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Epistle to a Friend Concerning Poetry (1700) and the Essay on Heroic Poetry (second edition, 1697)   By: (1662-1735)

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Series Two: Essays on Poetry

No. 2

Samuel Wesley's Epistle to a Friend concerning Poetry (1700) and the Essay on Heroic Poetry (second edition, 1697)

With an Introduction by Edward N. Hooker

The Augustan Reprint Society January, 1947 Price: 75c

GENERAL EDITORS: Richard C. Boys , University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Edward N. Hooker, H.T. Swedenberg, Jr. , University of California, Los Angeles 24, California.

Membership in the Augustan Reprint Society entitles the subscriber to six publications issued each year. The annual membership fee is $2.50. Address subscriptions and communications to the Augustan Reprint Society, in care of one of the General Editors.

EDITORIAL ADVISORS: Louis I. Bredvold , University of Michigan; James L. Clifford , Columbia University; Benjamin Boyce , University of Nebraska; Cleanth Brooks , Louisiana State University; Arthur Friedman , University of Chicago; James R. Sutherland , Queen Mary College, University of London; Emmett L. Avery , State College of Washington; Samuel Monk , Southwestern University.

Lithoprinted from Author's Typescript EDWARDS BROTHERS, INC. Lithoprinters ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN 1947


We remember Samuel Wesley (1662 1735), if at all, as the father of a great religious leader. In his own time he was known to many as a poet and a writer of controversial prose. His poetic career began in 1685 with the publication of Maggots , a collection of juvenile verses on trivial subjects, the preface to which, a frothy concoction, apologizes to the reader because the book is neither grave nor gay. The first poem, "On a Maggot," is composed in hudibrastics, with a diction obviously Butlerian, and it is followed by facetious poetic dialogues and by Pindarics of the Cowleian sort but on such subjects as "On the Grunting of a Hog." In 1688 Wesley took his B.A. at Exeter College, Oxford, following which he became a naval chaplain and, in 1690, rector of South Ormsby; he became rector of Epworth in 1695. During the run of the Athenian Gazette (1691 1697) he joined with Richard Sault and John Norris in assisting John Dunton, the promoter of the undertaking. His second venture in poetry, the Life of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour , an epic largely in heroic couplets with a prefatory discourse on heroic poetry, appeared in 1693, was reissued in 1694, and was honored with a second edition in 1697. In 1695 he dutifully came forward with Elegies , lamenting the deaths of Queen Mary and Archbishop Tillotson. An Epistle to a Friend concerning Poetry (1700) was followed by at least four other volumes of verse, the last of which was issued in 1717. His poetry appears to have had readers on a certain level, but it stirred up little pleasure among wits, writers, or critics. Judith Drake confessed that she was lulled to sleep by Blackmore's Prince Arthur and by Wesley's "heroics" ( Essay in Defence of the Female Sex , 1696, p. 50). And he was satirized as a mare poetaster in Garth's Dispensary , in Swift's The Battle of the Books , and in the earliest issues of the Dunciad . Nobody today would care to defend his poetry for its esthetic merits.

For a few years in the early eighteenth century Wesley found himself in the vortex of controversy. Brought up in the dissenting tradition, he had swerved into conformity at some point during the 1680's, possibly under the influence of Tillotson, whom he greatly admired (cf. Epistle to a Friend , pp. 5 6). In 1702 there appeared his Letter from a Country Divine to his friend in London concerning the education of dissenters in their private academies , apparently written about 1693. This attack upon dissenting academies was published at an unfortunate time, when the public mind was inflamed by the intolerance of overzealous churchmen. Wesley was furiously answered; he replied in A Defence of a Letter (1704), and again in A Reply to Mr... Continue reading book >>

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