Complete Charles Wesley Collection Released

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition at the Divinity School has announced that with the publication of the transcription of “MS Acts,” it has completed a project to make publically available in a single setting every known poem or hymn of Charles Wesley.

Untitled funeral hymn“The completion of this project marks a significant milestone in the center’s efforts to make the works of John and Charles Wesley available in reliable editions for the church and scholars,” said Randy L. Maddox, William Kellon Quick Professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies.

Born in England, brothers John and Charles Wesley were 18th-century Christian leaders and founders of the Methodist movement. Charles Wesley was a prolific hymn and verse writer, known for his ability to capture the Christian experience in powerful verse.

The complete collection of verse by Charles Wesley that survives in original manuscripts is available online, either individually by work or in a convenient zipped file of the entire collection.

The center had previously posted transcriptions of all known verse that Charles Wesley (or his brother John) published during his life. This collection is also available online.

“Combined, these two collections comprise every poem or hymn known that can be traced with some confidence to the pen of Charles Wesley,” said Maddox. “They are the equivalent of around a 15-volume printed edition of his works.”

Maddox provided editorial direction to this project, locating the items to be included, verifying their authenticity, and providing editorial introductions and notes. Aileen F. Maddox was the editorial assistant for this project, providing the bulk of the labor in creating and ensuring the accuracy of each transcription.

Randy Maddox noted that one of the challenges of the project was that Charles Wesley occasionally penned corrections to his manuscripts in a distinctive type of shorthand learned from John Byrom. He also left behind some verse items written entirely in this shorthand. Maddox said his team was very fortunate to be able to draw on some earlier transcriptions of this shorthand by Oliver Beckerlegge and S T Kimbrough Jr., as well as the aid of Timothy Underhill (an expert in John Byrom’s shorthand) and Richard P. Heitzenrater (an expert in the use of this shorthand by John and Charles Wesley) in deciphering Charles Wesley’s use of this shorthand.

 

Images: Untitled funeral hymn manuscript, formerly in the possession of Methodist bishop Eugene Russell Hendrix (1847–1927). The manuscript is now part of the E. R. Hendrix papers held in the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, N.C.  It is transcribed on the website under the title “MS Hendrix”.