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National Library of Wales journal

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Cyf. 26, rh. 3 Haf 1990

George Whitefield and friends : the correspondence of some early Methodists.

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accompanied Whitefield on his second voyage to Georgia but returned in 1740.
On 22 October 1740, he died as a result of being struck by a stone on the head,
while preaching to a crowd at Hay-on-Wye and thus became the first Methodist
martyr. At the time of his association with Whitefield, William seems to have
been a widower with a daughter, Grace, who was being boarded with Elizabeth
Hankinson at Islington (see letters 69, 72). Grace daughter of William and Grace
Seward was baptized at St Thomas the Apostle on 15 May 1732.35 On hearing of
William Seward's death, John Wesley went to see her, then aged eight years old.
His diary entry for 29 October 1740 reads 'at Mrs. Mason's, senr. conversed to
Miss Seward'.36
Benjamin Seward was a hosier living in King's Bench Walk in the parish at
St Giles-in-the-Fields, London. He was educated at Westminster School and
St John's College, Cambridge. He had inherited through his first wife the estate
of her brother, George Knapp of the Inner Temple. She had died leaving him
with two daughters, Frances and Eleanor. In 1735, he purchased the mansion
house and 160 acres at Bengeworth, Worcestershire, for £ 1750. By the time of his
conversion and his correspondence in the present manuscript, he seems to have
remarried.37
After his conversion, he became a follower of the Wesleys. His Methodism
and that of his brother, William, split the family. Benjamin's letters to his
brother and Whitefield reveal the opposition of his family, especially of his
brother, Henry. His brother, Edward, seems to have been sympathic. Matters
came to head in 1740, three months before William Seward returned to England
from America. Benjamin was taken ill, but his illness was regarded as madness,
his letters were intercepted, and he was spied upon by the servants. When
Charles Wesley went to see him, Henry Seward abused and assaulted him.
Charles Wesley records 'Henry Seward fell upon me without preface or
ceremony. I was the downfall of his brother, had picked his pocket, ruined his
family, had come now to get more money, was a scoundral, rascal, and so forth,
and deserved to have my gown stripped over my ears. He concluded with
threatening how he would beat me if he could but catch me on Bengeworth
Common'.38
The correspondence which Samuel Mason has copied into his manuscript was
written during the period 1737-9 at the very beginning of the Methodist Revival
in England and Wales. It was during this period that both John and Charles
Wesley experienced their religious conversions and George Whitefield began his
ministry and set the example later adopted by the Wesleys of preaching in the
fields and streets. The doctrinal dispute over predestination and election which
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