Guide to the Wesley family papers, 1726-1889 and undated
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The brothers John Wesley (1703-1791) and Charles Wesley (1707-1788) were Church of England clergymen and two of the founders of Methodism; Sarah Wesley (1726-1822) and Sarah Wesley (1759-1828) were the wife and daughter of Charles Wesley. The Wesley family papers span the years 1726-1889 and mainly comprise the correspondence of John and Charles Wesley, with single items from the wife and daughter of Charles, both named Sarah; there is also an inventory of John Wesley's library taken at the time of his death, 1791, and a photograph album, 1889, of English sites related to the Wesleys and the history of Methodism. Correspondence discusses John Wesley's life as a student at Lincoln College, the administration of Kingswood School, the brothers' mission to Georgia in the 1730s, and Methodism's eventual separation from the Church of England. Correspondents and people mentioned in the letters include the Countess of Huntingdon, George Whitefield, James Oglethorpe, Joseph Benson, and Samuel Bradburn.
- Collection Number
- Wesley family papers
- 1726-1889 and undated
- 3 Linear Feet, 46 Items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Material in English
The Wesley family papers, 1726-1889 and undated, comprise correspondence, poems, sermons, affidavits, and other documents of the brothers John Wesley (1703-1791) and Charles Wesley (1707-1788), both Church of England clergymen and two of the founders of Methodism; of Sarah Wesley (1726-1822), wife of Charles; and of Sarah Wesley (1759-1828), daughter of Charles and Sarah.
John Wesley's letters discuss his life as a student at Lincoln College; the administration of Kingswood School, Bath; his conflict with the Countess of Huntingdon; his involvement with the funeral sermon for George Whitefield and Whitefield's estate; and various other topics including the appointment of ministers. Charles Wesley's letters discuss details of the Wesley brothers' experiences on their mission to Georgia, including their relationship with James Oglethorpe, and his regrets over the Methodists' separation from the Church of England. Correspondents and persons mentioned include Samuel Wesley (brother of John and Charles), Eliza Bennis, Joseph Benson, Samuel Bradburn, James Kenton, and Samuel Lloyd.
Other materials include an inventory of John Wesley's library at the time of his death; a signed affidavit concerning a major chapel of British Methodism, opened in Nottingham in 1783; a photograph album of places in England associated with the Wesley family and the history of Methodism; and some infant baptismal clothing (a christening gown) attributed to the Wesley family.
Original correspondence housed in Box 1 available by prior request only. Use copies are in Box 2.
Arranged in three series: Correspondence, Miscellaneous, and Volumes.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open.
However, collection may contain materials to which the Acknowledgment of Legal Responsibilities and Privacy Rights form applies. Patrons must sign this form before using this collection.
In addition, most original manuscripts in the collection are restricted except for use under direct staff supervision. Patrons must use photocopies of originals.
All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. Consequently, there may be a 24-hour delay in obtaining these materials.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
Use & Permissions
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], Wesley Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Arranged in chronological order in Box 1; except as indicated, all items are signed autograph letters. Use copies are in Box 2, together with provenance information for certain items. Miscellaneous other materials, mainly comprising printed materials and photocopies, are appended at the end of the series.
[ATTENTION: originals housed in Box 1 available by prior request only. Use copies are in Box 2.]
Encloses two poems, mentions receiving a note for twelve pounds from his father, gives his impression of the students at Lincoln, and reports three recent local happenings.
Instructs Lloyd in ways in which to improve depth and consistency of his spiritual commitment.
[Original missing; use copy available.]
[Original missing; use copy available.]
Concerning rumors of misconduct among the students at Kingswood School, a Methodist public school in Bath.
[Original missing; no use copy available.]
[Original missing; no use copy available.]
Wesley states that after feeling for several years that it was his duty to do so, he told Lady Huntingdon that she thought herself of more importance than she was. She actively protested against the minutes of Wesley's conference that were published in 1770. He also writes about the large congregations at the Tabernacle and Tottenham Court Chapel, probably for his funeral sermon on George Whitefield. He also mentions the disposal of two houses and others where Whitefield had preached.
Provenance: see use copies in Box 2 for provenance.
Glued to the same sheet is a poem written on May 22, 1819. It concerns the receipt of a picture of Wesley on a piece of glass from the windows of his coach.
Description supplied by Frank Baker: "a very important [document] relating to one of the major chapels of British Methodism, built to seat 1000, opened by Wesley and Dr. Thomas Coke in 1783, and described by Wesley as 'one of the most elegant in England.' This replaced the original Octagon chapel in Nottingham. It became a centre of controversy after Wesley's death. The leader of the Methodist New Connexion dissenting offshoot, Alexander Kilham, was buried there...it illustrates the way in which at this time Wesley and Coke were striving to pull together under Methodist control properties which had been erected under Methodist auspices but were under the control of local trustees. This is a guarantee that if Methodism helps to liquidate the debt on the building it will in fact be conveyed to the Connexion."
Two different handwritten transcriptions, one dating to 1862 and the other undated, though probably 19th century. Published in the New York Gazette, the letter is largely autobiographical, telling how his brother John persuaded him to become ordained and to accompany him and James Oglethorpe to Georgia. There, John took charge in Savannah while he worked in Frederica. While waiting for an opportunity to preach to the Indians he served as secretary to Oglethorpe and also secretary of Indian Affairs. Ill health resulting from exposure forced him back to England within six months; John returned the next year. He goes on to describe his work in the Methodist Society he had founded at Oxford, discusses how he and John tried to prevent breaking with the Church of England, and regrets the separation that eventually took place.
Concerning Charles Wesley's illness (Charles died on March 29).
Discusses the futility of trying to interpret by reason what is only known by revelation, and criticizes the theological writings of John William Fletcher and Isaac Watts. With a typewritten transcription by an unknown author (located in Box 2).
Description supplied by Frank Baker: "unpublished and previously unknown to me. It promises to be of some importance. Kenton is apparently James Kenton, an old friend of the Wesley family, author of printed 'Scripture Cards' and of Elegies on both the Wesley brothers, and a witness at young Samuel Wesley's wedding. Wesley is apparently writing to some governor of his old school of the Charterhouse, which also, as a Carthusian foundation, ran some almshouses for needy brethren, whom Wesley sometimes visited. Wesley seems to be seeking charity for Kenton himself."
[Note on identification: Baker's log of Wesley letters (see Wesley Works Archive, Box 81) describes this letter as to a "rich layman" and "re Jas. Kenton," not to him.]
Accompanying this letter is one by Mrs. Bennis's granddaughter regarding the letter by Wesley. Bennis was one of the first five members of the Methodist Society in Limerick, Ireland.
Two severely faded items that may or may not correspond to items cited above as missing. They were found originally behind the JW to Bradburn of 1788 Mar. 13, and in front of CW to Chandler, 1785 Apr. 28.
Includes provenance data for some items; additional data may also be available in the Collection Control File--consult with Research Services staff.
Includes clippings, photocopies of Charles Wesley's sermons, and artifacts.
Listings of materials begins in 1791 with annual updates from 1805-1816 as works were moved. Contains a deed of transference.
[ATTENTION: Original may need reformatting or conservation prior to patron access. Please consult Research Services staff before coming to use this material. A photocopy of this volume, made at the time of purchase, is filed under "Bookroom inventory" in the Frank Baker Papers, Subject Files, Alphabetical Files II]
The following Rubenstein Library collections hold additional correspondence, writings, and other documents relating to the Wesley Family:
- Frank Baker Collection of Wesleyana and British Methodism, 1536-1996 and undated, Wesley Family Series. Contains the letters of John, Charles, and other Wesley family members, the poetry of Sarah Wesley (1759-1828), and Wesley family portraits.
- Frank Baker Papers, 1641-2002 and undated . The Subject Files, Wesley Family Files contain additional background material on each family member, as well as many transcribed and copied letters from archives around the world.
- Wesley Works Archive, 1676-1996 and undated, bulk 1724-1791, 1960-1996 . Working papers of the Wesley Works Editorial Project (WWEP). The Letters Series contains extensive files related to John Wesley's incoming and outgoing correspondence, including many photocopies.
- Two small sub-collections of the Baker Wesleyana collection hold Wesley autographs. The Sarah Crosby Papers, 1760-1804 contains a John Wesley letter, and the Perronet Family Papers, 1752-1855 hold original letters of John, Charles, and both Sarah Wesleys.
- Other Rubenstein Library collections holding Wesley family letters and manuscripts include the G. (George) Story Papers, 1738-1818 ; the E. R. (Eugene Russell) Hendrix Papers, 1764-1914; and the Presidents of the Wesleyan Conference, 1770-1900.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Benson, Joseph, 1749-1821
- Bradburn, Samuel, 1751-1816
- Church of England -- Relations -- Methodist Church
- Huntingdon, Selina Hastings, Countess of, 1707-1791
- Kenton, James
- Kingswood School (Bath, England)
- Lloyd, Samuel
- Lincoln College (University of Oxford) -- Students
- Oglethorpe, James Edward, 1696-1785
- Whitefield, George, 1714-1770 -- Estate
- Wesley, Sarah, 1759-1828
- Wesley, Sarah, 1726-1822
- Wesley, Samuel, 1691-1739
- Wesley, John, 1703-1791
- Wesley, Charles, 1707-1788
- Wesley family
- Missions -- Georgia
- Methodist Church -- Clergy
- Methodist Church -- History
- Methodist Church -- Great Britain -- History
- Methodist Church -- Sermons
- Methodists -- Biography
- Private libraries -- England -- Catalogs
The Wesley family papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as purchases from 1952-1998.
Processed by Michael Shumate, Chloe Rockow, March 2012
Encoded by Michael Shumate, Chloe Rockow, March 2012
Addition 2012-0187 added by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico
Addition 2016-0219 interfiled by Alice Poffinberger
Accession(s) described in this finding aid: 1952 to 1998, 2012-0187, 2016-0219.