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Samuel Wesley

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Biography

Born in Bristol, England, he was the son of noted Methodist and hymn-writer Charles Wesley, the grandson of Samuel Wesley (a poet of the late Stuart period) and the nephew of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church.

Samuel informed his mother of his philosophical conviction that his marriage had been constituted by sexual intercourse, precluding any civil or religious ceremony, but after a scandalous delay he married Charlotte Louise Martin in 1793, and they had 3 children. A book published in 2001 provides a fascinating account of how Samuel Wesley’s marriage to Charlotte finally broke up with her discovery of Samuel’s affair with the teenage domestic servant Sarah Suter. Samuel and Sarah never married but had 7 children together, among them Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876) who was a cathedral organist and composer of the Victorian period.

Samuel showed his musical talent early in life. He played the violin as well as the organ, and worked as a conductor as well as a music lecturer. Many of his best-known compositions were written for the church; they include the motet In exitu Israel.

In 1788 Wesley was initiated into freemasonry in the Lodge of Antiquity. The Duke of Sussex appointed him Grand Organist in 1812, but he resigned the appointment in 1818.

Samuel died in 1837 and was buried in Saint Marylebone Old Parish Church, London.

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