WESLEY, John (1703-1791). Document signed and dated in autograph, a Will, n.p. [Broadmarston, Worcestershire], 16 March 1770, 2 pages, folio (390 x 248 mm), written in a neat 18th-century clerical hand, autograph insertion (9 words) on 2nd page, seal (fragment torn from left margin with loss of approximately 6 words on verso, 4 tiny holes, small splits in folds), contemporary wrapper (torn), endorsed in two different hands, 'Mr John Wesley's Will' and 'To be returned when enquired for'.
AN APPARENTLY UNRECORDED WILL, in which John Wesley leaves the profits of his books in trust with an annuity of £100 to his brother Charles, the proceeds otherwise to be given to the stewards of his school at Kingswood; personal bequests include, to his wife Mary Wesley 'as a token of affection only as my said wife is amply provided for, all my pictures and pocket pieces in my Bureau in London', and 'to my daughter in law Jane Smith a full set of books called the Christian Library'. Other beneficiaries include Christian and Thomas Simpson of Aberdeen, and two of his women supporters to whom he leaves his seal and a mourning ring. The proceeds of the sale of his chaise and horses are left to the poor of the Society, and 'all the money which shall be found in my bureau in London or in my pockets at the time of my decease to such person or persons who carry my body to be interred'.
Wesley, a constant advocate of leaving his affairs in order, is known to have made several wills, of which two, dated 27 April 1768 and 20 February 1789 (the last), are published (in L. Tyerman. The Life and Times of John Wesley, 1871, and John Wesley's Journal ed. N. Curnock, 1909-10). The present document differs substantially from both, but all three show the importance of the proceeds from sales of his books, which enabled him to give away as much as £1,400 a year to good causes. By the date of his final will Charles Wesley, his estranged wife Mary and most of the others named in the present document were dead and, apart from a few personal bequests, his estate was left to the general fund of the Methodist Conference.
The present will was in fact superseded within 12 months. Mary Wesley left her husband in January 1771 for Newcastle, 'purposing "never to return"', on which Wesley comments in his journal 'Non eam reliqui; non dimisi; non revocabo' (I have not left her. I have not sent her away. I shall not call her back). On 25 February 1771, doubtless as a result of this, he records that he has revised his will. An attempted rapprochement with Mary collapsed in 1775, but Wesley continued to hold in great affection his stepdaughter Jane Vazeille ('my daughter in law Jane Smith') who had married William Smith, a fellow preacher, in 1769.
When the will was signed Wesley was on a five month journey to the North. On March 15th he preached at Evesham at noon and rode on in a snowstorm to Broadmarston (between Evesham and Stratford-on-Avon), whence on the 17th he continued to Birmingham. His Evesham friends included Henry Eden who built the chapel where Wesley preached at Broadmarston; Thomas and Alice Eden, the witnesses of the Will, were perhaps members of this family.