This was at the close of August, 1728, and the Rector’s letter entreating his good offices for Johnny Whitelamb reached John Wesley on the eve of his taking Priest’s Orders, for which he was then preparing at Oxford. He was ordained priest on September 22nd, and a week later had news from William Wright in London that Hetty’s third child was born—and was dead.
This is how the father announced his loss:
“To the Revd. Mr.
John Wesley, Fellow in Christ Church College,
John smiled at the superscription, inaccurate in more ways than one.
“Dear Bro: This comes to Let you know that my wife is brought to
bed and is in a hopefull way of Doing well but the Dear child
Died—the Third day after it was born—which has been of great
concerne to me and my wife She Joyns With me In Love to your
selfe and Bro: Charles. From Your Loveing Bro: to Comnd—
“P.S. I’ve sen
you Sum Verses that my wife maid of Dear Lamb
Let me hear from one or both of you as Soon as you think
And these are Hetty’s verses inclosed.
A Mother’s Address to Her Dying Infant
“Tender softness, infant mild,
Perfect, purest, brightest Child!
Transient lustre, beauteous clay,
Smiling wonder of a day!
Ere the last convulsive start
Rend thy unresisting heart,
Ere the long-enduring swoon
Weigh thy precious eyelids down,
Ah, regard a mother’s moan!
—Anguish deeper than thy own.
whose dawning light
Late with rapture blest my sight,
Ere your orbs extinguish’d be,
Bend their trembling beams on me!
Blooming, withering in an hour,
Ere thy gentle breast sustain
Latest, fiercest, mortal pain,
Hear a suppliant! Let me be
Partner in thy destiny:
That whene’er the fatal cloud
Must thy radiant temples shroud;
When deadly damps, impending now,
Shall hover round thy destin’d brow,
Diffusive may their influence be,
And with the blossom blast the tree!”
Mr. Wright inclosed these verses complacently enough. Poetry in his eyes was an elegant accomplishment vaguely connected with scholarship and gentility: and he took pride in possessing a wife who, as he more than once assured his cronies in the parlour of the “Turk’s Head” at the end of the street, could sit down and write it by the yard.
To please Hetty he read them through, pronounced them very pretty, and folded up the paper, remarking, “I’ll send it off to your brother John. He likes this sort of thing, and when he learns ’twas written in your weak state he’ll think it wonderful.”