Samuel Wesley (24 February 1766 – 11 October 1837) was an English organist and composer in the late Georgian period. Wesley was a contemporary of Mozart (1756–1791) and was called by some "the English Mozart."
Born in Bristol, 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, Sarah Wesley, 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 three 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 four children together, among them Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810–1876) who was a cathedral organist and notable composer.
In 1784, Wesley privately converted to Roman Catholicism, to the dismay of his uncle John Wesley. To celebrate his conversion, Samuel composed an elaborate mass, the Missa de spirtu sancto, dedicating it to Pope Pius VI. According to his obituary, he may subsequently have denied any conversion.
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. His secular compositions include the five part madrigal O singe unto mie roundelaie set to the well known poem by Thomas Chatterton.
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.
- "The Letters of Samuel Wesley: Professional and Social Correspondence, 1797–1837" (edited by Philip Olleson and published 2001 by Oxford University Press)
- Michael Kassler, "Samuel Wesley's 'madness' of 1817-18", History of Psychiatry, v. part 4 (2003), pp. 459–74.
- Free scores by Samuel Wesley in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
- Works by Samuel Wesley (1766–1837)
- Family tree of Methodist founder John Wesley (link starts with Samuel Wesley)
- Free scores by Samuel Wesley at the International Music Score Library Project