John Wesley’s Undisputed Verse

Raised in a family of poets, it was natural that John Wesley tried his hand at composing verse. It soon became evident that his gifts were less in original composition than in editing or translating the verse of others. This is where his focus shifted. John was clearly the major person responsible for the editorial appropriation of selections from other English authors and for the translations from German and Spanish included in the collections: CPH (1737), CPH (1738), HSP (1739), HSP (1740), and CPH (1741).

Scholars debate how much of the original verse in these early collections should be credited to John rather than Charles. Since the brothers agreed not to indicate individual authorship, the debate focuses mainly on stylistic and other internal criteria. To develop such criteria, it is important to have some samples that we can be sure come from the hand of John Wesley. The list of such cases is a short one:

For a summary of the criteria proposed from these cases for indicating John’s hand in other early poems and hymns, see Works, 7:35–38.