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Wesley Family Series, 1700-1996 and undated 18 boxes, approx. 1800 items

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Documents three generations of the family, but especially the lives of John and Charles Wesley. The series is divided into subseries by family member. The three largest manuscripts subseries are those for John Wesley (1703-1791), Charles Wesley (1707-1788), and Sarah Wesley (1759-1826), the daughter of Charles. The John Wesley Papers are mainly original autograph letters (outgoing and incoming) spanning some fifty-five years of his life. There is also one forgery, several 18th or 19th century handwritten copies, and one engraved facsimile. John's letters contain no one frequent correspondent; the Charles Wesley Papers are dominated by Charles' letters to Samuel Lloyd, a friend and sometime legal and financial advisor in London. These draw a portrait of almost twenty years of their friendship. There are also letters to his wife and children, and to important church figures such as John Fletcher and Joseph Benson.

The Sarah Wesley Letters and Poems, though little known, constitute one of the highlights of the Wesley Family Papers--Frank Baker thought it the largest collection in the world of her manuscript poems. There are also over forty complete letters and fragments, spanning forty years of her life and including the only marriage proposal she is known to have received.

The manuscript portion of the series is rounded out by several small groups of letters from other family members related directly to Charles: his wife, Sarah, and her sisters, his two sons, Charles and Samuel; and two grandsons. The series ends with the large Wesley Family Portraits Subseries, some 1000 engraved prints of family members, scenes from their lives, and places associated with them. Almost half of these images are of John Wesley, one of the most frequently-painted portrait subjects of 18th century England.

Letters and writings of the Wesley family are arranged in subseries by family member, in chronological order by date of birth: Samuel Wesley, Sr. (1662-1735); John Wesley (1703-1791); Charles Wesley (1707-1788); Sarah [Gwynne] Wesley (1726-1822); Charles Wesley, Junior (1757-1834); Sarah (Sally) Wesley (1759-1828); and Samuel Wesley (1766-1837).

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Box WF1
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John Wesley and others developed a system of shorthand for communications and writings, some examples of which can be found in this collection. This single undated printed sheet contains a sample of about 20 lines in Wesley's own shorthand - without a key, however - originating from a journal entry from 1740. The facing page contains illustrations of ten Methodist Society Tickets from the 18th century.

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Letters written by John Wesley to family, fellow preachers and members of his congregation. The majority of these letters are abrupt, aimed at answering specific questions or resolving particular concerns, but others are more expansive. The 1735/6 letter, composed as Wesley was on his way to Georgia, relates events of the voyage and singles out General Oglethorpe for praise. Writing to Lord Rowdon on May 18, 1760, Wesley opposes "the simplicity of the Gospel" with "Philosophical Religion."

Several letters are either addressed or refer to individuals whose manuscripts appear elsewhere in the Baker Wesleyana Collection, especially John Fletcher, Elizabeth (Ritchie) Mortimer, and Sarah Crosby. The letter to Miss Sparrow of Jan. 14, 1779, first passes on an anecdote that Fletcher told about Voltaire, then goes on to present Wesley's scathing views on the French writer and his successes. On June 3, 1774, writing to Sarah Crosby, Wesley worries that Elizabeth Ritchie might succumb to temptation and instructs Mrs. Crosby to watch over her. And in another letter to her several years later (May 11, 1780), he turns his concern to Crosby herself, assuring her that he will keep her writing a secret, burning the originals and transcribing only what he wishes to keep for himself; further, he questions her about her predilection to vices, urging her to speak openly about herself to him, but noting that he does not make a habit of speaking about himself to others so as not to hurt them.

Arranged in chronological order.

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Box WF1
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Endorsed by John Wesley: "Selby. April 9, 1734. + / New birth." FB's extensive note about this letter and its writer, ca. 1976, quoted in full: "PM, 9/AP. 4 pp. 4t0, part of red seal. Spelt 'Westly'. ; Gives copy of S's letter to Bp. Of [?] from memory, 'Yewterday I heard ye Rev. Mr. A. Swear, Mr. B. S, talk B. & gets D-k frequently. Mr. C. is a d-n f Priest. Mr. D and Mr. E are called D-n Priests. Mr. E pays nobody his D-ts.' He writes from pity, not malice. Selby not in Dick's [Heitzenrater] diss., but Green, p. 191: 'Prideax Selby, the son of a merchant from Holy Island in Northumberland, had become a member of Lincoln as a servitor on 25th November, 1731, and was elected to a scholarship on 22nd February, 1733; Wesley talked to him about Communion and by October he was one of the little company who made their Communion at Christ Church on Sunday mornings.'"

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Box WF1
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FB's typewritten note accompanies this letter: "A contemporary copy of an important letter written by JW as he set sail for America. The letter is genuine, but the handwriting is not Wesley's. Cf. the photostat of the original in Wesley's hand, written to Sir John Phillips, and endorsed by him. Wesley wrote another copy to Dr. John Burton, one of the Trustees for the Colony of Georgia."

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Box WF1
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Original handwritten transcription, presumably contemporary, was made by Thomas Richards, who then appended a note of his own. This pair of letters in their entirety was then transcribed by R. O. Jones, circa 1860s. Richards was one of Wesley's earliest itinerant preachers; for more information, see entry on Richards in the Frank Baker Papers, Subject Files, from which this item was transferred.