Thomas, John Wesley (DNB00)

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THOMAS, JOHN WESLEY (1798–1872), translator of Dante, born on 4 Aug. 1798 at Exeter, was the son of John Thomas, a tradesman and leading Wesleyan local preacher in that city. In 1820 he went to London, attaching himself to the Hinde Street circuit, and in 1822 entered the itinerating ranks of the Wesleyan ministry. After fifty years of active ministerial effort he died at Dumfries on 7 Feb. 1872.

Although for the most part self-educated, Thomas was a considerable linguist, a poet of some capacity, and an artist of ability. He contributed largely to the ‘Wesleyan Methodist Magazine’ and other periodicals. His most important published works are: 1. ‘An Apology for Don Juan,’ cantos i. and ii. 1824; 3rd ed. with canto iii. 1850; new edition, 1855; this is a review and criticism of Lord Byron's poetry written in the ‘Don Juan’ stanza. 2. ‘Lyra Britannica, or Select Beauties of Modern English Poetry,’ 1830. 3. ‘The Trilogy of Dante: “Inferno,” 1859; “Purgatorio,” 1862; “Paradiso,” 1866.’ An able translation of Dante's poem in the metre of the original, with scholarly notes and appendices. Its merits have been generally admitted by English students of Dante. 4. ‘The Lord's Day, or the Christian Sabbath: its History, Obligation, Importance, and Blessedness,’ 1865. 5. ‘Poems on Sacred, Classical, Mediæval, and Modern Subjects,’ 1867. 6. ‘The War of the Surplice: a Poem in Three Cantos,’ 2nd ed. 1871; the troubles in 1845 of Henry Phillpotts [q. v.], bishop of Exeter, are the subject of this poem. 7. ‘The Tower, the Temple, and the Minster: the Historical and Biographical Associations of the Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey,’ 1873. 8. ‘William the Silent, Prince of Orange,’ 1873.

[Christopher's Poets of Methodism, 1875, pp. 344–66; Methodist Recorder, February 1872, pp. 79, 91; Christian World, 16 Feb. 1872; Athenæum, 1872, i. 337; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub.]

R. B.