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Hetty’s Tragic Story

January 07, 2023

Samuel and Susanna Wesley named their fifth surviving child “Mehetabel” but everybody called her “Hetty.” She was born in 1697 and was six years older than John Wesley. She probably took care of him and changed his diapers.
If it was said that all the Wesley girls were beautiful, Hetty was gorgeous! Hetty was exceptional in every way. She was so smart that Samuel gave her special instructions in Latin, Greek, and the classics. Because she had such beautiful handwriting, he had her assist him in transcribing his books. Her chief talent was writing poetry.
Her intelligence was combined with liveliness. Even as a child she was vivacious, full of mirth, good humor, and wit. She had a tendency for mischief. Some suspected that when the Wesley family was plagued by a ghost - which they named “Ol’ Jeffery” - Hetty was behind it.
At Epworth there were no eligible bachelors who were worthy of the bright, educated, beautiful Wesley girls. However, Hetty fell in love with John Romley, a local school teacher who had attended Oxford. But Romley insulted Rev. Samuel by singing a humerus song about an ambitious clergyman. The song sounded a lot like Rev. Wesley! 
Samuel refused to let Hetty see Romley anymore and sent her away to be a servant without pay some distance away. Hetty was miserable and was soon dismissed. She had nowhere to go. She said, “I will not return home, and I cannot stay here.” She went to London to stay with her uncle Matthew Wesley, Samuel’s brother.
Some months later she did return to Epworth. But she returned five months pregnant! Samuel was horrified! He would not speak to her. She had shamed the entire family! He made her marry the first single person he could find who happened to be a journeyman plumber, William Wright.  Samuel could not bear to perform the marriage himself. He sent them to a nearby village for the simple, shameful wedding.
Samuel simply could not forgive Hetty. She begged for forgiveness, but he turned a cold heart to her. John Wesley, who was serving as his father’s assistant at the time, preached a sermon on “The Need to Forgive.” Samuel was insulted and threated to take out charges against his son for preaching against another pastor! 
The saddest part of this story is that Samul never forgave Hetty.
The Rev. Dave Hanson is a retired pastor and John Wesley scholar.

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