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CHARLES WESLEY (1707-1788)

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 527 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CHARLES WESLEY (1707-1788) was the eighteenth child of the Rector of Epworth, and was saved from the fire of 1709 by his nurse. He entered Westminster School in 1716, became a King's Scholar and was captain of the school in 1725. He was a plucky boy, and won the life-long friendship of the future earl of Mansfield by fighting battles on his behalf. Garret Wesley of Ireland wished to adopt his young kinsman, but this offer was declined and the estates were left to Richard Colley on condition that he assumed the name Wesley. The duke of Wellington was Colley's grandson, and appears in the Army List for ',Soo as the Hon. Arthur Wesley. Charles Wesley was elected to Christ Church in 1726. John had become fellow of Lincoln the previous March. Charles lost his first twelve months at Oxford in " diversions," but whilst John was acting as their father's curate, his brother " awoke out of his lethargy." He persuaded two or three other students to go with him to the weekly sacrament. This led a young gentleman of Christ Church to exclaim: " Here is a new set of Methodists sprung up." The name quickly spread through the university and Oxford Methodism began its course. In 1735 Charles Wesley was ordained and went with his brother to Georgia as secretary to Colonel, afterwards General, Oglethorpe, the Governor. The work proved uncongenial, and after enduring many hardships his health failed and he left Frederica for England on July the 26th, 1736. He hoped to return, but in February 1738 John Wesley came home, and Charles found that his state of health made it necessary to resign his secretaryship. After his evangelical conversion on Whit Sunday (May 21st, 1738), he became the poet of the Evangelical Revival. He wrote about 6500 hymns. They vary greatly in merit, but Canon Overton held him, taking quantity and quality into consideration, to be " the great hymn-writer of all ages." Their early volumes of poetry bear the names of both brothers, but it is generally assumed that the original hymns were by Charles and the translations by John Wesley. Poetry was like another sense to Charles, and he was busy writing verse from his conversion up to his death-bed when he dictated to his wife his last lines, " In age and feebleness extreme." For some years he took a full share in the hardships and perils of the Methodist itinerancy, and was often a remarkably powerful preacher. After his marriage in 1749 his work was chiefly confined to Bristol, where he then lived, and London. He moved to London in 1771 and died in Marylebone on March the 29th, 1788. He was strongly opposed to his brother's ordinations, and refused to be buried at City Road, because the ground there was unconsecrated. He was buried in the graveyard of Marylebone Old Church, but this appears to have been unconsecrated also. Charles Wesley married Sarah Gwynne, daughter of a Welsh magistrate living at Garth, on April 8th, 1749. She died in 1822 at the age of ninety-six. Five of their children died as infants and are buried in St James's Churchyard, Bristol. Their surviving daughter Sarah, who was engaged in literary work, died unmarried in 1828. Charles Wesley, Junr. (1759-i834) was organist of St George's, Hanover Square. He published Six Concertos for the Organ and Harp in 1778. He also died unmarried. Samuel, the younger brother (1766-1837), was even more gifted than Charles as an organist and composer; he was also a lecturer on musical subjects. Two of his sons were Dr Wesley, sub-dean of the Chapel Royal, and Dr Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876), the famous composer and organist of Gloucester Cathedral.
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