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DDCW - Charles Wesley Papers

Charles Wesley Papers

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This material is held at The University of Manchester, Methodist Archive and Research Centre
Reference Number(s)GB 133 DDCW
Dates of Creation1721-1810
Name of Creator Wesley, Charles, 1707-1788, Methodist preacher
Language of Material English
Physical Description 2 lm; 565 items

Scope and content

The collection falls into the following main physical categories:

Loose Letters

There are approximately one hundred of these covering the period of sixty years from 1728 until shortly before Wesley's death. They deal with both personal and official matters and were written to various correspondents.

Loose literary manuscripts and Literary notebooks

This category consists of poems or hymns in Wesley's hand, written at different times and largely undated. Some were set to music and used by the Methodist and other Churches, but a great many others remained unpublished until very recently. Very little of the verse show signs of alteration and so can be considered to represent final copies of the poem in question.

A large number of poems are also to be found within letters, especially those to members of the family or close friends.

Folio Scrapbooks

During the nineteenth century many manuscripts were fixed into three large scrapbooks, containing a total of about four hundred items. This was not done in accordance with any recognisable order or arrangement. The manuscripts include correspondence, so-called journal letters, poems, financial papers, and copies of original documents, many of which are now lost.


In addition to the literary note books referred to above, there are several manuscript account books containing very detailed household and other accounts covering the years which the Wesley family spent in London. The collection also includes several other note books containing shorthand and other miscellaneous notes.

A draft manuscript journal covering the years is also preserved within the collection. This is complemented by the journal letters in the scrap books.

Unless otherwise stated all the letters and hymns listed in this catalogue were written by Charles Wesley, and similarly in the case of letters written by other people, the addressee is Charles Wesley.

For the sake of consistency, poems written by Charles Wesley are referred to in the catalogue as hymns.

Wherever possible people and places mentioned in the collection have been identified in notes after each entry, and their significance indicated. All the source material used in this identification can be consulted at the John Rylands University Library, and wherever possible widely available sources such as the Dictionary of National Biography, or the Encyclopedia of World Methodism are cited.

Where documents have been transcribed or quoted in printed sources, this has been indicated at the end of each entry.

In the case of undated manuscripts every effort has been made to date the item from internal evidence and the use of chronological tables - such dates have been placed in square brackets at the end of the entry. Dr Frank Baker of Duke University in North Carolina, has also kindly assisted in the dating of several of the letters.

Letters written by or addressed to John Wesley have not been catalogued in detail, as these have been largely published, most recently in the Oxford edition of Wesley's Works.

Biographical history

Charles Wesley was born at Epworth in Lincolnshire, the son of a poverty-stricken clergyman. He received his early education from his mother Susanna, before being sent to Westminster School, where his eldest brother was a master.

In 1726 he went up to Christ Church Oxford, where he was one of the founder members of the Holy Club or Oxford Methodists, a small Christian group which included the Wesley brothers, and their fellow Evangelists George Whitefield and Benjamin Ingham. Wesley graduated in 1730 but stayed on as a College tutor.

Despite his membership of the Holy Club, Wesley remained very unsure in his faith, and it was only with great difficulty that his brother John persuaded him to seek ordination, before becoming a missionary in the new North American colony of Georgia.

Wesley's stay in Georgia was not a success. Plagued by self-doubt and the petty intrigues of the colonists, he returned to England in December 1736, after a stay of less than a year.

Charles Wesley underwent a conversion experience in London in May 1738, a few days before John Wesley's famous Aldersgate experience. After Whitefield's example, he commenced preaching in the open air in July 1739.

For seventeen years after his conversion, Charles Wesley was one of the central figures in the great Evangelical revival, which saw the birth of the Methodist Church. He travelled constantly in England, Wales, and Ireland, suffering frequent harassment, which was often instigated by fellow clergymen. While his brother John was without doubt the leader of the Methodist movement, Charles was his most trusted colleague, and often exercised a restraining influence on those Methodists, who wished to break away from the Church of England.

In 1749 he married Sarah Gwynne, the daughter of a wealthy convert, and despite an age difference of nineteen years the union proved to be a very happy one. He withdrew from the itinerancy in 1756, and settled first in Bristol, and then London. He exercised a very active ministry in both these key cities until almost the end of his life.

Charles Wesley's greatest legacy to Methodism are his hymns, which are regarded as among the finest ever written. The Methodists gave the singing of hymns a central place in worship, contrary to contemporary Anglican practice. The fervour and Christian joy of the early Evangelicals are reflected in Wesley's hymns, and they contain many key elements of Methodist doctrine. They formed the basis of the Methodist hymn-books of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and are still sung all over the world by Christians of every denomination.

System of arrangement

Given the size and physical nature of the collection, it has been catalogued in four series:

  • DDCW/1-2 - Charles Wesley correspondence.
  • DDCW/3-4 - Loose manuscript items.
  • DDCW/5-7 - Folio scrapbooks.
  • DDCW8-10 - Notebooks and manuscript items.

Restrictions on access

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Restrictions on use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Keeper of Manuscripts and Archives, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Immediate source of acquisition

The Methodist Church

Archival history

Following the death of Charles Wesley, his personal papers were preserved by his family, although some destruction of sensitive material may have taken place. His daughter Sally took a particular interest in ensuring that her father was portrayed sympathetically. Her correspondence with Dr Adam Clarke is particularly illuminating in this respect. After her death the collection, which included the papers of Charles's wife and other close relations, was acquired by the Wesleyan Conference and was preserved in London as part of what became the Methodist Archives. It was regularly augmented by the addition of material acquired from several sources, most notably from private collectors.

In 1976 the Charles Wesley papers were transferred to the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, where they form an integral part of the Wesley family collection.

Other finding aids

A catalogue of the Collection was produced by Gareth Lloyd in 1994. The present catalogue has been produced to replace this with an ISAD(G) compliant catalogue.

Existence and location of copies

The items listed below have been published as a part of the microfiche collection: Clive Field (ed.), The people called Methodists: a documentary history of the Methodist church in Great Britain and Ireland on microfiche (Leiden, Netherlands: IDC Publishers, 1998). The description here is that contained in the published Guide to the microform collection, which contains the John Rylands University Library reference, followed by the microfiche reference in square brackets.

  • Wesley, Charles. In-letters, 1752-83. DDCW/2/1-14. [MP-642 mf. 1-1].
  • Wesley, Charles. Out-letters, 1728-87. DDCW/1/1-93. [MP-643 mf. 1-8].
  • Wesley, Charles. Out-letters, 1739-66. DDCW/5/1-112. [MP-645 mf. 1-8].
  • Wesley, Charles. Out-letters, 1740-83. DDCW/6/32-34, 38-45. [MP-646 mf. 1-1].
  • Wesley, Charles. Out-letters, 1748-87. DDCW/7/1-122. [MP-647 mf. 1-9].

Related materials

The Charles Wesley papers should be used in conjunction with the Wesley family archive, of which they form an integral part. The family archive contains hundreds of letters and associated papers written by close family members, including Charles's parents, and his own children. It also contains a stray collection of two hundred letters by Charles Wesley himself. The archive has been catalogued and indexed in the same way as the Charles Wesley collection - see the DDWF and DDWes catalogues.


Frederick C. Gill, Charles Wesley: the first Methodist (London: Lutterworth, 1964)

Gareth Lloyd, Charles Wesley and the struggle for Methodist identity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)

Newport, Kenneth (ed.), The Sermons of Charles Wesley: A critical edition with introduction and notes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)

Newport, Kenneth and Kimbrough, S.T. (eds.), The manuscript journal of the Reverend Charles Wesley 2 volumes (U.S: Abingdon Press, 2007)

Preferred Citation

The Charles Wesley Papers, DDCW/1 etc., Methodist Archives and Research Centre, The University of Manchester Library.

Index terms


Methodism Great Britain
Methodism History
Methodism Hymns
Methodism Preachers
Methodist Church

Personal Names

Wesley Charles 1707-1788 Methodist preacher
Wesley John 1703-1791 Methodist preacher
Wesley Samuel 1662-1735 Anglican minister
Wesley Susanna 1669-1742
Wesley Samuel 1690/91-1739 headmaster and poet
Wright Mehtabel 1697-1750
Wesley Sarah 1726-1822
Wesley Samuel 1766-1837 organist and composer
Wesley Charles 1793-1859 Anglican minister

Family Names


Geographical Names

Epworth, Lincolnshire, SE7803

Cataloguing Info

TitleThe Charles Wesley Papers 1721-1810
AuthorFinding aid compiled by Gareth Lloyd.
Publication The University of Manchester Library
150 Deansgate,, Manchester, M3 3EH, England, tel.: +44 (0)161 275 3764, fax: +44 (0)161 834 5574,

© The University of Manchester Library 2009

Edition Second, revised edition
CreationFinding aid created by Gareth Lloyd in 1994; the finding aid was converted to EAD 2002 by Graham Johnson in July 2009
Descriptive RulesFinding aid compiled according to UML's Guide to the listing of archives (3rd edition, 2004), which is based on the General International Standard Archival Description (ISAD(G)), second edition.
Language UsageFinding aid written in English.

Constituent Records

Correspondence of Charles Wesley

Reference Number(s)GB 133 DDCW/1 and 2
Dates of Creation1728-1787
Physical Description 117 items

Scope and Content

Loose correspondence to and from Charles Wesley


Arranged into two sub-series:

  • DDCW1 - Letters of Charles Wesley.
  • DDCW2 - Letters to Charles Wesley.

Letters of Charles Wesley

Reference Number(s)GB 133 DDCW/1/
Dates of Creation1728-1787
Physical Description 103 items

Scope and Content

Letters from Charles Wesley to various correspondents


Arranged in chronological order where date is known.


Reference Number(s)GB 133 DDCW/1/1
Dates of Creation20 Jan 1728

Scope and Content

To John Wesley.


Reference Number(s)GB 133 DDCW/1/2
Dates of Creation5/22 Jan.1729

Scope and Content

To John Wesley.

[ Note: Note Publication Record: Quoted by Dr Frank Baker in Charles Wesley - As Revealed by his Letters (1948), p.11. ]


Reference Number(s)GB 133 DDCW/1/3
Dates of Creation5 May 1729

Scope and Content

To John Wesley.

[ Note: Note Publication Record: Quoted by Dr Frank Baker in Charles Wesley - As Revealed by his Letters (1948), pp.13-14. ]


Reference Number(s)GB 133 DDCW/1/4
Dates of Creation[11 Jun 1731]

Scope and Content

From [Christ Church, Oxford], to Samuel Wesley senior in Epworth, Lincolnshire, [to be collected at the posthouse in Gainsborough]. In his next letter to [J W], Charles would be grateful for his father's advice on the following matter; On Whitsunday, Charles's whole College received the Sacraments except for the servitors who received them the following day -'for we are too well bred to communicate with them tho in the body & blood of Christ'. The next day Charles was in Church 'but wth the Canons left the sacramt to those for whom alone it was prepard. What I beg to be resolved is whether or no my being assured I shd give infinite scandal by staying cd sufficiently justify my turning my back upon God's Table'.

Since his return to Oxford, one of his pupils [John] Boyce has graduated, 'but as I gave him all the assistance I could before I was paid for it, I shall continue to give it after'. He can help another of his scholars very little, since the Censor persuaded the young man that monthly communion was enough, and now the student concerned takes the Sacraments just three times a year. Formerly he joined in prayer and study after communion, but that is now ended also. Charles's Gentleman Commoner makes full use of his 'privilege of having no more religion than he has a fancy for, but my fourth pupil, the dullest rogue of them all, makes me sufficient amends, by being just what I would have him'.

In a postscript he promises that his next letter will be better written, as John Whitelamb is coming over on Tuesday to teach him how to make a pen.

[ Note: Notes Publication Record: Quoted by Dr Frank Baker in Charles Wesley - As Revealed by his Letters (1948), p.17. John Whitelamb was sponsored at Oxford by the Wesley family, and subsequently married Mary Wesley after taking Holy Orders in 1733. He was given the living of Wroot in Lincolnshire by Samuel Wesley senior, and remained there until his death in 1769. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974). ]


Reference Number(s)GB 133 DDCW/1/5
Dates of Creation13 Oct1735
Language of Material Latin

Scope and Content

From C W (on behalf of James Edward Oglethorpe], to Count Nicolaus Zinzendorf at Herrnhut in Germany.

[ Note: Notes James Edward Oglethorpe was the founder and first governor of the colony of Georgia. Upon his return to the colony in 1735 after visiting London, he was accompanied by John and Charles Wesley, the latter as Oglethorpe's private secretary. Source: Dictionary of National Biography. Count Zinzendorf was a wealthy German aristocrat, who gave refuge to a community of Moravians on his estate at Herrnhut, and subsequently became a Moravian bishop. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974). ]

Photographic Copy Letter

Reference Number(s)GB 133 DDCW/1/6
Dates of Creation5/14 Feb 1736

Scope and Content

Photographic copy letter from the ship 'Simmonds' off the island Tybee, Georgia, to 'V' [Varanese - the pen-name of Sally Kirkham]. God has preserved 'an unhappy, unthankful wretch' from many dangers and brought him to this place to 'renew his complaints'. He knows that Sally will thank God for this deliverance even though Charles himself cannot, for he has fled in vain from himself to America and is full of misery. He does not repent embarking on this undertaking for he can expect no better in England - wherever he goes he carries his personal Hell with him. He takes comfort in nothing except thoughts of 'S' [Selima - the pen name of Anne Granville] and Sally herself.

He has now fled from the reproaches of his friends, and feels that it is only to Sally that he can pour out his heart. It is no loss that he will soon be separated from those who are dear to him, for 'their example is a reproach'.

Apart from Sally and 'S' [Selima] he feels that he has no relations or friends in England, to whom he can write or derive any comfort from thoughts of. Spiritual matters are discussed in detail.

He cannot account for the 'strange expansion of heart wch I feel in ye midst of my wishes for your welfare…I know no pleasure but in…consciousness that I love you'.

Charles has enclosed C's journal [probably J W, whose pen-name among his friends was Cyrus], and that may make amends for Sally's pain in reading this letter. Charles cannot bear to think of John's happiness and even derives some pleasure at the prospect at soon being removed from the sight of it.

February 14, Peeper's Island 1/47

At present he is enjoying an opportunity for some relaxation. He looks back with horror on the depression that produced the above words, but will allow them to remain as a picture of a soul, which can never be reserved towards Sally.

The immediate work facing him is the spiritual oversight of fifty poor families, and among these Charles will himself either be 'converted or lost'. He feels that pride and 'invincible sensuality' stands between him and God.

She should allow no-one to see her journal except those whom she can really trust, and one day he may tell her the reason why.

If there is time he will transcribe J W's reasons for coming to North America - 'O yt I could say they were mine too'.

[ Note: Notes Publication Record: Transcribed in Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society, Volume 25, pp.17-20, and also by John R. Tyson in Charles Wesley - A Reader (1989), pp.61-63. An article by Dr Frank Baker discussing the authorship of the letter appears in the same volume of The Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society between pages 97 and 102. Also, quoted by Dr Frank Baker in Charles Wesley - As Revealed by his Letters (1948), pp.22-23. Custodial history: The original was found in Warwickshire in 1944, and was subsequently deposited with the archives of the Methodist Missionary Society, now at the Library of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Sally Kirkham, the daughter of the Vicar of Stanton in Gloucestershire, was a very close friend of John and Charles Wesley during their time at Oxford. Her brother Robert was a member of the Holy Club. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974). Anne Granville was introduced to the Wesley brothers during their visits to the home of Lionel Kirkham, rector of Stanton in Gloucestershire. She was the neice of Lord Lansdowne, and the sister of Mary Delany, who had been romantically linked with John Wesley. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974), and John R. Tyson, Charles Wesley - A Reader (1989), p.61. ]


Reference Number(s)GB 133 DDCW/1/7
Dates of Creation1 May 1736

Scope and Content

To J W


Reference Number(s)GB 133 DDCW/1/8
Dates of Creation25 Oct 1736

Scope and Content

To J W


Reference Number(s)GB 133 DDCW/1/9
Dates of Creation2 Jan 1738

Scope and Content

To J W