Hervey, James

Evangelical clergyman and poet, born on 26 February 1714 in Northamptonshire. He became a student at Lincoln College, Oxford in 1731, came under the influence of John Wesley and became associated with the 'Holy Club'. He was ordained deacon in September 1736 and priest in December 1739. He served as Charles Kinchin's curate at Dummer, but because of poor health retired to Stoke Abbey, Devon at the invitation of an Oxford friend, Paul Orchard. In 1752 he obtained a Cambridge MA and succeeded his father as incumbent of Weston Favell, Northants.

As early as March 1739 Wesley was defending himself against Hervey's criticisms of his 'irregularities'. In 1746-47 he published several books of meditations and reflections, beginning with Meditations among the Tombs, inspired by a visit to Kilkhampton. His later, Theron and Aspasio or a Series of Dialogues and Letters on the most Important Subjects (1755), was intended to commend moderate Calvinism to 'people of elegant manners and polite accomplishments' (represented by Theron). In A Preservative against Unsettled Notions in Religion (1756) Wesley criticized its doctrine of the 'imputed righteousness of Christ' as leading to antinomianism. This caused a rift between them which continued after Hervey's death. Hervey's response took the form of Eleven Letters to Wesley which were published posthumously. A reprint of these letters in Edinburgh antagonized Presbyterians and hindered Scottish Methodism for many years. Hervey's writings enjoyed a popularity for many years, but went out of favour in the nineteenth century.

  • John Brown, Memoirs of the Life and Character of the late Rev. James Hervey, AM (2nd enlarged edn., Edinburgh, 1809)
  • L. Tyerman, The Oxford Methodists (1873) pp.201-333
  • J.S. Simon, John Wesley, the Master Builder (1927) pp.164-67
  • Frederick C. Gill, The Romantic Movement and Methodism: a study of English Romanticism and the Evangelical Revival (1937) pp.72-9
  • A.W. Harrison, The Evangelical Revival and Christian Reunion (1942) pp125-6
  • Frank Baker, 'James Hervey, Methodist Prose Poet', in London Quarterly and Holborn Review, 1957 pp.62-68
  • A. Brown-Lawson, John Wesley and the Anglican Evangelicals of the Eighteenth Century (1994) pp.70-75, 227- 69
  • G.M. Ella, James Hervey: preacher of righteousness (1997)
  • Oxford DNB