Wesley

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Several members of the Wesley family were prominent in the religious and/or musical life of England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, it is sometimes easy to confuse them - not least because in many cases they share their first name with another member of the family. Here is a list of all the Wesleys you are likely to come across:


  • Samuel Wesley (1662-1735), an Anglican clergyman and minor poet. He had 19 children, of whom 9 died in infancy. The three sons who lived to adulthood were:
  • Samuel Wesley (1690-1739), like his father, a High Church Anglican clergyman and minor poet. He is usually referred to as Samuel Wesley the Younger to distinguish him from his father.
  • John Wesley (1703-1791), also an Anglican clergyman, celebrated as a preacher and the founder of Methodism. He is the most famous of the Wesleys: for more about his life and work see Methodist Church.
  • Charles Wesley (1707-1788), also an Anglican clergyman and, like his brother John, active in the promotion of Methodism. He is best known as a hymn-writer; and of the more than 5000 hymns he wrote many are still popular today, e.g., Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today, and Rejoice, the Lord Is King. He had two sons, namely:
  • Charles Wesley (1757-1834), usually referred to as Charles Wesley Junior to distinguish him from his father. As a child he was a musical prodigy, and in adulthood he was the organist of various London churches.
  • Samuel Wesley (1766-1837): a musical prodigy like his brother, and a distinguished organist and composer. He was a friend of the German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) and, like Mendelssohn, he worked to secure proper recognition for the works of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). After the breakup of his marriage to Charlotte Louise Martin he lived for many years with a young servant, Sarah Suter, by whom he had four children, one of whom was:
  • Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876), who became a choirboy at the Chapel Royal, and later was organist, successively, at Hereford, Exeter, Winchester, and Gloucester Cathedrals. He owes his first name 'Sebastian' to his natural father's devotion to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.


There is no connection between the popular novelist Mary Wesley and the Wesley family. 'Mary Wesley' is in fact the pseudonym or pen name assumed by Mary Alice Siepmann (1912-2002) when she began writing in her late sixties. She adapted it from the name Wellesley, which was the maiden name of Lady Dalby, her maternal grandmother - a direct descendant of Richard Wellesley, Marquess Wellesley, elder brother of the first Duke of Wellington.


The name 'Wesley' may also be a boy's Christian name or first-name, perhaps most commonly chosen by Methodist parents out of respect for the founder of Methodism, John Wesley.