, and I must never hope to perform that as
I ought till another world ; where, if I get first into the
harbor, I hope none shall go before me in welcoming
your lordship into everlasting habitations ; where you will
be no more tired with my follies, nor concerned at my
misfortunes. However, I may pray for your grace while
I have breath, and that for something nobler than this
world can give ; it is for the increase of God's favor, of
the light of his countenance, and of the foretastes of those
joys, the firm belief whereof can only support us in this
weary wilderness. And, if it be not too bold a request, I
beg your grace would not forget me, though it be but in
your prayer for all sorts and conditions of men ; among
whom, as none has been more obliged to your grace, so I
am sure none ought to have a deeper sense of it than

" Your grace's most dutiful and most humble servant,

" S. Wesley."

In May, 1705, there was a contested election for the
county of Lincoln. Sir John Thorold, and a person called
" the Champion," Dymoke, the late members, were opposed
by Colonel Whichcott and Mr. Alb. Bertie. Mr. Wesley,

* Samuel Wesley, jun., does not overlook the benefactions which the
queen bestowed on his father, for in his Poems he says of her, —

" In deserts wild the prophet's sons she fed.
And made the hungry ravens bring them bread."

12mo. edit., p, 142.



S. WESLEY, RECTOR OF EPWORTH. 175

supposing there was a design to raise up Presbyterianism
over the Church, and that Whichcott and Bertie were
favorable to it, (in consequence of which the Dissenters
were all in their interest,) espoused the other party ; which
happening to be unpopular and unsuccessful, he was ex-
posed to great insult and danger ; not only by the mobs,
but by some leading men of the successful faction. There
is before me a long account of these shameful transactions,
in two letters written to Archbishop Sharp, from which I
shall extract only a few particulars : — •

" I went to Lincoln on Tuesday night. May 29th ; and
the election began on Wednesday, 30th. A great part of
the night our Isle people kept drumming, shouting, and
firing of pistols and guns under the window where my
wife lay ; who had been brought to bed not three weeks.
I had put the child to nurse over against my own house :
the noise kept his nurse waking till one or two in the
morning. Then they left off; and the nurse being heavy
to sleep, overlaid the child. She waked ; and finding it
dead, ran over with it to my house, almost distracted ; and
calling my servants, threw it into their arms. They, as
wise as she, ran up with it to my wife ; and before she
was well awake, threw it cold and dead into hers. She
composed herself as well as she could, and that day got
it buried.

" A clergyman met me in the castle yard, and told me
to withdraw, for the Isle men intended me a mischief.
Another told me he had hoard near twenty of them say,
' If they got me in the castle yard, they would squeeze my
guts out.' My servant had the same advice. I went by
Gainsbro', and God preserved me.

" When they knew I was got home, they sent the drum
and mob, with guns, &c., as usual, to compliment me till
after midnight. One of them passing by on Friday even-
ing, and seeing my children in the yard, cried out, ' O ye
devils ! we will come and turn ye all out of doors a begging
shortly.' God convert them, and forgive them !

" All this, thank God, does not in the least sink my
wife's spirits. For my own, I feel them disturbed and
disordered ; but for all that, I am going on with my Reply
to Palmer ; which, whether I am in prison or out of it, I



176 THE WESLEY FAMILY.

hope to get finished by the next session of parHament, for
I have now no more regiments to lose.

"S. Wesley.

''Epworth, June 7th, 1705."

As I totally disapprove a minister of the gospel entering
into party politics, and especially into electioneering affairs,
I cannot but blame Mr. Wesley for the part he took in
these transactions ; for, even according to his own show-
ing, he acted imprudently, and laid himself open to those
who waited for his halting, and who seemed to think they
did God service by doing him a mischief; because they
knew him to be a high Churchman, and consequently an
enemy to their religious system. He was in their power;
imder pecuniary obligations to some principal men among
them ; and he was often led to understand, by no obscure
intimations, that he must either immediately discharge
those obligations, which he required time to enable him to
do, or else expect to be shortly lodged in Lincoln Castle.
These were not vain threats : they had already contrived
to strip him of his chaplaincy to Colonel Lepelle's regi-
ment ; and how much further they proceeded the following
letter to the archbishop of York will tell : —

" Lincoln Castle, June 25th, 1705.
" My Lord, — Now I am at rest, for I am come to the
haven where I've long expected to be. On Friday last,
[June 23,] when I had been in christening a child at
Epworth, I was arrested in my church-yard by one who
had been my servant, and gathered my tithe last year, at
the suit of one of Mr. Whichcott's relations and zealous
friends, [Mr. Pinder,] according to their promise, when
they were in the Isle before the election. The sum was
not thirty pounds ; but it was as good as five hundred.
Now they knew the burning of my flax, my London jour-
ney, and their throwing me out of my regiment, had both
sunk my credit and exhausted my money. My adversary
was sent to, when I was on the road, to meet me, that I
might make some proposals to him. But all his answer
(which I have by me) was, that ' I must immediately pay
the whole sum, or go to prison.' Thither I went, with no
great concern for myself ; and find much more civility and



S. WESLEY, RECTOR OF EPWORTH. 177

satisfaction here than in brevibus gyaris of my own Ep worth.
I thank God, my wife was pretty well recovered, and
churched some days before I was taken from her ; and
hope she'll be able to look to my family, if they don't turn
them out of doors, as they have often threatened to do.
One of my biggest concerns was my being forced to leave
my poor lambs in the midst of so many wolves. But the
great Shepherd is able to provide for them, and to preserve
them. My wife bears it with that courage which becomes
her, and which I expected from her.

" I don't despair of doing some good here, (and so long
I shan't quite lose the end of living,) and, it may be, do
more in thi:^ new parish than in my old one ; for I have
leave to read prayers every morning and afternoon here in
the prison, and to preach once a Sunday, which I choose
to do in the afternoon, when there is no sermon at the
minster. And I'm getting acquainted with my brother
jail-birds as fast as I can ; and shall write to London next
post, to the Society for propagating Christian Knowledge,
who, I hope, will send me some books to distribitte among
them.

" I should not write these things from a jail if I thought
your grace would believe me ever the less for my being
here ; where, if I should lay my bones, I'd bless God, and
pray for your grace.

" Your grace's very obliged and most humble servant,

" S. Wesley."

It was not likely that a tale so afflictive as the preced-
ing should leave the pious heart of the good Archbishop
Sharp unafi'ected. He wrote to Mr. Wesley, on the 30th,
a kind letter, stating his sympathy, and what he had heard
against him ; especially as to his great obligation to Col.
Whichcott, &c. This letter he immediately answers ;
gives a satisfactory expose of all his aflairs ; his debts,
and how they were contracted ; at the same time showing
that the reports which had reached the ears of his grace
were perfectly false, and adduces proof; and concludes
this part of his letter with pathetically entreating his grace
" not to be in haste to credit what they report of me, for
really lies arc the manufacture of the party; and they have
raised so many against me, and spread them so wide, that
8*



178 THE WESLEY FAMILY.

I am sometimes tempted to print my case in my own
vindication."

I shall give another extract from this letter, which satis-
factorily accounts for the way in which his heavy debts
were contracted, and how his consequent embarrassments
arose : —

''Lincoln Castle, July lOth, 1705.

" My Lord, Then I am not forgotten, neither by

God, nor your lordship. My debts are about .£300,

which I have contracted by a series of misfortunes not un-
known to your grace. The falling of my parsonage barn,
before I had recovered the taking my living ; the burning
great part of my dwelling house about two years since, and
all my flax last winter ; the fall of my income nearly one
half, by the low price of grain ; the almost entire failure
of my flax this year, which used to be the better half of
my revenue ; with ray numerous family, and the taking this
regiment from me, which I had obtained with so much
expense and trouble, have at last crushed me, though I
struggled as long as I was able. Yet I hope to rise again,
as I have always done when at the lowest ; and 1 think I
cannot be much lower now."

Party spirit, especially in political matters, is the great
disgrace and curse of England. This spirit knows no
friend ; feels no obligation ; is unacquainted with all dic-
tates of honesty, charity, and mercy ; and leaves no stone
unturned to ruin the object of its hate. We have elections
by law no more than once in seven years ; and the mis-
chief that is then done to the moral character of the nation
is scarcely repaired in the succeeding seven. All the
charities of life are outraged and trampled under foot by it ;
common honesty is not heard, and lies and defamation go
abroad by wholesale. The rascal many catch the evil
reports which the opposed candidates and their committees
spread of each other, and the characters of the best men
in the land are wounded and lie bleeding, till slow-paced
oblivion cancels the remembrance of the transactions which
gave them birth. Even now, when the nation is improved
in its morals to an astonishing degree, these evils live in
mighty vigor and gigantic form. What, then, must they



S. WESLEY, RECTOR OF EPWORTH. 179

have been more than a hundred years ago, when the nation
was torn by civil and religious factions, and when a man
knew not his own kindred but as they were arranged with
him under his own creed, and the banner of his party 1

Mr. Wesley and his family had already suffered much
through the rage, and I may add malice, of the political
party, the interests of which his conscience would not per-
mit him to espouse. And he had his reasons ; he knew
the party, their views, and their designs ; and he had count-
ed the cost, for ho well knew the penalty annexed to his
opposition. They were not content with loading him with
obloquies, and casting him into prison, but proceeded fur-
ther to destroy his family, by drying up the sources whence
they derived the necessaries of life ! The following letter
to the archbishop gives terrible proof of this implacable
malevolence : —

" Lincoln Castle, Sept. I2lh, 1705.
" My Lord, — 'Tis happy for me that your grace has
entertained no ill opinion of me, and wont alter what you
have entertained without reason. But it is still happier
that I serve a Master who cannot be deceived, and who, I
am sure, will never forsake me. A jail is a paradise in
comparison of the life I led before I came hither. No man
has worked truer for bread than I have done, and few have
lived harder, or their families either. I am grown weary
of vindicating myself; not, I thank God, that my spirits
sink, or that I have not right of my side, but because I
have almost a whole world against me, and therefore shall
in the main leave my cause to the righteous Judge."

He goes on to mention two points in which he was
cruelly misrepresented, as if certain evils done to him had
come by accident, or were done by himself. What parti-
cularly concerns the present Memoir is the following : —

" The other matter is concerning the stabbing my cows
in the night since I came hither, but a few weeks ago ;
and endeavoring therel)y to starve my forlorn family in my
absence, my cows being all dried by it, which was their
chief subsistence ; though I hope they had not the power
to kill any of them outright.



180 THE WESLEY FAMILY.

'• They found out a good expedient, after it was done, to
turn it off, and divert the cry of the world against them ;
and it was to spread a report that my own brawn did this
mischief, though at first they said my cows ran against a
sythe and wounded themselves.

" As for the brawn, I think any impartial jury would
bring him in not guilty, on hearing the evidence. There
were three cows all wounded at the same time, one of them
in three places : the biggest was a flesh wound, not slant-
ing, but directly in, toward the heart, which it only missed
by glancing outward on the rib. It was nine inches deep;
whereas the brawn's tusks were hardly two inches long.
All conclude that the work v/as done with a sword, by the
breadth and shape of the orifice. The same night the iron
latch of my door was twined off, and the wood hacked in
order to shoot back the lock, which nobody will think was
with an intention to rob my family. My house-dog, who
made a huge noise within doors, was sufficiently punished
for his want of politics and moderation ; for the next day
but one his leg was almost chopped off by an unknown
hand. 'Tis not every one could bear these things ; but, I
bless God, my wife is less concerned with suffering them
than I am in the writing, or than I believe your grace will
be in reading them. She is not what she is represented,
any more than me. I believe it was this foul beast of a
worse than Erymanthean boar, already mentioned, who
fired my flax by rubbing his tusks against the wall ; but
that was no great matter, since it is now reported' I had
but five pounds' loss.

" O my lord ! I once more repeat it, that I shall some
time have a more equal Judge than any in this world.

" Most of my friends advise me to leave Epworth, if e'er
I should get from hence. I confess I am not of that mind,
because I may yet do good there ; and 'tis like a coward
to desert my post because the enemy fire thick upon me.
They have only wounded me yet, and, I believe, can't kill
me. I hope to be at home by Xmas. God help my poor
family ! For myself, I have but one life ; but while that
lasts, shall be your grace's ever obliged and most humble
servant,

" S. Wesley."



S. WESLEY, RECTOR OF EPWORTH, 181

He speaks of his friends advising him to leave Epworth;
and this will explain, perhaps, the following question pro-
posed to the Athenian Society, most probably by Mr. Wes-
ley himself, with a view to meet the eyes of his friends.

Question. " A beneficed clergyman, being indebted to
seven creditors, who will not accept of such payments as
his circumstances enable him to make, is constrained to
absent from his living, to avoid a prison. Ought he to
resign the living, since he cannot personally attend it ; or
can the bishop lawfully deprive him of it, an able curate
being kept upon the place ?"

Ansiver. " He ought, first, to consider with himself
Avhethcr his own extravagance or folly has not reduced
him to such extremities, there being not many instances
where a man keeps a good reputation, that his creditors
will be so violent as these are here represented ; but how-
ever he finds it, he is not, we think, obliged immediately
to resign ; since, though he cannot at present attend it in
person, he may, perhaps, hereafter be in better circum-
stances. We humbly conceive his ordinary is not obliged
to deprive him ; nor can it fairly be done, if there be one
who takes good care of his people in his absence ; for
should things come to the worst, a sequestration of the
profits of the living might in time satisfy his creditors, and
he himself might serve the cure, if it were not more advisa-
ble to get a chaplain's post at sea, or in the army ; the
readiest way to recover his shattered fortune." — Athen.
Oracle, vol. iv, p. 318.

As it was evident his sufferings were occasioned by the
malice of those who hated both his ecclesiastical and state
politics, the clergy, and several who were well affected to
the government, lent him prompt and effectual assistance,
so that in a short time more than half of his debts were
paid, and all the rest in a train of being liquidated. These
things he mentions with the highest gratitude in the fol-
lowing letter to the archbishop of York : —

" Lincoln Castle, 7r. [Scpr.] 17, 1705.

*' My Lord, — I am so full of God's mercies that neither

my eyes nor heart can hold them. When I came hither,

my slock was but little above ten shillings, and my wife's

at home scarce so much. She soon sent me her rings.



182 THE WESLEY FAMILY.

because she had nothing else to relieve me with ; but I
returned them, and God soon provided for me. T.he most
of those who have been my benefactors keep themselves
concealed. But they are all known to Him who first put
it into their hearts to show me so much kindness ; and I
beg your grace to assist me to praise God for it, and to
pray for his blessing upon them.

" This day I have received a letter from Mr. Hoar,* that
he has paid ninety-five pounds, which he has received
from me. He adds that ' a very great man has just sent
him thirty pounds more ;' he mentions not his name, though
surely it must be my patron. I find I walk a deal lighter ;
and hope I shall sleep better now these sums are paid,
which will make almost half my debts. I am a bad beg-
gar, and worse at returning formal thanks ; but I can pray
heartily for my benefactors ; and I hope I shall do it while
I live, and so long beg to be esteemed your grace's most
obliged and thankful humble servant,

" Sam. Wesley."

I find no account of Mr. Wesley's liberation from Lin-
coln Castle, where he had now been for about three months :
but I suppose it took place shortly after this, and that he
was with his family at Christmas. He appears to have
got on in life much more pleasantly than before ; and the
evil which his enemies intended him was turned to his
advantage ; the wrath of man praised God, and the remain-
der of it he restrained. I meet with no more complaints
in his correspondence, which, with the archbishop of York,
appears to have been interrupted till the year 1707, when
it was resumed on merely clerical business.!

I have already had occasion several times to refer" to the
poem on the battle of Blenheim, which was written in
1705, and procured him a chaplainship in the army. This
poem I had not seen in print, when the first edition of this
work was presented to the public. Since then, it has been
sent to me by my respected friend the Rev. James Everett.

* Query. Is the gentleman who published the life of George Sharp, and
the anecdote of the archbishop and highwayman, a descendant of this Mr.
Hoar? — Edit.

t Seventy-five years afterward we find his son, John Wesley, preaching
in the castle yard and court house, previous to which he had not visited
the city for fifty years.



S. WESLEY, RECTOR OF EPWORTH. 183

It is a folio pamphlet of twelve pages, " dedicated to the
Right Honorable Master Godolphin, by Samuel Wesley,
M. A., London, printed for Charles Harper, 1705." It
contains five hundred and twenty-six lines. But a correct-
ed and enlarged copy, designed probably for a second edi-
tion, and written out in his best hand by Mr. Wesley him-
self, and sent to the archbishop of York, now lies before
me, and may be finally lost, if not inserted in the Memoirs.
It contains five hundred and ninety-four lines, is entitled,
" Marlborough, or the Fate of Europe," and will be found
in an Appendix at the close of this volume, No. I.

This long poem would admit of much ilkistration ; but
as the transactions it records arc all in common history, the
reader can find little difiiculty in furnishing himself with
the necessary elucidations. Instead, therefore, of a tissue
of notes, I shall give a general account of the battle, which
Mr. Wesley has so largely sung : —

The battle is frequently called in our histories the battle
of Hockstet ; and also the battle of Blenheim or Pleytheim.
IIocKSTET is a fortified town of Germany, on the north
side of the Danube, about twenty-nine miles south-west of
Ulm, and ten west by south of Donawert.

Blenheim is only a village in the late circle of Bavaria,
on the north of the Danube, about three miles east of
Hockstet, and thirty north-east of Ulm.

This famous battle was fought Aug. 13, 1704, between"
the French and Bavarians on the one side, commanded by
Marshal Tallard and the elector of Bavaria ; and the Al-
lies on the other, commanded by the duke of Marlborough
and Prince Eugene of Savoy. The armies were nearly
equal ; the French had about sixty thousand veteran troops,
and the Allies about fifiy-two thousand. The English, Im-
perialists, Dutch, and Danes, of which the allied army
was composed, were among the bravest of men, and had
been accustomed to conquer. The French troops were
those whom their great monarch had led on to frequent
victory ; and had seldom been broken in the field, or
showed their backs to an enemy.

Owing to some gross errors committed by Marshal Tal-
lard, of which the duke of Marlborough knew well how to
avail himself, the P'rench and Bavarians were defeated
with the loss of nearly forty thousand men. Thirteen



184 THE WESLEY FAMILY.

thousand were made prisoners, among whom were one
thousand two hundred officers. Ten French battalions
were entirely cut to pieces ; thirty squadrons of horse and
dragoons were forced into the Danube, most of whom were
drowned. Marshal Tallard, owing to the imperfection of
his sight, for he was extremely short-sighted, mistaking a
battalion of the Hessians, who fought in the pay of Eng-
land, for his own troops, rode among them and was taken
prisoner. Among the prisoners were several of the French
nobility: — the marquis De Montperaux, general of the
horse ; De Seppcville, De Silly, and De la Valiere, major-



Online LibraryAdam ClarkeMemoirs of the Wesley family : collected principally from original documents → online text (page 17 of 62)