Mehetabel Wesley Wright
Born in Epworth, Lincolnshire, Wright was the daughter of Samuel Wesley, an Anglican clergyman and poet and his wife Susanna Wesley (née Annesley). Wright was one of 19 children born to Samuel and Susanna Wesley, of whom at least nine died in infancy. Her siblings included younger brothers John Wesley and Charles Wesley, leaders of the Methodist movement, as well as an elder brother Samuel Wesley the Younger, who was a poet and a Church of England cleric. Emilia, Susanna, Mary, Anne, Martha, and Kezia were sisters. Nicknamed "Hetty", and called "Kitty" by her brother Samuel, Wright had a good education, and reportedly was able to read the Greek Testament at the age of eight. She was said to be witty and to have a good sense of humour.
As she grew Mehetabel had many admirers: but they were generally considered ill-suited by her family. When Wesley was about 27 years old, she was prevented from marrying a man whom her father called "an unprincipled lawyer." During 1725 she eloped twice, returning pregnant. Shortly after, she had an "offer of marriage" from a man named William Wright of Louth at Haxey, a journeyman plumber and glazier. Her father urged her to marry Wright, and she did so, on 13 October 1725, in what has been modernly described as a "shotgun marriage to a man who was her social and intellectual inferior".
Her uncle Matthew gave her a small marriage dowry. Mr. Wright set up business for himself. Mehetabel gave birth to a baby in February 1726 but the child only lived until December. She found her husband to be unsuited to her in all respects, indicating in a letter of 1729 that her marriage lacked "a mutual affection and desire of pleasing, something near an equality of mind and person, either earthly or heavenly wisdom, and anything to keep love warm between a young couple".
Wright's relationship with her father never recovered. Her younger brother, John, had mentioned his sister's poor treatment by their father in 1726 in his sermons and their father no longer recognised her as his daughter. Her brother Samuel bitterly chastised her in verse in "A Full Answer" in response to her poem "Wedlock: A Satire", declaring that "cursing wedlock is blaspheming".
By January 1728, Wright's husband had established his business of plumbing and glazing on Frith Street, Soho, London. The couple had several children, all of whom died young. It was Wright's opinion that the effluvia from her husband's lead works were the cause of the children's death. Many of her poems were written during this time, and reflect the sadness and frustration of her difficult married life. Poems such as "A Mother's Soliloquy Over Her Dying Infant" and "To an infant expiring the second day of its birth" (1733) indicate her deep grief over the deaths of her children.
For several years before her death, she was in a very infirm state of health, and could not write easily. Poems such as "A Farewell to the World" and "An Epitaph on Herself" prefigure her own death. In 1744, during a period of illness, her brother John arranged for her to visit Bristol, where she had the opportunity of witnessing the ministry of her brothers. Under his influence, she became "more and more convinced of [sin]" but did not participate directly in Methodist religious activities for fear of embarrassing her brother. She died in London on 21 March 1750.
Wright did not publish her poems personally, but they were circulated among her family and others during and after her lifetime. Several of her poems appeared in the sixth volume of The poetical calendar: Containing a collection of scarce and valuable pieces of poetry: with variety of originals and translations, by the most eminent hands. by Francis Fawkes, 1720–1777. Others were published in different collections, as well as in the Poetical Regist2er, the Christian Magazine, and the Arminian Magazine. Wright's Address to her Dying Infant, composed during her confinement, is noted for its tenderness and highly polished phrasing, while tinged with the gloom which accompanied her marriage.
The regard that Wright was given can be judged by a letter written by the celebrity novelist Samuel Richardson in 1750 (or 1754). Here, he attempted to list women of his time who were "moral examples of their sex". This was not an exhaustive list and although Richardson included Wright, he did not include every gifted woman he knew. John Duncombe circulated some of her poems in the 1750s, and included her approvingly in The Feminead; or, Female Genius (1754).
Adam Clarke collected a number of her poems, as well as biographical information about her life, as part of his Memoirs of the Wesley family (1823). Her poetry was also collected with her family's in The Bards of Epworth (1856).
In 1903, the prolific novelist Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch published a historical novel titled "Hetty Wesley" which was based on the life of Wright. Roger Lonsdale includes a biography of Mehetabel Wesley Wright and a number of her poems in Eighteenth-Century Women Poets: An Oxford Anthology (1989).
- This article incorporates text from Memoirs of the Wesley family, by Adam Clarke, a publication from 1823 now in the public domain in the United States.
- This article incorporates text from The life and times of the rev. Samuel Wesley, M.A., by Luke Tyerman, a publication from 1866 now in the public domain in the United States.
- Greene, Richard T.; Jones, W. R. (2009) . "Wright, Mehetabel". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/38156.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Clarke 1823, pp. 486–510.
- Bastian, Donald N. "Susanna Wesley, Educator". Just Call Me Pastor. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
- Lonsdale, Roger (1990). Eighteenth century women poets: an Oxford anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 110–115. ISBN 9780192827753.
- Fairer, David; Gerrard, Christine, eds. (2003). Eighteenth-century poetry : an annotated anthology (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub. ISBN 978-1405113199.
- Tyerman 1866, p. 204.
- Tyerman, Luke (1866). Life and times of the Rev. Samuel Wesley, M.A., Rector of Epworth, and father of the Revs. John and Charles Wesley, the founders of theMethodists. London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co. pp. 204–207. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
- Lawton-Trask, Kathleen. "The Poetical Calendar (1763)". Digital Miscellanies Index. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
- Stevenson, George John; Wesley, Charles (1876). Memorials of the Wesley family : including biographical and historical sketches of all the members of the family for two hundred and fifty years ; together with a genealogical table of the Wesleys, with historical notes, for more than nine hundred years. London and New York: S.W. Partridge ; Nelson and Phillips. p. 317. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
- Richardson 2014, p. 796.
- The Bards of Epworth, or, Poetic gems from the Wesley cabinet. London: Alexander Heylin. 1856.
- Clarke, Adam (1823). Memoirs of the Wesley family (Public domain ed.).
- Richardson, Samuel (30 November 2014). Correspondence with Sarah Wescomb, Frances Grainger and Laetitia Pilkington. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-316-12324-9.
- Tyerman, Luke (1866). The life and times of the rev. Samuel Wesley, M.A. (Public domain ed.).
- "Two poems by Mehetabel Wright". Julie R. Enszer. 6 July 2007.
- Mehetabel Wright (1697–1750) 'Wedlock: A Satire' read by Juliet Stevenson