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Wesley, Samuel

At one time the most distinguished organist of England, and called by Mendelssohn "the father of English organ-playing." He was initiated as a Freemason on December 17, 1788, and in 1812, the office of Grand Organist of the Grand Lodge of England being in that year first instituted, he received the appointment from the Grand Master, the Duke of Sussex, and held it until 1818. He composed the anthem performed at the union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813, and was a composer of many songs, glees, etc., for the use of the Craft. He was the son of the Rev. Charles Wesley, and nephew of the celebrated John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Born February 24, 1766, at Bristol, England, and died October 11, 1837. He was well entitled to the epithet of the Great Musician of Freemasonry. Brother W. J. Chetwode Crawley (Transactions, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, page 107, volume xv, 1902), writes of him thus:

Samuel Wesley was the second son of the Reverend Charles Wesley, a former Captain of Westminster School, who after declining Garrett Wesley's heritage had blossomed into the most melodious hymn writer that has ever graced the Christian Church. He was born in 1766, so that he was twenty-two years of age when initiated on December 17, 1788, in the famous Lodge of Integrity, then No. 1 on the Register of the Grand Lodge of the Moderns. It is beside our purpose to speak of his marvelous musical abilities, further than to relate that he placed them unreservedly at the service of the Craft.

He was appointed Grand Organist on May 13 1812, being the first to hold that office. In truth, the post appears to have been created for him, in recognition of his professional services to Grand Lodge, for Brother Henry Sadler has found reason to believe that he presided over the musical ceremonies of Grand Lodge before 1812. He was in his place as Grand Organist at the Grand Assembly which ratified the Articles of Union, December 1, 1813 and at the inaugural Communication of the United Grand Lodge which was happily established by these Articles. He was appointed annually until 1818 when he was succeeded by a Brother of equal musical renown, Sir George Smart. Wesley's withdrawal from the office was caused by a collapse into acute mental depression, from which he had Suffered at intervals and from which he only recovered temporarily. Samuel Wesley's morbid fits of depression were the result of an injury to the head received in early life by an accidental fall.

He died in 1837, after prolonged retirement from public life. Brother Samuel Wesley earned the thanks of three great institutions which do not often concur in returning thanks. In 1813, he composed and conducted a Grand Anthem for Freemasons in honor of the Union of the Grand Lodges of England, and received the enthusiastic commendations of his Brethren. A few years later he composed a Grand Mass for the Chapel of Pope Pius VI, and received an official Latin letter of thanks from the Supreme Pontiff. As a sort of counter-balance, he composed for the Church of England, a complete set of Matins and Evensong which at once took rank among our most esteemed Cathedral Services.

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