Thomas, John Wesley
1798-1872; e.m. 1822

WM minister and scholar, born at Exeter on 4 August 1798. Although largely self-taught, he learned several languages. He is remembered especially for his annotated translations in terza rima of Dante's Divine Comedy (Inferno, 1859; Purgatorio, 1862; Paradiso, 1866). Among his other poetry was a critical review of Byron's poem in An Apology for Don Juan (1824, enlarged 1855), Poems on Sacred, Classical, Medieval and Modern Subjects (1867) and The War of the Surplice, an attack on Bishop Phillpotts of Exeter (2nd edition, 1871). He also wrote The Lord's Day, or the Christian Sabbath (1865) and a history of Exeter Methodism (1870) and articles for the WM Magazine. At the Conference of 1849 he made an impressive speech in support of the motion to expel James Everett, taking his stand not on Methodist law but on the 'universal law, those of Rome, Moses and King Alfred'. He was also a rabid anti-papist (e.g. in a lecture on The Papacy Unveiled), and his opposition to teetotalism is forcefully expressed in a letter to Jabez Bunting in 1839. He died at Dumfries on 7 February 1872.


Thomas Carlyle to the Rev. John Wesley Thomas:

                                                            Chelsea, 8 Septr. 1862

Revd. Sir, I have recd. your translation of Dante's Purgatorio, and must not delay longer to return you thanks for such kindness. I purpose to examine the work with a great deal more attention than has hitherto been possible, so soon as a little leisure is granted me. What I read up and down in the Introduction &c. gives me a pleasant foretaste, and assurance that I shall have a scholar, and man of intellligence, for company.

With many thanks, and wishing you good fruit of your labours past and to come,

    I remain,
         Yours sincerely,
              T. Carlyle

Original at Duke University

  • S.W. Christophers, The Poets of Methodism (1875) pp.344-66
  • G.F. Cunningham, The Divine Comedy in English: a critical bibliography 1782-1900 (1965) pp.102-8
  • W.R. Ward, Early Victorian Methodism: The Correspondence of Jabez Bunting 1830-1858 (Oxford, 1976) pp.217-19
  • Oxford DNB