Guidelines for Presentation of Manuscript Verse

This online collection is intended to provide a standard source for scholarly study and citation of the poetical works of John and Charles Wesley. The section containing verse that Charles Wesley left in manuscript was developed under the following guidelines to maximize reliability and usefulness.

  1. A comprehensive list of the surviving manuscript verse of Charles Wesley was compiled by consulting all known holding locations, electronic databases, and previous scholarship on this material. In this process, two items were discovered that have never been published previously: MS Hymn for King George 1769, and MS Tribute to John Wesley.
  2. The manuscript materials were analyzed first to determine whether they were in Charles Wesley’s hand, or produced by a scribe under his direction. Some manuscript materials in the various holding locations are of nineteenth-century origin, or simply derivative copies of items that Charles Wesley had published. Such derivative items are generally omitted from this online collection. However, we include items like MS Family, where Wesley copied a selection of previously published hymns for use in family devotions.
  3. In a few instances we have added to this collection items for which no manuscript copy survives in Charles Wesley’s hand. We do so only when there is significant contemporary warrant for judging that Wesley authored the piece. This warrant is cited on each occasion. For a couple of examples, see MS Epistle to Martha Wesley and MS Tribute to John Wesley.
  4. A significant portion of the manuscript verse in the collections are drafts of hymns that Charles Wesley published during his lifetime. Access to this material remains significant to scholars, because it gives a sense of Wesley’s typical patterns of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and the like. The manuscript drafts also often contain variant readings or reflect (through strike-outs and corrections) Wesley’s process of composing the verse. The present site provides access to this class of manuscript verse in three ways:
    1. It includes transcripts of all notebook-length collections of such verse—see particularly, MS Cheshunt, MS Clarke, MS Friendship I, MS Friendship II, MS Shent, MS Six, and MS Thirty.
    2. If looseleaf manuscript copies of hymns that Wesley published contain a significant number of variants or revisions, they too are present as transcripts.
    3. Looseleaf manuscript copies of hymns that Wesley published which contain few variants or revisions are identified in footnotes at their published location (elsewhere on this site), with any significant variants identified there in footnotes.
  5. The largest portion of manuscript verse still extant remained unpublished during Wesley’s life. The present site presents nearly all of this verse in transcript form. The main exception is looseleaf verse that is also present in notebook-length collections, with minimal variants. Once again, such looseleaf copies are indicated by footnotes in their larger location. Where multiple copies reflect Wesley’s process of revision (such as the three drafts of MS Death of Mary Horton), all copies are present as transcripts in this collection.
  6. The various manuscript materials are represented, as much as possible, in their original format and context—as parts of notebook collections, as hymns inserted in letters to family or friends, as looseleaf drafts or copies, and so on. We also reflect original page breaks and Wesley’s numbering of pages as much as possible (identifying instances of departure, when this is deemed necessary).
  7. Wesley’s original spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and marking of emphasis are generally retained in the transcripts. The one significant exception is that Wesley resorted to frequent contractions and abbreviations in the manuscripts. These have been quietly expanded, to facilitate both reading and search capabilities.
    List of Wesley’s common contractions and abbreviations (pdf)
  8. Other than quietly expanding contractions and abbreviations, all editorial emendations to the text are indicated by placement in [square brackets]. Informational notes that Wesley provided in the original text are reflected on the main part of the page. Material in footnotes is by the editors of this collection.
  9. A significant percentage of Wesley’s manuscript verse contains instances of Wesley striking out and replacing original wording during composition or editing, as well as suggested alternative readings in the column. These changes and suggestions are reflected in editorial footnotes in this collection. We indicate Wesley’s original wording, unless his strike-out has rendered it illegible.
  10. There are several instances of Wesley deploying shorthand in his manuscripts that he learned from John Byrom. In some cases entire documents are in shorthand; in many cases Wesley uses shorthand for his corrections and additions to longhand verse. Deciphering this shorthand is a major challenge. We have enlisted the skill of Dr. Timothy Underhill, a specialist on Byrom’s shorthand, to render such passages as reliably as possible. Often this task was aided by consulting renderings done by earlier scholars like Elijah Hoole, Oliver Beckerlegge, and S T Kimbrough. In transcripts of shorthand passages, uncertain renderings are typically placed in {pointed brackets}.
  11. While Wesley left much of his manuscript verse unpublished, it found a variety of publication settings after his death. John Wesley began the process, inserting several items in the Arminian Magazine. Three later scholarly settings of posthumous publication are particularly noteworthy:
    • George Osborn, ed. The Poetical Works of John and Charles Wesley. 13 vols. London: Wesleyan-Methodist Conference, 1868–72.
    • Frank Baker. Representative Verse of Charles Wesley. London: Epworth,1962.
    • S T Kimbrough Jr. & Oliver A. Beckerlegge, eds. The Unpublished Poetry of Charles Wesley. 3 vols. Nashville: Kingswood Books, 1988–92.

    Citation of posthumous publication in these three sources, by short title, is included in the annotation of every manuscript item in this online collection. Readers should note, however, that the text presented in Osborn will often differ from that presented here, since Osborn frequently “improved” upon Charles’s spelling and other aspects of the manuscript poetry.

  12. In addition to identifying such posthumous publication, the current holding location of the original manuscript, and cross reference to all manuscript copies of individual items, we also provide basic introductory and explanatory annotations for Wesley’s manuscript verse as deemed necessary.