Welsted, Leonard (DNB00)
|←Welsh, Thomas||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 60
WELSTED, LEONARD (1688–1747), poet, was born at Abington, Northamptonshire, in 1688. His father, Leonard Welsted, was elected from Westminster school to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1667; was prebendary of York, and rector of Abington from 1685 to 1692, when he became vicar of St. Nicholas, Newcastle. He married, in 1686, Anne, daughter of Thomas Staveley, a lawyer and antiquary, and died on 13 Nov. 1694, two years after his wife, leaving three children. The eldest son, Leonard Welsted, was admitted a queen's scholar at Westminster in 1703, and was elected to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1707. Apparently he did not remain long at the university, for while very young he married a daughter of Henry Purcell [q. v.], the musician, and obtained a place in the office of one of the secretaries of state, by the interest of the Earl of Clare, afterwards Duke of Newcastle. At some time before 1725 he became one of the clerks extraordinary to Leonard Smelt, clerk of the deliveries in the ordnance office, and had a house in the Tower of London, which he mentions in his poem, ‘Oikographia,’ inscribed to the Duke of Dorset, with a lamentation at the emptiness of his cellar. In 1730 Welsted was advanced in the ordnance office (probably through the interest of Bishop Hoadly) to the office of clerk in ordinary, and in May 1731 he was made one of the commissioners for managing the state lottery. He died at his official residence in the Tower in August 1747.
Welsted's first wife died in 1724; there was one daughter, who died in 1726. His second wife, Anna Maria, a remarkable beauty, was sister to Admiral Sir Hovenden Walker [q. v.] She died a few months after her husband. Welsted's only brother, Thomas, was buried in St. Mary's Church, Leicester, in 1713; his sister, Anne, to whom administration of Welsted's effects was granted in November 1747, died in 1757, and was buried at Halloughton, Nottinghamshire.
Welsted's first poem, ‘Apple-Pye,’ often wrongly attributed to William King (1663–1712) [q. v.], was written in 1704. His other writings were published as follows: 1. ‘A Poem occasioned by the late famous Victory of Oudenarde, inscribed to the Hon. Robert Harley,’ 1709, fol. 2. ‘A Poem to the memory of the incomparable Mr. [John] Philips’ [q. v.], 1710, fol. 3. ‘The Works of Dionysius Longinus on the Sublime … translated from the Greek; with some Remarks on the English Poets,’ 1712, 8vo. 4. ‘A Prophecy,’ addressed to Steele; partly preserved in Boyer's ‘Political State’ for 1714, p. 306. 5. ‘An Epistle to Mr. Steele, on the Accession of King George,’ 1714, fol. 6. ‘The Triumvirate, or a Letter in Verse from Palæmon to Celia from Bath,’ 1717, fol.; a satire on ‘Three Hours after Marriage,’ by Gay, Arbuthnot, and Pope. 7. ‘The Free-thinker,’ 1718–1721, by Ambrose Philips, &c., contained several poems by Welsted, and a specimen of a translation of Tibullus. 8. ‘An Epistle to the Duke of Chandos,’ 1720, fol. 9. ‘A Prologue to the Town, occasioned by the revival of a play of Shakspear,’ 1721, fol. 10. ‘An Epistle to Earl Cadogan,’ 1722, fol. 11. ‘An Epistle to the late Dr. Garth, occasioned by the Duke of Marlborough's death,’ 1722. 12. Prologue and epilogue to Steele's ‘Conscious Lovers,’ 1722. 13. ‘Oikographia, a Poem … to the Duke of Dorset,’ 1725, fol. 14. ‘An Ode to the Right Hon. Lieut.-General Wade, on his disarming the Highlands,’ 1726. 15. Epilogue to Southerne's ‘Money the Mistress,’ 1726. 16. ‘A Hymn to the Creator, written by a gentleman on the occasion of the death of his only daughter,’ 1726. 17. ‘The Dissembled Wanton; or, My Son, get Money: a comedy,’ 1727, 8vo; this play was acted at Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1726. 18. ‘A Discourse to the Right Hon. Sir Robert Walpole, to which is annexed proposals for translating the whole Works of Horace,’ 1727, 4to (prose). 19. Epilogue to Mottley's ‘Widow Bewitched,’ 1730. 20. ‘One Epistle to Mr. Pope,’ in conjunction with Moore Smythe, 1730. 21. ‘Of False Taste: an Epistle to the Earl of Pembroke,’ 1732, 8vo. 22. ‘Of Dulness and Scandal, occasioned by the character of Lord Timon in Mr. Pope's Epistle to the Earl of Burlington,’ 1732, 8vo. 23. ‘The Scheme and Conduct of Providence, from the Creation to the Coming of Messiah’ (1736), 8vo. 24. ‘The Summum Bonum, or Wisest Philosophy: an Epistle to a Friend,’ 1741. In 1724 Welsted published a collection of his ‘Epistles, Odes, &c., written on several Subjects,’ and included in the volume his translation of Longinus, and a dissertation concerning the perfection of the English language, &c. This volume was dedicated to the Duke of Newcastle. In 1787 John Nichols published a careful edition of all Welsted's works with a memoir and notes.
Among Welsted's friends were Anthony Hammond, Theobald, Moore, and Cooke, the last of whom more than once compliments Welsted in his verses. Another literary friend was Steele, and Welsted seems to be referred to in the account of the Tale Club in the ‘Guardian,’ No. 108. In the report of the secret committee of 1742 it was stated that 500l. was paid to Welsted for special services in August 1715, and this is one of the things for which Pope reproaches him; but Welsted declared that he received the money for the use of his friend Steele; and a letter of Steele to his wife appears to corroborate this story (Aitken, Life of Steele, ii. 72–3). John Hughes (1677–1720) [q. v.] says that Steele spoke of Welsted as a promising genius whom he patronised and encouraged.
Welsted is now best known through his quarrel with Pope. He was joint author of the libellous ‘One Epistle’ (1730), which charged Pope with occasioning a lady's death, a matter again referred to in Welsted's ‘Of Dulness and Scandal.’ In the ‘Dunciad’ (ii. 207–10, iii. 169–72) Pope accuses Welsted of squeezing money out of patrons by dedications, and says:
Flow, Welsted, flow! like thine inspirer, beer.
Though stale, not ripe; though thin, yet never clear.
In the ‘Prologue to the Satires’ Pope attacks Welsted under the name of Pitholeon (ll. 49–54), and speaks of ‘Welsted's lie’ (l. 375). In the ‘Art of Sinking in Poetry’ Welsted is introduced as a didapper and as an eel, and his verse ridiculed. It must be admitted that Welsted's attacks on Pope and his friends could hardly have been more virulent than they are. Pope, with his ‘rancoured spirit and malignant will,’ was, he said,
Lewd without lust, and without wit profane!
Outrageous and afraid, contemned and vain!
Pope pretended to think that Welsted was author of ‘Oratory Transactions,’ published by ‘Orator’ Henley under the name of ‘Welstede.’ Bazabel Morrice, in an ‘Epistle to Mr. Welsted’ (1721), speaks of Welsted as a ‘prosperous man,’ whose ‘modish works’ suited the present taste, but who might be buried in oblivion when sense and learning obtained renown. He wrote only of love, says Morrice, in melting lays, or to seek a noble's grace and patronage. Campbell and Warton have found merit in some of Welsted's verses, and there is evidence that Thomson and Goldsmith had read them. The ‘Oikographia’ is not without interest.[Memoir in Nichols's edition of Welsted's Works, 1787; Welch's List of Queen's Scholars at St. Peter's College, Westminster, pp. 164, 248; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Pope's Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope; Aitken's Life of Steele; Cibber's Lives of the Poets, iv. 205; Gent. Mag. 1788 i. 235, 1803 i. 495; Biogr. Dram.; Whincop's Poets; Noble's Continuation of Granger, iii. 390; Cole's MSS. xlv. 339; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ix. 32–5; Lond. Mag. 1747, p. 388.]